Mixed Martial Arts incorporates different fighting techniques from the multitude of combat sports around the world. From kickboxing to jiu-jitsu, fighters have to learn a variety of fighting techniques to be successful. However, there always appears to be one discipline of fighting that reigns supreme over MMA.
It’s been made clear that without basic wrestling/grappling skills, it’s practically impossible to be successful in MMA. The recent debut of “Blood Diamond” at UFC 271 proved this as the highly rated kick-boxer couldn’t prevent Jeremiah Wells from taking him to the ground and when on the ground, the Zimbabwean-born Kiwi struggled to defend any of Wells’ transitions, allowing him to latch on a rear-naked choke for the win.
Furthermore, the rise of Dagestani fighters over the past decade, who’ve dominated their fights with elite level wrestling that no one has had an answer for is more evidence to why wrestling is so vital in MMA.
Looking at the current UFC champions, the majority are either extremely high-level wrestlers, jiu-jitsu practitioners or extremely well-rounded.
Former two division UFC champion and Olympic gold medalist, Henry Cejudo, claimed that wrestling is the most vital aspect of MMA after Islam Makhachev’s ground and pound win over Bobby Green this past Saturday and I have to agree with him. In MMA, it’s possible that anyone can pull off a surprise knockout on the feet. However, wrestling to keep the opponent neutralised is purely based on skill and strength.
This graphic shows the primary style of fighting used by UFC champions from 1997 to 2018.
Even the legendary boxers and kick-boxers in MMA history have good defensive wrestling fundamentals. Current middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya’s defensive wrestling is incredible and is what allows him to use that elusive kickboxing of his. Moreover, heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou who’s not known for his wrestling had to use wrestling to win his last two fights against Stipe Miocic and Ciryl Gane.
On the other hand, it’s rare to see the best wrestlers in the world rely on their striking to win a fight. The likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Khamzat Chimaev and Islam Makhachev, haven’t needed their striking to win fights as their wrestling is dominant.
To conclude, I think it’s evident that wrestling is the most important discipline of MMA and with time I don’t see that changing unless a new form of martial arts comes and takes the game over by storm.