BJ Penn Forever -wiggum -Kirik -
People have sort of fetishized catch wrestling. It's wrestling. It's the best base for MMA, be it folk greco, f/s, etc. Best form of wrestling is maybe what they are doing in Dagestan. Some people want to just learn super secret catch wrestling moves. It reminds me of the blue belts in the 90s who thought they could beat Mike Tyson. It's worthless unless you can wrestle.
I think it's important to note that a lot of the best Dagestanti/Caucasian wrestlers have been very heavily influenced by the top rides of American folk wrestling. (And I'm not disagreeing with what you say, just adding to it). Watch Khabib's top game evolve over the years--very clearly influenced by DC.
Free wrestling doesn't really have a spiral ride or wrist rides. Folk does. And once the Russians started learning those rides -- at AKA, at Ricardo Almeida's, etc. -- they became much, much better.
Its worth pointing out that folk began in the 20's and it sounds like all the dangers of catch had to be removed so wrestling could be a sport safe enough to offer in colleges and high schools. It got to the point I'd say 99% of folk guys have no catch knowledge that someone like Saku or Barnett would have.
Folk has for sure influenced Khabib's MMA free wrestling, judo and sambo base. Add up everything he does and he is sort of "cutting ege" in his MMA grappling.
Meanwhile Tony's folk base has been heavily influenced by the 10th Planet BJJ system. His versatility is on display in a very different way.
I think both Khabib and Tony are pretty versatile out there and and show a wider variety of techniques tailored for MMA than the 1st gen of fighters from folk, judo, BJJ bases.
A guy at Iowa or Iowa state, I forget, did his doctorate on the changes in folk wrestling rules from 1900 on. It's super interesting. I read it on microfiche (sp?) in 198p or so. Will try to find it again.