A guy we’d not met before came along to the class a while back. Decent enough guy, very good ground game. Problem was, he had no standup at all. He struggled to cope with something as simple as an opponent throwing a front kick or even a bunch of punches at him. But like I said, he was pretty good on the ground.
I was a bit shocked to hear he was training for an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match, and a lot more shocked to find it was that weekend. This guy simply wasn’t ready for it, and afterward I heard it went exactly like I predicted.
Our new friend had been training for a few months and was up for his first fight. Problem was, he was loving the ground a bit much, and spent a lot of his training time on technical submission and submission-defense work. That’s important, but not if you get knocked out before you can take the opponent down.
His plan was to take the opponent down and look for a submission, but what actually happened was that he ate a bunch of shots every time he tried. Then he got taken down, or both fighters went down without any real advantage. Our visitor was a tough kid; he managed to stay in the fight and even attempted some submissions, but his lack of a standup game meant that he was always disadvantaged when he went to the ground. He then couldn’t put his opponent away before the referee stood the fight back up and the process started again.
I’ve seen this before. A lot of fight schools enter relative noobs (newbies, beginners, etc.) on the shows, and the promoters match them up against equally unskilled opponents. That’s fair enough I suppose, and it fills out the card. Noob fights can still be exciting to watch – we’re not talking about totally incompetent people here; a few weeks of good training can create a very decent fighter.
And the fighters gain experience from it. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a noob-fight early in your career. But this guy simply wasn’t ready. He’d over-emphasised one aspect of his training and never stood a chance. It doesn’t matter how good your ground game is if you can’t get the opponent to the ground on terms that give you a fair chance for victory.
So what I’m saying is that the first requirement for a good ground game is the ability to fight standing up. Counterintuitive? Maybe. But it’s called Mixed Martial Arts for a reason. Leaving a bit out creates a one-dimensional fighter. A skilled opponent will demolish one of those.