Khabib vs. Gaethje, Dagestani wrestling vs. Folkstyle

The single most dominant base in mixed martial arts history is Folkstyle wrestling. This is not surprising, as the effectiveness of wrestling in MMA comes from control, and Folkstyle rules favor control even more so than does Greco or Freestyle. For example, a takedown in Folkstyle requires control, and back exposure is not an immediate score allowing for more scrambles, Further, points are given for escaping an opponent’s control.

During a September appearance on the UFC Unfiltered podcast, former Div I All American Justin Gaethje argued that Folkstyle wrestling key to beating lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“Folkstyle wrestling doesn’t happen anywhere else other than the United States,” said Gaethje, who started wrestling at age 4, as transcribed by the amazing Farah Hannoun, for MMA Junkie. “I only wrestle folkstyle. I very rarely wrestle Freestyle. In Folkstyle, I think the biggest factor is, you’re allowed to expose your back without giving up points, which means you scramble. So whenever he goes to take me down, I’m going to be flipping and rolling in ways that he’s never felt in his life. That’s Folkstyle wrestling, being able to expose your back.

“What he’s done his whole life, these guys could never expose their backs to get out of a takedown because they were giving up points. … So you go straight to your stomach, and you give up a takedown. They also never have to get up. They just lay there for 15 seconds, then they stand them up automatically. In Folkstyle wrestling, you get rewarded for getting up and escaping.”

“We will fight in the center of the Octagon. As much as he’s going to want to fight on the edge of the Octagon, we’re going to fight in the center. I’m going to throw massive shots, most of them are going to come right through the middle, and I’m going to take chances, throw knees, and if he takes me down that’s fine. You cannot hold me down. I will get up, and I will scramble in a different way than he’s ever known.”

However, wrestling as it is practiced in Dagestan is subtly unique, and a significant part of the ongoing “Russian Invasion” in MMA. At Wednesday’s UFC 254 pre-fight press conference, ahead of his fight vs. Gaethje, Nurmagomedov argued that Dagestani wrestling is going to be the key to victory.

“I think it’s a big difference,” said Khabib. “I know he knows how to wrestle. Worry about wrestling 25 minutes. I told DC today, ‘When you fight with Stipe Miocic last time, you grabbed his leg one time, and you take him down. He got up very quickly, and you’re finished.’ All other minutes standup. Between me and DC is a big difference.”

“If I’m going to try to take him down once and he defends, I’m going to go all night. I’m going to go all night. This is the big difference between U.S. wrestling and Dagestan wrestling. … They all good when they stand up, but when I grab them, it changes a little bit. I think more than Dustin and Conor and other guys, he know to wrestle. It’s going to be a little bit hard. I prepared myself to try to take him down 100 times. It’s going to be interesting Saturday night.”

h/t  Nolan King and John Morgan for MMA Junkie

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