There was a time when a mixed martial arts fight was a proving ground to see which style of fighting was superior. All the fighters were specialists in their art form and by definition, one-dimensional.
Enter Carlos and Helio Gracie. Not content to spend their time lazing on beautiful Brazilian beaches, they were busy improvising on traditional Jiu Jitsu to develop a no-holds-barred fighting style incorporating ground fighting and strikes.
This new art form, known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was put to the test in the Vale Tudo martial arts tournaments held at Brazilian circuses in the 1920s. There were no rounds or time limits and head butts, hair pulling and soccer kicks to the head of a grounded opponent were all allowed.
Helio Gracie competed in 19 professional fights during his career. His first match, in 1932, was against a professional boxer named Antonio Portugal. Helio submitted him in 30 seconds. Early on it was obvious that boxing alone wasn’t going to cut it in MMA. Come on, did you really think James Tony had a chance against Randy Couture at UFC 118?
Antonio Inoki, a professional wrestler turned MMA fighter/promoter, hosted some of the first mixed martial arts matches in Japan in the 1970s. These matches pitted fighters with different skill sets from all dominant disciplines of combat, such as boxing, karate, judo, Capoeira, kung fu and sumo. And although it appears that some of the matches were staged ala professional wrestling, it was obvious that the man with more than one combat specialty had a distinct advantage.
Case in point: For the majority of his career Ray Sefo was a dominant kickboxer who held five world titles. Transitioning into MMA in 2005, he racked up two wins before meeting Valentijn Overeem in Strikeforce: Fedor vs Silva. It was soon apparent that Sefo was a fish-out-of-water on the mat. He flopped ineffectually before being submitted in one minute and 37 seconds.
So how can a one-dimensional fighter even compete in today’s super competitive world of MMA?
Here are five MMA fighters that have managed to be successful and even contend for major titles while remaining steadfast specialists who can be called one trick ponies.