Are American Wrestlers the New Ground Experts in MMA?
MMA fans learned a lot from watching UFC 117. For one, UFC 117 showed that physiques can be misleading.
Roy Nelson was the first fighter to bring Junior Dos Santos to a decision, and the world was able to see him face a top-five heavyweight contender and hang in with massive heart for the long haul despite being bested at the standup game.
Two, the obvious one is that we saw that revered champs like Anderson Silva can, indeed, bleed at the hands of fighters otherwise considered unworthy, and that champs can get beat up for nearly five straight rounds while somehow still having the heart to pull off a submission after exhaustion by both fighters.
Three, and most importantly, we witnessed the dominance of wrestling. Had the ancient Greeks watched UFC 117, they would have been proud for this very reason.
Although Big Country couldn't get the fight to the ground and Chael Sonnen was ultimately submitted, Big Country knows Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Sonnen has been the only man in the history of MMA to beat Silva up for 23 straight minutes.
Sonnen's skill set? Wrestling.
Despite the L on his record, to weigh the offensive output between Sonnen and Silva shows a considerable gap, and it had a comparable ending to Lesnar vs. Mir I.
It didn't end there, though. Matt Hughes, Clay Guida and Jon Fitch, all superb American wrestlers, were able to submit or dominate their opponents and ultimately help the Americans take 3/5 on the main card against the Brazilians.
Fitch completely nullified Thiago Alves's Muy Thai and Jiu Jitsu by outwrestling him. It was evident after the first round that Fitch was the more skilled fighter, being able to take Alves down at will and, more importantly, impose it.
Guida beat Rafael dos Anjos by subduing him with wrestling. He won by submission after busting dos Anjos's jaw, and Guida completely dominated the entire fight on the ground.
Hughes turned what was initially a grudge match for Ricardo Almeida into a great first Hall of Fame victory by submitting Almeida in a wrestling headlock, making him pass out.
Sonnen put an unprecedented beating on Silva, and he thus forcefully opened the eyes of every middleweight fighter out there: aggressive wrestling is the key to beating Silva.
Granted Silva deserves credit for pulling off a desperate submission, his performance against the complete underdog Sonnen was embarrassing for a fighter of his caliber. More than an embarrassment for Silva, though, the performance should go to Sonnen's credit.
He alone is the only man to consistently and forcefully unravel the Spider's web enough to put him at a major disadvantage, and no matter where you stand on the Silva fence, this aspect of the fight should not go unnoticed.
Again, in the cases of Hughes, Guida, Fitch and Sonnen, wrestling was the major factor in turning the fight to the Americans' advantage, and they deserve a lot of credit for doing so.
These are not the only fighters to bring wrestling to the front line of modern day MMA.
Rashad Evans took care of Thiago Silva and Quinton Jackson by powerfully taking them down and beating on them the entire three rounds.
Jon Jones has destroyed all his competition, including Matt Hamill, by out wrestling them and beating them into submission, and Hamill is no slouch either.
Brock Lesnar has torn through some of the most skilled grapplers in the UFC by effectively using his great size with expertise leverage he learned to control by wrestling in college.
With the amount of success of wrestlers and relatively few submissions by way of Jiu Jitsu practitioners over wrestlers, MMA has changed yet again.
Wrestlers often eliminate the Jiu Jitsu positioning hierarchy by either choosing to stay in their opponent's guard or half guard while never advancing beyond side control.
This has added to the benefit of wrestlers as such positioning is hard for grapplers to defend against. Since there's not much of a scramble on the part of wrestlers to further advancing positioning, grapplers have a tougher time using the space in between bursts to regain positioning or stop a beatdown.
This is not to say that wrestling is the most superior form of fighting; only that MMA is continuing to adapt.
This is also not to say that wrestling is inherently better than Jiu Jitsu as plenty of wrestlers have been submitted in the past.
The fact is that MMA is an evolving beast, and wrestling seems to be the best ground offense one can have in full fledged one-on-one combat.
At least for now it seems that the best combination for a fighter is a wrestling background with submission defense knowledge along with sound clinch and stand-up phases of fighting.
What will the future hold?
Only time will tell.
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