Identify a martial art and odds are it originated someplace in Asia. Karate, Judo & Muay Thai are popular Asian martial arts that MMA fighters around the globe often utilize in MMA. Though Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is currently recognized as the best MMA form of that art, remember that Jiu Jitsu was born in Japan. The “Gracie Hunter”, Kazushi Sakuraba, is an excellent example of a Japanese grappler who had an extremely high level of Jiu-Jitsu. In 2000 he defeated three Gracie family members; Royce, Renzo, and Ryan. Of the three, the only one Sakuraba didn’t finish was Ryan, believe it or not. Obviously one must possess a massively high level of jiu-jitsu to accomplish such a feat vs the legendary Gracie family.
Wrestling and running events were the first sports introduced in the Olympics. The original form of Pankration is what the UFC seemed to be most influenced by. Martial artists of any background were invited to compete against each other in a cage with very minimal rules and see what style is best, the winner collecting a whopping $50k. In the 1990s mixed martial arts was considered “mixed” because you had fighters of different backgrounds competing against each other. In today’s MMA it’s viewed as mixed because people train multiple arts, blending them together to the point they may not necessarily have a specific style. This is what Bruce Lee most embraced and promoted, the premise of learning all art forms to the point you are “formless”. In today’s MMA the best fighters are generally very well rounded, true specialists are becoming more and rarer.
Early MMA proved expert grapplers are extremely difficult to defeat. An expert striker vs an expert grappler, where both sides are ignorant of the other side, the striker must badly hurt or knock out the grappler before the fight goes to the ground. Even in today’s advanced world of MMA, we see the same result often play out. From UFC 1 to UFC 238 the history of champions and main event winners is riddled with high-level grapplers. However, the more MMA has evolved, the more these grappling based experts are embracing other styles they weren’t embracing 20 plus years ago. In today’s MMA we see Olympic wrestlers like Henry Cejudo switching between Karate and Muay Thai techniques to mix with high-level wrestling. This versatility has made him much more unpredictable and effective than he was when he started his MMA journey. It’s also a huge reason he was able to capture the belts at both flyweight and bantamweight.
The Asian market is full of exciting new fighters embracing the “formless” mindset. Angela Lee is a prime example. At only 22 years old she displays a level of variable striking and grappling knowledge that’s next level for somebody her age.
A post shared by Angela Lee Pucci (@angelaleemma) on Jun 21, 2019 at 10:21am PDT
Kyoji Horiguchi has now defeated Darrion Caldwell in both his environment of the ring and his opponent’s realm of the cage to earn the bantamweight belts in both Rizin and Bellator. 19-1 Weili Zang appears to have the next title fight against Jessica Andrade. This weekend we’re treated to the main event featuring a very well rounded and exciting Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie”.
A post shared by 정찬성 (@koreanzombiemma) on Jun 19, 2019 at 7:58pm PDT
The list of exciting prospects in Asia is vast and more noticeable for those who keep up on Asian promotions, especially One and Rizin. For those who have been watching MMA since it’s beginning, some of the best fights of all time took place in one of the best MMA organizations ever; Pride FC.
Bruce Lee humbly trained with Gene Lebell for grappling knowledge while Gene took full advantage of Bruce’s deep understanding of striking based martial arts. In a time of rigidity and pride in the world of combat sports, these open-minded men were true pioneers in what we now know as mixed martial arts. The first televised mixed martial arts fight was Gene Lebell vs Milo Savage in 1963. Milo was a boxer, Gene a Judoka. Unfortunately for Milo, he was so prideful as a boxer he took no time to even remotely learn how to defend the arts Gene was an expert in. Without watching I’m sure most modern MMA fans can easily guess how that fight went. If you didn’t, click the link above and prepare to not be shocked. Realizing that fight was 1963 and the UFC was born in 1993, it makes me think the next huge progression for MMA will happen in 2023. The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” may develop into play here. Perhaps a more unified world of MMA where all major organizations are willing to cross promote is coming soon? As fans, we should bring this up as often as possible and dream it into existence.
Jason Marlowe, Unknown MMA