When you talk about Judo in MMA, most of the experts and fighters all say that the style doesn’t transition that well in the cage. We remember such fighters like Karo Parisyan who burst on the MMA scene in the UFC displaying some of the best Judo throws you could have ever seen in the octagon. Even though he had a controversial career with the UFC, when it came to his Judo throws, Karo was second to none. Other fighters with Judo backgrounds really didn’t make too much noise because it is not as easy hitting throws in the octagon as the game evolved, so it was seen as a great art to have a background in, but not so much for the cage. Then the world learned about a female fighter who used her Judo to set up some of the most devastating arm bar submission victories and her name was Ronda Rousey.
The success Ronda had in MMA really put Judo back on the radar because she always seemed to find a way to get into the clinch, get her hips underneath her opponent and slap on an arm bar that if you didn’t tap, would certainly break your arm. Rousey was an Olympic bronze medal winner in the 2008 games in Bejing. Rousey had been training to be a Judoka her whole life, her mother AnnMaria De Mars as the first American to win gold at the World Judo Championships. Ronda Rousey had another amazing Judo player as a training partner, and her name was Kayla Harrison
Kayla Harrison took the reins for the US team in 2012 in London. Competing with a torn medial collateral ligament, Harrison was still able to win the gold medal becoming the first American to ever win a gold medal in Judo. Just like a true champion, Kayla decided to compete again in the 2016 Olympics in Rio and once again won the gold medal. On August 31, 2016 the USJA promoted Kayla to a rokudan (6th degree black belt) which made her the youngest judo player in the United States to be awarded that rank. With such amazing accomplishments in the Olympic world, there was only one more thing that Harrison could try to accomplish…. Competing in MMA!
In 2016, Ronda Rousey had announced that Kayla had signed with World Series of Fighting, the world couldn’t wait to see what the gold medalist could bring to the table. When World Series of Fighting decided to rebrand as the PFL, the talks of the 1 million dollar tournament had fight fans on the edge of their seats seeing the roster begin to fill up and the anticipation of the first event made us feel like kids on Christmas Eve. While the fights were being set up, the PFL decided to schedule a showcase fight during their June 21st card in Chicago. They were putting Brittney Elkins against the Olympic gold medal winner Kayla Harrison. The time for us to see what Harrison has been working on for these past two years has come and folks, she didn’t disappoint.
The fight started out quickly with Elkins trying to land blows standing up, but Harrison was able to close the distance and get Elkins up against the cage. After some back and forth grappling, Harrison was able to secure the trip takedown, and get inside Elkins guard and then she went to work. When you see some fighters especially in their professional debut, you never know how they will react once being in a veteran fighter’s guard. Will they sit there a little too long and end up getting submitted from the bottom, or will they keep their cool and put on an amazing show? Harrison displayed beautiful ground work, getting out of Elkins guard and transitioning perfectly. She was passing to strike, and striking to pass eventually getting to Elkins back and trying for a rear-naked choke. Like any professional grappler, she wasn’t trying to “fall in love” with the rear choke, and began to strike Elkins and taking her out of position and attempting to secure the arm bar. Once Harrison knew she had the arm bar position secured, she did a beautiful roll, shed the defending hand and sat back to get the victory.
Kayla Harrison was given an extremely tough opponent for her first MMA fight. Elkins is no slouch when it comes to ground work, so this is a very big win for Harrison. The PFL did the fight fans a favor with this showcase fight. We were able to finally see what Kayla could do in the cage, and now our anticipation grows even more to see the tough competition they will line up for her. The unfortunate thing with this fight was it wasn’t part of the 1 million dollar tournament, but judging by her first performance it looks like she would have been the front runner of her division. Hopefully the PFL can get her another fight lined up rather quickly, so we can see her grow and dominate the women in the sport of MMA, and we can hopefully see her win more gold and become champion!