Let me preface this by first saying that I am a firm believer in some of the traditional striking arts, especially Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do, which I train in. Last night after class at my local studio, I heard some of the Black Belts commenting on MMA. While they enjoy to watch it, and all agree that the ground fighting is top notch, they often wonder some of the same things I do when watching MMA stand-up. Why are the fighters content to stay in the pocket and trade punches and roundhouses? Why do fighters rarely throw anything other than a simple roundhouse, when there are many openings for other kicks? Why are they so much more technical as boxer than complete strikers? As I pondered these questions, I realized that there are many aspects of the sport that have led it to where it is today. Here I will outline some of them:
1). The Development of the Sport Early
There were a lot of fighters with classical martial arts training in the early UFC and similar events. They almost all failed. Why? A few reasons that I will talk about below, but regardless they failed. People forsook the traditional striking arts as worthless, and the whole world jusmped on the grappling revolution. One of the best axe kickers in history fought in the UFC. Did you know that? Not many do, because Mark Kerr and Mark Coleman were his only UFC opponents and he was dumped on his ass less than 30 seconds into his fights. They didn't understand the ground game, and didn't respect it. They were taken down and beaten over and over. No one wants to learn a style that they see disrespected 9 out of ten times they see it used in a sport. And when strikers did learn to stop takedowns and use their striking prowess, it was kick boxers and thai boxers, like Igor Vovchanchyn, Maurice Smith, and Wanderlei Silva. So it was accepted that these styles worked and the others didn't. So people turned to Muay Thai and Kickboxing, and decided that punching and roundhoses were the only effective strikes for MMA.
2)Their Unwillingness To Change Because of Tradition and Mindset
The striking arts like TKD and Karate are steeped in tradition. It is defines their actions, from how class is run to what they learn. They are very closed minded to outside input, for the most part. Since they want to represent their art, they feel that to use the stratagies of another syle would bring dishonor on their schools, teachers, and themselves. To someone who views MMA as only a sport, like Basketball of Football, this seems strange. Kickboxing and Boxing are considered as sports, so to learn something else is just way to get better at a sport, this is an easy transistion. So they exceled earlier. But that is starting to change, as we are seeing with Machida and others, like myself, who see the virtues of others styles as well as my own.
I think that the MMA world will undergo another revolution, not unlike the kind that Royce Gracie brought us in 1993, and his father Helio 50 years before him. People will realize that they don't have to block or eat kicks, they can get out of the way. They will realize that you can throw something other than a front kick or a low roundhouse fast and without being taken down everytime. The sport of MMA is so young, it is not done evolving.