MMA Fight Overview
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is the fastest growing professional combat sport in the world. Pitting fighters with skills in a wide variety of areas against one another, MMA battles are as close to a real fight as a sporting event can allow while not exposing the fighters to excessive harm.
All kinds of people are attracted to the excitement of MMA, from fans of other combat sports to just casual sports viewers. Part of the beauty of MMA is that it has such a low barrier to entry for new spectators. An extensive understanding of the rules is unnecessary for someone to enjoy the sport. Anyone looking to bet on a fight would do well to learn more about the fighters and how they fight, but for someone to just enjoy watching, then simply knowing the goal of an MMA fighter is all that’s required – to prove dominant over the opponent via knockout, submission, referee stoppage or judges’ decision.
The premiere MMA event is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. Established in the early 1990s, the UFC was at first more of a spectacle rather than a sport. Fighters from different martial arts styles competed, and the modern MMA blend of styles had yet to be formed. After flagging in popularity for some years, the UFC was taken over by Zuffa, LLC at the instigation of Dana White, along with Lorenzo Fertitta and his brother, Frank Fertitta. Currently, the UFC is the most important MMA promotion in the world, touting mixed martial arts as the ultimate combat sport rather than as a combat spectacle. It is due to the UFC’s cooperation that MMA events are now sanctioned in many of the states of the USA under the unified rules of mixed martial arts.
Modern MMA fighters are no longer skilled in just a single discipline as the earliest fighters were. Rather, they must now demonstrate advanced ability in both major areas of fighting: striking and grappling. Many fighters will specialize in particular areas of combat that they are most comfortable using, but MMA champions must be familiar with all aspects of the game if they want to survive and win in an MMA fight.
Striking consists of punches, kicks, elbows, knees and any technique where damage is inflicted through the impact of a striking surface with a vulnerable part of an opponent’s body. It allows a fighter to maintain distance from the opponent and thus use whole body movement to avoid attacks. MMA fighters who feel more comfortable standing will often focus on offensive striking.
The striking technique of MMA is not quite the same as pure striking arts like boxing or Muay Thai. Lighter gloves make for heavier impacts, yet also reduce the surface area that can be use to strike the opponent with a punch. This makes knockouts far easier to achieve in terms of force required, yet also means that strikers must be much more accurate with their hands.
The stance of an MMA striker is also quite different to the stance of a pure striking artist. Many striking arts insist on profiling the body in order to reduce the number of targets for an opponent to strike and to add power to cross punches. This is sound thinking when you don’t have to worry about being taken to the ground, but it makes for a difficult time defending against a wrestler. The MMA stance is thus often much squarer than a boxing stance.
Knockouts are the most exciting part of striking and are a big reason many MMA fans prefer the strike specialists. They can be difficult to set up, however, so submissions due to strikes and referee stoppages are common decisive ends to fights when a striker becomes dominant, occurring more often than plain knockouts.
When it comes to grappling, there are several important stages. First, the fighters must close in order for one to take the other to the ground. To do this there is the clinch, in which a fighter grabs onto the opponent, often around the neck as a point of control. Some wrestling styles, like shoot wrestling, tend to avoid traditional clinching and just take the legs in order to bring the opponent to the ground. This can be an excellent tactic if the opponent is skilled in Muay Thai, Thai kickboxing, which uses knee strikes in the clinch to devastating effect.
Once the opponent is on the ground, the next stage will depend on the position the fighter is in. There are a great many positions for ground fighting, but the most common are guard, side control, full mount and rear mount. The most advantageous positions for a fighter on top when fighting on the ground are full mount and rear mount. Guard is the position that a fighter on the bottom will usually try to adopt before attempting a reversal to move to the top or before performing submissions. In guard, the bottom fighter has both legs wrapped around the opponent’s body, and the two fighters face each other. This minimizes the danger that the fighter on top presents, while maximizing the bottom fighter’s ability to control and possibly turn the tables with a submission attempt or reversal of positions.
A common turn of events when a fighter is taken down will be that the fighter who performed the takedown will end up on top, in the guard of the other fighter. What happens next is different from fight to fight, but the fighter in each position will normally have a similar goal.
The fighter on top will attempt to pass the guard of the bottom fighter and achieve side control. From there, the fighter on top will attempt to establish the full mount position or rear mount, depending on the opportunities presented, though submission attempts are also possible. Once the full mount is achieved, the top fighter will continuously strike the opponent until the fight is finished, will strike to open up the opponent for a submission attempt, or will be foiled and likely end up having to pull guard to avoid the opponent achieving dominance.
A fighter on the bottom will be trying to perform a submission on the top fighter, trying to get on top, or simply trying to escape. Strikers who end up on the bottom of a fight are often in a world of trouble, and many fall to experienced wrestlers by giving their backs in an attempt to get back up, resulting in a rear naked choke or other submission.
Submissions are the knockouts of the grappling arts, forcing an opponent to quit due to impending injury, extreme pain, or unconsciousness. Limbs are the most common targets of submissions, along with the neck. Arm bars, leg hooks, kimuras – these are common submissions applied to the limbs, targeting major joints such as elbows and knees. Rear naked chokes (the classic headlock choke from behind) and triangle chokes are common submissions targeting the neck. Fans always prefer a decisive victory to a judges’ decision, so submissions are the best way to end a fight for a grappler.
There is much more to learn about MMA, but this should be enough for anyone just getting into the sport to understand what’s going on. With new promotions opening and closing every year, as well as fighters becoming more well-rounded all the time, MMA only has more to offer as time goes on.