Is Wrestling Taking the Martial Arts out of Mixed Martial Arts?
Is American wrestling stalling the progress of Mixed Martial Arts? Some fans think so, and after some recent matches in particular, arguments are rife that wrestlers are killing the aesthetics of the sport.
Every MMA fan, commentator and reporter has found themselves in a discussion as to who are the best fighters to watch, which is different from a discussion about who are the best fighters period. Being one of the best fighters to watch does not necessarily equate to being one of the best fighters in terms of winning accomplishments.
Take Melvin Manhoef for example. Few would argue that Melvin is one of the best fighters to watch because he always brings the proverbial rage to the ring. His most attractive asset is his raw, explosive, unhindered power with little care for defense — which, unfortunately, is often his undoing. Melvin will never be classified as one of the best MMA fighters in the world, but he will always be listed as one of the best to watch.
Of course, there are fighters who double up as being the best to watch and also the actual best in skill level and results. Look no further than Fedor Emelianenko as the prime example.
Fedor is largely considered one of the best fighters to watch because he possesses a skill set most of us believe encapsulates the true and complete MMA fighter: he can fight equally well standing or on the ground, on his back or in top position, he finishes fights by both submissions and strikes – and does so in highlight reel fashion. On top of that, he epitomizes the attributes of humility, focus and discipline that traditional martial arts seeks to ingrain in its students. You get the feeling that the late Mas Oyama, Gichin Funakoshi or even Jigaro Kano would have enjoyed watching Fedor do as he does in the ring and act as he does outside of the ring. (For the record, if you’re wondering who the hell are any of the names I just mentioned, you should Google and really become better versed as to where and by whom the many styles of martial arts were developed. It’s a pet hate of mine that many so-called Mixed Martial Arts reporters do not know much at all of the origins of the various arts beyond a basic knowledge of Helio Gracie, Bruce Lee and old Kung Fu films).
Anderson Silva is another fighter invariably thrown into the mix as being among the best to watch and the best fighter in the sport. Take away his mind-numbingly boring fight in Abu Dhabi and Anderson’s career is littered with superb knockouts, excellent submissions and some of the most sublime displays of speed and footwork ever seen in MMA.
Other names that often arise in these discussions include: Lyoto Machida, Marius Zaromskis, Nick Diaz, Gegard Mousasi, Forrest Griffin, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Joachim Hansen and JZ Cavalcante.
Do you notice something about this list?
None of these fighters have a base in wrestling.
Wrestlers are among the most disciplined, hardest working and diligent athletes in any sport. I marvel at the skill level of world class wrestlers who have transitioned successfully to Mixed Martial Arts, from guys like Mark Coleman and Dan Severn in the early days who developed the prototype for the successful American wrestler in MMA. Their takedowns, top control, ground and pound recipe (I call it TD, TC, GnP) paved the way for the likes of Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes, right up to the new breed of gun wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Joe Warren, Mo Lawal, Gray Maynard and Ryan Bader. In fact, with the exception of Semmy Schilt facing you in a K-1 match, I can’t think of a more imposing sight in fight sports than a high level American wrestler standing across the ring from you knowing they are going to take you down, put you on your back, sit in your half guard and beat up on you like a piñata.