The importance of grappling

This one time I was making a sandwich. I got some peanut butter and some jelly. It was going to be delicious. I took it all the way to work and was so excited to eat it. I brought it out at lunch only to realize I forgot I didn’t have any bread to hold it together. Just a sloppy mess of peanut butter and jelly. My coworkers held their beautiful well put together sandwiches and pointed and laughed while I sat there in horror and embarrassment. That’s how It feels to step into the cage and realize you cannot grapple. Without grappling abilities you are a sandwich without bread. Useless. To be laughed at and eaten with a fork.

If you watch any UFC or street fight you will notice almost every time the fight ends up on the ground, or in a grapple. So if most fights end up in a grapple, how does it make any sense to be a fighter without knowing how to do what most of a typical fight consists of? Watching the early UFC fights you will see Royce Gracie become the champion of UFC 1, 2, 4 and tie on 5. All because BJJ was largely unknown at this time. But now everyone knows BJJ, because Royce showed us everyone needs to.

Some people are so set on the belief that their heavy hands, reach, and striking speed can get them through in MMA. But they’re wrong. So to further prove our point, we asked a few fighters what they thought on the importance of grappling. Unsurprisingly,their answers were all very similar and exactly as expected.

“Would you say an MMA fighter could succeed in the ring without any grappling knowledge or skill at all and relying solely on striking ability?”

Bubba Bush: “In amateurs absolutely. But you can less and less, in professional leagues absolutely not. It’s the other fighters job to analyze your weakness and exploit it. So if your 1 dimensional like that you will be taken advantage of and this goes both ways. You can get a lot further as a grappler only then striker only. But you have to be pretty low level. As a striker you may knock a few people out but it’s very difficult very quick because grapplers will do what they do and trump your game. Grapplers can go a lot longer but if eventually you’re just a decent grappler then that game goes out the window too. You have to be more and more well rounded as the game develops. It’s no longer where you can have one great style overcome but it’s also not a fully matured sport yet. It hasn’t been figured out there’s room for growth. Were in the area where wrestlers who become good strikers. They kind of make their name as wrestlers but then all they’re is doing standup towards the end of their career. It’s exhausting to wrestle for 25 minutes.

Kurt Southern: “Absolutely not, 100% no. Even back in UFC 1 that wouldn’t work. Maybe the guy would win a fight or two, but look at who won the original UFC. It was grapplers, it was wrestlers, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock the guys who knew the ground game. Even in UFC 1 guys with pure striking and 0 grappling wouldn’t work and today definitely wouldn’t work. You need to at least know how to stop guys from taking you down. You need to at least have good takedown defense. But you’re not gonna be able to stop every single person from taking you down. So you need to know how to grapple absolutely. I think if anybody tried to step into the ring or a cage and fight MMA without any grappling they are very ignorant, it is a bad idea.”

Jim Alers: “I don’t think so. Because even the guys who are official just striking they have the takedown defense. They’ve drilled it over and over again takedown defense is also a big part of the ground game. It’s not just taking someone down and winning on the ground. If he has no jiuJitsu skills at all you’re golden. Just watch Gracie in UFC 1”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “No, that’s completely ridiculous.”

“How important are your grappling skills to your game personally?”

Bubba Bush: “They’re absolutely essential. Even when trying to strike with someone if they take me down and put me on a cage then you don’t get to strike with them. Its very important whether your striking or a ground person and I usually like to get on the ground and finish control so that’s the whole game” More importantly I’d say It’s intrinsic to every aspect of the whole game. If you don’t have a good sprawl then you don’t have good striking.

Kurt Southern: “Really important man. You gotta be well rounded in today’s MMA because if you’re not and your ground game is weak guys will take advantage of that and will take you to the ground. Its very important, one of the most important things”

Jim Alers: “Of course right now I’m trying to improve my striking every day. But I improve my striking so I can get to the takedown so I can get to the ground and finish the guy the way I like to finish them. If I get a knockout or something, amazing. But that’s not my main game plan. Striking in order to get my takedown and finish it on the ground.”

Gilbert Jamal Smith: “For me it’s the biggest aspect of my fighting game for those that know me I have a significant amount of submission victories on my record. I’m pretty proud about that don’t get me wrong kickboxing I love it. In the end of the day people love to see knockouts. They appreciate submissions but they love to see a knockout. But I am who I am I’m not going to change. I believe with my Jiujitsu and grappling I always got that little ace in my pocket I can pull out so I can survive down there. It’s a big part of my game.”

So what did we learn from our fighters answers?

  1. You cannot succeed in professional MMA without having grappling abilities.
  2. If you aren’t a well rounded fighter your weaknesses will be exploited and taken advantage of.
  3. No matter what the gameplan, at least having takedown defense is vital to it.
  4. Most fights end up in a grapple at some point
  5. Having strong grappling abilities will take you further than strong striking abilities.

This hardly comes as a surprise. Clearly grappling is one of the most important aspects of MMA. So why would you go without it? If you aren’t training already, you should start. And if you haven’t read the rest of our articles to the left you should seriously start that too.

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Thank you for taking the time to read our article, we always appreciate your time. But don’t stop now! There is still so much left to learn in your MMA journey. This is just one piece of our BJJ series, if you are serious about MMA just look to the left and learn the rest! Each article was helped written by actual UFC fighters living your dream, answering your questions personally! Click any article, and the next few minutes will be a serious investment of your time into your MMA journey you will not regret.

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