From the Octagon to the Street, Part 3

It’s been a while since I wrote part two of From the Octagon to the Street and I hadn’t planned on writing another part. But I just saw a video video at Tactical Arnis that perfectly illustrates the points I’ve been making.

What’s it about? Dana White and a couple UFC fighters do some training at the Martial Arts Center of Excellence, including hand-to-hand combat with knives, sticks, rifles and other weapons.


The fun starts at 3min50 where they have to do a drill called “Last of the Mohicans”. Watch that one first and then read a few of my thoughts on it here below:

  • The instructor clearly said anything goes. They were allowed to do everything they wanted, including all the techniques that are fouls in the Octagon. This is a key issue, we’ll come back to it.
  • Every single one of them gets owned as soon as they make contact with the Marines. Now I know there’s some fancy editing to make it look cool but you clearly see every single UFC fighter would have died in a real fight.
  • The first one actually freezes when the first baton strike lands. Do you think he’s not familiar with adrenal stress after fighting many times in the UFC? And where was his takedown defense when the marine swept him with classic footsweep you see in all those stupid traditional martial arts but rarely in the Octagon?
  • Every UFC fighter who faced multiple opponents made terrible tactical choices: either they used no footwork at all, didn’t even try to keep the attackers lined up instead of letting them get to the flank and one of them even gave his back voluntarily (and promptly got stabbed in it)
  • When they were dumped on the floor, their defense sucked. Big time. Just look at what happens every time one of them is dropped on the ground and the sticks and rifles keep landing on their head.


Now I’m being a bit harsh on the UFC guys, I know, but I’m trying to emphasize a point so bear with me. Here are some more thoughts for you to consider:

  • The Marines didn’t bring in a bunch of newbie fighters. They brought Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Gabriel Gonzaga and Marcus Davis. You may or may not like them but they have fought at the highest levels of the UFC. So in many ways, they are some of the best MMA has to offer. And they all “died” in every fight they did…
  • Did they “die” because they don’t know how to hit hard? Because they are slow? Because they are out of shape? The answer to all these questions is “No.” They lost their fights because they don’t train for the environments the Marines train for. Like I said before ad nauseam: context is king and the differences are just as important as the similarities. You can try to simply take MMA techniques out of the Octagon and use them for actual combat. But here you see what happens when some of the best MMA fighters around do that, without learning how to adapt those techniques. The results sucks.
  • If you feel threatened by these comments, you might want to argue details with me. But that’s pointless. Yes, each of these fighters would eat each single Marine raw in the Octagon, using UFC rules. And there are a bunch more situations in which my money wouldn’t be on the Marine. But that’s not the point. The point is that you need to train differently for different environments. If this clip doesn’t convince you, then nothing will and I wish you all the best in your part of reality. ;-)

As always, your mileage may vary and if MMA works great for you in actual combat, more power to you. That’s perfectly fine and doesn’t invalidate my arguments. Nor does it validate the opposing view that MMA works everywhere, all the time, in every possible scenario. It only means you made it work in a given number of specific situations. And like the Mad Chemist said: the plural of anecdote is not evidence.

In the end, all you can do is train hard and hope it’s enough to carry you through whatever storms may come your way. So good luck with your training.





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  1. Hey Wim
    First of awesome video.
    I think MCMAP has some awesome concepts and ideas.
    They really use the situations they expect to encounter as their focus for training.
    Und i really like the whole idea of mental training and developing leader skills.

    Like you mention the MMA fighters performed poorly in this (for them new) conditions.
    Here are some other videos which show MMA fighters perform noth well in other violent situations:
    Jon Jones had trouble overpowering a thief on the street. While Jackson who also teaches self defense did the job.
    Doug geth beats up by multipule oponents.

    The Americans geth stabed 5.02:

    I do noth think professional MMA fighters can take on everyone, everywhere and at any time. They are well trained for the situation they will encounter in the cage (without levels of force, sucker punches, verbal agression, knives, multipule agressors, lawyers afterwards etc).

    However i do think a trained combat sports athlete will perform better in some types of violence than untrained ordinary Joe.
    Of course if he adepts his sportcombat techniques/reflexes to the situation at hand.

    However what i notice is that the MMA athletes are puth in to situations that are likely to occur when in a warzone buth verry unlikely to occur in daily life (the street)
    And are forced to atack someone. While on the street it,s illegal to fight (only self defense is legal) so they should try to geth away.
    Exactley the opposite they do, they atack.
    My point is that the situation they responded to teribley, is something different than the situation a civilain will likely encounter.
    What are your thoughts on this?

