MMA and the Proper Blending of Styles Part 2

13 Nov

      As I discussed in my previous post, there are certain styles of fighting that blend better with other styles of fighting for the purposes of becoming a successful MMA competitor but accomplishing this blending can be an arduous task. To develop a skill set in a completely new fighting art is not a simple endeavor and one which many athletes competing in MMA seem either too stubborn, too lazy, or just too arrogant to do.
      Now fighters who are skilled in any combat sport have worked very hard to develop that skill. A top notch wrestler will have spent hours nearly every single day of their childhood working to perfect their wrestling. But what they may not understand is, if they want to be a truly successful MMA fighter, they’ll need to put the same amount of time and effort into going to, say, a boxing gym. Then they will need to force themselves to apply these new skills in fights.
      Some years ago, I was talking with wrestler Mark Kerr, a successful MMA fighter in the early days of the sport. Kerr was going over to Japan to fight kickboxing champion Branko Cikatic in an MMA match and I recall Kerr telling me how people didn’t respect his striking skills but he had been working very hard on his kicking and was going to shock everyone by throwing a lot of kicks against Cikatic. While I didn’t necessarily think that was the best strategy for a wrestler to execute against a kickboxing champion, I was still curious to see how Kerr’s striking skills had progressed. What I saw when I watched the fight was Kerr throw one high kick that missed and immediately shoot in for a takedown. So much for working on his striking skills. Fortunately for Kerr, he was a superior wrestler and Cikatic wasn’t so Kerr easily dominated the match.
      But while simply being a great wrestler could get you by in MMA at one time, those days have long passed. Nowadays, you need to learn some of those other complimentary skills and, to do that, you need to work as hard on them as you did your original skill set, not just in the gym but in actual matches.
      Frank Shamrock was known, early in his career, as a groundfighting specialist. But after he left the UFC, he began training more seriously in kickboxing and even took a few kickboxing matches to polish his skills. When he returned to MMA, he had a far superior striking game. However, he also seemed to have stumbled into the trap that sometimes hits fighters who suddenly add a new skill to their arsenal: that of becoming so enamored with this new skill they forget what got them there in the first place. Perhaps the most glaring example of this was legendary Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. Though he came into the sport as a sambo champion with an excellent ground game, Emelianenko worked hard on his striking skills and got to the point where he knocked many opponents out with this stand up game. Unfortunately, he fell so much in love with the idea of scoring knockouts, his groundfighting became less and less of a factor until, in his later fights, it appeared to have deteriorated significantly.
      The point being, if you come into MMA from another combat sport, work hard to learn new skills which compliment your old skills for MMA but use them to blend in with those old skills, not substitute for them.

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