The Next Step in the Evolution of Mixed Martial Arts: Defense

Ken FossAnalyst ISeptember 18, 2009

Every so often these days in MMA the game is changed forever. It started with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which exposed every pure striking art as flawed.

Then a few years later wrestlers began taking the stage adding emphasis on getting the opponent to the mat, establishing dominant position, and raining down strikes.

"Ground and Pound" (or GnP) as its now known, changed the way the action unfolded forever, and wrestlers like Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, and Tito Ortiz led the way.

Then in the early '00s the pendulum swung back in the direction of the striker, now well cross-trained, strikers started learning how to stop wrestlers in their tracks by denying them the chance to get the fight to the ground.

The "Sprawl" was a technique cannibalized from wrestling itself. Now when we see a takedown we expect to see the fighter slide their legs out dropping there body weight onto the fighter shooting in, by mastering this technique strikers were now able to finally showcase their wares, K-1 Kickboxers, and Muay Thai fighters flocked to MMA.

The Age of Strikers had begun, and new techniques began to take center stage.

The Muay Thai clinch began to become a viable weapon for fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Maurico Rua, officially putting the last nail in the coffin of the first generation.

No longer could one dimensional fighters hope to win the day, as Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu fell away as dominant arts.

With the glut of options, fighters began true multi-art training, and high quality MMA gyms began to open to accommodate them.

After this point, the changes became far more subtle; for example, the emergence of Judo began, as large numbers of fights would end in the clinch, either against the cage fighting for a takedown or attempting to work for the plum.

Fighters began seeing openings for techniques like Harai Goshi and the Uchi Mata.

When they got to the ground some fighters have begun working the newly developed rubber guard to add a new dimension of control, as well as whole host of new techniques not yet mastered(things like the twister, crackhead control, and the neck crank from a triangle set up)

More recently the sport has started to reach its full potential, with the use of video technology.

Fighters are now looking for flaws and tendencies, rather than sure fire techniques, and fight promoters are looking to athleticism rather than pure skill to find the next stars.

However, that doesn't mean we've reached the apex.

People sometimes struggle to see the forest through the trees, and the development of Anderson Silva is the perfect example.

Some people still see Anderson Silva as the fighter fired from Pride, while others only see his dominance in the octagon.

People have struggled to understand how Anderson Silva has developed into the world beater he currently is, but its so obvious when you watch his fights.

He's discovered something in himself that has made him the fighter he is today, something only high level boxers have ever showcased before.

Anderson Silva has always been an accurate striker, he's always had a nice jab, and he's always been a deadly muay thai kickboxer, so these are not the correct answers home gamer.

The next step in the evolution of MMA isn't anything offensive, it's actually counter offensive...

It's head movement, or more descriptive counter fighting, simple, innocuous, but totally soul sucking.

You see sometime between his Pride rejection, and his UFC run he learned that not only can he land punches at an absurdly high percentage, but if he wanted to, he could deny high level mixed martial artists any sort of offense of their own.

It doesn't sound very dominant, but think about it...Even if you where as tough as they come. If your getting hit, and you can't hit back, your eventually going to get despite. Nobody likes losing. So you'll sell out and he'll pick you apart even more.

The more you try, the worse the beating gets until eventually he breaks you or knocks you out.

This is the puzzle piece that every boxing aficionado claims is the reason that their sport is a superior product. It's the "Sweet Science", poetry in motion, or performance art.

While the rest of their arguments are frankly ignorant, hate speech. They do have a point on this, one issue.

When you watch the average MMA fight, patterns begin to emerge.

In the standup, for example, you may see two fighters stand in the pocket with minimal head movement but decent hand position. They may bounce up and down or just slowly circle (most of the time directly into the other fighters power hand) but all attacks have a very set unconscious jerky rhythm one guy may throw a leg kick, then the other guy will throw a one-two then reset.

This continues until one man is rocked, or a takedown is attempted.

The average boxing match will have a much more defined flow, fighters will effectively, and fluidly counter punch, counters will be countered, the action will have ebbs and flows, with some sloppy bits, but in the end the action will feel organic.

Anderson Silva does this so well to do it justice you have to see it in slow motion, he doesn't knock fighters out these days... he makes them quit. 

Eventually though as MMA evolves new things are discovered, the untouchables will be swept away by a new breed of ever more skilled fighters.

The question is...when? And maybe most important with what?