    Since a few months i took up MMA (besides Wushu Taolu and Judo).
    Und i really like it (only training i ain,t gonna compete in it).
    Und what i experience is that because there is so much allowed one gets a verry wide spectrum of moves and situations one can handle (or at least know what to do).
    Und because the techniques one does are against a live resisting oponent, one can perform these verry well.

    I also had a sort of discusion/sparring session with a traditional Jujutsu practioner who showed me a wristlock (kote gaeshi) i said there was a way to counter it i had learned from chin na.
    So he did it my counter failed buth the wristlock did,nt work and he tried a standing choke, i threw him to the ground and made side control, then he tried to bend my fingers und when i freed them, he tried to grab my throat with his fingers. i did a straight armlock and he tapped. I said i was really suprised when he did these (illegal) moves on me. und i showed him how he could recover guard when gething hold down in side controll.

    Anyway point is he did something illegal buth it did,nt work because he never aplied it under force against a live resisting oponent.
    So therefore i think in order to geth good at something one must train it against trained people who know how to defend against these types of techniques, sparring/competition.
    Of course one needs to pay attention to the diffences between these drills (sparring and competition) and between real violence.

    Und because MMA dudes train in so much unarmed stages of combat i think they can perform really wel in these.
    For example: one needs to perform a civil arrest, MMA can take the guy down and hold him. Judo and wrestling people have also experience in this stage of unarmed combat so can also do that.

    However: no one gets atacked by a raging drunk, und need to use footwork in order to evade the strikes and perhaps counter.
    Judo and wrestling don,t train dodging strikes a lot. So mostly someone who does trains this might perform better. MMA dodges/paries the strikes and runs to safety.
    Boxing, Karate, Sanshou and Taido also train this.
    However they are (unless they crosstrain) inexperienced restraining people on the ground.

    So what i think is that MMA training is limited however since they allow such a wide variation of techniques they can adept to more situations then someone who only trains for one stage of unarmed combat (strikking, clinching, grappling) like kickboxing, wrestling, BJJ.

    So i think someone who trains different kind of combat sports or MMA, combat sambo, Daido Juku etc. will have a wider base for self defense.
    And better techniques, feeling and reflexes than someone who only trains in one discipline.
    Or trains in a self defense system where people react a certain way (curl up, fall, grab to their head etc) und where one never trains against a live resisting opponent who does,nt play a role buth actively seeks to overpower/hit one.
    Of course i might be wrong, this is just what i think.
    What are your thoughts on this?

    Whoow this was a long comment.

    Anyway great and verry analytical article as always.

    • Pieter,
      If my blog crashes, I’ll blame it on your comment… :-)
      As for my thoughts: I think you make some points I’ve made here for years now. On other counts, I totally disagree with you.

  2. shocking how poorly ufc fighters preformed! looked like amatuers. i think i would react the same but their spatial awareness, slipping footwork, and lack of sustained, aggressive pre-emptive attack was kind of shocking. being tentative with cowering, lowered head will not get your ass out of dodge. the marines looked great.

    • I don’t think it’s shocking Sean. I think it’s only normal because they don’t train for that environment. THer problem the yface in it is not that they don’t know how to handle adrenaline. The problem is that they don’t know the context. What works in the Octagon doesn’t necessarily work in a wood with an angry Marine coming at you. Or two angry Marines. :-) As long as the UFC has one-on-one fights in a locked space with only a neutral referee present, MMA fighters will never need to learn “stringing up” multiple attackers or even worry about the environment all that much. Given the amount of training and conditioning they do for their environment, I don’t think it’s surprising to see the make rookie mistakes.
      but I really liked the way they were humble about it and gave the Marines a LOT of respect. Personally, I would have loved it if they had put Bispin in there with the Marines and have them kick his ass a bit… :-)

  3. The counter, I suspect, would be that the Marines would not fare well in an MMA sport match. One of my favorite quotes captures what your post is getting at:

    “There is some overlap in skills; some lessons transfer. But a black belt in Judo will teach you as much about a sudden assault as being mugged will teach you about Judo. And my experience will always be your word of mouth.”
    – Sgt. Rory Miller

    • Yup, that’s why I pointed that out in the last bullet.

      • Sport martial art offers a reality of sorts i.e. within the specified rules it has to be effective. The fewer rules imposed, the closer you get to a reality situation. MMA practiced as sport has minimal rules so I respect that but in a life and death struggle there are no rules. That is the ultimate difference between Martial Art and any martial sport. However, many that would rest on their MA laurels because they need not test their prowess could be in for a rude shock in a real situation. Anyway martial arts should be practised for your enjoyment otherwise the world is more sick than I thought.

