Ground-and-pound

Ground-and-pound

For the fighting styles that combine different arts, see hybrid martial arts.
"NHB" redirects here. For other uses, see NHB (disambiguation).
Mixed martial arts
Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 11, 2011.
Focus Various
Hardness Full contact
Olympic sport No

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, from a variety of other combat sports. Various mixed style contests took place throughout Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s. The combat sport of vale tudo that had developed in Brazil from the 1920s was brought to the United States by the Gracie family in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).[1]

The more dangerous vale-tudo-style bouts of the early UFCs were made safer with the implementation of additional rules, leading to the popular regulated form of MMA seen today. Originally promoted as a competition with the intention of finding the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat situations, competitors were pitted against one another with minimal rules.[2] Later, fighters employed multiple martial arts into their style while promoters adopted additional rules aimed at increasing safety for competitors and to promote mainstream acceptance of the sport.[3] The name mixed martial arts was coined by television critic Howard Rosenberg, in 1993, in his review of UFC 1.[4] The term gained popularity when the website newfullcontact.com, then one of the biggest covering the sport, hosted and reprinted the article.[5] Following these changes, the sport has seen increased popularity with a pay-per-view business that rivals boxing and professional wrestling.[6]

History

Early history

During the Classic Greek era there existed an ancient Olympic combat sport, known as Pankration which featured a combination of grappling and striking skills, similar to modern mixed martial arts. This sport originated in Ancient Greece and was later passed on to the Romans.[7]

No-holds-barred fighting reportedly took place in the late 1880s when wrestlers representing styles, Greco-Roman wrestling and many others met in tournaments and music-hall challenge matches throughout Europe. In the USA, the first major encounter between a boxer and a wrestler in modern times took place in 1887 when John L. Sullivan, then heavyweight world boxing champion, entered the ring with his trainer, Greco-Roman Wrestling champion William Muldoon, and was slammed to the mat in two minutes. The next publicized encounter occurred in the late 1890s when future heavyweight boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons took on European Greco-Roman Wrestling champion Ernest Roeber. In September 1901, Frank "Paddy" Slavin, who had been a contender for Sullivan's boxing title, knocked out future world wrestling champion Frank Gotch in Dawson City, Canada.[8]

Another early example of mixed martial arts was Bartitsu, which Edward William Barton-Wright founded in London in 1899. Combining judo, jujutsu, boxing, savate and canne de combat (French stick fighting), Bartitsu was the first martial art known to have combined Asian and European fighting styles,[9] and which saw MMA-style contests throughout England, pitting European and Japanese champions against representatives of various European wrestling styles.[9]

Timeline of major events
Ancient Greece Pankration
Late 19th century Hybrid martial arts
Late 1880s – Early NHB and Mixed Style contests
1899 – Barton-Wright and Bartitsu
Early 1900s Merikan contests
1920s – Early vale tudo and Gracie Challenge
1960s and 1970s – Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do
   Robert Beal/Fred Degerberg and Bushido
1970s Antonio Inoki and Ishu Kakutōgi Sen
1985 Shooto forms
1989 – First professional Shooto event
1991 – First Desafio (BJJ vs. Luta Livre) event
1993 Pancrase forms
1993 UFC forms
Mid/Late 1990s – International Vale Tudo
1997–2007 PRIDE FC and UFC era
2000 New Jersey SACB develops Unified rules
2001 Zuffa buys UFC
2005 The Ultimate Fighter Debuts
2005 US Army begins sanctioning MMA
2006 – UFC dominance and international growth
2006 – Zuffa buys WFA and WEC
2006 UFC 66 generates over a million PPV buys
2007 – Zuffa buys PRIDE FC
2008 EliteXC: Primetime gains 6.5 million peak viewers on CBS
2009 Strikeforce holds 1st major card with female main event
2011 – WEC merged with UFC
2011 – Zuffa buys Strikeforce
2011 UFC on Fox gains 8.8 million peak viewers on Fox

The history of modern MMA competition can be traced to mixed style contests throughout Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s;[10] In Japan these contests were known as merikan, from the Japanese slang for "American [fighting]". Merikan contests were fought under a variety of rules including points decision, best of three throws or knockdowns, and victory via knockout or submission.[11]

As the popularity of professional wrestling waned after World War I it split into two genres: "shoot", in which the fighters actually competed, and "show", which evolved into modern professional wrestling.[12]

In 1936, heavyweight boxing contender Kingfish Levinsky and veteran professional wrestler Ray Steele competed in a mixed match, which Steele won in 35 seconds.[12]

In 1963, "Judo" Gene Lebell fought professional boxer Milo Savage in a no-holds-barred match. Lebell won by Harai Goshi to sleeper hold, leaving Savage unconscious.

