I like MMA because it is so raw and elemental; two guys trying to beat the shit out of each other. But from that elemental base comes an intense competition that really brings out the best in people:self mastery, which is the essence of martial arts. And in the best fights and among the best fighters its not steroid fueled brawn or natural talent that wins the day but mastery.
There are a few fighters I would consider master martial artists. My number one pick in this category is Fedor Emelianenko, now retired. But there are a two martial Arts Masters still in action, long reigning 185 champion Anderson Silva and the more recent Light Heavyweight champion John "Bones" Jones.
These guys are, to repeat a cliche' "on another level" I would hesitate to put Georges St. Pierre in that category, but I think he is too cautious. He doesn't put himself in danger. He doesn't take enough risks. He is not the cavalier warrior that Anderson Sliva or Jones is or Fedor Was. He shows more strain. What I mean is, his is very controlled and follows a well crafted game plan. He doesn't appear to improvise in the moment. The masters I refer to are just beautiful to watch. They just get in a flow, when they are completetely at one in the moment. You never know what will happen. They do amazing things, but also put themselves in danger. Like for example, Anderson Silva backing up against the cage to dodge punches from Stephan Bonnar like he was Neo fighting Matrix.
That is some otherworldly shit.
A different category of fighters I admire are a group I call "The Grinders" Most of these guys started out as collegiate wrestlers, but I would also put the Diaz brothers in this category as well. Nate and Nick Diaz are Ju Jitzu specialists who are also excellent strikers. But they are grinders with their striking. Both lack flashy one punch knock out power. So they unleash a barrage of punches at 2/3 power keeping the pressure on. If taken down they can pull amazing submissions off their backs, but what they seem to like most is to trade. Both seem to be able to take super human amounts of punishment. They both have faces seemingly twisted into permanent snarls, with really big jaws and thick brow ridges. They purposely eat punches and continually taunt their opponents. When they win its by submission or through a war of attrition.
Some of the other grinders are kind of boring to watch, but an exciting old school member of this type would be Dan Henderson. His fights always have a feeling of tension because of his one punch knock out power than can end the fight instantly any time.
The Next championship fight will Pit a young Martial Arts Master, Jon "Bones" Jones, against a veteran grinder, Chael Sonnen. I couldn't think of two more contrasting people to be fighting each other for the 205 lb. championship. Chael Sonnen has adopted an extremely colorful, brash, self promoting persona, but his style is of a meat and potatoes grinder. He appears to lack knock out power and relies on excellent take downs and wrestling to control the fight. He just keeps coming, seemingly cranking out wins from sheer determination. He has had dozens of fights spread out over a decade, but has been haunted by being submitted in midst of winning fights. He decided he was plagued by inner demons, apparently, and consulted a sports psychologist and was even hypnotized. On season 17 of the ultimate fighter, he used his knowledge of Sports Psychology to give moving pep talks to his team and ended up the winning coach.
Jon Jones appears to be the exact opposite to Chael in nearly every way. He is tall and lanky, where wheras Chael is compact and powerful. He is a flashy striker who pulls off amazing spinning kicks and elbow strikes off his feet. His also adept at submissions, both offensively and defensively. He appears to almost effortlessly walk through opponents, whereas Chael usually only barely grinds out wins after going to war. Earlier in his career Jones was critiqued for never having been "seriously tested" because, I think, he is so highly talented and skilled he just makes it look too easy. The level of his competition has been high. But in a recent fight against Vitor Belfort he shugged off a sunken in armbar refusing to tap, and pulling out a victoy having his elbow dislocated. So, in my book he has clearly demonstrated the intestinal fortitude of a champion.
So what are my predictions for the fight? With Jon Jones there is always the possibility that he will seemingly effortless walk through his opponents, feeling them out for a round or so before putting them away, execution style. He may be quiet and soft spoken, but the man is a killer. Make no mistake about that. He ragdolled a huge strong wrestler, with a similar style as Sonnen, in Ryan Bader. Arguably Sonnen is craftier and more seasoned than Bader, but what does he have to bring to the table that Bader did not? Rashad Evans is every bit as good a wrestler as Sonnen and a far superior striker, yet he was completely shut out by Jones.
The most logical conclusion, is that it will be a one way lopsided victory for Jones by TKO or Submission probably in the second round or thereabouts. I think he wants a decisive finish over Chael. Unlike Rashad, Chael lacks knock out power. Jones has no reason to keep him out of striking range, like he did with Rashad. I think he will be hands on. I think he could submit Chael or just as easily knock him out with an elbow, a knee, a kick or a punch. Jones's arsenal is deep. He might suddenly pull guard on his feet and sink in an armbar and tap him out. He might set up a take down with a kick or a knee to the liver, followed by a rnc. He might pick him apart for a few rounds, with elbows, until his face is a bloody mess and then put him away with any of a number of submissions.
What reason do I have to believe that Chael can first, take Jones down, and second, keep him down, to grind out a win? I have his first loss with Anderson Silva, to go on, the one in which Anderson reportedly fought with injured ribs. Chael was fighting a much smaller man, in Anderson Silva. Jones is arguably a much bigger Stronger, younger version of Anderson Silva and a version with, apparently, superior Take down defense. Anderson appears to have, if not a glaring hole, at least, a bit of weakness with strong determined grapplers. He succumbed to Take Downs from an exhausted Travis Luter, earlier in his career. Jones however has taken the best wrestlers, his division has to offer and showed no such weakness. He stuffs take downs, with prejudice.
Jones previous opponents all seemed to succumbed at some point, to a kind of mental haze. They can't get in range, because of his superior reach, and yet also have no idea what is coming at them. He could come with a kick, a devastating elbow, a take down, a flying knee, even something that no one has ever seen before, that Jones decided to try out for the first time, live on pay per view.
The other thing to consider is that, Chael once fought, at 205 before moving down. The reason most fighters do this is because they are not particularly strong or tall compared to other opponents in their natural weight class. For example Uriah Faber, is fast and explosive, but could not handle the sheer strength and leverage advantages, in an opponent like Mike Brown.
So if Chael had problems with strength and leverage advantages in larger opponents at 205, such as Forrest Griffin, he is getting in over his head to say the least by Debuting at 205 again, against the fighter with the greatest leverage advantages of any fighter in any division including heavyweight.
If Chael pulls out a win it will be through sheer audacity. It was only through sheer audacity that he got the fight to begin with. How that translates into an actual strategy, I don't know. There is no logical reason, based on analyses of the past performances of both fighters, for Chael to win. But
There is always the psychological x-factor. Chael has nothing to lose, and everything to gain in winning this fight, which might be his last hurrah before retiring. Jones in contrast has not much to gain (victory oven an aging unranked fighter)and the Championship to Lose.
There has been the issue of testosterone supplementation. I see it playing out one of two ways. Chael either juices himself silly knowing this is his last fight, i.e. Stephan Bonnar, not caring if he is later disqualified, if he goes out in a blaze of glory -OR- given the recent anti TRT climate, comes in looking soft i.e. Alistair Overeem and gets man handled. I predict the former, with Chael wanting to end his career going out on his sword like a wounded lion.
My prediction: 99% chance of Victory by John Jones through one sided beat down
1% chance of amazing upset victory by Chael Sonnen through sheer (albeit testosterone supplemented) ballsiness