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No Holds Barred Fighting: The Book of Essential Submissions
By Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner
Tracks PublishingCopyright © 2009 Doug Werner
All rights reserved.
My empirical data ate your dogma
If you were going to step inside a cage or a ring, would you rather have advice based on tradition and opinion or advice based on evidence? Be honest as you answer this question. You are putting yourself in harm's way. Everybody gets hit in a fight, even good fighters (they just get hit less).
Do you want hearsay? Do you want strategies and tactics uttered out of habit that don't have much practical thought behind them? Do you want to train or drill ideas that are related to a different environment than the one you are entering? This is your body you are putting on the line. Wouldn't it be wise to arm yourself with the best information available?
I'm going to gamble that you prefer evidence over simple dogma. If at any point in your training, you confront a bit of evidence (not advice) that butts against what you have assumed to be correct, well, that's terrific. You've learned something. Discard the underperforming tool and get to work incorporating the new tool. This acceptance of evidence has nothing to do with personal likes or dislikes, allegiances or alliances, respect or disrespect. It's simply acknowledgment of truth.
Advice usually is offered with good intentions. For the most part, people are well-meaning. But if the advice fails the evidentiary test, then it's gotta go bye-bye. This quote from the late Michael Crichton fuels this perspective, "Intentions are meaningless, all that matters are results."
I bring up the need for nondogmatic thinking because the sport of MMA has had a curious history. Unlike most sports, some branches of MMA have come to us from avenues that allowed the art to become cloaked in a bit of crypto-mysticism or strict codes of unwavering lineage and tradition stopping just short of fealty reminiscent of medieval vassals and lords. This stifles honest questioning and experimentation — the hallmarks of progress.
Other sports operate in a train-drill-practice-scrimmage-play MO. That is, learn what you did right or wrong, incorporate those results into your training and then play again. These sports are using the objective empirical method, whether it is called that or not. We think they are wise to do so. It's not only the scientific method, it's good common sense.
We've all seen films of early ball games or Olympic competitions and marvel at what was and respect the pioneers for their accomplishments. But you notice also that games and individual events have evolved. Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe swam beautifully in the Olympics of yore, but how do you think they would stack up against Michael Phelps (baked or not)? How would a 1930s era college football team fare against a team today? These are subjective questions, I know. We can quibble and offer, "Well, if they had access to the same training opportunities and the same resources as we have today" argument ... but that proves the point, doesn't it?
They didn't have these resources and opportunities. They were providing the data to foster the astonishing improvements and performances we see today. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, these athletes of yore are the giants upon whose shoulders we stand today.
No sport would hamstring itself with blind obeisance to an outmoded tactic, strategy or tool. When Jim Corbett began dissecting the Great John L. Sullivan with the "new technology" of the jab, traditionalists didn't suppress the jab and insist that we go back to the old way. Boxers the world over took a look at early film of Gentleman Jim and eagerly adopted the jab as their own.
In the 1968 Summer Olympics, Dick Fosbury won the gold medal in the high jump with what is called the Fosbury Flop. Prior to Fosbury's innovation, athletes had cleared the bar with techniques such as the straddle, the western roll, the eastern cutoff and the scissors jump. Previous high jumpers were landing either on sand or low matting and therefore had to be a bit more careful. The advent of deep foam landing surfaces allowed for a more carefree technique, and Fosbury's Flop evolved to exploit this change. Fosbury's Flop wasn't discounted or ignored. It was quickly adopted and incorporated by other athletes.
And that's the way it should be whether in sports, business or everyday life. Always evolve, always adapt, always pay attention. Be willing to slough off what pays low dividends in favor of that which pays high yields.
Let us clarify that high yield goal further. We want high yields based on safe investments. We don't want our training to echo the current economy where projected high yields were based on risky investment tools and ended up paying squat. We want our training to be safe vehicles that still pay high returns. We don't want to be the gamblers with "a system" visiting the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas hoping for a bit of Lady Luck based on something we caught in the film, "21."
No, we want to be the Bellagio itself with house odds at all times. You want to be the Bellagio that offers a game that will win more often than not. As soon as casino customers start pulling more than you do on an individual game, then that game either has to be tweaked or it's gotta go. Casinos stay solvent over the long haul, gamblers don't. Be the Bellagio.
In our goal to be the Bellagio, we've got to know what wins fights and what gambits get us into trouble. We must quantify offense and defense in a qualitative manner that allows us to build hierarchies of utility. We have to recognize what might be "Black Jack" in one version of combat sports might be "bust" in MMA. To shed this casino metaphor and move to the concrete, let's look at the Omaplata submission.