In the late 1960s to early 1970s, the concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts was popularized in the west by Bruce Lee via his system philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. Lee believed that "the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual's own style and not following the system of styles." In 2004, UFC President Dana White would call Lee the "father of mixed martial arts" stating: "If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away".[13]

Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki took place in Japan in 1976. Both fighters refused to engage in the other's style and after a 15 round stalemate, it was declared a draw.

Modern sport

The movement that led to the creation of the American and Japanese mixed martial arts scenes was rooted in two interconnected subcultures and two grappling styles, namely Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and shoot wrestling. First were the vale tudo events in Brazil, followed by the Japanese shoot-style wrestling shows.

Vale tudo began in the 1920s and became renowned with the "Gracie challenge" issued by Carlos Gracie and Hélio Gracie and upheld later on by descendants of the Gracie family. Early mixed-match martial arts professional wrestling bouts in Japan (known as Ishu Kakutōgi Sen (異種格闘技戦), literally "heterogeneous combat sports bouts") became popular with Antonio Inoki in the 1970s. Inoki was a disciple of Rikidōzan, but also of Karl Gotch who trained numerous Japanese wrestlers in catch wrestling.

Mixed martial arts competitions were introduced in the United States with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.[14] The sport gained international exposure and widespread publicity when jiu-jitsu fighter Royce Gracie won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, submitting three challengers in a total of just five minutes,[15] sparking a revolution in martial arts.[16][17]

Japan had its own form of mixed martial arts discipline Shooto that evolved from shoot wrestling in 1985, as well as the shoot wrestling derivative Pancrase founded as a promotion in 1993. The first Vale Tudo Japan tournaments were held in 1994 and 1995, both were won by Rickson Gracie. Around the same time, International Vale Tudo competition started to develop through (WVC, VTJ, IVC, UVF etc.). Interest in mixed martial arts as a sport resulted in the creation of the Pride Fighting Championships (Pride) in 1997, where again Rickson participated and won.[18]

Regulation

In March 1997, the Iowa Athletic Commission officially sanctioned Battlecade Extreme Fighting under a modified form of its existing rules for Shootfighting. These rules created the 3, 5 minute round, one-minute break format, and mandated shootfighting gloves as well as weight classes for the first time. Illegal blows were listed as groin strikes, head butting, biting, eye gouging, hair pulling, striking an opponent with an elbow while the opponent is on the mat, kidney strikes, and striking the back of the head with closed fist. Holding onto the ring or cage for any reason was defined as foul.[19][20] While there are minor differences between these and the final Unified Rules, notably regarding elbow-strikes, the Iowa rules allowed mixed martial arts promoters to conduct essentially modern events legally, anywhere in the state. On March 28, 1997, Extreme Fighting 4 was held under these rules, making it the first officially sanctioned mixed martial arts event, and the first show conducted under a version of the modern rules.

In April 2000, the California State Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of regulations that later became the foundation for the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. However when the legislation was sent to California's capitol for review, it was determined that the sport fell outside the jurisdiction of the CSAC, rendering the vote superfluous.[21]

In September 2000, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board began to allow mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey. The intent was to allow the NJSACB to observe actual events and gather information to establish a comprehensive set of rules to effectively regulate the sport.[22]

On April 3, 2001, the NJSACB held a meeting to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts events. This meeting attempted to unify the myriad rules and regulations which have been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the NJSACB, several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial arts events and other interested parties in attendance. At the conclusion of the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts.[22]

The rules adopted by the NJSACB have become the de facto standard set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across North America. On July 30, 2009, a motion was made at the annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions to adopt these rules as the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts". The motion passed unanimously.[23]

In November 2005, recognition of mixed martial arts effectiveness came as the United States Army began to sanction mixed martial arts with the first annual Army Combatives Championships held by the US Army Combatives School.[24]

Canada formally decriminalized mixed martial arts with a vote on Bill S-209 on June 5, 2013. The bill allows for provinces to have the power to create athletic commissions to regulate and sanction professional mixed martial arts bouts.[25]

