The sport of MMA has come a long way from the circus days of the early '90s. Official rules and weight classes are just two things that helped MMA get mainstream attention.
There are many innovations in the fight game that have made MMA what it is today. Sure, striking and submissions were always a main focus of a fight, but some men made an exclamation point with their style that are examples of how to fight today.
Here are five innovations of MMA and the men who put the spotlight on these skills.
Most of the MMA fighters in the early days of fighting were strikers primarily. Strikers came from backgrounds such as karate, savate and kung fu.
When Marco Ruas came to the UFC, he was the model of what an MMA fighter should be. He was a vale tudo fighter that had striking, takedowns and submissions, which not many fighters had.
One of the biggest contributions Ruas made to the sport was the model of how important leg kicks were. This was exemplified in his UFC 7 fight with Paul Varelans, where he was outsized by the massive American.
Using his leg kicks from the outside, he gradually chopped down the suddenly immobile Varelans, which eventually allowed him to finish the fight with strikes.
It earned him the UFC 7 Tournament title and gave MMA fighters something to work on.
When put on your back from a takedown, one of the most important things to do is get back up. The wall walk is one of the best moves for doing so.
Many people point to Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz as the innovators of the wall walk. This move is so important because it helps neutralize opponents taking fights to the ground.
Chuck has used the wall walk many times, proving his example of solid takedown defense.
Nowadays, you will always see people training to wall walk in preparation for fights. It is a tremendous skill and neutralizer that has changed MMA for the better.
The most recent "innovation" of the bunch, Georges St. Pierre showed that the jab is still an absolutely essential tool in any MMA fighters arsenal.
The jab is more viewed as a boxing necessity, due to the science boxing takes to win.
However, when GSP used his jab to mess up Josh Koscheck and keep him at distance, it proved that a jab is a great striking tool, as well as a great takedown defense tool.
Some fighters have already begun to take notice and now you will see more jabs being utilized in fights.
Most ground fighters in the early days of the UFC were catch wrestlers or submission wrestlers, but Dan Severn brought one of the most important tools to the playing field at UFC 4.
Severn proved how effective American wrestling—power takedowns and top control—was in MMA.
He was the early example of a power wrestler that inspired many wrestlers to take up MMA. Without Severn, guys like Matt Hughes and countless others may never have been what they were.
The man that may have given the greatest innovation in mixed martial arts was the king of the early UFC days. That man was Royce Gracie.
Gracie brought with him to the cage a skinny, unmuscular frame that many thought was a joke. He showed he wasn't playing around when he proceeded to use a weird form of grappling to submit opponents left and right.
His "weird grappling" was a system known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Instantaneously, people were intrigued and BJJ was a phenomenon. Now, most fighters presently train methodically in BJJ. Some of the world's best fighters are black belts in the grappling art.
Considered "The Godfather of Ground and Pound," Mark Coleman may have given one of the most important tools to mixed martial arts.
Though Dan Severn showed American wrestling could be an dangerous tool, Coleman took it one step further when he showed the devastation that crazy volumes of ground strikes could bring.
It is a style that has influenced other ground-and-pound artists like Hammer House teammate Kevin Randleman, Tito Ortiz and many other wrestlers with heavy hands.