Mixed martial arts

From Academic Kids

Mixed martial arts or MMA is a term for the combat sport in which two competitors attempt to achieve dominance over one another by utilizing three general tactics: striking, finishing holds, and control. The rules allow the combatants to use a variety of martial arts techniques, including punches, kicks, joint-locks, chokes, takedowns and throws. Victory is normally gained through knock-out, submission (one fighter concedes victory to the other by tapping the mat or his opponent with his hand), or stoppage by the referee, the fight doctor or a competitor's cornerman. MMA is also alternately called NHB (for No Holds Barred), but this term is mostly retired. It is no longer an accurate description of the modern competitions which utilize more rules for the fighters safety. The first Ultimate Fighting Championship's only rules were against eye-gouging, fish-hooking and biting. It was not unusual to see hair-pulling, toe-stomping and people being choked with the lapels of their clothing. One infamous early match even featured one combatant repeatedly striking his opponent in the groin. Currently, all of the major promotions have a list of rules and banned techniques.

MMA is also used to describe any hybrid style of martial arts which incorporate techniques and theories from several different martial arts, for example Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. This especially applies to MMA styles which incorporate a mixture of ground fighting, stand-up striking, and takedowns in their training. The main goal of this article is to provide information about MMA as a "realistic, few rules full contact fight sport" rather than to describe hybrid martial arts that are not typically used in minimal-rules sporting environments.

As a result of these sporting events, martial arts training and the understanding of the combat effectiveness of various strategies have changed dramatically over the last ten years. While the early years included the widest possible variety of styles (everything from Sumo to Karate), modern fighters often train in a mixture of only three styles: Amateur Wrestling (focusing on clinches and takedowns), Submission Wrestling (focusing on submissions and positioning on the ground), and Kickboxing (usually Muay Thai) (focusing on striking). These three distinct styles coincide with the "phases of combat" theory, which suggests that fights can be broken into three distinct phases, each requiring completely different skill sets: stand-up fighting, clinch fighting, and ground fighting. According to the theory, a fighter's best strategy is to determine the phase in which he has the greatest advantage over his opponent and then to force the fight to take place in that phase. It currently appears that this is mainly correct, in the sense that if you are equally skilled in all phases of combat, you are prepared to take advantage of any weaknesses in your opponent.

Well-known examples of MMA organizations are the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride Fighting Championships.


Evolution of fighting styles

Mixed-martial arts contests have a long history, dating back at least to the late 1800s when wrestlers representing a huge range of fighting styles including Jujitsu, Catch-as-catch-can, Collar-and-elbow, Graeco-Roman and many others met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe. However, the vogue for professional wrestling died out after the First World War, only to be reborn in two major streams: "shoot", in which the fighters actually competed, and "show" which became increasingly dependent on choreography and theatrics and evolved into modern professional wrestling.

In the early 1990s, two styles stood out for their effectiveness: Wrestling and Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ). Jiu-Jitsu had the early advantage, since wrestlers were not equipped with a way to defeat them standing or on the ground. However, when wrestlers started training in striking, pure Jiu-Jitsu stylists ran into difficulties since they had a hard time taking the fight to the ground and away from their stand-up weaknesses. This represented the first step of evolution towards cross-training. Wrestling eventually branched into two styles described below: "Ground-and-Pound" (wrestlers who prefer fighting on the ground) and "Clinch-and-Pound" (wrestlers who prefer fighting standing up).

Kickboxers and boxers were next to evolve and added grappling skills to their arsenal. In the early days, they could not compete with the grapplers, since they could not avoid the takedowns and had no defense on the ground. After adding ground techniques to their training, they scored some major upsets, and showed that fighters specializing in striking could be effective in the sport.

Due to its early dominance, BJJ was the last to evolve. Eventually, Wrestling and Muay Thai were added to their training, and Jiu-Jitsu fighters have returned to being competitive again in the sport.

MMA is also considered an evolution of Pankration, a combination of striking and grappling that was introduced in the Olympic games in 648 BC. The "Pancrase" fighting promotion in Japan has strong ties to modern MMA and actually predates the first UFC by a few months.

Modern fighting styles

The following is a breakdown of the different fighting styles of modern MMA. With essentially no exceptions, all successful fighters train with (and thus practice against) experts in all disciplines used today. Most fighters will base their overall strategy on one particular style and become associated with it.


A sprawl and brawler is a boxer, kickboxer or Muay Thai fighter who has trained wrestling to avoid takedowns and tries to keep the fight standing. Usually these fighters will study enough submission wrestling so that in the unfortunate event that they are taken down, they can tie their opponents up and survive long enough to get back to standing or until the referee restarts the fight. This style is deceptively different from regular kickboxing styles, since sprawl-and-brawlers must adapt their techniques to incorporate takedown defense. Maurice Smith is credited with introducing this style by becoming a successful kickboxer in a time when ground fighters were dominating the sport, including winning the heavyweight title of the Ultimate Fighting Championship by defeating Mark Coleman.