The Omaplata (coil lock or leg wrap DWL to wrestlers) is a high percentage submission in Jiu-jitsu competition and submission wrestling tournaments. How does it stack up in MMA? Of the 640 fights examined for this study, the Omaplata was attempted 48 times and finished zero times.
These 640 bouts comprised the best competitors — fantastic Jiu-jitsu players, excellent wrestlers, formidable kick boxers. Athletes who, in all probability, had a better than average working knowledge of how to set up and use this submission that serves so well in other arenas. Yet in MMA, the numbers show it to be an under performing investment tool.
This sort of information comprises this primer. Like statisticians in other sports inform regarding strategy, tactics and draft picks, it is time we use empirical tools with MMA and allow the results to spur us forward. Our sport will evolve, and with that evolution, we will see innovations a la Dick Fosbury and Jim Corbett that will give us new strategies and tactics to factor into our equations. Until then, we need to ensure that the equations we are working with now are accurate.
For those who may be curious how I quantified the material in this primer (and it is wise to question any and all sources), I offer the following as an explicatory justification for the conclusions herein.
We surveyed 640 fights. These fights were culled from the last 40 Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events and the last 40 Pride Fighting Championship (PFC) events from the most recent at the time of this writing and then backward chronologically.
I did not start with either the inception of the events or delve into the earliest matches. I gave greater heft to the most recent events for the following reasons.
1. The earlier events used different rule sets than we see now (sometimes drastically different).
2. The early events suffered from the usual growing pains seen in any gestating enterprise — wildly disparate skill levels, less than optimum matchmaking and, in some cases, unusual organization of the event itself that might taint results.
3. More recent events present better matchmaking, higher athletic and technical ability overall, and more experienced competitors on which to base our results — results that are more pertinent to today's competitor.
I chose the UFC because it is arguably the premier event inside a cage, and the PFC because it holds the same cachet for MMA inside a ring. I wanted to examine the best athletes in the sport in different environments to see how the game must be played as dictated by cage or ropes. I mean beyond the obvious innovations seen in cage drives, cage pins, and the like.
No decisions are factored into any of the results found in this primer. Decisions can sometimes be maddeningly subjective (such as the legendary Vegas decision), so I focus on the concrete. A fight must have a definite end, either via KO or tap-out. Ignoring decisions does not in anyway imply disrespect. It simply is not a selected metric for this particular study.
I didn't include doctor stoppages. Yes, doing such damage to an opponent that a doctor must stop the fight is without a doubt worthy of study, but I wanted to quantify specifically what makes an individual stop either of his own volition or via KO. There are far too many doctor stoppages witnessed in which the doctor is wise to stop the fight for the safety of the fighter, but we detect no decrease in willingness to compete from the stopped fighter. Aiming for doctor stoppages and decisions in your game plan is leaving too much to chance. Again, we will focus only on what is a definite stop via KO or tap-out.
Damage Points. Here's where an unfortunate bit of potential subjectivism leaks into the system. There are times when a fight seems to be won by a single punch, but we all know it was the liver kick 30 seconds prior that did the damage, and everything that followed was merely icing on a slow KO. I tried to confine the results to the eyewitness finishes of each fight and to ignore damage points unless it was absolutely clear that the damage point was what inevitably led to the victory. The following scenario illustrates the quandary.
Fighter A lands a devastating overhand that drops Fighter B. Fighter A follows Fighter B to the mat and rains down a series of quick hammer fists that are defended rather weakly (sounds like many Chuck Liddell finishes, doesn't it?). Eight hammer blows land before the fight is stopped. Here's the dilemma: Do we award the victory to the overhand or to the ground and pound?
Damage points are the only area where I made the occasional subjective evaluation, but I have done my best to assign the win to whatever seems to be the obvious deciding factor. Any mistakes in these subjective evaluations are, of course, mine and I offer my apologies if any of them are awry.
So now you have the method to the primer. It's as straightforward as I could manage without duplicating my blow-by-blow shorthand analysis that are my notes (trust me, no one needs exposure to the tedious conglomerate of my chicken scratching). What is between these covers is the meat of careful analysis, and you may find some of it surprising, indeed.
Pareto's Principle revisited
In volume three of this continuing saga on martial study, NHBF: Savage Strikes, I introduced the Pareto Principle and how it applies to combat training. At the risk of flogging long-dead horses, the Pareto Principle deserves a second look as the material found in the next section, The Hierarchy of Utility, is tailor-made for Pareto treatment.
For the uninitiated, Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who made a rather useful observation in 1897. In a nutshell, he observed that a minority of causes or events led to a majority of the outcomes. Conversely, a majority of causes or events led to a minority of outcomes. Huh? Let's rephrase Pareto, as is commonly done, and simplify his observation to the 80/20 Rule.
