Welcome to part four of Recipe for Success: Becoming well rounded in mixed martial arts, where we cover both the physical and mental aspects of what makes for a well rounded fighter. Don't expect to walk into the sport with one discipline and little guidance and expect to excel at elite levels.
Not too long ago we saw two heavyweights with collegiate wrestling match up, only to see the more well rounded fighter raise his hand as champion.
In previous parts we have talked about Discipline and Jiu Jitsu, Heart and Muay Thai and Coaching and Wrestling. A healthy dose of each combined with more still to come will be things found in almost any elite fighter's arsenal. The more you diversify yourself, the more tools you have to gain the upper hand.
So what's next?
The quickest and most entertaining way to end a fight in MMA. One of the few ways a MMA clip will get TV time on ESPN. The most common ending in a MMA fight that will get people on their feet.
Boxing has left its imprint on the sport by giving us the ability to truly call our sport "hand-to-hand" combat. While boxing can be traced back to the Greeks way back in the B.C. years; Boxing in contrast is very new to mixed martial arts. Boxing is one of the many forms of striking used in our sport but it has its own unique effect and approach on the recipe of what makes for a well rounded fighter.
Even with speed, power, kicks and punches, there will never be a fighter who will continually find success without a good camp behind them. I am not talking necessarily an elite, well known gym, but a good team where the fighter fits in right. A place where everyone contributes their own optimism and skills that help out every and any participant of that camp.
Finding the "right" gym
This is important for many reasons and some of them may go hand-in-hand with those of what I have previously discussed with having the right trainers. Being part of a gym shouldn’t feel like going to an ordinary community gym to go work out.
You should never feel obligated to go to the gym every day. It is not the daily routine of "let’s workout, what are we doing today?" Biceps and chest wait, actually tri’s and bi’s. Being part of a gym in this sport whether it is MMA, jiu jitsu or kickboxing as a profession or hobby means a whole lot more than any of that.
Finding the gym that will help you achieve your goals, surpass them and fully recognize and harness your potential is the key to this ingredient. Finding a place where you can go and feel comfortable, a place where you feel like you are in a second home (even a primary one) and a place where you can feel like you can leave your hard earned sweat, blood and tears inside.
The right gym will provide you with rewards for your hard work and sacrifice. A lot of misconceptions are thrown around when assuming that everyone in the gym aspires to be a world champion. The best gyms will provide you a place where the satisfaction one might imagine being associated with that accolade will present itself in the form of self satisfaction with development of work ethic, an understanding of the disciplines and a higher appreciation for the sport as a whole.
The right gym also has the right people inside of it. People that are there for the best purposes, the people who will help push you to reach your potential, people who will transform into something more then gym partners. Training a martial art with someone connects you to that person in a deeper way then a weight training partner. You leave your blood and sweat inside the gym together and you learn things that the majority of people aren’t able to learn.
Everyone has their own contibution to the community in the gym. There are people who have a knack for keeping everyones spirits high, people who make every one laugh and there are the people who keep each other on track and focused, not to mention the skills each person brings to the table.
The right gym will mold you into becoming a better person inside and outside the facility. It will assist you in growing as a human being not just as a fighter and will help in being able to find out what kind of person you really are. You don’t need elite trainers like Greg Jackson and Dave Camarillo to achieve this and you don’t need to attend American Top Team or Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu to achieve it.
You just need to find the gym that will be best for you.
As I previously mentioned, Boxing as its own discipline can be dated way back in the history archives to the ancient Greeks. However, we will be focusing on boxing as a discipline in the sport of MMA and more importantly in North America.
In the early years of the sport, the UFC was far and away the only relevant advocate and promoter of the sport. In those days grappling ruled the Octagon. Whether it be the submission wizardry of then-MMA God Royce Gracie or the powerhouse wrestling and ground and pound of muscle freak Mark Coleman, the overall conclusions of most if not all fights happened on the mat.
Now, if we want to be literal we can mention that the original boxer in MMA was Art Jimmerson who famously came to the cage wearing one (yes, a single) boxing glove; however the fighters who in my opinion took MMA in a direction that showcased boxing for the first time were Vitor Belfort and Randy Couture.
Vitor Belfort entered the UFC 12 tournament showcasing his blinding hand speed in his destruction of Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo en route to winning the UFC’s heavyweight tournament. Vitor would then fight one of the more fearsome fighters the UFC showcased at the time, Tank Abbott. Vitor would drop Tank very early and finish him off with strikes. An impressive feat for such a young fighter who was heavily touted as a grappling ace under the tutelage of the legendary Carlson Gracie.