Examples: Maurice Smith, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović, Chuck Liddell, Pedro Rizzo, Wanderlei Silva


These are wrestlers that have added in components of the striking game (typically boxing). Although their base is in wrestling and ground control, they are rarely reluctant to throw some leather on the feet. Often, wrestlers that have added the striking game are partial to strikes from within the clinch (particularly wrestlers who have developed a strong clinch game already). In the case that an exchange on the feet does not go in their favor, they can bring the fight to the ground quickly as their true expertise lies in wrestling, so they are ultimately less timid about trading blows. Don Frye was among the first wrestlers to add versatile strikes to his arsenal, but it was Randy Couture’s stunning performance, in which he used close range boxing to out-strike a reputedly superior boxer in Vitor Belfort, that was the true birth of this style of fighter. He was the first to demonstrate that standing and ground were not the only phases of combat. Through the use of Greco-Roman clinching techniques, he showed that a third phase, the clinch, was not well understood and could be used to devastate ill-prepared opponents.

Examples: Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Don Frye


This style is for wrestlers or other fighters well-versed in defending submissions and skilled at takedowns. They take every fight to the ground, maintain a solid top position, and hammer away until their opponent submits, is knocked out or is cut so bad that the fight can't continue. Although not traditionally considered a conventional method of striking, the effectiveness and reliability (as well as recently-developing science) of this style cannot be denied. Originally most fighters who relied on striking on the ground were wrestlers, but considering how many fights end up on the ground and how increasingly competitive today’s MMA is, strikes on the ground are becoming more and more scientific and technical and essential to a fighter’s training. Dan Severn was the first proficient fighter using Ground-and-Pound with his brutal takedowns and powerful fists, forearm shots, elbows and knees on the ground. However, many modern MMA camps have developed intricate strategies for attacking while on the ground.

Examples: Mark Coleman, Fedor Emelianenko, Matt Hughes, Takanori Gomi, Tito Ortiz

Submission Wrestling

Typically associated with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but also encompassing a number of other styles, such as Olympic Judo, Sambo, a myriad of other descendants and arts inspired by Kodokan Judo, evolutions of pre-1940's Catch Wrestling or even Hybrid styles such as Shoot-Fighting, Shooto and Pancrase. Submission wrestlers attempt to win on the ground using joint locks and chokes to secure a tapout. This style has evolved since the early days as submission wrestlers now usually crosstrain in Amateur Wrestling and Kickboxing to complete their skills, but still focus on submissions as their primary weapons.

Examples: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Royce Gracie, Frank Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba, Genki Sudo, Frank Mir, Rumina Sato

Techniques and strategies

The techniques and strategies of Amateur wrestling, Submission Wrestling and Muay Thai are usually not used as in the original arts/sports but instead are modified to fulfill the needs of MMA competition. For example, Freestyle wrestlers do not need to deal with striking during a takedown attempt, and Muay Thai bouts are broken by the referee if the fighter falls down after a kick that missed the target. This is very different from the situation in MMA competition, and techniques and strategies for MMA competition have to reflect this. Some fighters may substitute one or more of the basic styles mentioned above with Judo, Sambo, or their own brand of Jujitsu or Boxing. According to the "phases of combat" theory all phases should be covered to stay competitive and only techniques proven in actual competition should be used. This is a reason why it is quite difficult to find "exotic" styles in fighter's bios now.


Today, Mixed Martial Artists train in a variety of styles so that they can be effective in all phases of combat. Although MMA fighters will try to play to their particular specialties, they will inevitably encounter all kinds of situations; a stand up fighting specialist will probably get taken down at some point and a wrestler might need to fight standing up for a while before he can setup a takedown.

Fighters learn techniques from stand up oriented fighting styles, they learn at least some grappling and they also learn submission techniques and how to defend against them. Boxing and Muay Thai are the most popular stand up fighting styles because of their proven effectiveness. These styles have to be adapted slightly for use in the sport. For example, many boxing stances are ineffective because they leave fighters vulnerable to leg kicks or takedowns. Most fighters also learn some grappling. Stand up oriented fighters must learn how to defend against takedowns so that they can keep the fight standing. Fighters also learn how to effecitvely fight from their backs and to use sumbissions as well as defend against them. Jiu-Jitsu is popular in this area since it is a submission-oriented fighting style and it has many techniques for effectively fighting from one's back.

