The Path of Least Resistance: "Traditional" Martial Arts in MMA
What if Couture had supplemented his Greco-Roman wrestling skills with the complexities of "traditional" martial arts? The kind of techniques that enable one to knock out opponents without engaging in a Frye-Takayama -esque slugfest? Or send his victims tumbling to the ground without driving them into the cage and lifting their entire body into the air? Maybe, just maybe these are not the best strategies for an enduring career.
As stark a contrast as can be perceived when alternating between a VHS of UFC 1 and streaming UFC 102 online, this sport is yet infantile. Yeah, I said it. As much as our beloved local fighters have been out there on the grind and the UFC is now hustling shows into the triple-digits, we haven't seen nothin' yet. That is, not until the new heroes of styles forgotten and once-ridiculed reveal themselves within the cage.
This is not to say that the next big thing will be a bald guy with a braided pony tail knocking fools out with crescent kicks and reppin' Long Fist (you'd like to see that though, huh?). Maybe, however, it will be a fighter with a base in a style like Kung Fu.
As with many things in life, the true virtue of a style or technique doesn't reveal itself until it has been mastered. Raw power or athletic ability can save a poorly executed overhand right or double-leg takedown. Something like the ashi-barai, the footsweep that has helped Machida build such a name for himself, takes a little more finesse to be displayed in a place as volatile as the Octagon.
"The Natural" has showed us glimpses of this knowledge since his return to the UFC. He bobbed and weaved his way past Tim Sylvia's telephone pole-arms, a stark contrast to the way he waded through dozens of low kicks to get at Pedro Rizzo. Yet, as Couture's reflexes fade, it will be up to his successors to introduce such intricacies into a sport still personified to the casual fan by professional bar-room brawler Chuck Liddell.
God bless Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He wouldn't be who he is if he didn't look like a crash test dummy dropped down a flight of stairs at some point in every fight. But don't you worry; Not everyone can be "The Dragon", and there will be plenty of mere mortals, nobly slugging it out and fumbling with basic jiu-jitsu holds, driven by pure heart and adrenaline.
Anyone believing they are destined for something greater will have to heed the words of boxing trainer, Cus D'Amato:
"A professional fighter has to learn how to hit and not get hit, and at the same time be exciting. That's what professional boxing is about. You've got to be clever, you've got to be smart, and not get hit, and when you're able to do this, you're a fighter,"
as well as Machida's father, Yoshizo:
"The essence of martial arts is to inflict damage without receiving any."