The Mouth of MMA

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The Evolution of the MMA Fighter

Posted by Mark Figula on September 12, 2011 at 2:30 PM

By Mark Figula, The Mouth of MMA Senior Editor

It happened one small step at a time...  The Brazilians would say "pouco a pouco."  The "mixed" in mixed martial arts became less about seeing what happens when one style faces another in a "mixed" match-up and more about who can create the best and most seamless blend of all the styles into one true mixed martial artist.

The first breath of it came early in 2005 when Joe Rogan stated that a young George St. Pierre was the future of the sport.  A seamless welding of Olympic level wrestling, ADCC-worthy jiu jitsu, and some top level striking (K-1, Golden Gloves, World Muay Thai Council, et. Al.).  The champions of today are coming up and fighting with all these martial skills working as one rather than with a single great skill and a game of catch-up for the rest.  One look at a Jon Jones bout and you will see how effective it is when you take a young fighter and teach him the whole game from early on.

On the flip side, at Saturday's Strikeforce we saw what can happen when a truly talented master of one aspect of the game doesn't bring enough of the other skills with him into the cage.  It took only one round for Roger Gracie to get knocked flat in his bout against "King Mo" Lawal.  All the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the world does no good if you can't get your opponent to the ground first.  The same goes for all the great striking if you can't stop a fighter from putting you on your back.

It seems a simple and logical concept, does it not?  Then why do so many fighters still think one set of skills is enough?  Perhaps it harkens back to the origins of the sport when Royce Gracie dominated all comers with nothing but the most remedial strikes and take downs.  That was before everyone learned to defend submissions, though and - more importantly - before everyone began wrapping their game around a core set of wrestling skills so they could control which aspect of their game they got to utilize.

Perhaps it's a mental resistance that comes from being so dominant in one's area of expertise that being a student again is a less than attractive idea.

Maybe it is plain old overconfidence.  A fighter thinks that learning the basics of other aspects of the game is enough to supplement superiority in his chosen martial art.  That may have worked in 2005, but the future is now.  A fighter like Jon Jones is the first of many to come and if the Roger Gracie's of the world want to hold MMA belts, they will have to be more than just competent wrestlers and strikers... They will have to be world class!


Mark "The Ezequiel" Figula is the biggest wuss to ever enter a cage... the most spindly chickenass dude to ever tap out at NAGA... the boy who was told that the pen is mightier than the sword... and thus he writes. Check out his home page of scribblings at


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