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Which Schools Dominate The UFC?

As with any sport, the way to win has developed over time. In baseball, good pitching used to rule the day whereas now, teams rely on sluggers to pound the ball to victory. In basketball, quick passes and good defense used to win championships. Now, deadly shooting and high-flying moves do the trick. The same goes for a sport like Mixed Martial Arts. I've defined the sport into three main categories during its short history, with a different school of fighting dominating the game, eventually ending at the hybridized style we see from almost every fighter today.

It doesn't take an expert to figure out that Gracie Jiu Jitsu (a slight variation on classic Jiu Jitsu), as utilized by Royce Gracie, was the single most imposing force in early UFC. This style, based on joint locks and body control, was perfect for smaller fighters facing much larger and stronger opponents. Royce highlighted the style's strengths during a fight with Dan Severn, in which he submitted the man 70 pounds his heavier. And oh yeah, between 1993 and 1994, Gracie won 11 fights by submission and won the UFC 1, UFC 2, and UFC 4 tournaments. Most of these were against strictly boxers or strictly wrestlers, and Gracie's grappling technique proved to be superior.

Gracie's grappling, with a slight twist, ruled the Middle Ages of the UFC, manifested in Miletich Fighting Systems. Founded by former Light/Welterweight Pat Miletich, MFS incorporates BJJ (thanks, Gracie family), Sambo, Judo, and Boxing for a more improved Mixed Maertial Artist who is dangerous on his feet and the ground. We saw a changing of the guard at UFC 60 as MFSer Matt Hughes was able to take down Royce Gracie and then debilitate him with a BJJ move. It was beautiful in its irony, and signified that Royce's prowess on the ground was no longer enough to win a fight. MFS fighters, including Hughes (former Welterweight champ), Rich Franklin (former Middleweight champ), and Tim Sylvia (former Heavyweight champ) helped to make this fighting system (the first true hybrid) and extremely successful one until very recently.

Look closely at the previous paragraph and you'll notice that all the MFS guys are FORMER champs. What happened? Fighters like Rampage Jackson, Georges St. Pierre, and Chuck Liddell have become so adept at forcing other fighters to fight their fight that they don't need to hybridize. Of course, GSP is dangerous anywhere, but he can also control a fight to the point where if he wants it to go to the ground, that's where it goes. If he wants to stand up, take a guess where the fight is going to end... Liddell has perfected his sprawl to the point where he never goes down. His fights always stay on the feet which serve him well until...he comes upon a another guy who doesn't want to go to the ground, and is an even more dangerous striker. I used to say that the new UFC fighter is a perfectly balanced and hybridized figher who can adapt to any situation or opponent. I'd like to correct that statement. The NEW UFC fighter is the one who is a master at his craft and can make everyone else try to match his style. See: Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson, Randy Couture. They all have something in common and it's not the fact that they're champions.