From time to time, I like to share my personal definition of our great sport, a definition that is obviously stated in these three words: Mixed Martial Arts.
There are five individual sports/martial arts which comprise Mixed Martial Arts. The commonly mentioned ones are the following four: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, freestyle wrestling, Muay Thai, and boxing. Arts like karate , catch wrestling or sambo can often replace some of the aforementioned arts depending on each athlete’s fighting background.
The fifth art is that what I like to call MMA-specific techniques. Those are hybrid techniques which do not originate from other specialized fighting sports. Techniques like grinding and pummeling against the cage and ground and pound strikes.
MMA-specific techniques can also be the result of unique combinations. This is what MMA commentators often refer to as “mixing things up”.
The sport of MMA includes the unique combination of techniques from totally unrelated disciplines like the use of wrestling to set up punches, striking attacks to set up takedowns, and strikes to set up submissions. The best pure MMA fighters of the modern era are Georges St-Pierre and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. They are pretty good at every individual discipline but their strength lies in that they are masters of combining these skills into an art which can beat all other fundamental disciplines.
Then there is my definition of MMA striking.
MMA striking is the art of:
a. Hitting opponents from the furthest distance away, exposing the least amount of your body, while getting into position to strike with maximum leverage and not get hit.
b. Closing the distance in order to strike from angles or to avoid taking damage
c. Getting the clinch or pressing against the cage to attack with dirty boxing and clinch fighting strikes in order to neutralize your opponents’ speed, power or reach and make them work while carrying your weight.
d. Getting takedowns when your opponents are expecting strikes and connecting with strikes when your opponents are expecting takedowns.
e. Delivering ground and pound strikes from dominant positions to punish and cut your opponents with punches and elbows to limit their vision, demoralize them and disrupt their breathing patterns.
f. Attacking with strikes from the bottom without exposing your limbs to submissions in order to create space, escape or get a submission.
g. Landing strikes when opponents open themselves up to defend submission attempts or getting submissions by isolating your opponent’s limbs when they cover from strikes.
Similarly, MMA grappling is the unique combination of wrestling, strikes on the ground (often refered to as “ground n’ pound”) and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu positions, sweeps, escapes and submissions. This unique combination allows a fighter to:
A. Demoralize opponents through the use of grinding and leverage
B. Get submissions from attacking with strikes
C. Land strikes when opponents open up in order to defend submission attempts or by controling defending limbs
Finally, MMA grappling is also unique in that the ability to stand up and disengage from groundfighting attacks can be a winning objective and an art in itself. Techniques that can be used to escape from the ground and keep the fight standing are crucial and often neglected or totally ignored in grappling classes.
I prefer to use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my definition of grappling and not submission grappling or catch wrestling due to the fact that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters where the ones who popularized fighting of their backs in the early days of modern MMA. I train and teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so no-gi submission grappling is still Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to me. I have to admit, though, that I love Catch wrestling and top wrestling control, especially Wade Schalles’ concept of “legal pain.”
Now that these definitions are out of the way, it’s time to examine some great techniques in action.
Fight: José Aldo vs. Jeremy Stephens, UFC on Fox 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Definition: Jose Aldo connects with a straight right under Stephens’ armpit and lands a devastating uppercut to the solar plexus. This punch, especially when it lands from an upwards trajectory, is very difficult to overcome just by being tough and Jeremy Stephens’ body seemed to completely shut down.
Fight: Dustin Poirier vs. Eddie Alvarez, UFC on Fox 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Description: Dustin Poirier maintains a frenetic, yet technical, pace and that is very difficult to deal with. Here is Dustin in a southpaw stance attacking with a series of punches and finishing with a left cross feint to a right low kick.
Fight: Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs. Tecia Torres, UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Description: Joanna has a great jab but she does not move her head with follow-up punches and often pays for it. However, she usually attacks with punches in bunches ending with low kicks and that keeps her opponents busy. In this instance, as Tecia Torres goes for a right low kick, Joanna attacks with a straight right to the body and a lands a nice left hook before her opponent’s kicking leg is able to land on the ground.
Fight: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Austin Arnett, UFC on Fox 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Description: I was really impressed with Hakeem Dawodu’s striking. He was able to catch Austin Arnett several times with right low kicks in this pull counter against a left high kick.
Fight: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Austin Arnett, UFC on Fox 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Description: I really liked Dawodu’s Dutch Muay Thai combos. In this example, he attacks Arnett with a left hook to the body (AKA a liver punch) and finishes with a right low kick in a typical Dutch Muay Thai fashion.
Fight: Anthony Smith vs. Maurício Rua UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith
Description: It seems that the straight right kick is the “kryptonite” for the high defensive guard. Here Anthony Smith makes Mauricio Rua cover up with a series of punches and connects with a straight/upwards right kick to the chin.
Fight: Aleksandar Rakić vs. Justin Ledet, UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith
Description: Aleksandar Rakić feints a jab and goes for a right low kick. Justin Ledet tries to shin-block incorrectly and Rakić is able to connect with Ledet’s supporting leg, thus sweeping him down.
Fight: Nasrat Haqparast vs. Marc Diakiese, UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith
Description: I really enjoyed Nasrat Haqparast’s performance against Marc Diakiese and that is why he is featured on the cover of this post. Haqparast jabs and Diakiese ducks under going for a double leg. As Nasrat defends, both fighters are able to establish an underhook. Diakiese keeps moving forward and Haqparast is able to get a beautiful over under hip toss throw.
Fight: Corey Anderson vs. Glover Teixeira, UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith
Description: Corey Anderson was able to pick apart an aging and slow Glover Teixeira. I was especially impressed with Corey’s top wrestling control. In this example please notice how Anderson is using his right leg-hook to stretch Glover’s right foot with his shin and instep in order to prevent him from posturing up and escape. As you can see in the clip, this position is great for landing punches.
Fight: Manny Bermudez vs. Davey Grant, UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs. Smith
Description: This is a great exhibition of submission grappling control and transitions. Manny Bermudez drops Davey Grant with a cross and is able to land on top-mount with one of his opponent’s arms isolated between his legs. This is basic triangle territory and Bermudez goes for it. Grant tries to escape but Bermudez is always able to maintain control. You have to watch the clip to appreciate how in the final transition, Bermudez uses a straight inverted armlock (photo 8) to force Grant to roll. This enables Manny to finish the triangle.
Fight: Islam Makhachev vs. Kajan Johnson, UFC on Fox 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2
Description: Another great display of submission control. Islam Makhachev is able to mount Kajan Johnson and control his right wrist with an American lock-type control. This enables Makhachev to use his free arm and get the armbar control. His opponent defends correctly using the “rear-naked-choke” defense. To counter this Islam, opens his legs (photo 9) and closes them again, this time crossing his feet. He uses his opponent’s hand as a lever to break the defensive grip and finalize the armbar.
That will be all for now. Please join me in two weeks for part four of my Mike Tyson technique breakdown series where we will examine an often neglected part of his game, his jab. In preparation for this post here are the first two articles of this series in video format:
For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).