Here’s some good news for those of you who hate seeing fighters acting all buddy buddy and smiling all the time: according to a new scientific study, it makes them more likely to lose.
Michael Kraus and Teh-Way David Chen recruited four coders (blind to the aims of the study) to assess the presence of smiles, and smile intensity, in photographs taken before 152 fights. Fighter smiles were mostly “non-Duchenne”, with little or no crinkling around the eyes. Data on the fights was then obtained from official UFC statistics. The researchers wanted to test the idea that in this context, smiles are an involuntary signal of submission and lack of aggression, just as teeth baring is in the animal kingdom.
Consistent with the researchers’ predictions, fighters who smiled more intensely prior to a fight were more likely to be knocked down in the clash, to be hit more times, and to be wrestled to the ground by their opponent (statistically speaking, the effect sizes here were small to medium). On the other hand, fighters with neutral facial expressions pre-match were more likely to excel and dominate in the fight the next day.
No breakdown yet on what happens to all those fighters that smile and laugh and try to high five their opponents during a fight. I can only hope science determines they’re just as doomed as their over-friendly weigh in counterparts. I hate that shit.