The outcry against Hall’s grappling-based fighting tactics is misplaced
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an interesting component in Mixed Martial Arts. On one hand, it’s the art form that helped create the sport and push it to its mainstream status today. On the other, many fans will sit and boo or complain when high-level practitioners implement their game. Take Ryan Hall’s performance at The Ultimate Fighter Season 24 Finale. The response to Hall’s win against Gray Maynard presents a compelling dichotomy to the appreciation of BJJ in MMA.
Some have used the terms “running,” “boring,” and “timid” to describe Hall’s performance on Saturday. The facts couldn’t be further from the truth.
For three rounds Hall negated every aspect of Maynard’s game; limiting his opponent to only 12 successful strikes as recorded by FightMetric. Any attempt by Maynard to rush in was met by Hall attacking his legs; forcing Maynard to withdraw back to distance. When Maynard relented to stand at distance and goad Hall into a striking exchange, Hall peppered him with kicks. By the end of the night he would land 46 significant strikes; 14 of which landed to Maynard’s head. Fight fans are welcome to view any of the multiple gifs of Maynard’s head snapping back after taking yet another kick to the face.
However, Hall’s adept use of striking isn’t the most interesting part of this fight. Hall’s effective game plan completely broke down any strategy that Maynard could throw at his opponent. The frustration that he showed was clear; even refusing to shake Hall’s hand initially at the end of the fight.
“It’s definitely frustrating. I get that you want to play keep away. But every time a guy gets within two feet, you can’t just sprint away or just drop to the floor. He literally just dropped down to the floor. To the f—king floor. I’ve never seen that in my life,” Maynard said as reported by Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report. “This was terrible. We didn’t give the people a good look. We didn’t give the sport a good look. I don’t want to fight that guy again. That was the most annoying [expletive.]”
It’s interesting how perception comes into play within this fight. Hall’s explanation revealed that while his bread and butter are on the ground, he was willing to show that he’s been working on his striking.
“I wanted to show that I’m a much better striker that people give me credit for,” Hall said in a post-fight interview MMAJunkie. “All that’s down to my friends and coaches; Firas [Zahabi], Kenny [Florian] and the Thompson family (UFC Welterweight Stephen Thompson and his father). MMA is a damage sport and it’s in your interest to get through these fights as cleanly as possible fortunately, in this instance I was able to do it.”
Hall continually attempted to force the issue on the floor, which resulted in Maynard avoiding the grappling game, stepping back and calling for Hall to rise to his feet. Fans began to respond with clear boos and disdain toward the game that Hall was using. If fans disapproved of Hall avoiding close striking, why not the same response for Maynard turning away from Hall whenever the fight hit the ground? Isn’t that just as much of an attempt to “avoid” and “run” as turning away or diving for a leg in close quarters? Don’t forget, Maynard was also clearly getting outpointed on all three rounds, so the burden to engage and make up some of that ground was on him.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu holds just as important a place as striking in mixed martial arts. It’s the basis that helped push this sport to the position it and its fans enjoy today. Hall’s performance may not have the allure of a highlight reel knockout or a barn-burner of a striking exchange; but it still holds a place of value in mixed martial arts. Maynard knew exactly what type of fight was coming from Hall, it was his job to be “The Bully” and instill his will on the fight; which he was unable to do. Hall’s performance is worthy of the praise that he’s heard from many in the grappling community.