Growth

The sport reached a new peak of popularity in North America in the December 2006 rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and former champion Tito Ortiz, rivaling the PPV sales of some of the biggest boxing events of all time,[6] and helping the UFC's 2006 PPV gross surpass that of any promotion in PPV history. In 2007, Zuffa LLC, the owners of the UFC MMA promotion, bought Japanese rival MMA brand Pride FC, merging the contracted fighters under one promotion[26] and drawing comparisons to the consolidation that occurred in other sports, such as the AFL-NFL Merger in American football.[27]

Since the UFC came to prominence in mainstream media in 2006, and with their 2007 merger with Pride FC and purchase of WEC, few companies have presented significant competition.[28] However numerous organizations have held shows of significance while competing against the UFC.

The most notable competition has included:

On April 30, 2011, UFC 129 set a new North American MMA attendance record, drawing 55,724 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto; the event also set a new MMA world record for the highest paid gate at $12,075,000[29] and is the highest gate in Toronto for any event.[30]

Development of fighters

As a result of an increased number of competitors, organized training camps, information sharing, and modern kinesiology, the understanding of the combat-effectiveness of various strategies has been greatly improved. UFC commentator Joe Rogan claimed that martial arts evolved more in the ten years following 1993 than in the preceding 700 years combined.[31]

"During his reign atop the sport in the late 1990s he was the prototype — he could strike with the best strikers; he could grapple with the best grapplers; his endurance was second to none. "
— describing UFC champion Frank Shamrock's early dominance[32]

The high profile of modern MMA promotions such as UFC and Pride has fostered an accelerated development of the sport. The early 1990s saw a wide variety of traditional styles competing in the sport.[33] However, early competition saw varying levels of success among disparate styles.

In the early 1990s, practitioners of grappling based styles such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu dominated competition in the United States. Practitioners of striking based arts such as boxing, kickboxing, and karate who were unfamiliar with submission grappling proved to be unprepared to deal with its submission techniques.[34][35][36][37][38] As competitions became more and more common, those with a base in striking arts became more competitive as they cross trained in arts based around takedowns and submission holds.[38] Likewise, those from the varying grappling styles added striking techniques to their arsenal. This increase of cross-training resulted in fighters becoming increasingly multidimensional and well-rounded in their skill-sets.

The new hybridization of fighting styles can be seen in the technique of "ground and pound" developed by wrestling-based UFC pioneers such as Dan Severn, Don Frye and Mark Coleman. These wrestlers realized the need for the incorporation of strikes on the ground as well as on the feet, and incorporated ground striking into their grappling-based styles. Mark Coleman stated at UFC 14 that his strategy was to "Ground him and pound him" which may be the first televised use of the term.

Since the late 1990s, both strikers and grapplers have been successful at MMA, though it is rare to see any fighter who is not schooled in both striking and grappling arts reach the highest levels of competition.

Rules

The rules for modern mixed martial arts competitions have changed significantly since the early days of vale tudo, Japanese shoot wrestling, and UFC 1, and even more from the historic style of pankration. As the knowledge of fighting techniques spread among fighters and spectators, it became clear that the original minimalist rule systems needed to be amended.[39] The main motivations for these rule changes were protection of the health of the fighters, the desire to shed the perception of "barbarism and lawlessness", and to be recognized as a legitimate sport.

The new rules included the introduction of weight classes; as knowledge about submissions spread, differences in weight had become a significant factor. There are nine different weight classes in the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. These nine weight classes include flyweight (up to 125 lb / 56.7 kg), bantamweight (up to 135 lb / 61.2 kg), featherweight (up to 145 lb / 65.8 kg), lightweight (up to 155 lb / 70.3 kg), welterweight (up to 170 lb / 77.1 kg), middleweight (up to 185 lb / 83.9 kg), light heavyweight (up to 205 lb / 93.0 kg), heavyweight (up to 265 lb / 120.2 kg), and super heavyweight with no upper weight limit.[22]

Small, open-fingered gloves were introduced to protect fists, reduce the occurrence of cuts (and stoppages due to cuts) and encourage fighters to use their hands for striking to allow more captivating matches. Gloves were first made mandatory in Japan's Shooto promotion and were later adopted by the UFC as it developed into a regulated sport. Most professional fights have the fighters wear 4 oz gloves, whereas some jurisdictions require amateurs to wear a slightly heavier 6 oz glove for more protection for the hands and wrists.

