Rattling the Cage Book Review: “Octagon” By Kevin Lynch

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 by Tony Reid

This book is more my speed than most other books as its described as “A visual history of the UFC, the gladiators, and the ultimate place of change- The Octagon” with visual being the key word here for me. This big UFC picture book boasts over 900 images spanning UFC 40 through UFC 70. Lynch was given nearly full access to everything UFC over the course of this time. Its $40 price tag is a bargain, considering the incredible imagery captured by Lynch and displayed in the books 360 plus pages.

The book really stands out with the before and after shots of fighters back stage prior to making their way to the Octagon and then immediately after the fight as soon as they get back stage. There is a depth, a complexity to these pictures that can not been fully absorbed by a single viewing of the book. The more you look at these great images, the more you will find within them. There are too many notable images to list them all here. A few of my personal favorites are the outline of Marvin Eastman in his black hoodie, looking like the grim reaper. There is a great image of Frank Mir at UFC 43 leaning back along a row of red lockers post fight looking completely spent and in a rare and much needed moment of calmness. Also from UFC 43 there is an image of Matt Lindland, surrounded by doctors, in the Octagon coming to his senses immediately after his knockout loss, where he is looking directly into the camera with a somewhat bewildered look on his face. Another image is from UFC 47 and that of Wes Sims and his trashed locker room post fight, as well as an image of him in a full on roid rage post fight that is so real and in your face that you can actually hear him screaming just by looking at the picture in the book. Another favorite is a picture of Joe Doerksen post fight in which his broken nose is so far off line that it is barley in the shot. Travis Lutter shows his excitement in a great shot immediately after shocking many in the MMA world by knocking out Marvin Eastman. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what might be the most iconic group of pictures in the book, those capturing Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar during their fight at the finale of TUF Season 1. The images of Griffin pre fight and Griffin post fight are still seen in random UFC products and paraphernalia. Another collective group of monumental moments in the sport’s history is captured here with the three fights put on by legends Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell. The images captured show the growth of “The Iceman” and the legend of “The Natural” like no other. GSP is also captured in jubilation after beating Matt Hughes to win the welterweight strap at UFC 65, a moment that forever changed his life professionally, personally and every way imaginable, all captured here. The last item I will mention is that of Forrest Griffin after getting upset by Keith Jardine. In the post fight pictures Forrest puts on his best “aw, shucks” face as he is shown shooting himself in the head with his own fingers, shooting himself in the mouth and the last, captures him in a true emotion as he is shown crying as he walks away from the camera.

There are so many other great images that do not the into the “Before and after” category that I would be missing a solid section of the book had I not mention them here. A number of real, honest shots of blood on the Octagon floor, the cage, and cage side show the seriousness and brutality of the sport in a very straightforward manner. There are a number of sequential action shots, some of Chuck’s 703 punch combination to TKO Tito at UFC 47, a few of Chuck stopping Tito again at UFC 66 and a slew of others. There are very few words in this book but the words that are present are great. One great quote comes from Forrest Griffin when he states “You learn in economics about competition over limited resources. I’m pretty self-centered and I want what’s best for me. I need to win this fight, just like he does, and I understand that he’s going to do everything in his power to win it, and I certainly don’t hold that against him at all. I’m gonna do the same thing.”

This pictorial history of UFC events 40 through 70 is well worth a look… and second… and third. Do yourself a favor and get this book, but don’t just look at it, really look at it, look into it and truly appreciated it, as it captures the heart and soul, the raw emotion and a depth of the greatest athletes on earth in a way that has never been done before. And remember, the eyes are a window to the soul.