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Self Defense/Does the more well balanced fighter doesn't always win? Even in a sports based context?


QUESTION: You probably heard the  common MMA maxim ''The fighter who well balanced in striking(both fists and feet),clinching,and groundfighting will defeat the fighter who is only highly proficient in one of these category but lacking in the others(Ex. Boxer skilled with hand but awful in kicking or groundfighting).

However I saw  the  fight between Tom Sylvia and Ray Mercer that took place back in 2009 and it changed my outlook on fighting.

Basic details., in June 13,2009 Ray Mercer and Tom Sylvia had a fight in the ''Adrenaline MMA 3: Bragging Rights'' event.

Here's the fight.

Prior to the fight almost everybody was saying Tom Sylvia would easily crush Mercer in the fight because Ray Mercer was only boxer while Tom Sylvia was an well balanced MMA fighter,having skills in striking(both in boxing and Muay Thai kicking techniques),clinching,and groundfihgting.However when the fight begun, the MMA World was ROCKED by what occured:Ray Mercer easily knocked out Tom Sylvia in 9 SECONDS USING ONLY BOXING TECHNIQUES!

After watching that fight I realized that just because you are well balanced in the three different fundamental disciplines of MMA(Striking,Clinching,and Ground fighting) with at least journeyman skill in all 3,it doesn't necessarily mean you will defeat a fighter who specializes only in one of the three aspects( like the way Mercer defeat Sylvia so easily).I realized that even if you are well balanced if you are fighting someone who only specializes in 1 of the 3 aspects but is highly skilled( much more skilled than you are) you could easily lose especially if your opponent is at master level(particularly in striking) while you only have Journeyman skills in all 3.

What do you think of my observation from the Ray Mercer fight?Do you agree or disagree?Is there flaws in it?Or is it a very important thing MMA fighters should keep in mind and absorb?

I already know you stated in a street context, being well balanced DOES not guarantee victory but seeing the Mercer vs Sylvia makes me curious in a sports context (especially MMA).

ANSWER: In Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book"  the general rule of the jungle people is to avoid the monkeys. They're too goofy and disrespectful for the jungle people. There's a scene where Mogali ignores this and finds himself among the monkeys. There's a speaker and everytime he pauses for a breath the monkeys dance around and shout "This is true! This is true! We all say so!"  (Now this has been modified to "It is true because we say it is.")

Mogali, avoid the MMA crowd.

One of the biggest "It is true because we say it is" is that MMA automatically translates into self-defense. How do they know this? "Why look at the bouts." "But that's a sports contest." "Look at the bouts."" Yeah, but it's sports!" "This is true! This is true! We all say so."

Here's the problem, you can spend so much time being generalized that you end up not being good at anything.

Straight up, you don't need to be a well balanced fighter. Does it help to have skills to cover a wide variety of circumstances? Of course. But focus more on what you're likely to run into.

Let's take grappling and ground fighting. Are you a MMAer? Is it your job to control people without injuring them? Are you going out and picking fights with MMAers? Do you have rowdy friends whom you have to sit on now and then?

If the answer is no, then do you really need to be good at grappling? I'll tell you what, BJJ is GREAT for handling people you don't want to hurt and for when you're in a safe environment. I mean that. It works straight out of the box -- for those circumstances. No lie. If at a family reunion Drunken Uncle Albert is getting out of line and your mom says, "Take him outside," I guarantee you it's great for when he takes a swing at you. You can't kick his ass because Aunt Betsy will get pissed, but you gotta control him.

But the Kool-Aid drinkers will tell you it's great for street self-defense. Bullshit. I guarantee you the LAST place you want to be in a self-defense or street situation is on the ground. So, because it isn't useful in those circumstances, don't try to use it.

Having said that, you know what you can learn from either MMA. BJJ, traditional throwing arts or gymnastics? How to fall without getting injured. This, whether during physical conflict or just slipping on ice. So do you need to know how to fall? You betcha. But if you're not going to stay on the ground, you're better off investing your limited time to learning how to handle things that happen more.

The well rounded fighter myth comes directly from the sports world where ONLY two contestants step into a limited ring and can do a limited number of options. (Contrary to what fans tell you 'no holds barred' does NOT mean no rules -- it just means there are no judo/jujitsu (sports holds) disallowed).

I've seen way too many people -- who have lots and lots of techniques -- get their asses handed to them by someone who relies on only one strategy and does it with complete commitment. A big part of the reason this works is the well rounded fighter spent so much time and effort learning all these techniques to become a balanced fighter they failed to learn a very important lesson. Get the hell out of the way of an on coming train.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: OK I am curious if what you said applies to "attributes" (speed, strength, stamina, etc).

Before MMA took off with its various techniques other fighting sports with limited focus on one aspect such as boxing, wrestling, kendo... Yah get the point.

Were emphasizing too emphasizing the "well-balanced" fighter also wins most of the time. As opposed to MMA, well-balanced is someone who has good speed, hitting power, and other physical attributes.

Unlike MMA, these other sports do emphasize in very specific situations a well balanced fighter will lose (say you try to to take on a swarmer and you're a boxer with balanced stats, you'll lose).

However its still echoed in these other sports with limited focus that the balanced fighter has the advantage because they could adapt more easily provided they don't try to take the their opponent on in disadvantaged situations like boxer insisting on going toe-to-toe with swarmers.

I am curious how does it work in the streets? Is having overall good stats in physical attributes from agility to strength important? Or is this a myth from sport fighting again?

How it works in the street is there is no magic formula that does everything.

You can have mad skills for fighting one on one and get jumped by six guys. You can be super well conditioned and trained and -- unless you were specifically trained -- get creamed by someone who's bigger and stronger (because you weren't taught how to fight out of your weight class). You can be the baddest mo'fo in empty handed fighting and get shot in the back of the head by a dude stepping out of the shadows. (A dude who took one look at you and knew he couldn't take you head on.)

Yeah, physical skills help. But what is your best bet is what you can do with what's between your ears -- like being able to spot when it is or isn't the time for those physical skills you got  

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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Read "In the Name of Self-Defense" the streets don't give a Ph.D in scuffle.

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