The 80/20 Rule states that 20 percent of the input is responsible for 80 percent of the results. Conversely, 80 percent of the input is responsible for only 20 percent of the results. In case you still haven't wrapped your head around it (it took me a while), let's picture your place of work your fellow employees.
Pareto's Principle or the 80/20 Rule states that out of 10 employees, 2 do the majority of the real work (80 percent). The remaining 8 employees surf the net, chat with one another, text most the day away and, as a result, contribute only about 20 percent of the overall work. I'll wager that this example immediately rings true for your own place of employment, and that you can name those who are 20 percenters (the go-getters) and those who are the dead weight.
In a completely fair work environment (no such thing) those 8 folks would get canned and one more 20 percenter added to take up the slack. The 80/20 Rule applies across the board to most endeavors that allow for cost-to-benefit analysis — investments, work, projects, even relationships. But here we are concerned about how it applies to combat sports training.
In NHBF: Savage Strikes, I made the assertion that a small percentage of offensive tools (20 percent) would account for 80 percent of your success. With that in mind, I then urged the reader to make an assessment of all the offensive tools and determine which delivered the highest returns. Once this inventory was made, I stated that these tools should receive approximately 80 percent of your training attention since they will provide the most bang for the buck. Tools evaluated as low return on your investment (20 percent or less) should have less time (in some cases zero time) dedicated to their practice. I still stand by these assertions, but what I failed to present at the time was a bona fide way to evaluate and distinguish the 20 percenters from the 80 percenters. That's where this book comes into play — it's about Pareto's Principle and building a Hierarchy of Utility. More on that in the next chapter.
Now let's illustrate Pareto's Principle in action in our particular area of concern. Let's assume we want to build a striking base. We need to determine how much time to spend training boxing and how much time to spend honing our Muay Thai skills. Do we devote ourselves to each discipline equally? Both are undeniably devastating striking schemata within their own rule sets. But does one hold more utility to the Mixed Martial Artist than the other?
We studied 640 fights. How many victories were the result of boxing (pure punching technique)? The answer is 96. How about victories via Muay Thai kick? The answer is 14.
A ratio of 96 to 14 is easy to grasp. Does one mode of attack seem to present itself as more useful in top level competition than the other? The numbers say yes. To examine this in greater detail, 12 of those 14 victories came via head kick. This information is important because it shows that a head kick definitely has a place in the hierarchy. We can see where that ranking might be when we compare 96 to 14 on return investment. Are these numbers all we need to know to schedule our MMA striking training? Not quite.
Another important set of numbers is 12 out of 640 fights. No, 12 is not the number of victories via head kick repeated. This 12 is the number of slips following an attempted head kick. In other words, for every victory via head kick, an elite athlete lost his balance or slipped to the mat as the result of launching his own offense. Twelve times an offensive gambit was launched that placed the athlete in trouble through no effort from an opponent. This compares to NASA and the space shuttle. For every successful shuttle mission, there are an equal number of flash fires on the launching pad. Those are 50/50 odds for success or failure and, perhaps, an argument for grounding the shuttle.
Zero. That's the number of slips occurring from any other offensive gambit. Launching punches or knees resulted in zero slips. Zero versus 12 head kicks that led to instances of self-jeopardy.
Now, let's look at all of these numbers again and see what they tell us.
96 victories via straight boxing
12 victories via head kick
12 slips to the mat placing oneself in a defensive position via head kick
0 slips via other offense
A strict interpretation of Pareto's Principle dictates that we observe this hierarchy and budget more training time toward the high return offense (boxing) and tweak down the time we spend firing head kicks in both training and in competition. This numbers game is what this primer is about — combining Pareto's Principle with a quantifiable Hierarchy of Utility while discarding dogmatic assumptions.
The athletes who take this sport into the future will be using whatever advantage they can muster to make a positive evolution possible. And part of that evolution, I am certain, will be better analysis and careful use of fight metrics.
4 Hierarchy of Utility
The Hierarchy of Utility strips away personal preferences and ranks offensive tactics and strategies in descending order of success. In other words, those tools that account for the highest number of victories are located at the top of the hierarchy, and those with the lowest are at the bottom.
A pragmatic training regimen ideally gives the greatest weight toward training the tools at the top of the hierarchy and less attention to those at the bottom. By taking the casino route as opposed to the gambler's, we can cultivate a far more successful and scientific game plan as opposed to one composed of tradition or chance.
Excerpted from No Holds Barred Fighting: The Book of Essential Submissions by Mark Hatmaker, Doug Werner. Copyright © 2009 Doug Werner. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
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