What Is Folkstyle Wrestling and Why Is Justin Gaethje So Good at It?

Wrestling is one of the most powerful fighting styles in the UFC, and practically every fighter has to learn it. That said, there are many different types of wrestling styles, and not all of them are the same. Justin Gaethje is a great folkstyle wrestler, and he plans on using it to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov’s more traditional wrestling techniques. 

What is folkstyle wrestling?

Like MMAjunkie reported, folkstyle wrestling is a relatively unique type of wrestling that’s only taught and practiced in the United States. Most of the world’s best wrestlers typically compete in either Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling, and those two types of wrestling are what’s allowed at the Olympics. 

Essentially, pretty much anyone in the U.S. who’s taken or watched high school or college wrestling has seen or learned folkstyle wrestling. There are a few exceptions, and a few great American wrestlers are Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestlers, but by and large, most American wrestlers have trained in folkstyle wrestling. 

Folkstyle wrestling differs from other styles of wrestling mainly by its rules. Wrestling has a point-based judging system, and in folkstyle wrestling, like MMAjunkie said, wrestlers don’t lose points for exposing their back, unlike in freestyle wrestling. This gives folkstyle wrestlers an incentive to get out of bad positions as fast as they can, while other styles won’t necessarily emphasize that.

Who uses folkstyle wrestling and why Justin Gaethje is so good at it

Justin Gaethje walks out before a UFC fight
Justin Gaethje walking to the cage before a UFC fight | Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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Since most college wrestling in the U.S. is folkstyle wrestling, pretty much every American in the UFC who’s wrestled in high school or college has trained in folkstyle wrestling. And at the college level, the NCAA is about the highest level a person can go in terms of wrestling competition.

As a result, pretty much any UFC fighter who’s a NCAA Division I, II, or III wrestler probably has some decent folkstyle wrestling skills in their arsenal.

And due to how powerful wrestling is as a skill, many of the UFC’s best fighters are also great folkstyle wrestlers. For example, Brock Lesnar, Tyron Woodley, and Daniel Cormier were all high-level NCAA wrestlers.

Furthermore, Gaethje is also a NCAA Division I wrestler. He never won any NCAA championships, but simply getting to that level means that he has a lot of wrestling skill and knowledge. 

That said, just being a high-level folkstyle wrestler isn’t enough to win fights. Many NCAA-level wrestlers have flopped in the UFC. For example, Ben Askren, who is a great folkstyle wrestler with a lot of wrestling credentials, retired from the UFC after back-to-back losses against Jorge Masvidal and Demian Maia. Askren relied too heavily on his wrestling, and Masvidal and Maia made him pay for it.

Can Justin Gaethje this technique to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov?

Justin Gaethje thinks that Nurmagomedov’s fought too many freestyle wrestlers, and as a result, they’re always fighting at a disadvantage, according to MMAjunkie.

Gaethje said that Nurmagomedov’s opponents allow him to take them down, but because Gaethje is a folkstyle wrestler, he’ll actually fight back. Gaethje said, “So whenever he goes to take me down, I’m going to be flipping and rolling in ways that he’s never felt in his life.”

On top of that, Gaethje said that he can beat the champ in a battle of brawn, too. Gaethje said that he has a lot of power, and he can match the champ’s strength.

According to MMA Junkie, Gaethje also said, “The only way to stop a takedown is to meet force with force. I guarantee he’s going to be in trouble.” If Gaethje is successful and he can stop Nurmagomedov’s takedowns, then he probably has the advantage on the feet, and that’s how he can ultimately beat the champ.