Conditioning varies among the fighters depending on their particular fighting styles. For example, brute strength and power are more important to wrestlers than they are to kickboxers. All fighters aim to have plenty of stamina so that they can be effective for the entire duration of their matches.

Today, there are many MMA organizations unlike in the past when there was very little MMA-centered infrastructure in place. Fighters usually train with other Mixed Martial Artists and with coaches who specialize in MMA fighting.


The rules for most Mixed Martial Arts competitions have evolved since the "glory days" of Vale tudo. As the knowledge about fighting techniques spread among the athletes and popularity increased among the viewers, it became clear that the original minimalistic rules systems needed to be amended.


There are two main motivations for new rule changes:

  • Protection of the health of the fighters: This goal also helps to clean the stigma of "barbaric no rules fighting to the death" that MMA has obtained because of its Vale-Tudo roots. It also helps athletes to avoid injuries and therefore train better to become better fighters.
  • Providing spectacle for the viewers: The rules promote good fighters involved in action-packed fights rather then no-skill bar brawls.

For example weight classes emerged when knowledge about submissions spread and it became more difficult for small fighters to catch larger ones in submissions. When more fighters became well-versed in submission techniques, the weight of the fighters started to make a difference again.

Head butts were prohibited because whenever the fight hit the ground the head butt was a technique that required little effort and could quickly turn the match into a bloody mess. This strategy was quite common between wrestlers because they are strong, and could bring the fight to the ground but lacked experience with submissions and therefore head butting was an easy path to victory.

It became clear that having unprotected fists is not very valuable in an actual fight and made effective striking difficult. In an unprotected fist there are plenty of small bones to break when a torso or forehead is hit with power. The motivation for mandatory small open finger gloves was to reduce occurrence of cuts and to make striking more viable to please the audience.

Time limits were established because of very long fights occurring on the ground with little action. No-time-limit matches complicated the planning of the events as well. Similar motivations produced the "standup" rule, which is when the referee stops the ground fighting and stands both fighters up in case of no action, and a "warning" that could be issued when the fighters hesitate to engage in standup or ground fighting.

In the U.S., Athletic Commissions have played a crucial role in the introduction of safety rules because they oversee MMA in similar ways as they do for boxing. Small shows usually use more restrictive rules because they have less experienced fighters who are looking to get experience and exposure that could ultimately lead them to getting recruited into one of the larger, better paying promotions, (Pride, UFC, Pancrase, KOTC).

In Japan and Europe there is no regulating authority over MMA competitions, so these organizations have more freedom in rules development and event structure.

In general a balanced set of rules has been established, and future rule changes will probably consist of minor adaptation.

Common rules

The following describes the least common denominator of the rules commonly found in MMA fighting.

  • Ways to victory
    • Knock Out
    • Submission (A fighter taps either his opponent or the mat three times.)
    • Technical Knockout
      • Referee Stoppage (If the referee sees that one fighter is completely dominant to the point of endangering his opponent, the referee will stop the match.)
      • Doctor Stoppage (In the event that a fighter is injured and cannot continue the match, his opponent will be declared the winner. The ring doctor will be the one to determine whether the fighter can continue or not. In the event that an injury was caused by illegal methods, the perpetrator will be disqualified.)
      • Forfeited Match---A fighter's corner throws in the towel.
      • Decision (If the match goes the distance, then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. The judging critera are organization specific.)
      • Disqualification (A "warning" will be given when a fighter commits an illegal action or does not follow the referee's instruction. Three warnings will result in a disqualification. Also, if a fighter is injured and unable to continue due to a deliberate illegal technique from his opponent, he will be declared the winner.)
      • No Contest (In the event that both sides commit a violation of the rules, or a fighter is unable to continue due to an injury from an accidental illegal technique, the bout will be declared a "No Contest.")
  • Weight categories
    • Although each organization divides its fighters into weight classes, the details are very organization-dependent.
  • Fouls
    • No head-butting, eye gouging, hair pulling, biting or fish hooking (pulling at the cheek with a finger).
    • No attacking the groin
    • No strikes to the back of the head, spinal area and kidneys.
    • No strikes to, or grabs of the trachea
    • No small joint manipulation (control of four or more fingers/toes is necessary).
    • No intentionally throwing your opponent out of the ring.
    • No running out of the ring.
    • No purposely holding the ring ropes or octagon fence.

Rules variations

Each organization determines its own rules (in accordance with government regulation). Below are some of the significant differences in the rules of the popular MMA organizations.

