UFC: BJJ Has Lost Its Effectiveness as an MMA Base

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2013

Things used to be better. Like, everything.

Remember that Ninja Turtles cereal from back in the day? Remember the Ninja Turtles in general?

Or Sega Genesis, Crystal Pepsi or knocking on doors to get people to go play outside?

sOr smoking in restaurants or driving without seat belts? Not everyone reading this was born in the '80s, folks.

Yup, things just plain used to be better.

Another one of those things, one that belongs right there next to clear soda, free range smoking and gaming with three buttons?

Jiu-jitsu in MMA.

Jiu-jitsu in MMA used to be serious. It used to be threatening. It used to be pretty much all a man needed to break his opponent's will and wallow in his successes.

Not anymore, though.

Now, the pure jiu-jitsu guys are a dying breed, and the idea that they're the ones to be feared is tragically outdated.

Look at the official rankings in each weight class. Out of the 90 fighters that make up the top-10s of each division, only a handful could be called jiu-jitsu specialists.

Really only Demian Maia and Ronaldo Souza are "jiu-jitsu guys," and Maia recently had to drop a weight class to rejuvenate his career.

Sure, there are guys like the Nogueiras and Fabricio Werdum who have flown the flag of the gentle art for years. But they've also relied on good striking—particularly Werdum, who has grown exponentially on his feet in recent years—to get the job done as well.

The point is that the jiu-jitsu specialist is dying, and as a base it's essentially hopeless. There are a few reasons for that.

The most prominent would have to be judging; having a tricky guard and hunting for submissions from one's back is pointless in North American MMA. The only part of that sentence a judge would see is "from one's back," and that's where you lose a fight.

Another issue is that, in terms of specializing in an art, jiu-jitsu is the toughest to specialize in successfully at a high level. Very few pure BJJ players have the takedowns to outduel a wrestler or the striking to compete with a kickboxer in MMA.

On the other hand, those specializing in wrestling are usually able to avoid submissions and win with top control, while any striker worth his salt should have enough of a jab to control distance and set up big shots for as long as he needs to.

The final concern would be the rise of what a great man once called "the anti-jiu-jitsu." To paraphrase, the idea is that most guys getting into MMA without an understanding of jiu-jitsu are simply learning what to do to survive positions and submission attempts.

They don't learn technique. They learn to keep airways open or pressure off joints just long enough to get away with an explosive move or a display of raw power.

The great ones, those who have adapted their grappling to MMA, are still able to finish—the Maias, Souzas, Werdums and Nogueiras. The rest? They end up cut and on the way back to crush competition in Abu Dhabi.

This is perhaps the greatest issue facing jiu-jitsu as a base: the idea that it's becoming harder and harder to perfect it when so many people are putting so much time into finding its imperfections. Those imperfections are being exploited and causing problems for the men who have come to rely on it for their success.

Make no mistake. This isn't to be read as a postmortem on jiu-jitsu. There are still a hundred great pieces of the art on display every time the UFC takes to the airwaves. Anything from maintaining mount to finishing with a flying triangle is jiu-jitsu on display, and that's never going to change.

But as a base? As a base, it's dying.

After all, if Roger Gracie and Vinny Magalhaes can't make it, who can?