Jimy Hettes and the Submission vs. Striking Argument (UPDATED!)

Quick: which fighter on UFC 141’s card is undefeated, has never been to the third round, and has won all fights by submission? I actually could have stopped at “is undefeated”, and no matter what, you would’ve guessed right anyway, since his name’s in the title of the article. But just humor me, alright? It’s the classic question: is a fighter that has great submission skills, but arguably no stand-up or wrestling chops, possibly good enough to excel? Let’s take a look.

Winning 9 professional fights is not an easy task, regardless of your opponents, especially when you’re fighting no less than 3 times a year. Jimy was a local guy for the longest time, fighting in and around PA before getting the big call to face Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres in what turned out to be a thriller on the UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle card. That fight ended just like every other for “The Kid” thus far: a 1st or 2nd round submission.

Hettes has fabulous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as we already know, but what one may not know is that his Judo skills are arguably better. So he can throw an opponent to the ground, and he can submit while he’s down there… but what about his striking? What about his takedown defense? In today’s MMA landscape, you have to be able to bang and avoid takedowns, or else you will get shredded by the majority of other fighters, since striking and especially wrestling are so much more prevalent than they once were. Or will you?

Let’s turn to the current UFC champions for a clear picture of this. Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre are all about as well-rounded as they come, but every other champ focuses on striking and, to a lesser extent, wrestling to win fights. Really, the only submission experts to hold a UFC strap were Josh Barnett, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (AKA the Eldernog) and Frank Mir, and none of those 3 ever defended. (Before you ask, Royce Gracie won the tournaments at UFC 1, UFC 2 and UFC 4, but was never a UFC champion.)

So what does that mean? To me, it means that it would take a really special dude to break through to the top of the sport on submissions alone. Demian Maia couldn’t do it, Fabricio Werdum couldn’t do it, Rousimar Palhares couldn’t do it. Is Jimy Hettes the man to break the mold? I think it’s very possible that he is. (Quick aside: I had a brain fart and couldn’t remember Palhares’s name, so I Googled “heel hook dirty” and an article about him was the 1st result to come up. And the 2nd. And the 4th.)

If there’s anyone that will expose any weakness in Hettes’ game, it’s Nam Phan. The Vietnamese-American fighter has a ton of experience, and on top of being a BJJ black belt himself, has also thrown down in several professional boxing matches. His record reflects that versatility as well, as he has 7 KO/TKO finishes and 5 submissions. Being able to beat a veteran like Phan will go far to establish the legitimacy of Jimy Hettes.

Will Jimy Hettes be able to do what he’s done for the past 9 fights, throwing his opponents at will and finding an opening to submit? Or will the wily vet Nam Phan teach the youngster a thing or two about fightin’ with the big boys? We’ll find out soon enough – UFC 141 will be LIVE from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV, tonight (12/30/11). Also keep in mind that the PPV will be returning to the previous starting time of 10 PM Eastern/7 PM for you douchebags on the Left Coast. Y’know, if you’re not too busy at Whole Foods to notice.

UPDATE:
30-25 x2, 30-26. I think that just about clears it up then. First non-submission victory for “The Kid”, but if you’re gonna go to decision, having 30-26 being your WORST score among 3 scorecards is the way to do it. José Aldo and Chad Mendes, consider yourselves officially on notice. It’s just a matter of time now.

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