There’s real prejudice against martial artists who don’t subscribe to multiple styles. Being good at one thing -- and only one thing -- is seen as negligent.
Yet it’s these one-dimensional athletes who often wind up being the most exciting. Demian Maia needs some serious work on his stand up, but watching him on the ground is like listening to Eric Clapton play the guitar. (And no one is telling Clapton he sucks because he hasn’t mastered the piano.) The all-trades guys get more respect, but they’re also more likely to be responsible for a bathroom break of a fight.
This is taking the long way to Melvin Manhoef, a cult hero of a striker who makes his Strikeforce debut on Saturday. Manhoef will tell you, flat out, that he kind of stinks on the ground.
“If they have me on the ground, they have a slight advantage,” he told USAToday’s Sergio Non. “But if I have to put my fists on their chin, I also have a slight advantage…I'm going to practice my ground game very hard. Maybe one day, I can put also a grappler in a triangle choke or guillotine or armbar. It would be very nice.”
For some, this is reason enough to criticize Manhoef. And in mixed martial arts, spreading your knowledge across various styles is wise. But the “mixed” does not necessarily have to indicate two handyman athletes: it can be a clash between one guy who is very good at one form of offense and another who is very good at something else. Chasing proficiency in all areas will make you good at everything and great at nothing. (Fedor, Anderson Silva, etc., are the exceptions -- hence their status.)
Manhoef may be a no-belt, but he can deliver general anesthesia from both hands. For 24 of his 31 MMA fights, that’s been enough.