Time limits were established to avoid long fights with little action where competitors conserved their strength. Matches without time limits also complicated the airing of live events. The time limits in most professional fights are three 5 minute rounds, and championship fights are normally five 5 minute rounds. Similar motivations produced the "stand up" rule, where the referee can stand fighters up if it is perceived that both are resting on the ground or not advancing toward a dominant position.[39]

In the U.S., state athletic and boxing commissions have played a crucial role in the introduction of additional rules because they oversee MMA in a similar fashion to boxing. In Japan and most of Europe, there is no regulating authority over competitions, so these organizations have greater freedom in rule development and event structure.

Victory

Victory in a match is normally gained either by the judges' decision after an allotted amount of time has elapsed, a stoppage by the referee (for example if a competitor can not defend himself intelligently) or the fight doctor (due to an injury), a submission, by a competitor's cornerman throwing in the towel, or by knockout.

Knockout (KO): as soon as a fighter is unable to continue due to legal strikes, his opponent is declared the winner. As MMA rules allow submissions and ground and pound, the fight is stopped to prevent further injury to the fighter.

Submission: a fighter may admit defeat during a match by:

  • a tap on the opponent's body or mat/floor
  • a verbal submission

Technical Submission: the referee stops the match when the fighter is caught in a submission hold and is in danger of being injured. Often it is when a fighter gets choked unconscious; other times it is when a bone has been broken in a submission hold (a broken arm due to a kimura, etc.)

Technical Knockout (TKO)

  • Referee stoppage: The ref may stop a match in progress if:
    • a fighter becomes dominant to the point where the opponent can not intelligently defend himself and is taking excessive damage as a result
    • a fighter appears to be losing consciousness as he/she is being struck
    • a fighter appears to have a significant injury such as a cut or a broken bone

Doctor Stoppage/Cut: the referee will call for a time out if a fighter's ability to continue is in question as a result of apparent injuries, such as a large cut. The ring doctor will inspect the fighter and stop the match if the fighter is deemed unable to continue safely, rendering the opponent the winner. However, if the match is stopped as a result of an injury from illegal actions by the opponent, either a disqualification or no contest will be issued instead.

Corner stoppage: a fighter's corner men may announce defeat on the fighter's behalf by throwing in the towel during the match in progress or between rounds. This is normally done when a fighter is being beaten to the point where it is dangerous and unnecessary. In some cases, the fighter may be injured.

Retirement: a fighter is so dazed or exhausted that he/she cannot physically continue fighting.

Decision: if the match goes the distance, then the outcome of the bout is determined by three judges. The judging criteria are organization-specific.

Forfeit: a fighter or his representative may forfeit a match prior to the beginning of the match, thereby losing the match.

Disqualification: a "warning" will be given when a fighter commits a foul or illegal action or does not follow the referee's instruction. Three warnings will result in a disqualification. Moreover, if a fighter is unable to continue due to a deliberate illegal technique from his opponent, the opponent will be disqualified.

No Contest: in the event that both fighters commit a violation of the rules, or a fighter is unable to continue due to an injury from an accidental illegal technique, the match will be declared a "No Contest".

Clothing

Mixed martial arts promotions typically require that male fighters wear shorts in addition to being barechested, thus precluding the use of gi or fighting kimono to inhibit or assist submission holds. Male fighters are required by most athletic commissions to wear groin protectors underneath their trunks.[22] Female fighters wear short shorts and sports bras or other similarly snug-fitting tops. Both male and female fighters are required to wear a mouthguard.[22]

The need for flexibility in the legs combined with durability prompted the creation of various fighting shorts brands, which then spawned a range of mixed martial arts clothing and casual wear available to the public.

Common disciplines

Most 'traditional' martial arts have a specific focus and these arts may be trained to improve in that area. Popular disciplines of each type include:

Some styles have been adapted from their traditional form, such as boxing stances which lack effective counters to leg kicks and the muay thai stance which is poor for defending against takedowns due to the static nature, or Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, techniques which must be adapted for No Gi competition. It is common for a fighter to train with multiple coaches of different styles or an organized fight team to improve various aspects of their game at once. Cardiovascular conditioning, speed drills, strength training and flexibility are also important aspects of a fighter's training. Some schools advertise their styles as simply "mixed martial arts", which has become a style in itself, but the training will still often be split into different sections.

