Red steadied himself for the fight, keenly observing, spreading control through his body and cutting away all that failed to matter.
Meanwhile, his opponent still seemed out of it, steering his body around in the ring's corner and swiveling his head side to side from one person in the crowd to another. The referee came in, and Pris responded with an exhilarated fist pump, jogging his way over to the center. Announcements were made, stoppage conditions were once again repeated, and with an angry air chop from the pudgy mexican referee (a good half foot taller than them both, retired greco-roman and BJJ amateur and now part-time taxi driver), the fight was on - yet still there seemed to be zero adjustment on his part. Was he really, really that confident?
An outwards demeanor often betrays the truth: however much it seemed that Pris was more invested in feeling himself than bracing for combat, when once asked in a post-fight interview - what he remembered of the moments right before the match, what he reply was: "Hey, no idea. It was all a haze, my head was already busy. I don't like standing still when there's action up ahead - my body gets all jittery, it gets tense if i don't move. When there's a man standing across ready to do your shit in, your body knows it, your mind knows it. It fires off into hyperdrive, everything does, all the past matches you've had come up, all that muscle memory, and it begs you to start moving, do something, turn the anticipation into excitement, you know - reverse it with confidence. So i dance around, do some funny moves, all on autopilot, while my brain is churning - absolutely - through everything i know. Yeah. That's how it is for me."
Southpaw stance, traditional Thai guard. Steel toe boots. A photo-flash mental image of Red somewhere in the back of his mind and full focus on sensing motion, the buzz of his peripheral vision bloating far beyond its usual presence.
In the span of time between moving out his corner and the referee siccing them at eachother, Pris already found himself in a stance: left foot forwards, his right a foot and a half behind - a wide base with a shallow crouch in both legs. Presenting his side to the opponent with his lead foot's toes pointing diagonally, rather than straight ahead, he took something of a long-range boxing stance, with a guard to match: left arm halfway extended, constantly bouncing between cheekbone and chest level with the threat of high and low jabs, and right hand held right in front of the chin, palm outwards. When Red seemed to offer him a sportsmanlike fistbump, his own lead hand eagerly swimmed in to respond, habit bordering on instinct - but then Red suddenly pulled out of it.
The average reaction time to visual stimulus is 0.25 seconds (according to the internet). 0.4 seconds had passed from the moment Red initiated his backstep. Pris squinted at him, a fiery gleam in his narrowed eyes probing in with the question: "You chicken or something!?"
0.5 - half a second had passed, and by that time, Pris responded with his body, mirroring the cheeky retreat.
His right foot shot back on its own; the lead left twisted against the ground, flinging the rest of his body backward, moving him a foot-and-a-half backwards - the width of his stance. Tip - Pap!, and his right foot landed, now its turn to bear his full weight and leave the lead leg light. His stance widened even further as he performed the backstep, and to restore its neutral state, Pris pulled his lead leg in - however, just before it should land, he jolted and transitioned into a sidestep: half a foot to his left with the lead, shift his weight onto it and pull in the rear leg in while doing a sharp, 30 degree pivot counterclockwise.
He knew the southpaw versus orthodox matchup well, and his first move in the fight was to begin circling to the outside, already establishing the threat from a distance.
Red moving away; Pris doing the same - their actions in sync put both outside of striking distance, be it kick or punch, and Pris wouldn't be gingerly to re-establish it. His narrow, sideways stance forced tricky footwork for sideways movement - quid pro quo, he gained in bouncy, fast and sudden frontal movement, allowing to govern range with impunity. One step or two, so long as Red remained passive, he'd keep circling and steadily advance into the outer fringe of his own front kick reach; his left hand still positioned in front, still bobbing up and down to unnerve and capture attention, Pris used an eyeball estimate of the inches between his hand and the opponent's body as a measuring gauge, achieving a remarkable degree of accuracy this way. Judging that if they were of the same height, they'd have almost identical reach, Pris concluded that this was where Redbeard's killzone started as well.
There's many questions one ponders when trying to break down a formidable opponent; find their weakspots, exploit their habits, elude their strengths. One among them that stuck in Pris' mind from the beginning of the fight was whether Red was as reserved and patient as he seemed - or if the promise of violence unleashed in him a trigger-happy maniac instead. One way to check was the good old in-out: having nothing to do with mechanized fruits, sex, or violence, all the technique entailed was stepping into range with your lead foot and then slipping back out immediately, keeping the rear leg right where it was. Foot feints, and with Pris' stance, they were a natural choice.