We've determined this week that wrestling is the most common base for successful MMA fighters, both in the United States today and historically in Japan. Some have speculated that the Unified Rules, the regulations in place at every UFC bout, have helped create a wrestling friendly environment. The 10 point "must" system, the Octagon control, the judge's respect and admiration for the takedown, combine for an atmosphere that rewards wrestling and encourages talented wrestlers to enter the sport. That's the theory at least.
But what about in Japan? There, in promotions like DREAM, the judging criteria rewards the overall output over the course of an entire fight. Fighters aren't looking to "steal" rounds with a takedown and mere wrestling prowess isn't an overwhelming part of the judging process.
You'd expect that this difference would result in markedly different fighting strategies across continents. Fight Metric's Rami Genauer decided to put it to the test. The Fight Metric team analyzed every DREAM and every UFC fight since March 14, 2008, the day before DREAM's first event. It's a real time look at the industry as it stands today. And the results are surprising. According to Fight Metric's numbers, the takedown is just as big a part of the game in Japan as it is in America:
The thing that stuck out was that the average number of takedowns landed per 15 minutes (a regulation fight for both organizations) was almost exactly the same in both organizations. The UFC average was 1.86. The DREAM average was 1.83. So you’re seeing a difference of about three hundredths of a takedown, which would be essentially imperceptible over any amount of time. I haven’t done more examination than this preliminary analysis, but it certainly speaks to the similarities in fight style despite the differences in the two organizations on the surface.
Genauer looked at 5,733 minutes and 29 seconds of UFC fight time (this is current and includes UFC 120) and 1,311 minutes of DREAM fight time. He says that's more than a sufficient sample size and puts the "the two takedown numbers within any reasonable statistical margin for error."
Nothing has changed since the early wrestlers like Dan Severn roamed the Octagon. Wrestlers wrestle, whether in America or in Japan. Whether the rules reward it or not. It's what they do. Someone's getting taken down, on average almost twice a fight. I expect to see either Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez on their backs this weekend. It's what happens next that will decide the fight. And it's a big part of the reason no fighter anywhere in the world should neglect their takedown defense and defensive ground game.