The sport of Mixed Martial Arts began as a concept that pit practitioners of different forms of martial arts against each other. Eventually in the United States, this led to fighters starting to cross-train in other forms of martial arts to help defend against certain techniques or simply add it to their repertoire. The UFC and MMA have grown a lot from the early UFC events (we aren’t going to touch Japan, different beast entirely), to where MMA has almost become a style of its own, just as it has become a sport of its own.
At UFC 136 there were two championship fights, and both showed different displays of striking prowess, with one fight ending in a decision and one fight ending in a knockout. What I find interesting to take away from the event is how Dana White was quick to declare Frankie Edgar as the best “Boxer” in the UFC and how quickly fans and media followed suit, with many declaring Frankie one of the elite strikers in the MMA world. I have to admit that I was taken aback, as after watching the Jose Aldo fight and how it was an impressive display of striking, I did not feel the same thing about the Edgar fight. The only difference to the naked eye was that the Edgar fight finished with a knockout, while Aldo took Florian to a decision.
What needs to be established first and foremost is that knockouts happen in combat sports, and a knockout does not always mean a superior display of “striking.” Fighters like Joey Beltran and Leonard Garcia are fighters who primarily like to strike in their recent fights and put on strike-heavy fights at UFC 136, but I’m not sure I’d rate either as a very good striker. Beltran holds eleven wins by knockout and Garcia has three, and both men are quick to turn fights into brawls that showcase a lot of heart and wild punches, but that does not make for a good striker, and I feel like many understand this concept in these scenarios. People like watching Leonard Garcia fight, but not many will say he is a great technical striker.
What needs to be established next is that “Boxing,” “Muay Thai” and “Kickboxing” are not lone attributes in a fighter’s toolbox. They are not videogame-like attributes that are assigned and can simply be explained as, “they have good Boxing.” Many have been lauding over Frankie Edgar’s boxing skills through simple phrases like, “Frankie Edgar’s Boxing is Great,” or “Frankie Edgar has the best Boxing in MMA.”
Boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Judo and everything else in the MMA universe are sports and styles unto themselves, and include many, many facets to them. Frankie Edgar knows how to move out of harm’s way and not get hit and he also has very sound technique when it comes to throwing his strikes. On the other side of the coin, he drops his left hand a lot or doesn’t keep it in tight near his chest to defend his chin, leaving him open to take damage from time to time, while his head is also mostly stationary. Another thing to note is that he also tends to focus on the head when he strikes, rarely changing levels.