Silva vs Sonnen and the Evil-ution of Grappling and MMA

Have you watched the Anderson Silva V Chael Sonnen fight on UFC 148? I think everyone and their mother have watched that fight by now. I'm not a dedicated MMA fan but there was so much hype around this one I had to see it so I looked for the fight afterwards and was not disappointed.

Spoiler alert. If you haven't seen the fight yet and don't want me to spoil it, please walk away now (or watch it here)

While we all wait patiently for the awesome Gracie Breakdown by Rener and Ryron, I want to talk a little about the evolution jiu jitsu that was used in this fight.

The first round saw Anderson Silva use beautiful defensive/survival tactics from the bottom. Some have speculated that Anderson Silva may have played the round like that on purpose to tire Chael out or perhaps lull him into a sense of security. I don't know that. What I do know is that Chael tried to hit him effectively the whole round and Anderson's defence was so tight it meant hardly any shots connected and the ones that did caused him no visible damage. I could go on but Rener and Ryron will do it so much better*.

What really caught my eye was Anderson Silva's reluctance to pass Chael’s guard to side or mount. It has been my prediction over the past couple of years that we will be seeing new control positions other than the side, mount, back and knee on belly. I believe that the level of grappling will evolve so much that many of the top fighters will be using a new animal of Ground N' Pound.

My prediction is that the half guard top (in its current variations and new ones that will constantly evolve) will become the new Mecca for striking from the top. It's not that Mount is bad or even that Half Guard is that much better for striking than Mount. It's just that it's easier and faster to learn to strike from Half guard top (or even inside an unscrambled Open guard) against an opponent pinned against the cage wall than it is to methodically pass the guard, mount and maintain the mount. **

I remember reading in the awesome judo book Osaekomi (Judo Masterclass Techniques) by Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki how Kosen Judo (the huge proponents of ground work within Kodokan Judo - the parent art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu) came about and why they focused so much on newaza or ground-work. The book is a fantastic treatise in the holds (Osaekomi) of judo (which are more or less the same fundamental ones of BJJ) but the part I'm referring to explains how Kosen Judo was the type of judo practiced in high-schools and how, with only three years to create judo champions, the instructors focused on getting the match to mat and then working on a variety of holds and pins for the win.

I also remember reading how the art of Wing Chun came about and how the Shaolin nun who invented it basically needed to condense the whole Shaolin Kung Fu curriculum into a speed-course to teach Yim Wing Chun the bare essentials to survive against the thug who wanted to kidnap and, essentially, rape her.

In my opinion, it is fair to assume that the kids trying to get start a financially successful MMA career want to do so as soon as possible and will not have the patience to grow within the arts***. Therefore, I predict that, at least until MMA gets an amateur body that allows fighters to mature before they are fed into the pro-circuits, we will see more and more of this "evil"ution of MMA where new positions will develop based on a transitional, as opposed to, a positional game.

But hey what do I know? I'm just a BJJ purple belt who doesn't even practice MMA so don't take my opinions too seriously.

*If you are a BJJ enthusiast and want to learn the original punch-proof tactics as outlined by Helio Gracie, I highly recommend The Gracie Combatives course. Say what you want about online learning, but Rener and Ryron are excellent teachers and they breakdown BJJ to its core. If you belong to a BJJ gym / academy / dojo why not learn these techniques and practice them with a training partner to supplement you current training?

**Anderson Silva is a BJJ black belt and can pass guard and mount the best of them. He chose not to. GSP is a BJJ black belt, but he was told by Greg Jackson not to pass Dan Hardy’s guard even though he could cut through it like a hot knife thru butter.

***there will always be exceptions to the rule like BJ Penn, GSP, Jon Jones ...etc. who will excel in every facet of the game.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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