From strikers like Conor McGregor to wrestlers like Khabib Nurmagomedov, every style of fighting exists in the UFC. To be a successful fighter, however, many will mix and match different styles and use them when necessary. However, some styles are more effective than others.
These fighters are rare and they rarely succeed. A specialist is a fighter who is an expert in one fighting style but largely incompetent in everything else. Specialists were more common back in the earliest days of the UFC when people didn’t know what Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ, was.
Because of that ignorance, BJJ, which is a submission-based martial art, reigned supreme. Men like Royce Gracie didn’t care if a boxer wanted to knock them out, they were going to break that boxer’s arm unless they tapped out.
However, many fighters started learning BJJ, including how to defend against it. By doing that, the era of specialists went away as fighters started learning multiple martial arts and combining them to great effect.
Nowadays, while many fighters tend to excel in one style, they’ll also be competent in others. Thus, it’s hard to say which fighting style is the most effective, as every fighter learns about every fighting style. However, there is a common denominator between every successful UFC champion.
Henry Cejudo, champion of the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. Nurmagomedov, the lightweight champion, is a life long wrestler who wrestled bears as a kid.
Kamaru Usman, the welterweight champion, Robert Whittaker, the middleweight champion, Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champion, and Stipe Miocic, the heavyweight champion, are all great wrestlers too.
Wrestling is important because it allows the fighter to choose where the fight goes. Nurmagomedov can’t stand and strike with McGregor, so he took him down and choked him out. Usman didn’t want to get submitted by Demian Maia, so Usman used his wrestling to keep the fight standing and beat Maia up.
However, as Ben Askren proved when he got knocked out by Jorge Masvidal in five seconds, a UFC fighter can’t specialize in just wrestling and ignore everything else. A great UFC fighter needs to combine all those skills together.
The best combination of fighting styles for the UFC
Every champion that was mentioned has mixed in striking and BJJ into their skillset. They aren’t the best strikers or submission artists in the UFC, but they’re good enough so that they won’t be outmatched.
That’s why a strong wrestler who can strike and do BJJ is the best combination of fighting styles out there. Like Nurmagomedov showed in his fight against Dustin Poirier, if he couldn’t do BJJ, then Poirier might’ve choked him out.
And like Nurmagomedov showed against McGregor, if he didn’t know how to strike, then he wouldn’t have landed that punch that knocked McGregor down.
Striking isn’t all about hitting the other person either, it’s also about not being hit in the first place. Because Nurmagomedov did know how to strike, he was able to avoid McGregor’s best punches and kicks.
Of course, not every fighter needs to do what Nurmagomedov does to succeed. McGregor is not a wrestler, but he has good defensive wrestling. That’s why he’s been able to keep the fight standing against most fighters.
Other fighters who fight like McGregor, like Israel Adesanya, are also very successful. If fighters like McGregor and Adesanya can keep fights standing, then they can easily knock their opponents out.
However, as the UFC rankings show, very few people can deal with the wrestling of the current champions, and that’s why wrestling is simply the best style right now.