Poof! A MMA heavyweight has been transported back in time to ancient Rome. He is to fight in the colosseum. One of the (many) things that fascinates me about this juxtaposition of worlds is the stylistic differences. Modern MMA is typically unarmed, but in ancient Rome there was armed combat. And that is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Imagine the current heavy-weight MMA Champion (actually champion of two weight divisions) Daniel Cormier staring down a lion! In fact, that's just what we're going to do.
When I first conceived this question, I just laughed it off. However, it grew on me since; modern MMA in my view is really an important milestone in human physical prowess. Through MMA, a scientific process was established that allowed for fighting styles to compete with each other and allow for the most dominant styles to be confirmed at an empirical level. One such example is in the early days of UFC many purists of traditional martial-arts would compete, however these days the UFC has very few purists. Competition culture, sparring techniques as well as exposure to clinch/grapping all lead to a rise of just a handful of dominant styles. More on that here.
The dominant styles that survive at the competitive level in MMA today are what is in scope for this question. This UFC page has an excellent illustrated list. For convenience: boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, judo, muay thai
It's great and all that we have taken scientifically measured steps to elevate unarmed combat between humans, however, let's not forget in ancient Rome the opponent will be a lion.
Which modern MMA style would give the time traveling MMA fighter the best chance of success at defeating a lion in unarmed combat? Standing and slugging it out with a lion doesn't sound all that wise, but then again neither does trying to land an armbar on such a ferocious beast. To spice things up further, the MMA fighter must adhere to some of the MMA rules:
- No eye pokes (let alone gouging)
- No biting the lion (obviously)
- No 12 to 6 elbows
Everything else is fair game!
- Assume no training camp: the MMA fighter will have zero advance knowledge that his opponent will be a lion. He will only know when the gates are raised and the lion comes strutting out.
- No dark arts: I'm excluding martial arts that are primarily deception based (ninjitsu et all)
- MMA fighter weight: heavyweight (206-265 pounds)
- MMA fighter physique: I'll leave this up to the answerers, could be short and stocky like the reigning champ Daniel Cormier, or could be a giant of a man like Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou.
- By "best chance of success" I mean just that. Maybe the odds are against the MMA fighter regardless, but if Style A gives him a 20% chance but Style B gives him a 30% chance, then B it is (I'm not requiring an actual percentage, use common sense and your best judgement)
- POB concerns: I recognize there is a danger of POB, but I assert there is enough science in the moving parts to this to make for quantifiable answers. The tools are known (the fighting style choices) and the application is known (fighting a lion), so much in the same way a doctor would have more utility from a scalpel than a hammer, using science we can infer, albeit roughly, which fighting styles would give the MMA fighter the most utility. The other science-based component is one would have to know the mechanics and empirical track record of the fighting styles to extrapolate against lion opponents as well as an understanding of the anatomy of a lion.