So you just discovered a new hobby and passion. You want to absorb everything that hobby has to offer. Where do you start?
With Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that’s a tricky question. Many fans can point to The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC): Which began on November 12, 1993. That journey may offer more questions than answers. That UFC event does not reflect where MMA is today.
It was a barbaric event with one rule only. No eye pokes. It put on display most of the major martial arts of the world but it had a hidden purpose behind it. The Gracie family, who founded Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, sought out to prove to the world that their form of combat could beat all others.
The Gracie family was known for betting money they did not have in an attempt to lure in fighters of other disciplines and beat them. This grew their name and served as advertising for their brand. UFC 1 gave them the stage to do just that and they did not even enter their best fighter to represent them. They chose Royce Gracie who, physically, compared to all other fighters in the contest, was the clear underdog. He was not a Grand Master of Jujitsu. He was not a well-known fighter. He did not appear to be a physically gifted athlete like his brother Rickson Gracie, who was widely considered the more technically sound fighter.
That night he shocked the world, defeating three fighters by submission and winning the first-ever MMA tournament. No other fighter had an answer for the smaller fighter’s ability to take them to the ground and control the fight. The Gracie Family accomplished what they sought out to prove and the sport continued to evolve. No one could compete without being able to blend multiple disciplines on the ground and their feet.
Today, nearly all competitors train in one form of ground fighting and grappling. Whether it’s Jujitsu, Wrestling, Judo or countless others. As others began training in grappling, fighters who solely trained in Jiu-Jitsu or grappling began to realize they could not be successful without developing their striking.
This created a sport in which no single style of fighting has remained dominant. Any competitor at any given time has had the chance to win and not many fighters remained dominant over long periods. Even Royce Gracie who dominated UFC 1, beating Ken Shamrock in the process, faced him again at UFC 5 resulting in a stalemate and the longest-ever fight in UFC history – ultimately ending in a draw.
Georges St-Pierre, who I still consider to be in the conversation of greatest fighters of all time, lost to a fighter who earned a title shot by winning a reality TV show competition.
The unpredictability of the sport is what captured my attention, as any given athlete on any day stands a chance to make things interesting.
In an attempt to stay unpredictable myself, I will be offering slightly different content than fight picks this week. In my last column, I covered a few Monkey Knife Fight (MKF) picks for the upcoming UFC 267: Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira.
This week I would like to offer a few fights to check out if you are new to MMA, yourself, in addition to my MKF More-or-Less Strikes picks.
UFC 267: Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira
Preliminary Fights (MKF More or Less)
Islam Makhachev More or Less than 87.5 strikes?
This pick is a fairly safe bet to say less. Islam Makhachev has never landed more than 43 strikes in a UFC fight. I don’t see a reason for him to double his output now and change his strategy when he is 9-1 in the UFC.
Amanda Ribas More or Less than 84.5 strikes?
This is a safe bet, as well. Amanda Ribas has topped this just once and her opponent, Virna Jandiroba is not typically a high-volume striker.
Picking both of these correctly can triple your money on MKF this weekend.
Classic UFC Fight to Watch for New Fans
UFC 5: Ken Shamrock vs Royce Gracie
I am not recommending this fight based on its exciting finish or an incredible knockout. This is not a fight that won over a lot of fans. This is, however, the moment MMA changed forever and led to fighters of all backgrounds to realize they could compete in this sport. This fight gave the blueprint for neutralizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and also showed Jiu-Jitsu fighters the need to be more well-rounded.
After dominating the UFC to this point, Royce Gracie found himself unable to control and submit Shamrock as he had before. Shamrock did not leave any openings or make any mistakes on the ground and showed the perfect technique for defending yourself.
The no time-limit rule was put to the test since neither man could advance and a 5-minute overtime was established. After both men were still unable to finish, the match was declared a draw. This was the day that this became a competition and not just simply a display of the dominance of BJJ.
The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
This fight is largely regarded by many fans as the most exciting fight of all time. The UFC was building success to this point but their goal was to make it onto network TV and this fight was heavily responsible for that.
These two fighters were very unassuming and didn’t seem like technical strikers or great athletes. Their fighting came off as sloppy and unorthodox at times but neither fighter backed down and it led to one of the best back-and-forth fights ever.
From start to finish each round they exchanged punches with little to no blocking. There wasn’t a single fan or UFC employee seated by the end and the outcome was merely a formality. Both fighters were signed to the UFC, despite that only the winner was originally supposed to be awarded a contract.
UFC 193: Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
This fight was a perfect example of any fighter on any given day having a chance to win. Ronda Rousey was seemingly unstoppable leading up to this fight. Not only was she finishing every fighter, but she had also only spent a total of 18 minutes fighting in 12 fights leading up to this. She finished nine fighters in less than one minute.
The unthinkable happened when Holly Holm stepped into the octagon and not just defeated Rousey, but dominated her. It was one of the biggest upsets of all time and served as a quick reminder to fight fans that no fighter is invincible.
“Now the night is coming to an end… The sun will rise and we will try again.” – Twenty One Pilots
Thank you for allowing me to share this. @3rdandShortt