In the early days of MMA, grappling quickly established itself as the dominating force. Jiu Jitsu practitioners and wrestlers held distinct advantages over strikers who were helpless once the fight got to the floor.
Royce Gracie showed in the very first UFC event that no matter your size or striking ability, if you could get the fight grounded, a great submission game could overcome any perceived physical disadvantages. That continued through Mark Coleman, a dominating wrestler who was able to manhandle his opponents, taking them to the ground with his wrestling. Once the fight got the floor, he finished his opponents quickly with devastating ground and pound. It seemed strikers would never be able to compete at an even level withground based fighters.
As UFC 14 approached, Mark Coleman was at his peak. For that event he was paired up with Maurice Smith, an accomplished kickboxer crossing over into MMA. Up until that point, Smith had found limited success in MMA and Pancrase, having been submitted seven times in his first ten bouts, something that was not surprising given his lack of training in ground fighting. Coleman was expected to steamroll through Smith just as he had his first six opponents in the UFC.
However, Maurice Smith was making the adjustments necessary to compete successfully in MMA. He pulled off the massive upset, becoming the first fighter who was primarily a striker to capture the UFC title. He would defend his new title against Tank Abbott before relinquishing it to Randy Couture at UFC Japan. Smith has continued his successful career in MMA showing that one does not have to be an expert in the ground game to achieve success.
Smith has continued to compete past the age of 50. At RFA 2 he won his match with a head kick, knocking out Jorge Cordoba, proving that age and skill sets are only a problem if you choose to make them one. In this interview, Smith talks about continuing to fight at his age, as well as how he was able to compete with wrestlers and grapplers despite not having trained in either.
As the interview goes on, fellow kickboxer Dewey Cooper joins in and a lively discussion about MMA and kickboxing ensues. Both men discuss why kickboxing has failed to find an audience in the United States and why MMA and the UFC have. They also discuss the skills necessary to compete at the elite levels in both sports. No matter which sport people discuss, one thing is for certain, Maurice Smith has made a lasting legacy in each.