Before every fight, the fighters face off as part of the pre-fight weigh-ins. Usually, the two fighters raise their fists and scowl at each other as pictures are snapped. But sometimes, a fighter smiles at his or her opponent. A study published in the scientific journal "Emotion" claims that smiling isn't such a good plan. A smiling fighter is more likely to lose.
The researchers did two studies as part of an overall look at how smiles affected fights. Their findings:
We reason, on the basis of prior research, that prior to a physical confrontation, smiles are a nonverbal sign of reduced hostility and aggression, and thereby unintentionally communicate reduced physical dominance. Two studies provide evidence in support of this prediction: Study 1 found that professional fighters who smiled more in a prefight photograph taken facing their opponent performed more poorly during the fight in relation to their less intensely smiling counterparts. In Study 2, untrained observers judged a fighter as less hostile and aggressive, and thereby less physically dominant when the fighters' facial expression was manipulated to show a smiling expression in relation to the same fighter displaying a neutral expression.
Taking a look at UFC weigh-ins in 2013, not many fighters smiled at their opponents. But of the ones who did, their record wasn't good. In the top picture, John Dodson smiled at Demetrious Johnson, and lost in a five-round decision.
Donald Cerrone smiled at Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 6, and was knocked out in the first round.
Jon Manley smiled at Neil Magny at UFC 157. Manley dropped a decision to Magny.
At UFC 156, Gleison Tibau smiled -- or smirked, maybe? -- at Evan Dunham. The split decision was won by Dunham.
Fighters look for every edge they can get in a fight. Perhaps the smile is meant to show that they don't fear anything, but it doesn't look like it's working.
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