Of all the aspects of fighting that a fighter can and must utilize in an MMA match, it is without question that possessing the ability to grapple is the most valuable tool available to those who have it.
It is no coincidence that hoards of wrestlers pour into the sport with great success. The UFC is littered with fighters, spanning the length of its existence, who broke in with wrestling backgrounds and developed their individual games while always utilizing their best skill in the cage. From Severn through Couture and Lesnar through Edgar, wrestling has always played an integral role in championship careers.
How could anyone make the argument that the ability to get your opponent to the ground and physically control him or her once there will ever become obsolete in MMA? If your opponent spends an entire fight attempting to break free of your control, then he isn’t mounting any offense himself, and he’s bound to lose the fight.
Obviously, this is mixed martial arts, and fighters will always look to submit their opponents where available. If, in the course of a fight, a fighter attempts a submission, then he or she has mounted an offense whether it’s successful or not. We’ve seen the early answer to this, it’s called the lay-and-pray. This is a tactic that will get you booed by fans and blackballed from major organizations if done with consistency.
As a result, knowledge of submission defense becomes as important as the submission itself (it’s for this reason I refute the argument that some make that Brazilian jiu-jitsu will someday become obsolete, but that’s a different argument).
So, armed with a collegiate wrestling pedigree and good submission defense, a fighter can carve a bountiful place for himself inside the UFC without a great standup game, or at least while he develops one. The same cant be said about crisp standup with poor grappling ability. How many pure boxers or kickboxers even attempt to come into the MMA without grappling ability? Now, how many succeed? I can think of Cheik Kongo and Pat Barry off the top of my head. A rather small list when compared with the list of wrestlers.
As younger fighters continue to grow in MMA schools rather than commit to a single fighting discipline, as is happening at a growing rate in the U.S., they will undoubtedly be taught the importance of the grappling game in addition to the standup. No MMA school would ever sway from that stance. It would be improper teaching.
What’s more, consider the fact that while the sport of MMA is growing across the pond in the U.K., fighters coming up over there have little to no exposure to wrestling or any grappling based style within the country. While we’ve seen elements of success in British fighters like Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy, none have ever captured a UFC Championship, and they always seem to have a glaring hole in their game if the fight hits the ground. Hardy got his championship shot, but Georges St-Pierre exposed his weakness in that area for all five rounds.
Wrestling is the most important discipline in MMA. At this stage, It’s not a theory but a time-tested fact.