  4. A couple of things: take a look at some of the more infamous videos of crowd attacks with MMA fighters (War Machine comes to mind) – I think he took out like half a dozen cops and most of a party one night. The video of Jon Jones was actually because Jon was holding back because he had a fight in a couple of hours… did the minimum. I also think that the UFC guys might have been holding back a touch (Dana is a huge supporter of the Military). Keep in mind that Forest was a cop before he was an MMA fighter, so he is trained for group combat, restraint, all of that. Having said that, I really do believe that traditional martial arts has a battlefield advantage over MMA (there is an episode of fight quest where they are training Krav Maga and every time Doug goes to the ground the instructor yells “You are dead now, you just died”).

  5. Hey Wim,

    First off I have to say how great a read this was and how good it felt to read it. I always believed that fighting is a question of circumstances and that if you’re well trained and mentally prepared for all sorts of circumstances that you have better chances of succeeding. I love to box, I love striking and I know how to get off the floor if I’m taken down. Don’t ask me to do anything fancy because it isn’t happening. Many times I had “skirmishes” with my friends who specialized in grappling (wrestling, judo, jiu etc). No striking was allowed. I explained to them how it was almost pointless for me to fight them this way at all because I wouldn’t even give the resistance I normally would. It was a learning experience for me and my friends. We even had 2v1’s with only grappling and the amount of time it takes with just ground techniques is unacceptable. Rarely was I kept on the ground as all I had to do was squirm and move around violently. Now none of us are experts but they had a few years in MA’s. My experience in the matter made me see that as good as ground knowledge is you can’t think it will win you fights. Even if you win 10 fights with it, it’s that 1 that you might lose for real that costs you your life.

    Anyways, I am not a practitioner of MA’s yet, I am going for Iaido and Kendo in the coming weeks, Japanese Sword Arts. Obviously I know these are not made for self defense at all and they fall in the category you were saying about China 500 years ago. In Japan when these types of weapons existed and used things were different. What I do expect from those MA’s is something to put effort in, to see progress, to blow off some steam and to enjoy and maybe open my mind to new things. It’s amazingly rewarding to focus on something and learn, no matter what the subject. I think that’s what people need, it’s a personal opinion but I’m sure it’s shared by many.

    Thanks again for the great read,


    • Glad to see you enjoyed the post Adam. The way I see it, ground fighting definitely has a place in the toolbox. You just have to know when it’s time to take it out and use it. Which is not the same thing as trying to look at every situation in the light of “how can I use my ground fighting here?”

  6. Thanks for these articles. Finally, some sense on the Web. I have some points to add, and a quibble.

    1) In BJJ, the source of the MMA ground game, male practicioners regularly present their testicles to their opponents. If attacking the testicles were allowed, the MMA ground game would look a lot different. Certainly, in a self-defense situation testicles are fair game.

    2) I think it’s silly when MMA-heads argue that since X technique doesn’t work in the Octagon it can’t be effective on the street. They fail to understand that the folks in UFC are elite athletes who have trained intensely for years. Because technique X doesn’t work against George St. Pierre that doesn’t mean that it won’t work against some random guy on the street who was a lot less fighting experience and is in a lot worse shape.

    3) Not all traditional martial arts were started 500 years ago, and not all of them originated out of life and death situations. Some of the traditional training methods are ignorant, and would benefit from being updated with contemporary scientific knowledge.

    4) I like pretty much all martial arts. I don’t think that practicing wushu forms all day is as effective a training in krav maga for self-defense. But so what. Doing fencing is pretty bad for self-defense too. Nobody preaches that fencing should be discarded. There are at least three different facets to martial arts, and I think the failure to recognize this fact is part of the reason for these silly debates. Martial arts are/can be arts, sports, and self-defense systems. In my book, its okay for an art to emphasize one aspect over the other. Wushu forms (and karate forms too) are beautiful (to me at least). MMA is an interesting sport; so is Muay Thai. If someone came to me and said they were concerned about learning to defend themselves only, I would refer them to a krav maga school. If they wanted to compete in combat, the answer would be different. If they wanted to do martial arts, but not get hit too much, I would give yet a different answer.

    There are different arts for different purposes for different people with different needs and interests. This is a good thing. But people need to be aware that if they aren’t specifically training for self-defense, then the probably are not very good at self-defense, no matter how many years they have been doing their martial art.

  7. Little bro Wim,
    I agree with what you wrote.
    As a former Marine and South Texas pendejo,
    I know from experience that you have to quickly
    adapt to the environment. Amazing how many
    people can handle a hook to the jaw but shit
    all over themselves when the get cut.

    I learned a long time ago to fight with fear and
    never overestimate my ability or underestimate
    my opponent(s).

    Real heroes don’t see themselves as that. They
    see themselves as survivors and feel bad for
    their buddies that didn’t make it…:(

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