But then things would get interesting.
Vitor, still only 19 years old, would be coming off three brutal stoppages when he was matched up against 34-year-old Randy Couture. Couture would be heading into that bout undefeated after using his wrestling pedigree and submission knowledge to beat his first two opponents. This fight would determine the number one contender for the UFC’s heavyweight title. Couture, a heavy underdog, would display two of his trademark skills that he is well known for even today.
Couture would implore the perfect game plan.
Something Couture has been notoriously good at throughout his career is mixing it up with takedowns and good positioning as well as throwing knees when scrambling. He would display to the world "dirty boxing" at its finest in MMA. Using the clinch to avoid Belfort’s lightning fast hands and stopping power; Couture would simply get in tight, grab a collar tie and pummel Vitor until he tired. Vitor would succumb to exhaustion and Randy Couture would ground and pound the young Phenom in what would start a great trilogy between the two fighters.
Randy Couture was one of the first and easily most effective at the time in mixing his wrestling pedigree and adding striking to his arsenal. He became extremely effective in wearing down fighters when clinching. The "dirty boxing" style has since become a regular practice in typical MMA fights which becomes effective against speed strikers like Vitor Belfort, long-limbed strikers like Tim Sylvia and kickboxers like Pedro Rizzo.
The trend would continue from there. Randy would continue to utilize that style as would Belfort, including his emphatic mauling of Wanderlei Silva, unleashing a wicked combo that stopped the "Axe Murderer." Fighters like Frank Shamrock, Chuck Liddell and Jens Pulver would also adapt their own striking techniques to add to their already strong grappling credentials to further enhance their skill set to accommodate all challengers.
Boxing has only been further enhanced in its adaptation to mixed martial arts. BJ Penn was named by famed boxing instructor Freddie Roach as being the best boxer in MMA and has shown us an utterly flawless jab in many of his fights as well as being able to put nasty combinations together and being able to counter-punch countless strikers. He jabbed through Sean Sherk, perfectly countered Diego Sanchez and swarmed Caul Uno in an early UFC fight.
Miguel Torres brought in the "Peek-A-Boo" style boxing technique and was best exemplified in his fight with Takeya Mizugaki. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, under the tutelage of boxing and MMA trainer Juanito Ibarra, developed a very effective boxing skill set. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is one of the more successful boxers in MMA today as he is a gold medalist in boxing as recent as 2006 representing Brazil in the South American Games.
Boxing in MMA has gone undervalued at times. Months back I went into detail on how underutilized and how effective the jab can be in mixed martial arts. Mix that with the ridiculously underutilized body shot and what has happened as boxing (as a discipline) has gone ignored in favor of more traditional kick boxing, wrestling and jiu jitsu.
Comparing Boxing and MMA as sports would lead to an inconclusive result; however, from the traditional form of Boxing there are many similarities to its adaptation in MMA. The main differences between the two are glove size, being unable to duck punches in fear of knees or kicks and the fear of breaking your hand if punches are thrown a certain way due to the size difference of gloves.
But the similarities are plenty. Circling towards your opponent’s blind side, footwork, punching with your entire body, setting up combinations and most importantly keeping your chin tucked and hands up. Developing dangerous striking skills will give you so many advantageous opportunities as a MMA fighter.
I have discussed before here on MMAmania the lost art of the jab, the overlooked technique of the body punch and the overall effectiveness of boxing in MMA. But there is another aspect of boxing that often goes unnoticed.
Setting up combinations.
Plain and simple; the recent boxing fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis showed me what an effective combination boxer looks like. If you haven’t watched the fights and love boxing in MMA you should watch that fight. Marquez puts together combinations together so poetic that it’s beautiful to watch. In MMA we have fighters like Nick Diaz and KJ Noons, who brilliantly mix their combos very well.
A combination isn’t as easy as jab, cross, hook. The very best fighters at putting combinations together will throw angles in every direction throwing the opponent off balance and guessing the next punch wrong. You can simplify that by picturing combos like head, head, body, head, body but you would be missing out on the complexity of which hand you throw with, what angle you are throwing and also what type of punch is being thrown.
You can substitute a cross with an overhand, a jab with a lead hook and even a level change with a feint.
For any of you MMA fans that love the striking aspect of our sport and haven’t paid attention to boxing very much, you should reconsider and try it. Missing boxing’s biggest star and awesome combo punching Manny Pacquiao in action is a travesty to say the least.
That’s all for now Maniacs. Until next time…