UFC 1 was sold as a no-hold-barred cagefighting event that asked one simple question: which fighting style is the best?
MMA wasn’t a thing back then. So what followed was a batshit crazy card filled with sumo wrestlers, boxers, taekwondo black belts and kickboxers. These were dudes that were trained in a single discipline, and they were out to prove that theirs was the best.
Today, we’ve got guys like Max Holloway, a young stud who grew up training MMA as it’s own discipline. Fighters like Holloway represent an evolution of a sport that mainly consisted of combat sports vets who transitioned into MMA after spending most of their time training a single discipline.
There’s an old-school appeal to the fighters who are still so strongly grounded in a style. And a few names stick out from the bunch. Let’s take a look at a few that have got upcoming fights, along with UFC odds from BookMaker.eu where available.
The Jiu-Jitsu Ninja
Upcoming Fight: UFC 211, May 13
Demian Maia -130 vs. Jorge Masvidal +110
This is a guy that’s won pretty much every major grappling tournament in the world. If you polled every pro fighter on who has got the best BJJ, it’s likely that Maia’s name would be at the top. Everyone recognizes the skills.
His record doesn’t do him justice – 12 subs in 24 career victories doesn’t speak to the many fights where he’s completely dominated opponents, forcing them to defend submission attempt after submission attempt en route to an easy UD.
In more than 15 years as a pro fighter, his striking has never gotten to a level where he could win a fight with it. But it doesn’t matter: he just keeps tying people up and making knots out of their limbs. He is to MMA jiu-jitsu was Steph Curry is to NBA 3-point shooting.
The Queen of Muay Thai
Upcoming Fight: UFC 211, May 13
Joanna Jedrzejczyk -170 vs. Jessica Andrade +150
You think her name is hard to pronounce? Try eating her strikes for five rounds. There might not be another fighter that has the textbook Muay Thai skills of Joanna Champion. During her scraps, she’s got color commentators like Brian Stann drooling over her hand speed and technique.
If you wanna learn how to throw a punch or throw a teep kick, just watch J-Check fights on repeat. While she doesn’t have single shot flip-the-switch power, the snap she gets behind all her strikes is downright scary. More often than not, her opponents emerge from scraps looking like they just got put in the blender.
She might never have a great grappling game, but she’s already an expert and stuffing takedowns and getting back to her feet. And when you’re that good at Muay Thai, that’s enough to get you the strawweight championship belt.
The Mean, Not-So-Lean Brawlin’ Machine
Upcoming Fight: UFC Fight Night 110, June 10
Mark Hunt vs. Derrick Lewis
“The Black Beast” is a throwback guy, with no real background in combat sports. Basically, this is a guy from the streets that settled beef with his fists. Three and a half years in prison probably hardened them into adamantium. After spending some time in a boxing gym, Lewis decided to get into MMA.
And guess what? The guy found out he could put the lights out and simply will his way to victory. Nobody ever expected him to be a heavyweight contender, but Lewis is on a six-fight winning streak with wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and Travis Browne. It’s crazy how a fighter you could describe as a bar brawler could be so successful in MMA today.