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MMA Specialists Are A Dying Breed

By on September 2, 2009

MMA Specialists Are A Dying Breed

UFC 102: Couture vs Nogueira featured one of the best submission
grapplers in the world, as well as one of the world’s best wrestlers.
No, I’m not talking about Randy Couture or Minotauro Nogueira. The
performances of Demian Maia and Jake Rosholt can be used to show how
current MMA philosophies are moving away from specialization, and
towards well-roundedness. However, I believe these philosophies are
flawed.

When Nate Marquardt knocked out Maia, analysts and fans
alike began proclaiming the proof that being well-rounded is far more
important than excellence in any specific discipline within mixed
martial arts.

What I saw, was a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter out
of his depth when he attempted striking attacks that were simply
outside of his skill set.

But while there are only 20 or so
seconds of fight to review, I truly believe that Maia could have been
more effective in those seconds if he did anything but attempting to
prove that he could strike with Marquardt.

If you want an example
of a BJJ fighter who knows his depths, look at BJ Penn. Penn is a good
boxer, but doesn’t really have great kicks. As a result, he uses his
kicks only sparingly, and uses his opponents kicks as opportunities to
land punches or takedowns. Penn is the perfect kind of fighter for Maia
to emulate.

But if you remain unconvinced, please also consider
the fight between multiple-NCAA Division 1 wrestling championship
winner Jake Rosholt’s fight against UFC gatekeeper Chris Leben.

Through
two rounds, Jake Rosholt used his wrestling only sparingly, as he
attempted to stand and box against his veteran opponent. His eventual
victory by submission hides the fact that he was losing on the
scorecards going into the third and final round.

Being in a
losing position on the scorecards is normal for most fighters, but in
the case of Rosholt, it should have been inexcusable.

Rosholt’s
wrestling advantage should have been enough for him to score multiple
takedowns, while gaining more points with good positional control. Yet
instead of wrestling with Leben, he elected to stand and strike for the
first two rounds, getting a takedown only once, and not controlling
position against Leben once the fight hit the mat.

But along with
being able to score points with his wrestling, showing a willingness to
use his greatest asset should have helped Rosholt win the fight in
other areas.

Through two rounds, Leben was able to swing his fists in wide and wild arcs, as he had no fear of being taken down.
In
post-fight interviews, Rosholt stated that he chose to stand with Leben
because he wanted to put on an impressive performance. Certainly there
is nothing wrong with showing a few more tools in the arsenal, but I
would have been far more impressed with his performance if he had taken
Leben down and submitted him early, rather than needlessly letting the
fight go into the third round.

A great example of Rosholt’s
general idea of impressing the crowd was shown by Brandon Vera earlier
in the night. Vera had been criticized after this fight with Michael
Patt, for not displaying any boxing, choosing to land almost
exclusively with leg kicks.

So to prove a point, Vera restrained
his leg kicks later in his fight with Krzysztof Soszynski, instead
using only his boxing, earning himself a lackluster decision.

Amazingly,
Brandon Vera went from being a fighter with all kicks and no punches,
to being a fighter with some punches, and no kicks. Somewhere in my
mind there exists a Brandon Vera who seamlessly mixes his attack to
great effect.

Sadly, over the last two fights, Brandon Vera’s
attempts to silence his critics has only served to fuel them. Hopefully
he has learned this lesson.

But if you are still unconvinced about the value of playing to one’s strengths, take a lesson from UFC history.

All
of the UFC’s greatest champions have succeeded not because they are
well rounded, but because they have been able to take control of a
fight, instead of falling into the domains of their opponents.

Matt Hughes won by turning all of his fights into wrestling matches.

Randy
Couture forced his opponents to clinch with him, where he was able to
use a significant advantage in dirty boxing. Furthermore, his ability
to take fighters down helped him to land more strikes. For example, he
was able to drop Tim Sylvia because he faked a takedown and threw an
overhand instead.

Anderson Silva forces his opponents to
aggressively strike against him, by using his range, and his takedown
defense. But if an opponent invites him down into his game, as did
Thales Leites, Anderson is content to sit back and earn himself an easy
decision victory.

Even Georges St.Pierre, arguably the most
well-rounded fighter in MMA history uses his strengths, and capitalizes
on his opponents weaknesses. He does this, he says, because it is
“smart.”

Against Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, and Thiago Alves,
St.Pierre was willing to engage in a controlled striking match, but
only to the point that his opponents began to open up and really swing
for the fences.

As soon as Alves tried to unleash those big shots, St.Pierre used the opening to get the takedown.

That is exactly the type of thing that a great wrestler like Rosholt should be doing against a brawler like Chris Leben.

Unfortunately, it seems like fighters are attempting to be more well-rounded, but are losing focus on their greater strengths.

By Darren Wong for FightMania.com

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