Ask any MMA fan or analyst what the best base for MMA is and the majority will say wrestling. Next to wrestling, the next closest answer is probably jiu-jitsu.
But what about striking?
During the early UFC tournaments, fans and fighters were in awe of how a tiny Brazilian could win a fight against muscular behemoths. When everyone started to train jiu-jitsu, wrestlers made their way to the sport and dominated people on the ground.
Fighters like Dan Severn and Mark Coleman used their wrestling to take opponents down and break them.
Then, a fighter like Maurice Smith came along and changed our whole outlook on fighting. A heavy underdog, Smith survived the wrestling of Coleman and won the UFC title.
Smith's victory, along with Chuck Liddell's reign of terror, led many people to believe the most dominant discipline was striking.
In recent years, fans still tend to side with wrestlers due to the nature of how fights are scored. A takedown in a round is just as good to a knockdown for some MMA judges. The ability to decide where a fight goes is also a huge benefit to having a background in wrestling.
But if you take a look at all the champions in the UFC, you could argue that striking is making a comeback much like it did in the early UFC days.
All but one of the champions utilize their stand-up game to win their fights. (The lone exception in this case being Georges St. Pierre, but he has shown the ability to win a fight on his feet as well.)
Junior dos Santos has some of the most explosive and powerful hands in MMA. Jon Jones utilizes his strong wrestling at times, but has also used his vast array of striking to dominate foes on his feet.
Anderson Silva is a Muay Thai wrecking machine and Frankie Edgar has some of the best boxing and footwork in MMA. Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz both have grappling backgrounds but are more known for their striking skills.
Moving beyond the title holders, look at the top five fighters in each prospective weight class.
Many of the top contenders like Cain Velasquez, Dan Henderson and Nick Diaz use their striking skills despite having an advantage over many of the fighters they face.
Wrestling and jiu-jitsu will still be important aspects of any MMA fighter's skill set. But striking should be just as important, evident by the amount of stand-up fighters we see rising to the top of the rankings lately.
Like before, it will most likely result in another "life-circle," where striking takes over as the top discipline of the trade only to be outdone by wrestling again. Eventually MMA will reach a point where fighters are experts in all areas instead of just one particular facet.
Until that day comes, we will always be answering the question of what discipline is the most important or if striking/grappling is making a comeback into MMA.
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