Say what you want about Strikeforce: Nashville. There are many losers from Saturday night, but the big winner was the amazing display of wrestling. Specifically American wrestling. I know we've seen these displays of brilliant wrestling in the past, many times, but I am constantly amazed at how under appreciated wrestling is, even today. Typical accusations of "Lay'n Pray" do have some validity when it comes to certain fighters, but what I find that what gets overlooked is all the technique and brilliance that a great wrestler can portray. Sure, some of the fights on Saturday Night left something to be desired, and in most cases were very one-sided, but as I re-watched the fights today, ignoring the drama, I noticed that we got to see three great wrestling performances.
First you had King Mo, who took Gegard Mousasi down at will. It wasn't even close. Mousasi's sprawl was nonexistent. Then you had Gilbert Melendez absolutely mauling Aoki when there was action. He even fearlessly jumped into Aoki's guard once or twice. Aoki was not strong enough to keep Melendez down, nor did he have a backup plan when it was clear he could do nothing to stop Melendez's wrestle/boxing style. And finally, we saw Jake Shields out-wrestle a tired, shell of his former self, Dan Henderson. Now I don't feel Henderson ever used his wrestling as effectively as he could have during his career, but Shields showed what can be achieved when you marry great wrestling skills with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Sure, he didn't get the submission, but Shields showed resiliency under pressure during the first round and came back to score four straight dominating rounds to take the decision by easily wrestling Henderson to the mat and more importantly, holding him there with great positioning and guard passing to the mount. I wouldn't call myself a Shields fan, but I do appreciate the skills he brings to the table.
I would have to say that the most important discipline in MMA is wrestling. Even more so than BJJ. That ability to control your opponent and dictate where the fight goes – keep it standing or take it to the ground – is probably the most important tool to have when in a fight. If a fighter can become an expert at position control, it gives them a distinct advantage, not to mention it scores points. If a good wrestler can learn some good submission defense, he’d be nearly unstoppable. We've also seen how far a fighter with great wrestling and good stand-up can go. Just ask Chuck Liddell, who for years used his wrestling to keep it standing and KO guys. If you were in the cage with him, you had no choice but to get KO'd. On top of that, if you have someone like Georges St. Pierre, who you can't take down, and who can keep you guessing by taking you down at will, or clocking you with punches or kicks – forget about it.