Disappointed

On Friday, December 11th 2009, Mariusz Pudzianowski, polish strongman with an impressive record of 6 european titles and 5 won world chmapionships, made his MMA debut at the „Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki“, or short KSW.

Pudzian, as Mariusz is called in Poland, was facing Marcin Najman, a professional boxer.
There’sa good intro on both fighters on youtube, for your convenience I’ve posted the video here:

As you can see, Mariusz is obviously the bigger, stronger fighter. There’s a weight difference of approximately 25kg.

Although Mariusz is a strength athlete, he’s been doing Kyokushinkai Karate and Boxing for years (according to his homepage boxing for 7 years, karate for 20+ years, see http://pudzian.pl/mariusz.php). Also, the guy was practicing BJJ with Miroslaw Okninski, propably the number one expert in poland when it comes to the brazilian art. You can look it up on their homepage, www.valetudo.pl, all that training is no urban myth.

Of course, there’s also some video footage:

On the other hand, Marcin Najman is a professional boxer (since 2001) and amateur kickboxer with quite a few accomplishments in standup fighting.

Now, with experience on Najman’s side, mass and power on Pudzian’s side and a lot of technical training on both sides, this promised to be an interresting fight.

Think total disappointment when after 43 seconds the fight was over and left nothing but the impression of having watched a streetfight between rivaling soccer fans (think hooligans) fighting for their respective team after a match.

As you can see, there’s exactly one „clean“ jab in the fight, the first technique thrown by Najman. After that, it all turned to wild swinging and brawling.

Don’t get me wrong on this one, this is MMA, after all, so whatever works has it’s place. Still, I can’t help but wonder what this fight has done to the image of the martial arts as a whole. Ever since freaks like Hong Man Choi, Akebono or Bob Sapp entered the K1 and MMA circuits, people started thinking of combat sports as brutal slaughter.

Granted, when UFC1 and UFC2 took place, things were even rougher, but today, most professional leagues have strict rules and a high technical level. Also, at forementioned events, the smallest, lightest, yet most technical fighter took gold – Royce Gracie.

All this stuff about „Who would win a fight? A boxer or a bodybuilder?“ is just like asking „Who would win a basketball game? A baketball player or a soccer player?“. (I didn’t make this analogy up, it comes from a guy who calls himself „FightingIrish“, but I kind of like it.)
It seems obvious, only in MMA, the soccer players are winning those basketball games, to follow that line of thinking.

Of course, in a professional league suich as the UFC or strikeforce, Pudzian wouldn’t win so easily. Still, in a black belt magazine interview (April 2001), Rickson Gracie said that „…Just being big and well prepared is already a great advantage for him. That makes the smaller guy the underdog no matter what he does“. Apparentaly, this holds very true, especially in the heavyweight division.

One can never forget, anyhow, that in the first 3 UFC events, Rickon’s younger brother, Royce, has also proven the next sentence in that interview „I still believe it’s possible for the smaller guy to win because a fight is not decided by the prevention of one technique“.

Just as so often, physical prowess, mass, precision, technical skill, spirit, killer instinct, proper nutrition and regeneration, they’re all just parts of a big puzzle. Depending on personal preference, disposition and personality, those can be scaled and weighted. Still, they all have to be in their place in order to make a complete fighter.

Coming back to that fight between Pudzianowski and Najman, I had the feeling that a big part of that puzzle was simply missing. When you think about a puzzle, you can connect improper pieces by using enough force (i.e. breaking the pieces), but it’s just more elegant and sensible to look for those pieces that fit together.

In case of that KSW fight, which was meant to be a professional bout, this means the combatants should know their tools (call it weapons if you wish). No black magic, but a jab, cross, lowkick, pushkick and takedown should be part of every MMA fighter’s arsenal. At least those basic moves should be refined to a high level by anyone thinking of stepping in the cage or ring.

My trainer and mentor, Ronny, always had a great analogy for that:

„Your techniques are just like a samurai’s sword. Use them for sparring (combat) all the time, and the sword gets blunt. Refine them every day to keep your sword sharp. Practice fighting (sparring) regularly, but keep that sword sharp and polished.“

For me, this absolutely makes sense. Also, fighters like Mirko „Cro Cop“ Filipovic, Anderson Silva or Sugar Ray Robinson prove(d) that point over and over again.

Guess we have to ask ourselves from time to time: „Is my sword still in the condition it needs to be, or has it gone all blunt and battered?“.

Which way is it for you?
Think about it.

So long,

take care

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