Anyone that has been following the sport of Mixed Martial Arts for more than a couple weeks has heard the term "lay and pray" used quite often. In fact, whenever a fight goes to the ground, the most common response of a fight fan who prefers the bottom fighter is "He's just laying on him!"
The problem with that is it can be true. The flawed judging systems values top control over factors like offense, submission attempts, striking, and damage. Fighting is a complicating thing to judge; the problem is that MMA experts don't become judges, so we are left with boxing judges, who are legendary for being inept in the field they specialize in, and even worse in our beloved MMA.
The point of this post is not to rant about judging, Mania has far better ranters than I. It is to show the difference between the athletes who grind for victories and the ones who abuse the rule system. The core difference between someone who lays and prays, and someone who grinds for a judges decision, is that in a no time limit fight the grinder would eventually break his opponent and win. To demonstrate this point, I'll look into two fights that happened a week apart.
The first fight would be Nik Lentz versus Diego Nunes. Earlier in Lentz's UFC career, he earned the shame of being known as a lay and pray fighter, essentially sitting on Andre Winner and waiting for the judges to call his name. The UFC, angered by this televised performance, set him up with a top contender at the time, Tyson Griffin. Lentz won a split decision over Griffin, and then vowed to become a more active fighter.
Fast forward a bit, and Lentz has essentially lost three straight fights(One of the losses was overturned into a NC). Although they were exciting(two earned fight of the night), Lentz would be cut if he lost again. In his featherweight debut, he thrashed an outclassed Eiji Mitsuoka, winning via first round (t)KO from the back mount.
Lentz next fight is the one I want to discuss. Lentz versus Nunes was both Lentz's best performance yet and a perfect example of a grind. Lentz latched onto the Brazilian early, repeatedly slamming him on the mat. Once he got him down, Lentz never stopped attacking. The American Top Team product tore through Nunes' guard and ripped into him with punches.
The Fightmetric numbers help prove that Lentz did not simply lay on the former Nova Uniao fighter. Lentz landed over 200 strikes compared to Nunes' 19, landed 10 takedowns, and passed the guard an astounding eight times. This was an aggressive beat down; many of Mania's commentators in the live thread wrote that they believed Nunes had broken in the first. Lentz's constant offense earned him a unanimous decision (30-28,30-27, 30-26).
The other fight I'd like to reexamine is yesterday's scrap between Clay Guida and Hatsu Hioki. In a terrible fight, Guida once again proved that he has no idea how to hurt an opponent that he doesn't outclass. Hioki had better striking and better jiu-jitsu, mean Guida's offense was nonexistent.
This fight, along with Guida's "win" over Anthony Pettis, has more than earned him the nick name "Huggy Bear". Clay laid on Hioki, did no damage, and was stood up multiple times. In fact, the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu ace was able to completely out land Guida, even though he spent the majority of the fight on his ass.
Again, I'll turn to Fightmetric's stats to prove my point. Hioki landed 74 strikes to Clay's 40, Clay only landed three takedowns and had one pass according to FM, while Hioki had one significant submission attempt. Hioki spent nearly half the fight on his back and still nearly doubled the amount of strikes Guida landed.
This, my fellow Maniacs, is the difference between a grinder and a lay and prayer. Fighters like Guida deserve to be condemned, but it isn't fair to lump someone like Lentz in with them. To clarify a little bit more, examples of lay and prayers include Tyrone Woodley, Ronny Markes, Gray Maynard(Before he fell in love with his hands), and Koscheck(see Maynard). Some examples of grinders include Jon Fitch, GSP, Darren Elkins, and Chael Sonnen.
So remember Maniacs, the next time you call someone a lay and prayer, hugger, or point fighter, make sure they deserve the disgrace.