While mixed martial arts was initially practised almost exclusively by competitive fighters, this is no longer the case. As the sport has become more mainstream and more widely taught, it has become accessible to wider range of practitioners of all ages. Proponents of this sort of training argue that it is safe for anyone, of any age, with varying levels of competitiveness and fitness.[40][41]

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Main article: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu came to international prominence in the martial arts community in the early 1990s, when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships, which at the time were single elimination martial arts tournaments. Royce fought against often much larger opponents who were practicing other styles, including boxing,Wrestling, Amateur Wrestling (including Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and American Folkstyle), shoot-fighting, karate, judo and tae kwon do. It has since become a staple art and key component for many MMA fighters. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting. Sport BJJ tournaments continue to grow in popularity worldwide and have given rise to no-gi submission grappling tournaments, such as the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. It is primarily considered a ground-based fighting style, with emphasis on positioning, chokes and joint locks.

Amateur wrestling

Main article: Wrestling

Amateur Wrestling (including Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and American Folkstyle) gained tremendous respect due to its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competitions. Wrestling is widely studied by mixed martial artists. Wrestling is also credited for conferring an emphasis on conditioning for explosive movement and stamina, both of which are critical in competitive mixed martial arts. It is known for excellent takedowns, particularly against the legs. Notable fighters Chael Sonnen, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Jon Fitch, Cain Velasquez, Johny Hendricks, Mark Kerr, Matt Hughes, Phil Davis, Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader, Chris Weidman, Jon Jones, Don Frye, Matt Hamill, Clay Guida, Chad Mendes, Matt Lindland, Jeff Monson, Renato Sobral, Josh Koscheck, Evan Tanner, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Dan Severn, Travis Wiuff, Roger Huerta, Joe Warren, Dennis Hallman, Shane Carwin, Mark Munoz, Chris Leben, Tyron Woodley, Dan Bobish, and Brock Lesnar.

Boxing

Boxing is a martial art that is widely used in MMA. Some fighters that are known for using boxing are Nick Diaz, Junior dos Santos, B.J. Penn, Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, Shane Carwin, Mark Hunt, Nate Diaz, Randy Couture.

Catch wrestling

Main article: Catch wrestling

Karl Gotch was a catch wrestler and a student of Billy Riley's Snake Pit in Whelley, Wigan. In the film Catch: the hold not taken, some of those who trained with Gotch in Wigan talk of his fascination with the traditional Lancashire style of wrestling and how he was inspired to stay and train at Billy Riley's after experiencing its effects first hand during a professional show in Manchester, England. After leaving Wigan, he later went on to teach catch wrestling to Japanese professional wrestlers in the 1970s to students including Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiro Matsuda, Osamu Kido, Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask) and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Starting from 1976, one of these professional wrestlers, Inoki, hosted a series of mixed martial arts bouts against the champions of other disciplines. This resulted in unprecedented popularity of the clash-of-styles bouts in Japan. His matches showcased catch wrestling moves like the sleeper hold, cross arm breaker, seated armbar, Indian deathlock and keylock.

Karl Gotch's students formed the original Universal Wrestling Federation (Japan) in 1984 which gave rise to shoot-style matches. The UWF movement was led by catch wrestlers and gave rise to the mixed martial arts boom in Japan. Wigan stand-out Billy Robinson soon thereafter began training MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. Catch wrestling forms the base of Japan's martial art of shoot wrestling. Japanese professional wrestling and a majority of the Japanese fighters from Pancrase, Shooto and the now defunct RINGS bear links to catch wrestling.

The term no holds barred was used originally to describe the wrestling method prevalent in catch wrestling tournaments during the late 19th century wherein no wrestling holds were banned from the competition, regardless of how dangerous they might be. The term was applied to mixed martial arts matches, especially at the advent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.[42]

Judo

Main article: Judo

Using their knowledge of ne-waza/ground grappling and tachi-waza/standing-grappling, several Judo practitioners have also competed in mixed martial arts matches. Anderson Silva, who is the top ranked fighter in the world maintains a black belt in judo, former Russian national Judo championship Bronze medallist Fedor Emelianenko, famous UFC fighter Karo Parisyan, Jim Wallhead, Rick Hawn, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Olympic medallists Hidehiko Yoshida (Gold, 1992), rising contender Dong Hyun Kim is a 4th degree judo black belt, and Ronda Rousey (Bronze, 2008) now Strikeforce and The Ultimate Fighting Championship Women's Bantamweight Champion.

