Skepticism and BJJ/MMA

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a martial arts practitioner, specifically I am a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) practitioner.  In line with my affinity for BJJ, I am also a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and consume both live and televised events whenever I can. 

MMA has been around, in variety of different forms, for quite some time, however it made its way into the mainstream consciousness back in November of 1993 with the original Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). 

The brain-child of Rorion Gracie, the UFC was intended to be a promotional platform for Gracie/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Over the course of two decades, the UFC went from being billed as a bare knuckled no holds barred street fight to a professional sport which is (arguably) home to some of the world’s best athletes.  The UFC has slowly made its way into the mainstream, and is (again, arguably) set to replace boxing as the combat sport to watch.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog post…

Is BJJ obsolete in today’s MMA game?

Let us take a skeptical look at this question shall we.

Back in the day BJJ reigned supreme, but in today’s MMA climate that is no longer the case.  Competitors of yesteryear tended to be skilled only in one area of combat.  More specifically, many of the original MMA competitors specialized in forms of stand up combat.  Consequently, it was possible (and most times quite easy) for a BJJ practitioner to absorb a few strikes, clinch, take the fight to the ground and then finish his opponent.  But, as mentioned above, this is no longer the case.

The game has changed.  Today’s mixed martial artist must be extremely well rounded if he hopes to make it anywhere in today’s fight game.  Consequently, this has made it much more difficult for a pure BJJ practitioner to excel in MMA (without the addition of an effective striking + wrestling base).  This has led some individuals to proclaim that BJJ is obsolete and no longer relevant in MMA today. 

I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth. 

BJJ is an extremely effective martial art (in my opinion it is one of, if not the, most effective martial arts).  BJJ is also extremely effective for use in self defence.  However, BJJ is no longer the proverbial check mate it was in the early days of MMA.  Gone are the days when a BJJ practitioner can enter a MMA match with little or no striking or wrestling background and expect to dominate.  However, BJJ is far from obsolete in modern MMA.  Don’t believe me…just watch any fight where one of the fighters has little or no BJJ training.      

A perfect exam of the above phenomena in modern MMA was the 1st Frank Mir versus Brock Lesnar fight. 

Lesnar, an unstoppable freight train, was a wrestler who began to cross train in striking and BJJ.  Frank Mir was a mixed martial artist with a base in BJJ.  Prior to the fight it was theorized by many the Lesnar’s size, strength and wrestling abilities would simply be too much for Mir, and Mir’s BJJ would not even be a factor.  What transpired when these 2 heavy weights met?  Lesnar took Mir to the ground,

Lesnar bounced Mir’s head off the mat,

And then Mir submitted Lesnar with a kneebar. 

Despite Lesnar’s strength, size and wrestling background, without a sold BJJ base he was doomed once the fight hit the ground.  

Fast forward a few months to Lesnar vs. Mir rematch. 

Prior to the match, Lesnar worked diligently to improve his game (specifically his grappling and ground game).  What happened in the rematch?  Lesnar took Mir to the ground, Lesnar controlled Mirr on the mat, Lesnar then proceeded to bounce Mir’s head off the mat,

And Lesnar finished the fight. 

Because of Lesnar’s hard work to develop his game, he was able to neutralize Mir’s ground game and impose his will.  If Lesnar had not further developed his BJJ/group game, in my opinion, the rematch would have played out much the same as the 1st fight. 

Even more recently this weekend, “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko, previously thought to be unbeatable, lost.  How did he lose you ask…

A triangle choke. 

So what have we learned from all of this?

BJJ is far from obsolete in modern MMA!  As stated above, a fighter can no longer expect to excel with only a base in BJJ; however a fighter cannot expect to become a champion without it!  And even the best can still lose to a well timed + properly executed submission.

