MMA fans and writers have been complaining recently due to the fact that some of MMA’s most dominant athletes like John Fitch, GSP, Gray Maynard and others keep winning without finishing fights.
I am afraid that this is only the beginning. I strongly believe that in the near future, all champions in all weight divisions will have a wrestling background.
More after the jump.
That being said, you cannot accuse fighters of playing it safe by not engaging in stand up wars when they can just shoot for a takedown and play it safe. A fighter can’t afford to lose just to prove that he can strike. Look at Jorge Gurgel. He stands and bangs and he loses. Let’s say that he starts taking opponents down, dominating them and winning decisions. The same fans that call him stupid right now for engaging in stand up, those same fans will start calling him boring once he starts winning ground fighting decisions.
In order for a fighter to keep getting sponsorships and eventually stay in the UFC he has to keep winning. And if his main strength is his wrestling base it is obvious that he will keep fighting where he is strong (unless he is Dan Henderson). My point is that you cannot blame the fighters for playing by the rules in order to win.
So why is this happening? Why are these fighters so dominant and why can’t the finish fights since they dominate everyone?
The truth is that, in order to control a guy from top you cannot land significant strikes because you have to let go and punch from a distance to generate power. That is why when the guy in the bottom stands up he barely has a scratch on him.
The main problem lies in the unified rules of MMA. The only way you can stop a wrestler when he shoots or after he fails to finish a takedown is by using kicks and knees. When wrestlers shoot, one of their knees is on the floor and their opponent is not allowed to knee them to the head. There are times when a wrestler is so exhausted, that when he goes for a takedown and fails, simply lands in front of his opponent knees. Instead of receiving a knee to the head, the wrestler is able to get away with a couple of harmless punches and just lay down till he stand back up. In the Pride era, if a fighter failed to get a takedown he paid for it with knees and soccer kicks to the head.
On the other hand a wrestler that relies on top control can hit their opponent very hard with a knee while not losing control. Unfortunately, knees to the head of a downed opponent will never be allowed in the U.S.
The other problem is judging. I disagree with those who believe that a fighter should not get points for a takedown if his opponent stands right up. A good takedown can be spectacular and get the crowd excited and can even finish a fight when the opponent lands on a limb or on his head resulting in an injury. My problem is with submission attempts.
If a fighter fighting off his back gets the guy in a submission hold and almost gets it, this attempt should be scored higher than a takedown because it is a move that can finish the fight.
Let’s say for example that Chael Sonnen fights Demian Maia, gets the takedown and starts hitting Maia on the ground without landing anything significant. Then at some point Maia catches him in a triangle choke. Sonnen’s face turns blue but somehow he manages to escape. The round will end and the judges will give the round to Sonnen. All I ask is why? He got a takedown but in reality Maia’s strength is fighting of his back so no harm done to him. Sonnen did not do anything that can finish the fight. Maia did by catching him in the triangle. Maia should get the round.
The judges need to score submission attempts higher than takedowns and top control awarding a fighter’s efforts to finish the fight even from his back. Aggresion from the bottom is not rewarded in MMA. BJJ fighters know that when they are on bottom, they will not get any points no matter what they do. That is why they do not even bother anymore. Everyone tries to stand up knowing that they are on their way to a decision loss. Some fighters are guard players. Their gameplan is to fight from the bottom. Why can't they get ANY points when they are just trying to implement their gameplan and finish the opponent from the bottom?
That being said as the sport evolves pure MMA fighters will start to emerge and will take control of the sport. These are the fighters that started training MMA as a whole at a young age. I predict that the champion wrestlers and the pure BJJ champions of tomorrow will not be able to compete using their one-sided game against guys who started training in all sides of the MMA game since they were 15 years old thus becoming good in everything.
BTW, if you do not like ground fighting you can just watch K-1 fights. No boring grappling there.