Grappling versus Wrestling

Ultimate Fighting Championship matches are always fun to see.  I thoroughly enjoy all matches, I come away a little disappointed in the ending of a few but on the whole they are good fights between very talented competitors.  Over the last several months I have been noticing something among the various fights. There is a huge difference between grapplers and wrestlers!

As a martial artist who was a folk-style wrestler in high school and have trained in Judo for several years, I have noticed the big difference in these two styles when it comes to getting opponents to the ground.  It is without question that fighters trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and to a much lesser extend Judo have a significant advantage once they get to the ground, many BJJ only fighters have a harder time getting people on the mat.  American folk-style wrestlers have a much easier time getting people down on the mat.

I have noticed this in my own competition on submission grappling tournaments.  I was not a high skilled wrestling in high school but I did alright, yet I am almost always able to take to the ground someone who is only trained in BJJ or Judo.  Once we get to the ground I find myself lacking in training and experience.

Why is this?  I firmly believe it has to do with the way each sport is structured.  From my knowledge of BJJ, the ultimate goal is a submission.  You get a guy to the ground and spend the rest of the match trying to get that person to tap out from a joint manipulation, choking technique, or strangulation technique or get them to pass out from the two latter methods.  American wrestling has a different focus.  It’s goal is to win by points or achieve a pin – where the opponents shoulders are on the mat for three seconds.

In wrestling, the players get points for every take down, reverse of position, and escape from the down position.  This means that their entire focus in on the act of taking a person to the ground at the start the match so they can get points.  Once they are on the ground they are not worried about achieving a submission, they want to control the person and turn them.

Fundamentally, it means that a wrestler is more focused on take downs than a BJJ competitor because they are trying to score points from this method.  There are no points give in BJJ (as far as I am aware) for take downs.  In the UFC and other MMA contests like Strikeforce, the method by which each round is scored makes it important to get a take down but not like wrestling. In the UFC and Strikeforce, fighters are rewarded for the take down and submission attempts as well as their aggression.

Which of these focuses is better?  Take down versus submission.  I’m not sure.  As my own experience attests, I can take someone to the ground more successfully but have a problem with the ground game.  If I was in a MMA match and I wanted to submit someone on the ground or ground and pound them, I know I could take them to the mat but I would have to work on my mat skills.  I would also hope that I am not facing someone with extensive BJJ training.  On the other hand, if I wanted to stand and strike with someone and use my Taekwondo training, I would hope I have someone who has only trained in BJJ.  Either way, I have my own set of advantages and disadvantages.

In my opinion though, I think it is better to have the ability to take someone to the ground efficiently.  If I take my opponent to the ground, I am in control of the situation and can begin to dictate how it will turn out.  I will have to train from there to take advantage of that control but I want to be on top, I HATE being on the bottom.

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