Many boxing aficionados complain that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is overtaking boxing. But the question is why?
Is MMA superior to boxing?
I have an immense respect for the practioners of MMA – particularly when it was first introduced by Rickson and Royce Gracie (two men who weighed no more than 180 pounds) who showed the world how they could beat any man of any size with their grappling art of Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. But MMA has evolved since, and as the strikers of MMA (i.e. karate, boxing, savate, muay tai, kung fu etc.) have learned how to grapple – or more recently learned how to evade grapplers – we are seeing strikers now come back into dominance. Strikers, who many experts contend, would not make it in boxing.
Years ago when the PKA (Professional Karate Association) first emerged onto the sporting scene – the first thing fans wanted to see was how a boxer would fare against a black belt. The public – quite smitten with the media’s esoteric portrayal of the martial arts, Bruce Lee and the like – was certain that karate would prevail over boxing. Wrong! To everyone’s surprise, semi-pro boxers were knocking out professional World PKA Champs. Fight analysts reasoned this consistent outcome of events due to the observation that 90 percent of a fight came down to punching, not kicking. And despite all of the public’s fascination with Chuck Norris and board breaking, punching mastery belonged to the boxer – not the karate practioner.
Subsequently, shrewd PKA competitors started taking boxing lessons in order improve their performance against other karate adversaries in the PKA ring. In fact, punching became so prevalent over kicking in PKA competitions that the PKA had to impose a minimum of 8 kicks per round in order to keep the karate match from turning into a boxing bout! Now 8 minimum kicks aside, would you pay to see these guys box?
The reverse scenario seems to have occurred in the MMA where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu proved its initial dominance over boxing, karate, and the other striking arts – that is until recently as strikers have become more familiar with the art of grappling. MMA champions and strikers such as Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida know how to grapple, but prefer to evade a grappling situation if possible so that they can employ what they do best – strike! No pun intended, but “Evasion” is a trend that is taking hold. Evasion is now considered a specialty that many pure strikers are solely seeking to learn in order circumvent the time needed to become proficient in grappling, which in the past has been prerequisite for success in MMA.
If the art of evasion becomes the effective antidote to a grappler’s attack – the question becomes will strikers – or those who are most proficient in boxing – eventually dominate MMA? Will we have a similar scenario that we had in the PKA years ago where it’s participants preferred to punch than kick? Where tomorrow’s MMA participants will prefer to punch than grapple?
If so, then has grappling ultimately proven itself superior to punching, when the defense of evasion has seemingly enabled the striker to prevail? MMA champions Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, and Lyoto Machida are formidable MMA strikers, but how would their striking ability alone fair against the striking talents of Floyd Mayweather or Mike Tyson? If grappling were not in the equation – would you pay to see the likes of a Chuck Liddell or Rashad Evans simply box?
Will MMA’s evolution be its success or undoing?
MMA has evolved immensely within the last ten years – so much so that there has been a great deal of talk that it is anyone’s guess where it will be in another ten years. But with the current trend of strikers coming back into dominance – with the advent of “evasion” as part of MMA’s evolution – I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves.
I would most enjoy hearing everyone’s comments.
Yours in strength,
Trainer of Champions