When it comes to transferring a wrestling skill-set into competitive MMA, which is the best style to use as a base? Greco-Roman, Freestyle or folkstyle? Fighters and pundits alike tend to agree that wrestling is amongst the best grappling arts to have in your MMA arsenal.
Many great UFC fighters have attributed their success to some form of wrestling technique. Fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture all come from extensive competitive backgrounds in wrestling and attribute their success partly to their wrestling careers.
So the questions beckons, what is the best wrestling style to establish a base for MMA grappling? We should start off by looking at the core differences between each style. Freestyle wrestling is known as ‘The sport of the gods’, with its Olympic event status and many great champions coming from its ranks such as the legendary Jordan Burroughs and Americas youngest freestyle wrestling gold medalist, Kyle Snyder.
The key differences between folk-style and freestyle wrestling come in the form of the rules of engagement. In collegiate, or folk-style wrestling, the wrestler is not permitted to clasp their hands around the opponent’s waist while they have the back position if they are not in a standing position. These are minor differences and rules that are meant to reduce unnecessary injury. In a way, it could be said that folkstyle wrestling is just a friendlier form of freestyle that is adapted for youth or collegiate wrestlers.
Due to this difference in rules, freestyle wrestling would be the better of the two as it is more suited to a no-holds-barred situation where you do not have to worry about technicalities that have no premise in the sport. It has a lot more versatility in it tht suits the MMA style of fighting better than its folkstyle counter-part.
Greco-Roman wrestling, while incredibly popular in Europe, did not seem to make it across the pond to the US, where freestyle is the more widely accepted variant. The rules for Greco-Roman style involve no contact with your opponent below the waist. In other words, single leg or double leg takedowns are a big no-no.
Greco-Roman wrestlers are also not allowed to sweep their opponents with a grapevine inside leg trip, or a funk roll. Therefore, the focus on winning a meet with Greco-Roman, is by using upper-body strength, combined with a strong, solid base to over-power your opponent. While Greco-Roman may have not really taken off in the continental US, it is still practised by a few UFC champions such as Randy Couture and Dan Henderson.
This puts Greco-Roman at a disadvantage to folkstyle and freestyle wrestlers that are well versed in techniques such as the single and double leg takedowns, funk rolls and sweeps. If we look at the difference between freestyle and folkstyle, then the evidence becomes clear. Freestyle wrestling is the king of the castle and the best style to transition into MMA with.
That being said, any style of wrestling will be effective in MMA training and you would be best advised to take the best from each discipline and work on developing a skill-set that caters to your MMA needs. Greco-Roman works well in situations against the cage where a fighter is trying to escape the clinch. Freestyle tactics are great for the takedown and defending it and also have the benefit of sweeps and passes.
Great wrestlers have become champions in the MMA world. Fighters such as Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and Georges St, Pierre have all come from wrestling backgrounds and succeeded in the octagon to the point where they earned the championship title. Wrestling is indeed a valued style of grappling that proves its mettle in the ring time and time again. The style we recommend you go for; Freestyle wrestling.