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Joe Rogan talks about judo vs. wrestling, how UFC has become a wrestler’s game, and how that will impact the Chael Sonnen/Anderson Silva fight

By Zach Arnold | May 19, 2010

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Any time you get an hour-plus long radio interview with Joe Rogan, you listen to it because he’s bound to say a few things that will get a rise or a reaction out of you. He did just that on his Monday interview on Tapout radio.

The radio show hosts asked him a question about judo in MMA and if we’ll see more judokas take over as champions in the sport.

“Well, I certainly think that the top judokas can translate very easily to MMA, I mean not very easily but I think it’s an excellent form of martial art to transfer to MMA with. You know much like Greco is and you know much like wrestling is like any strong grappling background, you know (Pawel) Nastula in PRIDE he did really well and of course (Hidehiko) Yoshida had a great run in PRIDE you know two guys who are outstanding judo players. The ability to manipulate guy’s bodies and throw them around and control them which is what Judo is all about is such an important skill for MMA.

“I personally think that the very best skill for MMA is wrestling, I think that’s the number one base to come from because those guys just flat out dictate where the fight takes place. You know, a great wrestler, you get a guy in there like a (Josh) Koscheck or like GSP you know they can just dictate what [expletive] happens. If they decide to take you to the ground, you’re going to the ground. You’re going to have to learn how to fight off your back and it’s not your strong suit. Even if you train for six hard weeks working guys off your back, the bottom is line for 10 years you’ve been training in stand-up and you’ve been training in your top game and you really haven’t put that much time into working off your back and you know six months is not going to fix you for GSP. He’s going to pass your [expletive], he’s going to mount you, he’s going to beat you up, he’s going to take you down the next round and do it it all over again, so I think it’s the important skill, in my opinion.”

This answer transitioned into a question about the fact that UFC is seeing a dominant breed of “wrestle-boxers,” especially in the Lightweight division, and the problems it is posing for fighters who don’t have a strong wrestling background. Rogan mentioned Thiago Alves, someone who was being touted for his ability to stop takedowns and then… UFC 100 happened and Georges St. Pierre destroyed that image for good.

“You look at Thiago Alves, talk about Alves’ outstanding takedown defense, it’s really good but he could not stop GSP from taking him down. A guy who’s a better wrestler is going to take down a guy who’s not as good of a wrestler, it’s just the facts, it’s just the way it is so what these guys have to do is you have two options: one, you got to get really good at wrestling yourself which is what Georges did, you know when Georges first started fighting… had good submission skills but then somewhere along the line in his career he became the most successful wrestler in Mixed Martial Arts, you know I mean it’s really just the hard work that he put up there in Canada working with all those Russian guys up there, there’s some really high-level Russian wrestlers that he was working with and I talked to Randy Couture about it and he said yeah, those guys that Georges is training with he goes ‘when I found out who those guys were I knew that’s why he was getting better, those guys are animals.’ So I mean he just put in all that time and I think it’s just a huge part of MMA. If you don’t have a kill guard, if you’re not some (Shin’ya) Aoki character and now you look at Aoki versus Gilbert Melendez, he wasn’t able to do anything either, you know, the ability to be the guy who dictates where the fight takes place is so huge. And then these wrestlers become really good strikers like these Ryan Bader type characters who are you know real strong wrestlers but now all of a sudden they’re blasting dudes on their feet and it’s up to them whether or not you stand up. They’re going to be the ones deciding because you’re not going to take them down and if you do take them down he’s going to bounce right back up to his feet and if he wants to take you down, he’s going to take you down, so it’s such a huge, huge advantage.”

Another example of someone who paid the price for not having a good wrestling game was Demian Maia at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi when Anderson Silva toyed with him for the first few rounds of their fight.

