UFC 100: Is it the Death of Brazilian Ju Jitsu?
During UFC 100 Hall of Famer and the UFC’s first champion Royce Gracie was flashed across the screen as he and many other past and current champions were on hand. At the end of the main event I had wished they would have shown his reaction. What could have been going through the mind of the man who helped to bring Brazilian Ju Jitsu to the U.S. and the world thought of a behemoth like Brock Lesnar pummeling a BJJ Black Belts face? The heavyweight division may be the last place in the current UFC organization that resembles the original Ultimate Fighter concept: yes there is a weight class, but it ranges from 207 pounds to 265 pounds, which is a weight disparity of 58 pounds possible. If you think about that you could conceivably (with out calculating weigh cutting) have a fighter like Urijah Faber at 145 lbs. fight Lyoto Machida at 205 lbs.(with a two pound difference). That is a jump of five weight classes! Mir weighed in at 245 lbs. Lesnar at 265 lbs. that twenty pound difference though not un-heard of would be again like Georges St. Pierre fighting at Light-heavyweight while weighing in at Middleweight (though he would still give up some weight to a 205 lbs fighter). Lesnar vs. Mir also offered a stylistic match up of a wrestler vs. a Brazilian Ju Jitsu black belt that occurred in the earlier days under the old rules. Sure Mir had stand up skills, but he is more known for his submission game, while Lesnar would use the classic take down and ground and pound that wrestlers like Dan Severn started early on. And Royce would remember that as he choked out the bigger stronger Severn at UFC 4, while giving up close to seventy pounds. It seemed as while the organization would be making history, there was also a chance for history to repeat itself.
But that did not happen as we all know. Mir seemed to be winning the stand up exchange, but everyone knew this fight would eventually go to the ground and that was were the world turned upside down. Mir with years of experience in MMA and BJJ was totally dominated by a man who while having a great wrestling pedigree, was only fighting his fifth MMA fight. In pre-fight interviews Lesnar almost always made reference to his size and strength as being assets in the fight, something the UFC was actually built on discrediting. Mir possessed the skill levels that seemed to point to a defeat of the bigger, stronger, less skilled man. He had defeated a number of fighters, including Lesnar, who were bigger and stronger than he was, why would this fight be any different? At the end of the night was Brazilian Ju Jitsu seen as a lesser skill than the skill set of a wrestler who is physically stronger and much bigger? Did Royce Gracie watch the death of his beloved martial art, that his family created and championed?
Perhaps. Especially in the heavyweight division this may be the case. Can anyone see Nogueira, Gonzaga, Dos Santos, or any other BJJ practitioner in the division beat this man? Perhaps the biggest challenge waiting for Lesnar is fellow wrestler Shane Carwin, but this offers a match up of a wrestler vs. wrestler, with mirrored skill sets. After that it may be Cain Velasquez, a man with less wrestling ability than both, or a revitalized Mir. You would need to go outside of the UFC to get a fighter like Josh Barnett or Fedor Emelianenko to offer a challenge it would appear. But in the UFC the circle has come complete in the heavyweight division. In the division where there is such a disparity in weights that it would mimic the original days as closely as possible the man who will reign as champion perhaps for a long time has changed the game once again. He has disproved the idea that superior skill wins out over strength and size and this assessment does not appear to be wrong. Can anyone see Georges St. Pierre come up an fight Lesnar and win? How about Anderson Silva or Lyoto Machida? It would appear not.
But do not despair Royce and other BJJ afficionados, there is hope. In the lower weight classes BJJ flourishes more than any other discipline. In every weight class under heavyweight all of the title holders hold Black Belts in Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Three of the top “pound for pound” fighters in the world hold black belts. At UFC 101 Florian vs. Penn features fighters who have built their careers on Brazilian Ju Jitsu. And even in the WEC the most exciting and talked about fighter now, Miguel Torres, is a BJJ practitioner. Furthermore, at UFC 101 there was a great display of Brazilian Ju Jitsu in the St. Pierre vs. Alves fight by both fighters. GSP used his BJJ skills to control Alves on the ground (in addition to his wrestling takedowns), but Alves as well showed some worthy escapes for a man not known for his BJJ level. In the lower weight classes BJJ is still king it would appear. But for the heavyweights Lesnar may be ushering in the era of the “big man” as many would seem to believe. But someday, maybe sooner than expected, Brazilian Ju Jitsu will reappear in the division again as a dominant force. Hopefully, somewhere a big man can see weaknesses in Lesnar’s game that others cannot.