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Hybrid MMA vs. Traditional Styles: Which Is The Better Pick?

When beginning training in Mixed Martial Arts, one must make a crucial decision. Is it more beneficial to get a well-rounded MMA experience or instead, focus in on one discipline and learn to master it? This is the essential question behind the idea of MMA and why the UFC was founded in the first place: to determine which fighting style was superior. In looking for that answer, the creators of UFC got more than they bargained for. While intially, it appeared that certain styles were dominant, over time, a hybridization took place. Do fighters benefit from mastering different techniques from various schools of thought or are they just better off knowing one very, very well?

Matt Hughes (pictured) would agree with the first choice: that a hybridization was necessary and benficial to his career. He displayed this most prominently at UFC 60 when he defeated Royce Gracie using a combination of Gracie's very own Jiu-Jitsu coupled with his extensive wrestling background. Gracie, limited in the scope of what he could handle, caved under the different looks Hughes was throwing at him and got grounded and pounded to a loss. Such is the benefit of learning multiple styles of martial arts. They can be switched on and off like a light switch, combined and separated to create the ultimate in distraction and strategy. If a fight can master a striking and a grappling technique (compared to someone in a single discipline, who is only good standing up or only good on the ground), he will have created a strategy capable of taking out any styled opponent. Nick Diaz is a great example of this as he is well-versed in both boxing and jiu-jitsu. In his fight against Robbie Lawler, Diaz elected to stand, picking his spots and eventually knocking out the Ruthless one. More recently, against Takanori Gomi, Diaz took the fight to the floor, executing one of the most difficult submissions in all of MMA, the gogoplata. Chances are, if Diaz was a master of just one of those disciplines, he would not have been able to take both fights. By learning a hybrid style, the embodiment of what Mixed Martial Arts means, a fighter can be dynamic, dangerous, and successful against opponents of any kind.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for perfecting one discipline. Royce Gracie, although defeated by Hughes, ran through every other singular discipline with his take on classic BJJ. Karo Parisyan (pictured) has brought a classic Judo background with him, and has made it work with flying colors, owning wins over Diaz and current Welterweight champ Matt Serra. Many wrestlers, such as Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, have been very successful while remaining true to their disciplines. While they may throw elements of other styles in from time to time, they will rely on and look to their wrestling backgrounds when it is time to win a fight. If a fighter can use his background in one style as a defensive mechanism in order to open up offense (see: Karo Parisyan), then he may be as successful as a fighter who is constantly switching up techniques in the middle of the fight. Switching to southpaw will often get a fighter knocked out, but switching entire disciplines can get your career ended.

This decision is an important one that every fighter must make at some point in their training. Whether one decides to take a more rounded approach to martial arts or hone in on one style, two facts remain. Fighters have won with each and fighters have lost with each. It is up to the individual practitioner of the sport to decide how hard he will train, how much he will invest, and how much he will get out of it.