Mixed Martial Arts is a full contact combat sports that incorporates strikes and grapples and incorporates many fighting styles of the martial arts. It’s where all the essentials of the fighting styles are merged as one to become an adaptive fighting style. So with that being said, there’s a whole bunch of fighting styles being incorporated in MMA. It’s not just kickboxing or muay thai; the best of the best are always stacked together to get the fighters the necessary advantage in their fights.
The MMA gives fighters a chance to incorporate some of their best fighting styles. It should be noted that many fighters in the MMA came from different professions in fighting. They didn’t just go, “Hey, it’s MMA! I’ll go train and become an MMA instantly!” No, they had a previous fighting style before they went on to become full-fledged MMA. Ask fighters like Gina Carano or Jon Jones: the former was a kickboxer early in her career while the latter was a junior wrestling champion in college. All fighters who got into the MMA started from somewhere.
Try watching an MMA fight (it can be Strikeforce or UFC) and you can see that there are many fighting styles being used. You can see a punch from the kickboxing or a grapple from the wrestling or throws that were used in jiu-jitsu. Some MMA fighters are really good at take downs; some fighters are good at strikes; and some are really good at counter strikes. All of the moves you see in these fights are part of the fighting styles central to a fighter’s skill.
Somewhere down the line, MMA fighters have to use different fighting styles other than their own. Sure, some may be good at wrestling and others may be good at striking but they have to learn the other aspects of the MMA. That’s why in many ways, MMA fighters can be well-rounded in their fights. They have to be prepared for anything that comes in their way.
So what are the fighting styles incorporated by MMA fighters? What are the fighting styles that MMA fighters used long before they became MMA fighters? Here are some of them:
Kickboxing – Here’s a fighting style and sport that has similarities to mix martial arts. Kickboxing can be referred in two distinctions: it’s referred to as a fighting style and it’s referred to as a group of martial art sports that incorporates kicking and punching like Muay Thai and Sanshou. This style/sport has been incorporated by many MMA fighters like the previously mentioned Gina Carano. As the name implies, kickboxing has the fighters kick and punch in full contact. Unlike boxing where there’s headgear, the fighters have nothing but gloves, shorts, shin-pads and kick-boots. There are many moves of the kickboxing that has been used by MMA fighters such as the backfist, flying-punch (St-Pierre uses this one), front kick, side kick and many others.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – This fighting style is one of the styles fighters in the MMA start with as well. Fighters like Liddell and the Gracie Family use this one. This fighting style is a martial art style that incorporates grappling and ground fighting. This has been incorporated by fighters who are all about take downs and submissions. It’s no wonder this style is being used a lot; the techniques of jiu-jitsu are outmatched in its many aspects. A fighter who’s prominent in Jiu-Jitsu has a variety of moves to use when he’s on the ground. He can move into submission holds and choke holds to prevent his enemy from getting up from his stuck-position. This is also where the “mount” positions come from. From the front to the back, this is where the fighter takes advantage of disabling his opponent’s move to go for the win. Because of this proficiency in the art of ground fighting and submission, many fighters cross-train to include jiu-jitsu in their regimen. So if you ever see fighters in the MMA go on for long periods of time in those ground fights, you’ll know they’re only using Jiu-Jitsu.
Karate – Although this style isn’t used that much around the world of MMA, nevertheless it’s being used by MMA fighters. It has proven to be effective because without it, there wouldn’t be kickboxing. This style has been used by fighters like Chuck Liddell and Georges St-Pierre. So what is about karate that has some big name fighters use it in their regimen? It has a lot to do with the conditioning. Karate incorporates a sort of discipline that strengthens not just the body but the mind as well. This makes it well-rounded in terms of training and style. There are also styles in karate that prove to be useful when it comes to incorporating in a fighter’s style such as the stances, the physical contacts and other styles that make karate a well-rounded sport. As previously mentioned, kickboxing was co-founded by karate.
Wrestling – No, don’t think that wrestling is only for The Rock or John Cena in WWE. The wrestling being described here is the wrestling that’s not for entertainment. There are many types of wrestling besides the WWE such as amateur wrestling, Greco-style and Freestyle that incorporate well into MMA. Fighters like the previously mentioned Jones was a wrestler so it can be seen how effective it can be. Wrestling is quite successful when incorporating it in MMA because it helps fighters learn the skill of executing excellent takedowns especially when going against the legs. Wrestling has the credit of putting emphasis on explosiveness. If you want a true example of this, check out Brock Lesnar in his early fights in the UFC. He’s a big guy but thanks to his wrestling background, he’s able to swiftly blaze through his opponent.
Judo – A style originating for the Land of The Rising Sun like karate, judo has also been incorporated by fighters with great success. It bears a similarity to jiu-jitsu because it incorporates the moves of takedowns and grapples but judo is mostly focused on the way of the takedown. If jiu-jitsu is all ground, judo is all throw. Fighters who successfully incorporate this style are able to do very effective takedowns. This is also lets them take any opponent down from any angle which judo teaches to its practitioners. Unlike Jiu-jitsu though, Judo has many styles of takedown. They’re known as forms.
