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The core and foundation of good MMA fighting is wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Great Karate, boxing or Thai boxing skills are fantastic and can be highly effective; but the fact is that once you step into the octagon or the MMA ring, the fight has the potential to transition to multiple dimensions on the ground and you can and will be exploited if you don’t have significant grappling ability. MMA fighters with reputations as fantastic strikers-for example GSP, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Fedor-are able to be highly effective with their strikes because they are also big threats on the ground. These guys are VERY difficult to take down, and are always capable of scoring big with a takedown, throw or slam of their own. Once on the ground, their super-strong base makes them very tough to deal with and extremely difficult to submit or reverse, and allows them to use “ground and pound” striking very effectively. Fighters who have truly mastered this “ground and pound” attribute have actually attained a very significant level of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skill, whether they choose to call it that or something else.
The ability to defend, control, flatten and ultimately pass and defeat a good guard-methodically, calmly, and without getting into dangerous positions or submission jeopardy-is the hallmark of real BJJ expertise. A top Brazilian instructor once told me that in the Mundials or other big tournaments it wasn’t the flashy, exciting matches that ended with a 12-10 score that impressed him. He said that a perfect match is one that starts off with a takedown into the opponent’s guard, and ends with a solid controlled guard pass and a 2-0 score. The 2-0 score says “control”, and generally means that the fighter on the bottom was gradually flattened out until his guard was passed solidly into side-control. This type of inexorable positional dominance has been the hallmark of the Carlson Gracie style of BJJ for decades, and is one of the reasons for his enduring legacy as a unique master and contributor to the art.
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