Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ronaldo Souza: MMA Submission Hero of the Week

If you learned to love jiu-jitsu because you saw what this art could do in true physical confrontations - be they in the earliest years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or in the "Gracie in Action" challenge matches - then there is no more vital jiu-jitsu competitor in mixed martial arts than Ronaldo Souza.

The fighter also known as Jacare was brilliant in his rematch against the talented Gegard Mousasi. Truth told, this second fight was in some essential ways like the first: Jacare was able to takedown Mousasi virtually at will and impose ground control against which Mousasi was very challenged to escape.

This reality was reflected in the wagering line, which had Jacare as a sizable favorite. To be sure, Mousasi was able to catch Jacare with an upkick in the first match, earning a knockout victory. But the "Black Swan" nature of that victory was made pretty clear tonight in the rematch, as Jacare again took Mousasi down at will and secured dominant positions consistently.

Like most, I was rooting for the kimura finish. But like any old jiu-jitsu folk, I'll take what I can get. The point of the matter about this fight for me, though, is this: Rickson Was Right.

I don't know why so many people resist this idea. Sure, mixed martial arts is biased in favor of striking (i.e., padded gloves). But Jacare's performance is a reminder that a strategy of closing the distance, insisting on the takedown, and executing sound guard passing and high probability submissions is just as valid an approach to winning a mixed martial arts contest as "Punch-Punch-Kick."

Yes, you're going to need to have some cardio to fight like this. Mixed martial arts is a professional sport for professional athletes, after all. But if you are a jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA, the only thing better than a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for five minutes is a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for ten minutes. Or fifteen.

Or twenty-five.