Bas Rutten has become one of the best known personalities in MMA for his humorous and insightful color commentary, coaching and his anchor role on the popular mixed martial arts TV show, InsideMMA. Before he became a recognizable pundit, however, Rutten was the three times King of Pancrase, and the UFC heavyweight champion - becoming arguably the most successful striker in MMA up to that point. Beginning in Kyokushin Karate, then moving to Muay Thai, Rutten went undefeated in his first fourteen professional fights before being approached by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki to join their newly formed Pancrase organization.
Pancrase, touting "hybrid wrestling" rules, sought to bolster their roster with a credible kickboxer among the many grapplers in the organization.
Unfortunately for Bas Rutten, the rules of Pancrase heavily favored grapplers; knees to the head were forbidden without knee pads, knockdowns resulted in a referee's count, and striking on the ground was heavily frowned upon. Further to this, no gloves were worn and hand attacks to the head were only permitted with the palms - effectively shortening the range of straight punches, the traditional weapon of a striker against grappler.
Having no sprawl to speak of, Rutten quickly learned to fight from his back, and utilize a savage guillotine to submit opponents while they attempted to take him down.
Further to this he developed several tactics to limit the number of exchanges and damage his opponents as much as possible in doing so. Rutten's use of his trademark "Liver Shot" has been discussed many times before and will be dealt with in the second installment of this series, but what has received little attention is Bas Rutten's handy work along the ropes.
Bas Rutten was not a gifted boxer. A great puncher, certainly, but he lacked the versatile jab and footwork of the world's other premier strikers. It was Rutten's spleen burstingly strong punching salvos at close range which won him standing exchanges, particularly in Pancrase - where the insistence on palm strikes limited his range anyway. One can watch a highlight of Bas Rutten and will see a great many seemingly wild rushes of the opponent against the ropes. It is certainly true that Rutten's style was aggressive and swarming, but it did not lack science. Despite his inferior boxing game, and a reach disadvantage, Rutten was able to get the better of both Guy Mezger and Maurice Smith - much more accomplished pure kickboxers - on the feet in his Pancrase matches. Rutten landed telling power shots on both men which better known names in the kickboxing world were not able to, simply through his unique strategy of bullying men on to the ropes.
A quick glance through this excellent highlight will allow you to notice just how much of Bas' offense was done against the ropes. Due to his opponent's compromised stance:
Rutten's success on the feet against men who were desperate to take him down and against elite strikers, using many of the same methods, stemmed from his effective kicking game. It is no secret that Bas Rutten's roundhouse kicks were some of the hardest in MMA, certainly the hardest in Pancrase - and he used this to intimidate his adversaries routinely. The disadvantage of using roundhouse kicks is that they can often be caught, even if successful, and a winded opponent can take the kicker down and lay there until he feels healthy again (this is exactly what happened in the second half of Rutten's fight with Randleman). Rutten knew this, and often used the front kick to wind his opponents, dictate where the match took place, and to place them at the mercy of his whirling palm strike dervish.
It should be noted that front kicks are much harder to catch if they are successful, due to their forcing the opponent away from oneself. Even if the kick is