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Entering The World Of Mixed Martial Arts: Which Style Is Best?

Many argue that the world of combat sports has evolved far beyond the boxing and its glory days. People crave more than two men only utilizing their two hands, battering each other for twelve dreary rounds. These days, people yearn for more action and with more action, there comes more technique.

The answer to this craving is the future of combat sports. It is mixed martial arts.

Mixed martial arts is a combat sport is composed of a wide assortment of fighting technique, techniques which range from striking to grappling.

In this little educational piece, I will run through the primary styles of mixed martial arts used today (note the word primary; it may not include every single art out there).


I. Muay-Thai Kickboxing

Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing or The Art of the Eight Limbs, is Thailand’s national sport. Techniques of Muay Thai usually include the feet, shinbones, fists, elbows, the clinch and knees.

Muay Thai’s worldwide popularity blossomed around the 1990s, being extremely effective in mixed martial arts fights. Muay Thai remains as one of the most popular styles of striking amongst MMA fighters today.

Muay Thai has showed great effectiveness in mixed martial arts today. Fighters who have found much success with Muay Thai include current UFC middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva, former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the majority of the Brazilian-based Chute Boxe Academy. Although these fighters’ styles revolve greatly around the art of Muay Thai, they have incorporated elements of grappling, wrestling, and submission wrestling in order to compete in MMA.

II. Kickboxing

The art of kickboxing differs from that of Muay Thai kickboxing. Kickboxing focuses mainly on utilizing just punches and kicks opposed to standing elbow strikes and the clinch as in Muay Thai.

The term “kickboxing” alone is usually independent of “Muay Thai” and often refers to American and Japanese derivatives of the sport.

Kickboxing of course has proven to be quite effective as well. Most notable fighters whose primary arsenal relies on kickboxing are Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Mark Hunt, both of whom fought in the K-1 organization before transitioning into MMA.

III. Boxing

Boxing in my opinion is one of the greatest styles a fighter can learn to develop their standup skills in MMA. Boxing is essentially the style of the hands, so I believe there is not a style out there that can top it as far as punching goes.

The main components of boxing include one of the most under used strikes in MMA today, the jab to set up combos, the cross, the hook, and the uppercuts. Defense includes slipping, bobbing, and footwork.

Boxing is used in MMA today by high profile fighters such as PRIDE’s lightweight champion Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi, Nick Diaz, and UFC’s former lightweight champion Jens “Little Evil” Pulver.


I. Jiu-Jitsu

There is no question that more than 50% of the ground skills involved in MMA is contributed to by Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu focuses on grappling and in particular ground fighting using joint-locks and chokeholds to force an opponent into submission and ultimately tap out!

Jiu-Jitsu was said to include many “dirty” techniques and was then adopted by the Gracie family and turned into a “cleaner” combat system.

The Jiu-Jitsu used in MMA is mainly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), which came about when the Gracies went to the United States to spread their art. The Gracie family continued to develop their system throughout the 20th century and has refined its techniques, which are seen in much of the MMA matches today.

There is no doubt that BJJ is extremely effective in today’s MMA matches. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ) became most popular when UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie won UFC 1, UFC 2 and UFC 4 with his superior ground game. Royce’s opponents were usually much larger and practiced other styles, including boxing, shoot-fighting, karate, judo, and wrestling.

However, today some of the greatest BJJ MMA practitioners include: former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira, BJ “The Prodigy” Penn, Shinya Aoki, and a wealth of other fighters.

II. Wrestling

Wrestling is an essential skill in mixed martial arts today. A fighter can have a good background in Jiu-Jitsu, but have poor wrestling skills.

Wrestling, the oldest form of martial arts, includes a variety of techniques which include: clinching, holding, locking, leverage and one of the most important techniques in MMA, the sprawl.

Wrestling consists of numerous styles, such as: Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, catch wrestling, and others.

Many successful MMA champions and fighters have extensive wrestling credentials before entering a career in MMA. The most notable of fighters whom come off a wrestling background are: former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes, former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, and current UFC heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture.

However, many wrestlers in MMA have been criticized and said to “Lay-and-pray.” Lay-and-pray is a term used to describe when wrestlers take an opponent down and lay on top of them without attempts to finish the fight with “ground-and-pound” or submissions. Lay-and-prayers only seek to maintain control of positioning and smother any offense by the opponent, imposing little or no offense themselves, hoping for a decision victory.

III. Sambo/Judo

Sambo and Judo are not the most popular styles utilized in mixed martial arts but have certainly proven to be highly successful when utilized. Sambo is combat sport and self-defense system developed in the former Soviet Union, and recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee in 1938, presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev. While Judo is a combat, originating in Japan, that involves hip throws, tosses, joint locks, as well as punches and kicks. Sambo heavily resembles Judo.

Many of today’s top fighters utilize either Sambo or Judo. Fedor Emelianenko, PRIDE Fighting Championships's current heavyweight champion and consistently ranked the world's best heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter has a background in judo and is an avid practitioner of Sambo. Other fighters with backgrounds in Judo in MMA include: Hidehiko Yoshida, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Pawel Nastula and UFC’s Karo “The Heat” Parisyan.

Judo and Sambo not only has proven to be successful amongst MMA matches but is certainly exciting to watch.

So there you have it, the primary martial arts inside of mixed martial arts. I hope you learned a thing or two from this article and if you have any questions simply post a comment below!