“That’s what happens when your wrestling’s not so good, you get the [expletive] beat out of you… He was getting lit up and that’s the problem with not having good takedowns, not being a good wrestler. Demian Maia is in an awkward situation because he’s much more successful once the fight becomes a grappling match but his best aspect is not being able to take guys down. His best aspect is being able to you know his ability to impose himself once the fight is already on the ground, so he’s in this terrible limbo where he can’t get a hold of Anderson and standing up with him is just suicidal so he was just getting lit up and he can’t grab the guy, you know that’s what happen when you have mediocre wrestling.”

Which, appropriately, leads us to the upcoming Anderson Silva title defense against Chael Sonnen, who is all about a dominant wrestling game and taking guys down and beating on them. Sonnen was able to beat Yushin Okami, a fighter who a lot of Middleweights had trouble facing because Okami “felt too strong” in the cage — and Sonnen outpointed him. Will Sonnen’s wrestling ability actually translate into legitimate offense against someone as crafty as Anderson?

“Well, it’s certainly an interesting match-up. I don’t know if it’s the key to beating him. It’s certainly in Chael’s opinion the key to making him fight and I love Chael Sonnen, I’m a huge fan of his. I’m a huge fan of Anderson’s as well, I think Anderson is the best pound-for-pound guy in the world but I’m a huge fan of the way Chael carries himself, that dude cracks me up. He’s [expletive] hilarious. His interviews are gold, man. He’s really funny, he’s super-smart and he’s super-honest about [expletive] like getting hurt and you know what it’s like you know when he gets tagged you know, when he thought he was in trouble that it doesn’t matter he’s just never quit like his attitude like the way he manhandled Nate Marquardt, his skill level, I mean the dude he’s finally fighting up to his true potential and the Yushin Okami fight and the Nate Marquardt fight, he really fought up to his true potential and if he can get a hold of Anderson and get him to the ground, it could make it very interesting and that’s where it’s going to be difficult, man, it’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be very difficult. Anderson is going to be coming into this fight knowing what happened in his last fight and a lot of people are sort of rooting against him and he has to kind of reestablish himself as the baddest motherf***** in the world and he’s going to know that so he’s going to come into this fight in tremendous shape, very focused. I think it’s also very possible that he might have taken the Demian Maia fight lightly. I think he felt like Demian had no chance of taking him to the ground and that stand-up wise they were so outmatched. In the case of Sonnen, Sonnen’s going to be able to get a hold of him, a [expletive] power double and if he gets a hold of dudes, he drives through until he takes you down, man, his takedowns are outstanding and you know guys have taken Anderson before. (Dan) Henderson took Anderson down, Travis Lutter took Anderson down although Travis Lutter did it 11 weeks after Anderson had surgery on his knees, but you know the point remains he took them down and if Chael Sonnen takes him down, it’s going to be hard for him to get up. He’s going to take some elbows, he’s going to take some shots, we’re going to see some [expletive] happen to him. If Chael Sonnen gets him on his back we’re going to see some [expletive] happen to him that we haven’t seen before and that’s what’s exciting about that fight.”

We’ll see a lot of “wrestle-boxers” in action in August with Sonnen vs. Anderson and the two big fights on the Boston card with BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar in a re-match and Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 25 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

25 Responses to “Joe Rogan talks about judo vs. wrestling, how UFC has become a wrestler’s game, and how that will impact the Chael Sonnen/Anderson Silva fight”

  1. Mark says:

    What did he say that was controversial? Wrestlers really do win most of their fights if they have stand up to go along with it, Aoki and Maia really did suck by not having good takedowns, and Silva really did get taken down by Hendo and Lutter. The only thing he said that I disagree with is that Silva honestly cares about proving himself by being exciting again.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Well for starters he said Pawel Nastula did really well in mma! :)

      • Wolverine says:

        For a guy who didn’t have any serious MMA training, he did really well against Nogueira, Aleks and Barnett.

        • The Gaijin says:

          Oh I was just being a smartass…Nastula was such a wasted opportunity. The guy had some serious judo creds, seemed to have some decent skill and good size but they just threw him right in to the wolves.

