George St. Pierre's run of decision victories brings up an interesting question ... how important is the finish in MMA? While GSP himself claims to want finishes, he also follows a risk-adverse gameplan that doesn't lead to finishes. Is this something we should hold against him?
The answer depends on your philosophy of what MMA is all about. Is it a sport? Or is it the closest acceptable form of no-holds barred one on one combat? Certainly the roots of modern MMA involved a desire to discover which "style" was best ... which fighting style was the most effective. It was to help settle debates about who would win if Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan were pitted in death matches with each other. Surprisingly, jiu-jitsu proved itself to be the most effective style at the dawn of modern MMA. Royce Gracie was able to choke out or submit bigger, stronger, faster men with his superior skill, knowledge, and technique.
Fast forward 15+ years, and some MMA fights resemble sports matches rather than real combat. Strategic gameplans designed to win points from the judges rather than actually inflict damage upon the opponent. The most egregious example is the "lay and pray" ... taking an opponent down and keeping him there but not inflicting damage. The loser of a lay and pray match is often unmarked and completely unhurt ... and sometimes looks the much fresher of the two combatants at the end of the fight. The most recent example of this was Martin Kampmann vs Jake Shields ... with Kampmann wondering how he lost the fight when Shields did no damage and never had a threatening submission attempt.
MMA continues to evolve, but is it evolving in a way that we truly desire? Do we want a sport or do we want combat? Is self-defense or true combat effectiveness something we should consider an important criteria? Or are we okay with watching techniques in the octagon that have little to no practical value in a self-defense situation? I keep hearing how wrestling is the most effective base for MMA ... but this is only true in the case of sport. In a true streetfight, you are not going to want to get so close to an opponent for a multitude of different reasons. First, in a non-1v1 situation, jiu-jitsu and wrestling are nearly nullified as effective combat techniques. Second, as any police officer knows, you do not want to be focusing on grappling when your opponent might have a hidden knife. Third, a number of the ground techniques would be impossible to actually complete if the opponent were allowed to bite, scratch, eye-gouge, etc.
I understand that we are a relatively civilized society and the days of acceptable streetfighting are far behind us ...but there remains a primal urge to know who the baddest man on the planet truly is. And true combat is not settled via decisions. If someone wants to harm you, you want to incapacitate that person as fast as possible.
You can clearly see that I am biased in favor of striking and finishes. And not the stick and move Mayweather style of striking, but the Tyson knockout artist style. I also find submissions intriguing, but I am not in favor of the grappling centric nature of the UFC today ... I wish standups would happen more frequently because being on the ground in a vulnerable position is not practical for self-defense whatsoever. If a submission is there to be had quickly, then terrific ...or if the man is delivering a fierce beating from the top, then great ... otherwise ...stand them back up.
Regardless of my preferences, I ask you what is your philosophy when it comes to MMA. Do finishes matter to you? Deep down, do you watch MMA as a sport? Or as a more visceral contest of superiority?