Battle of Styles Redux: The Pride Years, Nationality, and Wrestling

A reader, MMMadman, brought up an interesting point in the wild and woolly discussion following my article breaking down the base styles of the sport's most successful fighters. What if the influx of wrestlers into the mixed martial arts was a product of American culture? Would we find fewer wrestlers at the top ranks of a fight promotion somewhere else in the world?

25 of the 28 fighters in the wrestling category were born/raised in the United States where amateur wrestling is prevalent. 31 of the 42 fighters in the other categories grew up outside of North America where wrestling is not as prevalent. Most of the guys in the sample are/were Zuffa/Strikeforce fighters. It stands to reason given the amount of amateur wrestlers in America, that a sport dominated by American companies would be dominated by people with a base in the country's most popular discipline.

It was an interesting idea, one I decided to take head on. In the interest of preserving the same level of scientific integrity displayed in my early post, I compiled a group of Pride's best fighters by pulling names from the back of DVD boxes. Pride was Japan's leading promotion for almost a decade. Surely, were we to see cultural differences, we would see them in Japan where the gravitational pull of  scholastic wrestling had less influence. The results?

Wrestling: 37% (43% currently)

Jiu Jitsu: 21% (26%)

Kickboxing: 17% (10%)

Judo: 15% (4%)

Mixed: 9% (17%)

The basic premise that nationality would have a major effect on the makeup of a promotion's fighting styles was confirmed, but not because wrestling's role was limited. Wrestlers still made up almost 40 percent of the promotion's top fighters and once again equalled the combined impact of the other leading martial arts. Instead, in Japan we saw an increased emphasis on Judo, the nation's leading fighting art, and kickboxing, a sport that had seen amazing success for more than a decade. Whether the promotion was headquartered in Las Vegas or Tokyo, one thing stays consistent - the leading performers in MMA competition at the highest level spring from the wrestling room, not the dojo.

After the break, the fighter list to nitpick.

Wrestling:

  1. Nobuhiko Takada
  2. Dan Severn
  3. Mark Coleman
  4. Tom Erickson
  5. Josh Barnett
  6. Kazayuki Fujita
  7. Mark Kerr
  8. Kevin Randleman
  9. Dan Henderson
  10. Quinton Jackson
  11. Kazushi Sakuraba
  12. Chuck Liddell
  13. Kiyoshi Tamura
  14. Takanori Gomi
  15. Mitsuya Ishida
  16. Gilbert Melendez
  17. Tatsuyi Kawajiri

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

  1. Rickson Gracie
  2. Royce Gracie
  3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  4. Ricardo Arona
  5. Fabricio Werdum
  6. Murilo Bustamante
  7. Paulo Fihlo
  8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  9. Marcus Aurelia
  10. Denis Kang

Kickboxing:

  1. Igor Vovchancin
  2. Heath Herring
  3. Semmy Schilt
  4. Mirko Filipovic
  5. Wanderlei Silva
  6. Sergei Kharitonov
  7. Mauricio Rua
  8. Mark Hunt

Judo:

  1. Naoya Ogawa
  2. Hidehiko Yoshida
  3. Fedor Emelianenko
  4. Hayato Sakurai
  5. Kaz Misaki
  6. Akihiro Gono
  7. Tsyoshi Kohsaka

Mixed:

  1. Gary Goodridge
  2. Alistair Overeem
  3. Gegard Mousassi
  4. Joachim Hansen
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