Long-time Bloody Elbow readers know that one of my obsessions is MMA History and the way modern mixed martial arts has stimulated the cross-pollination of diverse fighting traditions from around the globe. A lot of my efforts to understand the sport I'm obsessed with have involved tracing the stylistic lineages of fighters. Tonight's Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix features four fighters that each represent one of the archetypal styles of 1990's MMA: Dutch Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, American/Japanese Catch Wrestling and pure brawling.
I wrote a feature at SBNation all about it. Here's a sample:
Style: Dutch Kickboxing
1990s Analogue: Bas Rutten
Holland is a tiny country that's had an outsize impact on combat sports. Starting with the gangster-kickboxer Jan Plas who trained Japanese Kyokushin Karate and brought modern kickboxing to Holland in 1978 with the opening of his Meijiro Gym in Amsterdam. Plas' student Rob Kamen added a big helping of Muay Thai to his repertoire and became one of the greatest kickboxers of all time.
The Japanese pro-wrestlers who created the proto-MMA events like Pancrase, Shooto and Rings paid close attention and recruited many Dutch fighters to compete in their promotions. None more successfully than the legendary Bas Rutten who became the King of Pancrase and later the UFC heavyweight champion. Rutten pioneered the template that Dutch fighters have followed ever since: devastating Muay Thai/Kyokushin striking combined with effective submission grappling.
Alistair Overeem is currently the most fearsome living exponent of that style. He's the first fighter to hold a major MMA title and the K-1 kickboxing championship at the same time. He's got excellent striking technique, awesome power and the submission skills to finish a stunned opponent with a nice range of holds.
I kept it fairly superficial for the generalist audience over at SBNation, but I thought my fellow hardcore fight geeks here at BE might want to delve a little deeper.
Here's some of my MMA History pieces that detail more about Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock (plus some bonus stuff about his fellow catch exponents Frank Shamrock and Kazushi Sakuraba), Royce Gracie and Tank Abbott -- the stylistic precursors of tonight's tournament field:
III: More on Japanese Proto-MMA
XI: Carlson Gracie's Mighty Camp
XV: Pancrase, RINGS, and Shooto 1996
XX: Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock Emerge at Ultimate Japan
XXI: The Amazing UFC Championship Run of Frank Shamrock
XXII: Catch Wrestling and Kazushi Sakuraba's Early PRIDE Run