          If he had been groomed a bit and brought along at the right pace he could have been a pretty good HW fighter. Alas.

  2. Fluyid says:

    I think he took a position and backed it up pretty well.

  3. david m says:

    The success of wrestlers in the UFC has a lot to do with the rules/environment as well. With no knees/kicks to the head of a downed fighter, there is no punishment for shooting and getting stuffed. In Pride if you caught someone trying to take you down, you could knee him in the head and he would be reticent in the future to try to take you down again, and if you were able to escape on the ground, you could kick/knee to the head like Daley tried to do against Koscheck. I really hate UFC rules. Also elbows make it harder to get submissions off the back and cause cuts, and it is hard to work jiu jitsu from the bottom when pressed against the cage.

    • Oh Yeah says:

      I’m pretty sure you can knee someone who is shooting on you.

    • IceMuncher says:

      Good wrestlers would get into a position to use knees much more often than they’ll end up in a position where knees could used against them. They would absolutely dominate every division if knees were legalized.

  4. cutch says:

    To be fair to Nastula, 3 of his first 4 fights were against (at the time) top 10 fighters and he beat Drago, who was being tipped for great things at the time.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    I actually think knees to a downed opponent benefits wrestlers even more.

    A wrestler goes in for a shot. They get stopped. Under the current rules, the top guy can sprawl and back away.

    With knees on the ground, a lot of times the top guy will throw one knee and that will allow the wrestler to catch it bring it in for a single leg….

    Wrestling is the dominant art form in MMA. It is the best base to have. Small changes to the rules won’t change that. BJJ is more likely to produce a fighter like Roger Gracie. It’s the type of sport it is. And that doesn’t translate well to MMA.

    A really good striker with great takedown defense is still the scariest type in MMA. But that Silva/Aldo type is rare. But for overall success, wrestling rules.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “I actually think knees to a downed opponent benefits wrestlers even more.

      A wrestler goes in for a shot. They get stopped. Under the current rules, the top guy can sprawl and back away.

      With knees on the ground, a lot of times the top guy will throw one knee and that will allow the wrestler to catch it bring it in for a single leg…”

      Maybe if the fighter stuffing the takedown is an idiot and just throws knees without any gameplan or regard to positioning and opportunity. I can think of far more instances where guys had the chance to unload a knee on a downed opponent but got stalemated by the three-points rule. The guy taking the risk/reward of going for a takedown shouldn’t have the “advantage” of a failed attempt putting them in a “neutral” position at worst.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Idiots or not…. In the heat of combat, they always throw the knees and potentially leave themselves vulnerable.

        I prefer knees to be legal. It opens up the game more.

      • edub says:

        Id prefer knees and kicks on the ground. Knees everywhere, and kicks off your back even if your opponents knees are on the mat.

        If up kicks to opponents that are lazy in the guard are allowed than many high profile fights could have been a lot different. See King Mo vs. Mousasi.

  6. spacedog says:

    Am I the only one that thinks a BJ Edgar rematch is insane? The LW division finally gets a chance to open up and they just rerun this crap. Let edgar have his moment, let the belt maybe bounce around a little and let BJ earn a shot. Maybe a two fight win streak during which time the belt maybe gets passed once or even twice which of course will set up any number of rematches.

    Lame match making on the UFC’s part and unfair to edgar.

    • david m says:

      Well given that BJ was utterly robbed, I think a rematch is the right thing to do. And from a business standpoint Frankie Edgar couldn’t draw flies to shit, so having him fight someone who the public couldn’t give a shit about is worthless.

      • edub says:

        Agreed.

        I wanna see the best person in the division as champion, and if not him a guy that has the right style to defeat him outright. Not for someone to have the title because they can run around a lot more.

  7. EJ says:

    Frankie did alot more than run alot against BJ, just look at his face and that will tell you just how well Edgar did. This rematch makes zero sense it’s one of the few times where i’m left scratching my head for a fight announcement in the UFC. Frankie beat BJ, he outworked him, out struck him and simply was the better prepared fighter.

