This week’s House of the Dragon brought a lot to the ceremonial table: scheming power couples, bold fashion choices, and ultimately, a particularly nasty brawl.
It’s that last bit that we’re here to talk about today.
[Ed. note: Significant spoilers follow for the fifth episode of House of the Dragon.]
One of the biggest events of the episode is the wedding between Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon, solidifying the bond between two powerful Westerosi houses. As is often the case for political marriages, the spouses have their eyes on others: namely, their respective lovers, Ser Criston Cole and Ser Joffrey “The Knight of Kisses” Lonmouth.
At the wedding, Ser Joffrey deduces that Ser Criston is his counterpart in this four-sided relationship. Joffrey makes an attempt to strike up a conversation, letting on that he knows about Criston and Rhaenyra’s secret, and advises that the two knights look out for each other.
That goes… extremely poorly. Soon afterward, a commotion breaks out on the dance floor, with Criston on top of Joffrey, whaling on his face with reckless abandon. It’s a ground-and-pound scene straight out of a modern MMA fight (albeit with one combatant wearing a full suit of armor).
Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO
Luckily, I work at the same place as MMA Fighting, the best MMA website in the business. So I reached out to senior reporter Damon Martin, who is also a self-described “massive” fan of the Game of Thrones universe.
Martin was impressed by Criston’s ground-and-pound fighting, and compared the knight’s technical approach to that of heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes. But he said the young fighter could still step up his game.
“Credit to Criston Cole on his technique with the quick takedown and moving into mount, where he just began raining down blows on the ‘Knight of the Kisses,’ who really needs to work on his defense on the ground, although now it appears he’ll never get the chance,” Martin said. “The only real improvement that Ser Criston needs to make would be mixing in some elbows to go along with the punches if he really wants to inflict maximum damage, but he seemed to be doing just fine with his fists.”
As for Joffrey, the loser in this particular battle — there was no official confirmation as to his status, but he sure looked in very bad shape at the end of the exchange — Martin gave some notes on how he could have avoided his bloody fate.
“Poor Joffrey just never got the opportunity to showcase any of his fighting skills once he was on his back,” he said. “It looked like he had never taken a single grappling class in all those years he was serving House Velaryon in Driftmark. At the very least, Joffrey should have known how to pull guard on the bigger, stronger opponent to keep him close so he could at least mitigate the damage he was absorbing. Making Ser Criston work to get free to posture up and throw punches would have likely tired him out, considering he had about 80 pounds of armor weighing him down at the time.”
Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO
What about Criston moving forward? We see at the end of the episode that Queen Alicent stops him from killing himself. If Criston puts his mind to it, Martin thinks he could become a real star in the world of Westerosi MMA.
“Ser Criston certainly appears to be the full package,” Martin said. “He’s got power, speed, and a ruthlessness that will likely carry him far in future fights. But fighting with emotion can be a double-edged sword, so he might want to keep his anger in check. Because the day will come when Criston will run into a cerebral opponent, who could take advantage of his inability to separate the job from something more personal.
“If he keeps working on that wrestling, he might contend for a WFC title one day (Westeros Fighting Championships, of course).”