Ultimate Fighting Championship

  • Allows elbow strikes to the head.
  • Prohibits dumping a fighter onto his head during takedown or slam.
  • Prohibits stomps, soccer kicks and knees to the head of a grounded opponent.
  • Uses 3 five-minute rounds. Championship bouts are 5x5 minutes.
  • No longer uses a tournament format.
  • Has six weight classes: Super Heavyweight (No limit), Heavyweight (<265 lbs), Light Heavyweight (<205 lbs),, Middleweight (<185 lbs), Welterweight (<170 lbs), and Lightweight (<155 lbs)

Pride Fighting Championships

  • Uses 10 minute first round with 5 minutes second and third rounds.
  • Prohibits elbow strikes to the head.
  • Uses tournament format to award Grand Prix champions.
  • Has two weight classes: Heavyweight (No limit), and Middleweight (<92 kg).
  • 'Bushido' series consists of lightweight (<73 kg) and light-middleweight (<83 kg) fighters.


  • Uses 3x5 minute rounds.
  • Prohibits elbow strikes to the head.
  • No weight classes.
  • Do not use tournament format as in K-1.


  • Uses 2 5-minute rounds.
  • Does not use judges. The fight is declared a draw if there is no KO, TKO, Submission.
  • Allows elbow and knee strikes only if they are covered by padding.
  • Do not allow attacking head with strikes when one fighter is in downed position.


  • Uses A, B and C levels fight. The C level is considered for amateurs only.
  • Every level has his own rules and restrictions.
  • The C level rules require headgear to be worn and prohibit striking to the head on the ground.

Cage or ring

MMA is often referred to as "cagefighting" in the US as it is associated with the UFC's octagonal caged fighting area. Most major "Western" MMA promotions ( US, Canada and Britain ) use the "Cage" as a result of directly evolving from the first UFC events. On the other hand, Brazilian and Japanese events usually use an area similar to a standard boxing ring, but with tighter ropes and some type of barrier underneath the lowest rope to keep grappling athletes from rolling out of the ring. There are also variations such as replacing the traditional cage's metal fencing with net and a one foot high padded barrier surrounding the combat area. The choice of cage or ring is more than aesthetic, however, as it impacts the type of strategies a fighter can implement. For example, a popular and effective strategy in a cage is to pin an opponent into the area where the fence meets the ground, and then pummel him with strikes. This is not possible in a roped ring. On the other hand, the roped ring can result in entangled limbs and fighters falling through the ropes, requiring the referee to stop the fighters and re-position them in the center. There is debate whether the appearance of "fighting in a cage" results in a negative stereotyping of MMA in America, hindering efforts by its supporters to achieve mainstream acceptance.

Internal links

MMA events links

Following list contains only links to English-speaking sites of the most famous MMA organizations at the time this chapter was introduced.

External links

  • Mixed Martial Arts TV. (http://www.mma.tv) - "Insider" site. News and Stats from Amateur to Professional. Forum is popular with MMA participants.
  • MMA Review (http://www.mmareview.com) - MMA events, fighters and history
  • MMAFighting.com (http://www.mmafighting.com) - MMA news, interviews, results and discussion forum.
  • Fight Back (http://www.fightback.dk) - MMA News in Scandinavia- 1000s of fight photos
  • Ironlife.com (http://www.ironlife.com) - Combat sports and fitness site. Contains MMA, boxing, and kickboxing news as well as discussion forums.
  • Sherdog (http://www.sherdog.com) - News, Discussion Forum, Downloadable Videos, Fighter Records Database
  • KnucklePit (http://www.knucklepit.com) - Interviews, PPV reviews, and more.
  • MMA Ring Report (http://www.mmaringreport.com) - News
  • Kakuto (http://www.kakuto.com) - News mainly from Japan
  • Puroresu (http://puroresupower.com) MMA / K-1 News from Japan
  • Susumu's Gallery (http://www.susumug.com/) - Plenty of photographs from different MMA Events
  • rec.martial-arts (http://idempot.net/rmafaq/rmafaq3.html#16.mma) FAQ entry on MMA, from a martial arts-centric point of view
  • MMAWeekly.com (http://www.mmaweekly.com/) - Daily Internet radio show, News page updated daily
  • Insidefighting.com (http://www.insidefighting.com/) - Daily Updates, Links to latest news and articles on the web. Boxing news also.
  • Combat Ultime (http://www.combatultime.com) - MMA news and pictures, in French.
  • Mania (http://www.fighttimes.com/magazine/magazine.asp?issue=1&article=11) Women's Sport-fighting Gym in New Zealand
  • Fight Times e-Magazine (http://www.fighttimes.com/) Free e-Magazine with regular MMA features
  • MMA Links (http://www.mmalinks.com/) #1 Mixed Martial Arts directory on the net!es:AMM

nl:Mixed Martial Arts ja:総合格闘技 pl:MMA sv:Mixed Martial Arts


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