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It is raw and primal and it is delivered without apology or hesitation. It could be delivered by a foot or a knee or a fist. When the contact finds bone and flesh, well, it only encourages another strike and another and another, until the pain inflicted cracks, as an example, not only a rib but the will as well.

"It has all the elements you need to survive a life-and-death situation," featherweight Marcello Cassero said. "It can't get any more exciting than that."

Unless of course you don't survive, which also would be pretty exciting but of course not in a good way. That may read a little flippant but there will be nothing that casual this Saturday night at Grace Pavilion. Those who like it raw and primal will get an eyeful at a Cage Combat event.

Doors will open at 4:45 p.m. and the smacking will begin at 6. Up to a dozen mixed martial arts events are scheduled, seven professional and five amateur. If an amateur fails to show up, it won't be a surprise. After all, he could experience a beating for free and who wants to volunteer for that?

A true MMA fighter would, a fighter who hears the call of the wild when he steps in the cage or ring, a fighter who sees a future for himself or herself in the sport. And if along the way to professional maturation there's a visit or two to the doctor and a painkiller to get through the night, oh well.

"Yes, of course, I will throw punches," said welterweight Jordan Williams, glancing at his swollen left hand.

On Friday, eight days before the Cage Combat event, Williams' left hand looked like he had puffed it up with a bicycle tire pump. No knuckles were visible. The back of his hand was pillow, like it was a special effect, not something, Williams guessed, that hit someone's hip the wrong way.

"I can feel it pulsating, like a heartbeat," Williams said.

But will that discourage him from into stepping into the cage for his first pro fight? Hardly. Williams wouldn't have moved two years ago from Placerville in the Sierras to Santa Rosa if a little swollen hand was going to bother him. Even in the foothills Williams had heard about the NorCal Fighting Alliance, an MMA training facility.

"I heard this was the place to be," said Williams, 22.

Of course it had to be proven to Williams that NorCal was the place to be. Williams had been training at a club near his home and was experiencing success. He had progressed to the point that Williams was beating his instructor, forcing him to tap out.

"I thought I was pretty good," said Williams, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.

And then he stepped into the ring against David Terrell, who owns NorCal.

"Oh my gosh!" was Williams first reaction. "This is a whole new level. This guy is straight bad ass."

Terrell is an MMA legend, an ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, and Terrell took Williams to school and took him to school again and again, and Williams was immediately convinced NorCal was the place to be. He found he was not alone as other fighters like welterweight Dom Waters (hometown Napa) moved to Santa Rosa to train with Terrell.

Like Williams, Waters, 24, didn't lack for confidence when he arrived at NorCal. Waters is a Marine who served a tour in Iraq in 2009. Four times, Water said, mortars hit no more than 30 feet from where he was sleeping. Four times, he said, it felt like "a sonic boom that shook the barracks." Nine months in a combat area has a tendency to frame one's life experiences.

"Compared to Iraq," said Waters, who was a field medic, "this is kinda like a piece of cake."

You won't hear many MMA fighters refer to the sport that way. Waters' admission is understandable, as one doesn't get a chance to tap out in a war zone. Surrender, especially for a Marine, is unacceptable. It is a mindset that suits Waters particularly well in MMA.

"I want to go out there and punish people," he said. "I want to dominate so well that I make my guy part of my highlight film. I don't just want to win. I want to crush his mental state. At the end of my match I want him to think, 'I never want to fight that guy again.'"

For Waters, the appeal of MMA is the singular nature of the sport. Waters. Alone. No one else to take the credit. No one else to take the blame.

"A team sport is not all that appealing to me," said Waters, who played football and ran track at Vintage High School in Napa. "I can't point fingers at anyone. I like that."

To compete in MMA is to think and to be comfortable living outside the box. It doesn't attract followers. It attracts true individuals, people who do not circle other planets but rather those who are quite content in their own orbit.

"I worked in the post office for six months," Waters said. "I sorted 60,000-70,000 pieces of mail daily. I had to leave."

Raw and primal dominance, that's the attraction of MMA to the competitor as well as to the spectator. While every sport is appealing because the outcome is unknown and unscripted, quite possibly MMA offers the most dramatic example of the agony of defeat.

That would be, as an example, someone tapping the mat in surrender while there's an elbow jammed against his skull.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.