This has been the Skeptical Samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…


4 Responses to “Skepticism and BJJ/MMA”

  1. linsdey Says:

    i’m going to argue a little bit here… being exposed to the highest level over the past few months in vegas has really opened my eyes as to what it takes to excell in mma. i would argue that:

    BJJ is obsolete in mma

    Boxing is obsolete in mma

    kickboxing is obsolete in mma

    wrestling is obsolete in mma

    the modern mixed martial arts athlete is versed in a modified version of each sport/martial art. but each one is heavily modified. for example, i can submit many of my team mates in a strait submission match. however there are the other factors involved when we spar for mma, so the submissions are few and far between. mma has become its own sport with its own skill set that each athlete needs to work on.

    now days athletes who practice each martial art separately are way behind when fight time comes. although they may be way ahead in each and every martial art, they will generally lose when the fight comes. this is due to the extent that each one must be modified to be effective in the fight.

    my arguement is that although many aspects of bjj are part of mma, it is soo modified that it is not actually bjj.

    its kind of like asking a major league pitcher to fill in for an nfl quarter back… yes both can throw very hard and very far… but there are factors involved in football that change how you throw. is thowing for baseball the same as throwing for footnball???… no. just like jiu jitsu for mma is completely different. so different that it has become its own martial art.

    the perfect example of my point is Randy Couture. He has terrible boxing… sub par submissions… decent wrestling… and his kicking game in non existant. but he can compete on the highest level. this is because plays the game of MMA. he simply denies the fight from turning into a jiu jitsu match. he keeps the game in an area that his opponent needs to combine thier skills. he keeps the fight polorizing in any direction, whether that be a grappling direction or a striking direction. Randy Couture keeps it where he excells… although when you separate his skills they are sub par, he is better at combining everything than most people.

    anyway… let me know what you think!

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Hey Lindsey,

      Great post!

      In all honesty I think that we are very much on the same page. Although I do not think that I would go as far to call any of the above martial arts obsolete in modern MMA, as I eluded to in my original post, I would argue that each martial art (and how it is applied in MMA) has certainly evolved/changed since the golden era of MMA. And I think that that is the crux of the argument/debate. Application…
      The manner in which BJJ is applied to MMA is where the evolution has happened. As I mentioned in my original post, back in the golden age of MMA, a pure BJJ fighter could simply enter a fight with pure BJJ and do quite well (if not completely dominate his competition). As we all know, that is simply no longer the case. The application of BJJ to MMA has changed/evolved.

      And this is why we still see submissions in MMA, and why we will still continue to see submissions in MMA. The manner in which BJJ is applied to MMA will continue to evolve, however the fundamentals/concept of BJJ will not change. That is, if you apply proper pressure to a joint, it will break. If you restrict blood/air flow to the brain, unconsciousness occurs. These fundamental principles will never change. We may not see as many successful submissions in modern MMA (largely because of the points you made in your post) but we will always see them to a certain extent. It is not that BJJ (or any of the other combat arts you mentioned) are obsolete; instead it is just that have evolved in their application in the context of modern MMA…

      But at the end of the day, as I said above, I think we are very much on the same page, it is simply just a matter of semantics.

      Once again, great post Lindsey and thanks for contributing to the blog!

    • thekillerj Says:

      Lindsey, I have to agree with your argument. All single focused martial arts, like the ones you mentioned above, are ineffective by themselves in modern MMA.

      Samurai, you hit the nail on the head regarding BJJ. One cannot excel by using BJJ alone, but cannot excel (or even do very well) without BJJ experience. This, in my opinion, makes it the most effective martial art. Even more so than wrestling. This is heresy lately, as wrestling is thought to be the martial art winning all the fights. The thing is, all the wrestlers have obviously trained some form of submission grappling, likely BJJ. BJJ teaches sub defense, something wrestlers aren’t taught very much of within the sport itself.

      If the wrestler enters MMA without BJJ, we have results like Mir/Lesnar I or for a throwback, Royce/Severn.

      Samurai, I saw your post on Sherdog and your wordpress blog is eerily similar to mine (at least with regards to layout). Great minds think alike! Good post man.

      • theskepticalsamurai Says:


        Thanks for the comments + kind words
        I agree. Personally, i think that BJJ is the single most effective martial (not to poke the proverbial wasp’s nest), but as stated before, in modern MMA, BJJ alone is not going to win you the fight (esp at the higher levels)

        send me a link to your blog, i would like to check it out

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