The Martial Art Called Wrestling, Part 2

It seems that the discussion in response to Michael Schiavello's anti-wrestling screed is still reverberating around the blogosphere. We addressed it at Bloody Elbow on Tuesday, but Ben Fowlkes has added quite a bit to the discussion and he raises the cautionary tale of Antonio McKee:

A decorated wrestler in California, McKee's MMA record stands at an impressive 24-3-2. So why isn't the UFC, or any major organization, in a hurry to pick him up? Most likely it's because 18 of those victories came via methodical, plodding decisions. Even when McKee vows not to go to decision, he wins by decision. 

He hasn't lost a fight since 2003, and yet of the 13 victories he's piled up since that defeat, only two have avoided going to the judges' scorecards. One was a submission victory over the 13-13 Rodrigo Ruiz in March. The other? A TKO via knee injury against Gabe Rivas in 2007. McKee may very well be the best fighter with the least fan recognition, all because of how he chooses (quite unapologetically, in fact) to win fights.

Still, to friend and fellow wrestler Lawal, the state of McKee's career says more about fans and MMA media than it does about McKee.

"If you're winning, people need to make you fight a different fight," says Lawal. "You want to see a guy like Antonio McKee brawl? Stop his takedowns. You can't stop his takedowns? Why should he do you a favor and brawl with you? It's like you have Michael Schiavello saying that wrestling is hurting MMA. That's the dumbest s--- I've ever heard. And I like him, but it's ridiculous to say that."    

Fowlkes has an interesting take on the topic and he also discusses the balancing act grapplers face in MMA -- do they stand and bang in an effort to please the fans while risking a loss or do they stick to what they know best and risk not making it to the big show?

George Sotiropolous (HT MMA for Real) comments on his blog:

This sport is MMA - mixed martial arts.

It is a mixed sport and there is more than just one way to win a fight. After all, isn't that why everybody loves the sport? It's unpredictable, unique and offers its competitors various different ways to fight and gain success. Despite all this, some top fighters have recently come under criticism for the manner in which they have utilised one set skill to dominate an overmatched opponent.

...

I will never boo a fight or become bored of a mixed martial arts match. I think all fighting is interesting, irrespective of whether it takes place standing or on the ground. The reality of the situation is, mixed martial arts encompasses everything. There are all sorts of fighters in MMA - strikers, grapplers, wrestlers, kick-boxers, boxers, you name it - and they all have their favourite ways to fight and finish fights. That's what makes it such an interesting sport. You then have many of the new breed who have been brought up on mixed martial arts and are fast becoming well-equipped in all facets of the game. That makes the sport even more exciting and competitive.

...
The freedom and purity of the sport are the two things that really attracted me to it in the first place. I like experimenting with styles and being in a position to win a fight in any number of ways. The sport is called mixed martial arts for a reason, and I wouldn't have it any other way.   

And finally Maggie Hendricks, possibly one of the most knowledgeable wrestling fans writing about MMA today adds her $0.02:

Is it boring, or is it that not enough MMA fans get wrestling?

"I think they are not as educated as they could be," says former Division II national champion and current UFC number one heavyweight contender Shane Carwin. "I see a lot of technically great grappling matches and you can almost always hear someone scream, 'stand them up.' And yet what you are seeing is a technical masterpiece. I think in time people will begin to appreciate all aspects."

As a longtime wrestling fan, I tend to agree with Carwin. Many times, what others see as "lay and pray," I see as two athletes fighting for position. I would rather watch a technical bout like that than a brawl where two fighters are swinging wildly but rarely landing any punches.

I have to agree with Maggie. My fear ever since the massive success of the entertaining but deeply sloppy Griffin vs Bonner fight in the first TUF finale has been that MMA would degenerate into bad kick boxing. Let's hope we don't see a backlash where talented wrestlers like Koschek and Lawal forget their wrestling in a misguided effort to please the fans.

Antonio McKee though, maybe he should reconsider his approach.

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