First few events many martial artists entered to test themselves. And by UFC 5 we discovered that the tough guys were better fighters than the martial artists. By UFC 7 people understood the value of crosstraining, and so the athletes became dominant.
regular person < martial artist < tough guy < pro athlete
The lesson here is to train martial arts, then become tough, and finally become an athlete.
In the early UFC when a stand up striker was clinched by a grappler, they would try to strike as they were being taken down. Then we saw fighters evolve, a grappler learned striking, and a striker learned grappling (example Maurice Smith in UFC 14, and Rand Couture UFC 15). The next evolution was when we saw fighters being able to mix in striking and grappling so well that they were fighting striking or grappling enforcing their will rather than, just merely adapting. For example when Chuck Liddell ended up on the ground, not only could he survive there if he wanted to, but instead he would get back up on his feet and force it to a stand up fight which is what he wanted. And Wanderlei Silva in PRIDE FC would strike as he went into a take down so that he could be on top rather than have someone like Ricardo Arona get the takedown and end up on top of him, which show cased a high level of strategic mixing of striking and grappling.
So if I break it down we have:
1. Applying your methods to a different style (without learning other styles)
2. Crosstrain and learn other styles, use it when you can (reaction)
3. Mix in other styles into your strategy (actively use it)
Even though this is only 3 steps, it's a lot of work, it can take decades. Even if you can apply it to someone at your level, trying to do it to someone a few levels above you is a whole different story.
When someone closes the distance on you, most martial artists erroneously think that all you have to do is switch to close range techniques but they are wrong. You have to understand that if someone closes the distance on you, that means you screwed up, you are at least one step behind now. You have to protect yourself. Once you neutralize the threat then you can work towards attacking. An exceptional fighter has the ability to counter strike and readjust their body position simultaneously so that they are in the new range as if they were the ones that closed the distance.
STEPS IN A STREET ALTERCATION
1. When you spot potential danger, look at their hands.
2. If you have to get near them, then pump yourself up and be ready for a fight that may or may not happen.
3. Control the distance.
4. Try to verbally diffuse the situation, fighting is illegal.
5. Once the fight begins, don't look at their eyes they might be able to psyche you out, plus the eyes can be deceptive. Instead look at their collar bones.
6. If they close the distance on you, then you need to protect and survive at all costs until you get into a better position.