If you watched the early days of Mixed Martial Arts then you no doubt noticed that it was riddled with one-dimensional fighters.
Those were the days of the striker versus the grappler, with a range of guys from many disciplines competing to prove which was the most effective.
MMA today is a very different animal.
Most competitors are now well-rounded and train in a variety of different fighting styles. It would be hard to imagine a boxer or wrestler beating a well-rounded MMA combatant in today’s world. Any weakness in a competitors game plan can easily be spotted and exploited.
Many of the great early MMA fighters, such as Royce Gracie and Dan Severn, were completely one dimensional. Throwing any of these one-dimensional fighters into the sport of MMA today would not fare well for them.
A true changing of the guard was apparent at UFC 60, when a dominant Matt Hughes defeated Gracie. Then we were introduced to one of the men that set the foundations for MMA to evolve into the highly-technical spectacle it is today – Frank Shamrock.
Shamrock is a leading example of the modern day fighter in the older era. He had a successful career in Pancrase and holds a notable debut victory over the well-feared striker Bas Rutten. Shamrock mixed wrestling with striking and was equipped with a brilliant submission game, something which other fighters such as Rutten later caught onto and benefited from.
He eventually went on to compete in the UFC, and claimed what is now the light heavyweight championship in a record-winning 16 seconds over Kevin Jackson.
During his reign as champion, he was also the top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All of these achievements are heightened by the fact that he had a smaller frame than larger athletes such as Jeremy Horn and Tito Ortiz, both of whom he successfully defended his championship against.
A prime Frank Shamrock is one of a very few guys you could pull out of the old competition to face today’s top stars. He would be more suited towards fighting at middleweight than at light heavyweight in today’s standards, which is exactly what he did late in his career. It would be an awesome spectacle to see how a prime Shamrock would go against somebody like a Chris Weidman of today.
Shamrock deserves the recognition of being one of the first complete and true MMA fighters, light-years before it became a normality. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest I have ever seen. Long live ‘The Legend’.
By Ayden Vojnic, 3 May 2014