Paulo Filho, a former WEC middleweight champion has credited judo for his success during an interview.[43]

Karate

Main article: Karate

Karate has proved to be effective in the sport as it is one of the core foundations of kickboxing, and specializes in striking techniques.[44][45] Various styles of karate are practiced by some MMA fighters, notably Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Stephen Thompson, John Makdessi, Uriah Hall, Ryan Jimmo and Georges St-Pierre. Liddell is known to have an extensive striking background in Kenpō with Fabio Martella[46] whereas Lyoto Machida practices Shotokan Ryu,[47] and St-Pierre practices Kyokushin.[48]

Kickboxing

Main article: Kickboxing

Kickboxing is widely used by MMA fighters as it is seen as a great way to practice stand-up striking. Fighters such as Michael Bisping, Alistair Overeem, Cyrille Diabate, Gegard Mousasi, Semmy Schilt, Lyoto Machida, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt, Pat Barry, Phil Baroni, Hong Man Choi, Carlos Condit, Marvin Eastman, Gary Goodridge, Chuck Lidell, Duane Ludwig, Melvin Manhoef, KJ Noons, Michael Page, Seth Petruzelli, Shane del Rosario, Ben Rothwell, Anderson Silva, Igor Vovchanchyn, and Gilbert Yvel.

Muay Thai

Main article: Muay Thai

Muay Thai is recognised as a foundation for striking in mixed martial arts, and is widely practiced and taught. It is the predominant style used for the stand-up technique in MMA. It originated in Thailand, and is known as the "art of eight limbs" which refers to the use of the legs, knees, elbows and fists. It is a very aggressive and straightforward style.

Strategies

The techniques utilized in mixed martial arts competition generally fall into two categories: striking techniques (such as kicks, knees, punches and elbows) and grappling techniques (such as clinch holds, pinning holds, submission holds, sweeps, takedowns and throws).

Today, mixed martial artists must cross-train in a variety of styles to counter their opponent's strengths and remain effective in all the phases of combat.


Sprawl-and-brawl

Sprawl-and-brawl is a stand-up fighting tactic that consists of effective stand-up striking, while avoiding ground fighting, typically by using sprawls to defend against takedowns.[49]

A sprawl-and-brawler is usually a boxer or kickboxer, Thai boxer or karate fighter who has trained in various styles of wrestling, judo, and/or sambo to avoid takedowns to keep the fight standing.

These fighters will often study submission wrestling to avoid being forced into submission in case they find themselves on the ground. This style can be deceptively different from traditional kickboxing styles, since sprawl-and-brawlers must adapt their techniques to incorporate takedown and ground fighting defense. Mirko Filipović, Chuck Liddell and more recently Junior dos Santos[50] are best known proponents of this fighting style in MMA.

Clinch fighting

Clinch fighting is a tactic consisting of using a clinch hold to prevent the opponent from moving away into more distant striking range, while also attempting takedowns and striking the opponent using knees, stomps, elbows, and punches. The clinch is often utilized by wrestlers and Judokas that have added components of the striking game (typically boxing), and Muay Thai fighters.

Wrestlers and Judoka may use clinch fighting as a way to neutralize the superior striking skills of a stand-up fighter or to prevent takedowns by a superior ground fighter. Ronda Rousey with her Judo background, is considered a master at initiating throws from the clinch to set up armbars[51]

The clinch or "plumb" of a Muay Thai fighter is often used to improve the accuracy of knees and elbows by physically controlling the position of the opponent. Anderson Silva is well known for his devastating Muay Thai clinch. He defeated UFC middle weight champion Rich Franklin using the Muay Thai clinch and kneeing Franklin repeatedly to the body and face - breaking Franklin's nose. In their rematch Silva repeated this and won again[52]

Other fighters may use the clinch to push their opponent against the cage or ropes, where they can effectively control their opponent's movement and restrict mobility while striking them with punches to the body or stomps also known as dirty boxing. Randy Couture used his Greco Roman wrestling background to popularize this style en route to six title reigns in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.[53]

In general, fighters who cannot win fights through lightning offense, or are more suited to win fights in the later rounds or via decision are commonly known as Grinders. Grinders basically shut down their opponents game plan and chip away at them via clinching, smothering and ground-and-pound for most of the rounds. Prominent examples of Grinders are Pat Healy[54] and Chael Sonnen[55]

