Power Ranking the Most Difficult Aspects of MMA to Master
The reason why mixed martial arts is so exciting is because of the wide array of attacks fighters can pull from their arsenal of weapons.
At any given moment, a fighter can go from throwing leg kicks and superman punches to trying to score a single-leg takedown in hopes of choking their foe out on the mat. While this virtually all-encompassing style of combat is filled with action, it takes years to master just one discipline, let alone multiple ones.
Let's take a look at some of the arts and aspects that make up the base of MMA and see how they stack up to each other.
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Whether it's Muay Thai or Dutch-style kickboxing, learning how to effectively strike with your hands and feet is not as easy as fighters make it seem.
Sure, many grapplers who transition into striking can pick up the various techniques relatively quickly. However, it takes years to master things like judging distance, setting up strikes and using proper footwork.
As we've seen in bouts involving the likes of Jose Aldo or Anderson Silva, there's a finesse to striking and controlling the pace while standing up that can take a lifetime to develop.
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While many fighters know the basic positions and submissions found in BJJ, becoming a true master of the art takes years of experience.
It takes practitioners nearly 10 years on average to receive their black belt because it requires a decade for most people to master most of the moves in this martial art, as well as developing that sensitivity to all the different positions.
Sure, some fighters can get away with having a subpar BJJ game if their takedown defense and striking are solid. However, in order to become truly good on the mat, one must dedicate thousands of hours to rolling and working on their ground techniques.
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While learning how to land successful strikes isn't the most difficult aspect of MMA, learning how to box properly is a pretty hard skill to master.
One of the major criticisms boxers have of MMA fighters is that they throw sloppy punches and rarely use the jab. I tend to agree with these critics, as the vast majority of athletes in this sport just don't have great boxing.
It's not really learning how to throw the punch as it is learning all the little nuances of boxing. The head movement, the footwork, using proper combinations and set ups—these are the little things that many lower- and mid-tier fighters just haven't mastered.
And if you look at champs like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, among others, they have all spent time refining their boxing skills because they know how important this discipline is in MMA.
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Out of each individual discipline that makes up the sport of MMA, none is harder to master than wrestling.
Whether it's freestyle or Greco-Roman, the amount of work and dedication it takes to become a successful wrestler is virtually unmatched by the other aspects of the game.
It's not learning all the different techniques and positions that is the difficult part. After all, that could be said for any martial art. Rather, the truly arduous task is gaining the ability to cope with the amount of stress it takes on both the body and the mind.
Between weight cutting, conditioning and daily practices, wrestlers go through brutal and extreme conditions year after year as they chase their NCAA, Olympic and even MMA dreams.
This type of drive and ability to keep grinding despite being completely exhausted is what makes wrestlers so successful inside the cage.
Obtaining a wrestler's never-say-die attitude and learning how to force your way back to standing even after repeated takedowns—that's a skill that very few people, even fighters, can master.
1. Putting It All Together
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While mastering one discipline in MMA can be a lifelong task in and of itself, if a fighter really wants to be successful inside the cage, he or she must learn how to mix all these different aspects together in an effective manner.
A fighter must be able to seamlessly flow between striking, getting the clinch, going for the takedowns and so on, because you never know where the fight will go. And as the sport has proven over the years, being a master of one discipline is not a shoo-in for long-term success.
None of the UFC's most dominant champions are true masters of every single aspect of the game, but each one of them—from Ronda Rousey to Cain Velasquez—is spectacular at mixing up their attacks. And out of all of them, welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre is probably the best of the best at this.
He is pretty skilled in each of the various aspects of MMA, but if we are talking pure wrestling or pure jiu-jitsu, there are only a handful of 170-pounders who are considered better at that single discipline than St-Pierre. However, there is virtually no one out there who can seamlessly integrate them for such an efficient attack like "Rush" inside the Octagon.
Jon Jones is another fighter who, although being a fantastic wrestler and a very creative striker, has shown holes in his jiu-jitsu game. However, his combination of attacks—both standing up and on the mat—have been a proven recipe for success. It has even led to a few submission wins over BJJ black belts for "Bones."
At the end of the day, there's a reason why this is called mixed martial arts, so it shouldn't be a surprise that learning how to effectively use all these different weapons together is the most difficult aspect to master in this sport.