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MMA-rianas: Don’t judge a book by its cover

Looks can be deceiving

“DON’T judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all heard that timeless idiom.

Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley and Roy “Big Country” Nelson are exemplary of two extremes of the spectrum of outward appearances misjudged to be non-ideal for MMA.  Photo Credit SherdogTyron “The Chosen One” Woodley and Roy “Big Country” Nelson are exemplary of two extremes of the spectrum of outward appearances misjudged to be non-ideal for MMA. Photo Credit Sherdog

From the multimillionaire CEO who walks around underdressed to the harmless looking librarian who is really a dangerous predator, it’s a saying that is applicable to practically everything in life.

In the world of combat sports—more specifically mixed martial arts—the phrase has most commonly been used to refer to fighters who are unassuming in nature and appearance.

Usually, said fighters are not intimidating looking and have mild demeanors. They’ve ranged from those sporting relatively average physiques (e.g, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn) to the somewhat portly and obese (e.g., Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson).

The distinguishing factor that the aforesaid fighters have in common is, during the prime of their careers, their formidability in combat did not match their outward appearance. In other words, they never looked as “tough” or as “buff” as the opponents they beat up.

However, a recent trend of thinking over the last several years has actually turned that idea on its head, resulting in a reverse misconception of sorts.

Many MMA enthusiasts and even some fighters began stereotyping against combatants who look physically impressive or “aesthetic” (i.e., muscular, shredded, cut, bodybuilder-like). A growing sentiment that attaining a muscular physique was altogether unnecessary and had little place in MMA training became more widespread.

To the well-informed lot, of course this sounds trite and silly. But no sillier than the previously perpetuated fallacy that average built or fat people don’t make good fighters. Nothing stopped quite a few people from thinking that way for a long time, regardless of its gratuitous absurdity.

But let’s further examine the origin of this newer misconception as it is far more paradoxical comparison.

On paper, someone with a very fit and well-chiseled physique would, or at least should, be associated with being “in good fight shape.” With that criteria accounted for, the accompanying technical training and cardio conditioning portions should complement their overall balance resulting in a total package product—ideally, anyway.

Nonetheless, purveyors of the “anti-muscular build” attitude in fighting, or what have you, roundly tend to point to the fact that large and ripped musculatures typically require more pumping of blood and oxygen when taxed. This occurrence can result in accelerated fatigue and poor stamina across the span of a multi-round fight contest.

Where this argument is flawed, however, is that fighters who are more economical in their use of their physical tools have proven to negate such a setback and still maintain successful fighting careers.

Fighters such as Tyron Woodley, Yoel Romero and Georges St. Pierre, to name a few, are exceptions to the so-called “rule,” thus proving one can be aesthetically impressive and still be combat-functional and proficient.

Furthermore, having lean muscle mass developed akin to a sprinter or power lifter, rather than a long distance marathon runner has its advantages too. The fast-twitch explosiveness associated with well developed Type II muscle fiber is scientifically proven to produce more power in concussive strikes, takedowns and grappling maneuvers when coupled with proper form.

The lesson herein is that no fighter should be judged according to their physical appearance or anything outwardly associated.

The degree of hard work and dedication they put in at the gym and amount of heart they carry has far more bearing on their effectiveness as a competitor—regardless of whether they appear sculpted from solid stone or are as doughy as a donut. Never ever judge a book by its cover.