Mixed martial arts (or MMA) is a combat sport which combines striking and grappling. MMA has achieved a high level of popularity around the globe in recent years, with mixed martial arts being especially embraced in Japan and the United States. In the world of sports betting, MMA has even surpassed boxing in popularity.
You may also hear MMA referred to as “No Holds Barred”, “Cage Fighting”, “Ultimate Fighting” or “Vale Tudo” (which means “anything goes”).
MMA bouts are contested over a set number of rounds. During that period, the fight will be stopped if one competitor submits or is knocked out. The fight can also be halted due to referee, doctor or corner stoppage. If the fight goes the distance, the winner will be decided by a panel of judges.
MMA Styles and Strategies
In the early phases of the MMA phenomenon, there was often a distinctive difference in the styles of fighters. It was not uncommon to see a boxer take on a karate expert or a sumo wrestler versus a practitioner of judo. As the sport has continued to develop, most MMA fighters now train in a wide array of styles, as adherence to only one form tends to put a fighter at a disadvantage against more well-rounded competition.
In recent times, MMA fighters skilled in striking have become more effective. In the past, they were ill-prepared to deal with an opponent skilled in takedown and submissions, but that has changed as the gap between skill sets has narrowed.
In training, mixed martial arts fighters will often practice elements of boxing, kickboxing and karate to work on punches, knees, kicks and elbows. Sambo, judo and Greco-Roman wrestling are utilized for takedowns, clinches and throws. For submission holds and ground work, skilled fighters will often add elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, judo, sambo, pankration, and various styles of wrestling.
While modern fighters are often versed in multiple styles, they may often resort to a particular strategy in order to win a fight. Here’s a brief overview of some of the various paths a fighter may take on the way to victory:
The sprawl-and-brawl strategy is usually employed by fighters proficient in boxing or kickboxing. The fighter will try to avoid going to the ground (by using the sprawl technique), preferring to stay on his feet and employ punches and kicks. Most fighters who use this strategy are versed in some submission wrestling in case they get taken down. On the ground, they will often try to tie up their opponent until the referee brings them back to their feet, although many are skilled enough to work towards submissions of their own. This is a strategy often used by fighters such as Mirko Cro Cop, Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.
Also known as “Dirty Boxing,” this strategy involves tying up an opponent in a clinch and either going for takedowns or punishing them with elbows, punches, stomps and knees. This is particularly popular with wrestlers and those with a Muay Thai background. A brutal strategy which can leave opponents bloody and battered, this has been used effectively in the past by such fighters as Randy Couture and Anderson Silva.
When employing this strategy, an MMA fighter will attempt to take his opponent to the ground, get on top of him (preferably in the “mount” position), and then pummel him with punches and elbows until he is knocked out or submits. This strategy can also be used to set up submission holds. Used very effectively by fighters like Fedor Emelianenko and Tito Ortiz.
Fighters who use this strategy will attempt to take their opponent to the ground with a throw or takedown, achieve a dominant position, and then lock in a submission hold. Superior practitioners of this strategy are equally comfortable working from their back and are just as dangerous in this position. Fighters who are known to utilize this strategy include Royce Gracie, Josh Barnett and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
History of MMA – Mixed Martial Arts Timeline
The earliest form of combat sports was Greek pankration, which was introduced into the Olympic Games in 648 B.C. In fact, it has recently been proposed that MMA be re-introduced into the Summer Olympics under the banner of pankration.
In the 1800s, no-holds-barred events took place when wrestlers representing various styles met in competitions throughout Europe. In 1899, Bartitsu, the first known martial art to combine the Asian and European styles, was created in London. This resulted in a series of MMA events in which Japanese and European champions challenged masters of assorted European wrestling styles.
In the early 1900s, Merikan (Japanese slang for “American”) fighting, which featured boxing practitioners versus jujutsu masters, was very popular throughout Japan and Europe.
In the 1920s, the Gracie family started their vale tudo tournaments in Brazil. Carlos Gracie and his younger brother Helio took great pride in defeating all challengers. Helio was the father of Rickson, Royler, Royce, and Rorion Gracie, and his children would go on to play pivotal roles in the development of modern-day MMA.
In the 1970s, Antonio Inoki began hosting MMA matches in Japan. These events were important, as they inspired the shoot-style movement in Japanese professional wrestling (“shoot style” wrestling refers to real wrestling). This led to the creation of such MMA organizations as Shooto, which got its start in 1985. Today in Japan, many professional wrestlers make the transition to the world of MMA.
Bruce Lee was also highly influential in the formation of MMA. He championed the idea of taking the best elements of boxing, karate, judo and other styles and combining them to form a superior brand of fighting. His contributions have not gone unnoticed, as UFC President Dana White has went so far as to call Lee “the father of mixed martial arts.”
The sport of MMA really started to come together with the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. Royce Gracie dominated the early competitions, and a new generation of fighters started training in multiple styles in an effort to bridge the gap.
Under pressure from politicians and the media, the UFC dropped its no-holds-barred style in favor of one which was ultimately more fan-friendly. This allowed the sport to gain more exposure in the mainstream media and its popularity to flourish. In 1997, this continued popularity led to the creation of the PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan.
With stars such as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba, Bas Rutten, Mark Coleman and Tito Ortiz leading the way, the sport was poised to eventually break through and achieve mainstream popularity.
This happened in December of 2006, when UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell faced former champion Tito Ortiz. The show, UFC 66, had tremendous pay-per-view numbers and ranked alongside some of the most successful boxing cards of all time.
In 2007, Zuffa LLC, the owners of the UFC, rocked the MMA world when they purchased the PRIDE organization. PRIDE was in financial trouble after allegations of involvement with organized crime cost the company its television contract. While Japan’s top MMA organization remains active, the UFC now has a much larger talent pool to draw from.
But the UFC isn’t the only show in town. Organizations such as HERO’s, Pancrase, Cage Rage, Smackgirl, BodogFight, King of the Cage and Icon Sport all provide exciting and competitive fights for fans across the globe.
With regular coverage on ESPN and in the pages of such mainstream periodicals as Sports Illustrated, mixed martial arts continues its meteoric rise. It has already surpassed boxing in popularity and seems poised for even bigger and better things.
This is as good a time as any to jump on the MMA bandwagon, and MMA Wild is the perfect resource for doing so.