Muay Thai – Part of the kickboxing sports group, Muay Thai is a widely used fighting style trained by many fighters of the MMA. This is mostly a striking sport like kickboxing. Much of what is learned from kickboxing are incorporated in Muay Thai. For those curious about the name, it means “art of the eight limbs” which means the fighter uses his legs, knees, elbows and fists. This sport originated from Thailand. Fighters such as BJ Penn use this style to strengthen their striking skills. Also, when it comes to clinching, Muay Thai helps an MMA fighter a lot so they can strike at the opponent when stuck in the position.
Taekwondo – This style, used in Korea, has been incorporated by MMA fighters as well but with more or less a mixed success. The rules and disciplines of Taekwondo are different and it requires some training with other sports to keep it well-rounded. After all, the sport involves a lot of kicking. Nevertheless, taekwondo helps in the aspects of kicking and any MMA fighter who knows how to incorporate it into his regimen is definitely one well-rounded fighter.
Catch wrestling – While it has similarities to wrestling, it has a different, distinctive style that differentiates it from the wrestling it’s mostly associated with. This style of wrestling incorporates a lot of submission holds known as hooks which are known to be a very brutal version of the submission holds. MMA fighters who incorporate this skill improve their submission and grappling even further. Josh Barnett its one of the famous who use Catch Wrestling on MMA.
Sambo – A modern sport developed from Russia, Sambo is another style that incorporates submissions and grapples, much like Judo and Jiu-jitsu. The aspects aren’t too distinct but some moves are not used for this style such as choke holds. They use a lot of leg lock moves and they have less restrictions on the rules than Judo.
Grappling – Refers to techniques, maneuvers, and counters applied to an opponent in order to gain a physical advantage, such as improving relative position, escaping, submitting, or injury to the opponent. Grappling is a general term that covers techniques used in many disciplines, styles and martial arts that are practiced both as combat sports and for self defense. Grappling does not include striking or most commonly the use of weapons. However, some fighting styles or martial arts known especially for their grappling techniques teach tactics that include strikes and weapons either alongside grappling or combined with it.
Grappling techniques can be broadly subdivided into Clinch fighting; Takedowns and Throws; Submission holds and Pinning or Controlling Techniques; and Sweeps, Reversals, Turnovers, and Escapes.
• Clinching: or clinch work, takes place with both competitors on their feet using various clinch holds applied to the upper body of the opponent. Clinch work is generally used to set up or defend against throws or takedowns.
• Takedowns: A takedown is used by one grappler to manipulate his opponent from a position where both are initially standing, to a position on the ground. The grappler completing the takedown aims to end on top of the opponent in a position of relative control.
• Throws: A throw is a technique in which one grappler lifts or off-balances his opponent and maneuvers him forcefully through the air or to the ground. The purpose of throws varies among the different disciplines of grappling with some emphasizing throws with the potential to incapacitate the opponent, while leaving the thrower standing, or to gain a takedown or controlling position.
• Sprawling: A sprawl is a defensive technique done usually when the opponent attempts a takedown. It is performed by shifting the legs backwards and spread out in one fast motion. If done correctly one will land on their opponent’s back and gain control.
• Submission holds: There are generally two types of submission holds: those that would potentially strangle or suffocate an opponent (chokes), and those that would potentially cause injury to a joint or other body part (locks). In sport grappling, a competitor is expected to submit, either verbally or by tapping the opponent, to admit defeat when he is caught in a submission hold that he cannot escape. Competitors who refuse to “tap out” risk unconsciousness or serious injury.
• Securing or Controlling Techniques: A pin involves holding an opponent on his back in a position where he is unable to attack. In some styles of competitive grappling a pin is an instant victory, and in other styles it is considered a dominant position that is rewarded with points. Other controlling techniques are used to hold an opponent face down on the ground or on all fours in order to prevent an escape or attack. Either of these types of technique may also be used as a prelude to a submission hold.
• Escapes: In a general sense, an escape is accomplished by maneuvering out of danger or from an inferior position; for example when a grappler who is underneath side control moves to guard or gets back to a neutral standing position, or when a grappler is able to maneuver out of a submission attempt and back to a position where he is no longer in immediate danger of being submitted.
• Turnovers: used to maneuver an opponent who is on all fours or flat on their stomach to their back, in order to score points, prepare for a pin or in order to gain a more dominant position.
• Reversals or Sweeps: These occur when a grappler who was underneath his opponent on the ground is able to maneuver so that he gains a top position over his opponent.
There you have it. These are the fighting styles used by many MMA fighters in the scene today. Now you know why in so many fights, you’ll see moves that you already saw in movies or TV shows. From those high-flying punches to those brutal takedowns, you’ll see that fighters never stick to just one style; they incorporate different kinds of styles. There are fighters who are really good at the fighting style they trained with before going into MMA and there are fighters who incorporate the great essentials of one style to fully make himself well-rounded. So the next time you watch an MMA fight, you won’t have to feel annoyed why some fighters take really long when they’re at the corner of the octagon or they’re on the ground. It’s just another fighting style being used in the MMA.