    But as far as Chael Sonnen goes he’s going to be a nightmare for Anderson Silva, because once he gets him on the ground he’s going to be taking more damage than he has in his entire UFC career. Anderson is going down, because Sonnen for all of his faults also knows his strenghts he isn’t a deluded “wrestlerboxer” he’s a wrestler and that is going to be what beats Silva in the UFC.

  8. rainrider says:

    > I personally think that the very best skill for MMA is wrestling, I think that’s the number one base to come from

    Rogan is 15 years too late to realize that. Wrestlers have always been dominating MMA since Daniel Severn stepped in the octagon in 1994.

    When Kerr beat Gurgel and Fry destroyed Amauri (90’s), they could still argue that these wrestlers outperfomed the Jiu-Jitsu champs due to the size advantage. I thought so too.

    Coming from a lower rank Samurai family, I wanted to believe that Jiu-Jitsu (our art) is the most effective form of fighting art in the world. But I had to admit wrestling is the better discipline for MMA when I learnt it took Rickson 45 minutes to submit Mark Schultz in Jiu-Jitsu spar. Schultz probably did not get beat up, I think he needed to go somewhere and let Rickson finish him to call it a day. If they fought in MMA, the winner would be obvious.

    • Rogan is 15 years too late to realize that. Wrestlers have always been dominating MMA since Daniel Severn stepped in the octagon in 1994.

      This. The most important ability in any combat sport is to control whether or not the fight is fought where you want it. In MMA, that most generally means “standing” or “on the mat”. Wrestlers are by far the most prepared at putting guys on their backs where they 99.9% don’t want to be, and so its the best base to start from, period.

  9. edub says:

    “But I had to admit wrestling is the better discipline for MMA when I learnt it took Rickson 45 minutes to submit Mark Schultz in Jiu-Jitsu spar. Schultz probably did not get beat up, I think he needed to go somewhere and let Rickson finish him to call it a day. If they fought in MMA, the winner would be obvious.”

    Any chance there is a video of this?

  10. Khaled says:

    People have to realize that Wrestling and Judo are very similar, old school judo allwoed the use of leg grabs-as they have been banned now as an entry attack and only legal as a secondary.

    Judo also has a large groundfighting game, which seems to be ignored.

    Judo ground work invented BJJ.

    And usually wins too.

    • Griffin says:

      EXACTLY!!!! We would not have BJJ if Mitsuyo Maeda (Kodokan Judoka) (often referred to as the Father of BJJ) would not have met and taught Carlos Gracie. That’s why when you look up up the origins of BJJ on wikipedia it says Brazil and Japan.

  11. a judoka and wrestler says:

    Judo in its purest form offers great technical skills for any combat situations, which is why japanese judokas do well in mma. In the US though, there is bias against wrestlers who compete in judo which explains the constant rule changes. Wrestling is about domination and stacking the cards in judo competitions will only further weaken judokas when they venture into other arenas or when they compete internationally.

  12. Griffin says:

    @khaled: Thank you for saying something that other people dont realize. Judo is a fantastic ground fighting art form. I have a buddy that did wrestling in high school and college and his Japanese Godfather told him he should look into Judo to help him with his skill. My friend went to OSU (location of the wrestling hall of fame) by the way and did both then abandoned wrestling completly to focus on Judo. One thing he said was if you do a Judo hip toss to someone on a mat they will get back up but if you do a hip toss to someone over a bar floor they are either going to be knocked out from the impact or crack something. Which is what he did to an OSU wrestler one night when they were at a bar. They were in a clinch about to hit the ground when my buddy did a hip toss and the other dude smacked that floor HARD! Needless to say my buddy had plenty of time to get on top of him and punch his lights out but the dude did not get up. Maybe, I’m partial because I witnessed that but either way I prefer Judo over wrestling.

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