There are trends in MMA as in all sports. The first trend was the ground fighter. Royce Gracie won the first UFC, and the call went out for guys who could fight on the ground. Mark Coleman brought the Grounder Pounders from the wrestling world. Mirko Filipovic, and Chuck Liddell brought in the era of the sprawling kickboxer. For a while, you saw permutations of the above. The great thing about these fighters was that finishes were the norm, not the exception. The wrestlers knew that they had to pound out their opponents to prevent them from submitting or knocking them out. The sprawling kickboxers knew that they had to knock their opponents out, before they were held on the ground and pounded out, or submitted. The submission guys knew they had to tap their opponents out before they were knocked out, or pounded out. MMA was exciting and fun, and rarely saw the judges.
There is a new trend in MMA. It is the well balanced grinder fighter. He is well versed on the ground, and has a good stand up game. Wins do not come by KO or submission. Wins come by decision. Their goal is to use the rules to hold their opponent on the ground and do just enough not to get reset, or to throw one or two leg kicks with a steady jab to keep a slight edge on the judges card. Chris Byrd's strategy left boxing and came to MMA. There is nothing wrong with this... These fighters fight not to loose, and win within the rules of the sport.
The problem is that MMA is becoming boring. It is tough to watch a grinder fighter simply fight to get to a decision. Personally, I like the guys that fight to finish. Of the weight classes, right now there are several grinders in the role of champion. Frankie Edgar is the newest edition, beating BJ Penn, a finisher, for the belt. The best known grinder is, of course, Georges St. Pierre. GSP does nothing to get himself in to trouble he takes his guys down and lays on them until the fifth round bell.
As the sport continues, this trend of the grinder fighter will be the prototypical fighter. It is so much safer to be this type rather than a guy who puts people away. To knock somebody out, or to submit them, means that you must take a risk. Grinders are risk adverse, and rarely do anything to jeopardize their position.
How to change up this trend? Allow knees to a grounded opponent. Adding knees changes the game considerably. A man on the bottom, in side control, still has the ability to effectively mount an offence if knees are allowed. Take downs are much much more costly if they fail. Right now when guys shoot, and loose, they simply take a knee. A stalemate position ensues, until one guy forces a scramble. With knees, the sprawler, has the option to punish the shooter.
Knees on the ground also force a higher degree of ground skill, and make the ground game much more dynamic and exciting. Current rules give no incentive for fighters to pass guard. Fighters on top typically pass to half guard and begin their ground and pound game. From half guard the man on the bottom really has very little offence to mount except to attempt a sweep, or to retain guard. With knees on the ground, the man on top wants to pass to side control so that he can bring the knees in to play. As he does this the man on the bottom is given opportunities to sweep, or attain a better position. The fight moves much quicker, is much more exciting, and leads to more finishes.
With out the knees on the ground, the fans will start to leave, and leadership will attempt to bring them back. How? By limiting the ground game. Standing up opponents quicker and quicker. By limiting the clinch game by splitting opponents up. Soon we will have nothing but small glove Kickboxing with take downs.