This past weekend’s The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale was a night to remember. TUF crowned a controversial, yet capable champ in “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson (11-2). Fans were also fortunate enough to witness up-and-comers like “Kingsbu” Kyle Kingsbury (11-2), Fabio Maldonado (18-4), “C-Murder” Chris Cope (5-1), and others who will likely entertain for years to come. But the night was unfairly lambasted by fans when the co-main event fight between “The Carpenter” Clay Guida (29-11) and final WEC champ “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (13-2) went to the judges’ decision. The fight was derided as boring, “lay-and-pray”, and even incorrectly judged – and all this criticism came down on the winner, Clay Guida. Whether or not the fight was enjoyable is subjective and it is a moot point to try and argue. You either enjoyed it or you didn’t; there is not right or wrong there. However, fans’ displeasure with Guida’s winning tactics are unfounded. “The Carpenter” indeed displays varying skills in a sport that caters to those who know when and how to use their strengths, even if it means using one skill at a time. But it is the bias against wrestling that has misguided so much of the post-fight fallout.
This Saturday, March 19, in Newark, New Jersey, the UFC presents a Cinderella story as “Bones” Jon Jones (12-1) steps into the Octagon to face UFC Light Heavyweight Champion “Shogun” Mauricio Rua (19-4) at UFC 128. The headliner is one that has most MMA fan on the edge of their seats as the old PRIDE hero faces the UFC up-and-comer and reflects the rest of the card perfectly. UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones is stacked with matches that pit standouts of the non-UFC MMA world against the cream of the crop of the UFC’s middle tier including “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-9-2) against The Ultimate Fighter 10 finalist “The Hybrid” Brendan Schaub (6-1), “The Great” Nate Marquardt (30-10-2) vs. a very game late replacement in Dan Miller (13-4), and WEC featherweight star “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (24-4), the longtime poster child of why the UFC should merge with the WEC, opposite fellow WEC stand-out Edward Wineland (17-6-1). Also slated for action are WEC warrior “The Prince of Persia” Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2) and UFC submission ace “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (19-2). The bout is a meeting of classic foes as Shalorus will pit his fast paced wrestling game against the slick submissions of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Sparta, New Jersey.
Despite a professional MMA career peppered with legal tribulations including most recently the California State Athletic Commission’s (CSAC) refusal to license “The Babyfaced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) to fight in the State of California, Barnett is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for the inaugural Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix to get under way. He signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce in September 2010 and is expected to have his debut fight in the promotion in the quarter-finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament, facing “The Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2).
In part one of this article, I explained the basic errors in the current stand-up training of the vast majority of MMA strikers. In part two I will cover how it is a direct result of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Olympic wrestling. It’s no news to anyone that the first four American MMA events, UFCs 1-4, were basically an advertisement for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Royce Gracie (14-3-3) faced a group of hand picked opponents, many of whom had no business being in the ring at all. The result was Royce winning several fights by submission, fights that couldn’t be stopped by the referee until UFC 3. Starting with Kimo Leopoldo (10-7-1) in UFC 3, “The Giant Killer” Keith Hackney (2-2) and “The Beast” Dan Severn (95-16-7) in UFC 4 and finally “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (27-14-2) in UFC 5, the way to defeat Gracie Jiu-Jitsu became apparent. Either keep it standing as Hackney and Kimo tried (Kimo tried to stand out of the guard the entire bout but Royce kept a death grip on his hair to prevent it) or smother it with solid top game and game and small ground ‘n’ pound as Severn and Shamrock (successfully) tried. It is also important to note that though Royce defeated Kimo, Keith, and Dan, he failed to finish any of them quickly enough to avoid the end of a round in the modern rules. UFC 5 started the reign of the wrestler in full as Dan Severn dominated the entire field and Ken Shamrock shut Gracie down a beat him to a pulp for 36 minutes. Over the next several tournaments, we saw it continue as strong collegiate wrestlers like “The Predator” Don Frye (20-8-1), “The Hammer” Mark Coleman (16-10), and “The Smashing Machine” Mark Kerr (15-11). Successful skilled strikers like “Mo” Maurice Smith (13-13) and “The King of the Streets” Marco Ruas (9-4-1) got lost in the mix, with the only credit for being a dangerous striker being given to one punch brawlers like “Tank” David Abbot (10-14) and “The Polar Bear” Paul Varelans (10-9) neither of whom managed to win a title in any organization or put together winning streaks of more than two fights in their careers. Let’s explore why this happened.
Let’s all get together for MMA story time:
In the beginning, four men sat in the locker room of a Japanese pro-wrestling show contemplating the validity of Japanese shoot fighting’s oldest principle: nobody will ever pay to see real fights; they come for entertainment, not reality. A year later, on September 21, 1993, they formed a promotion to test this principle. The result was an organization where the best kick boxers, catch wrestlers, and shoot fighters of the day would meet in a bout that followed the rules of worked shoot fighting but an actual combative competition. They called it Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling. The four men were Masakatsu Funaki (39-12-1), Minoru Suzuki (27-20-1), Yusuke Fuke (16-29-3), and “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (27-14-2). This was the birth of what we call mixed martial arts today. Three months later, just four days after competing in the third Pancrase show, Ken Shamrock became arguably the biggest star of the first UFC. Despite a loss in the semi-finals to Royce Gracie the fans were drawn to the chiseled features and movie star persona of “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man.” This is just a small piece of the history of the man who was arguably the most important fighter in history of MMA.