In the year 2000, MMA play-by-play commentator Stephen Quadros coined the popular phrase lay and pray . This refers to a situation where a wrestler or grappler keeps another fighter pinned or controlled on the mat to avoid a stand up, yet exhibiting little or no urgency to finish the grounded opponent with a knockout or a submission and basically stalling a decision for the entire or most of the fight, basically taking the opponent down, holding on tight, referee stands them back up, and repeat again - a sort of extreme form of defensive wrestling.[56] The inference "lay and pray" is that the wrestler/grappler takes the striker down, lays on him to neutralize the opponent's striking weapons, and prays that the referee doesn't return them to the standing position. This style is considered by many fans as the most boring style of fighting and is highly criticized for intentionally creating non-action, yet it is effective and some argue that lay-and-pray is justified and that it is the responsibility of the downed fighter to be able to protect himself from this legitimate fighting philosophy.[56][57][58][59] Many consider Jon Fitch to be the poster boy for lay and pray.[60] UFC Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has been criticized by fans for playing it safe and applying the lay and pray tactic in his fights [61] and so has Bellator MMA Welterweight champion Ben Askren who justified applying lay and pray, explaining that champion fights are much harder because they are 5 rounds long compared to the usual 3 round fights.[62]

Ground-and-pound

Ground-and-pound is a strategy consisting of taking an opponent to the ground using a takedown or throw, obtaining a top, or dominant grappling position, and then striking the opponent, primarily with fists, hammerfists, and elbows. Ground-and-pound is also used as a precursor to attempting submission holds.

The style is used by fighters well-versed in submission defense and skilled at takedowns. They take the fight to the ground, maintain a grappling position, and strike until their opponent submits or is knocked out. Although not a traditional style of striking, the effectiveness and reliability of ground-and-pound has made it a popular tactic. It was first demonstrated as an effective technique by Mark Coleman, then popularized by fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Don Frye, Frank Trigg, Cheick Kongo, Mark Kerr, Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, and Matt Hughes.[63]

While most fighters utilize ground-and-pound statically, by way of holding their opponents down and mauling them with short strikes from the top position; a few fighters manage to utilize it dynamically by striking their opponents while changing positions, thus not allowing their opponents to settle once they take them down. Cain Velasquez is one of the most devastating ground strikers in MMA. He attacks his opponents on the ground while transitioning between positions. Whether he's moving from mount to back mount or from turtle to side control, he is constantly landing shots.[64] Fedor Emelianenko who is considered the greatest master of Ground-and-Pound in MMA history, was the first to demonstrate this dynamic style of ground-and-pound. He was striking his opponents on the ground while passing guard or while his opponents were attempting to recover guard.[65][66]

Today, strikes on the ground are an essential part of a fighter's training.

Submission grappling

Submission grappling is a reference to the ground fighting tactic consisting of taking an opponent to the ground using a takedown or throw and then applying a submission hold, forcing the opponent to submit. While grapplers will often work to attain dominant position, some may be more comfortable fighting from other positions. If a grappler finds themselves unable to force a takedown, they may resort to pulling guard, whereby they physically pull their opponent into a dominant position on the ground.

Submissions are an essential part of many disciplines, most notably Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, catch wrestling, judo, Sambo, and shootwrestling. They were popularized in the early UFC events by Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.

Women's competition

While mixed martial arts is primarily a male dominated sport, it does have female athletes. Female competition in Japan includes promotions such as the all-female Valkyrie, and JEWELS (formerly known as Smackgirl).[67] However historically there has been only a select few major professional mixed martial arts organizations in the United States that invite women to compete. Among those are Strikeforce, Bellator Fighting Championships, the all female Invicta Fighting Championships, and the now defunct EliteXC.

There has been a growing awareness of women in mixed martial arts due to popular female fighters and personalities such as Megumi Fujii, Miesha Tate, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, Ronda Rousey, and Gina Carano among others. Carano became known as "the face of women's MMA" after appearing in a number of EliteXC events. This was furthered by her appearances on MGM Television's 2008 revival of their game show American Gladiators.

History

In Japan, female competition has been documented since the mid-1990s. Influenced by female professional wrestling and kickboxing, the Smackgirl competition was formed in 2001 and became the only major all-female promotion in mixed martial arts. Other early successful Japanese female organizations included Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling, ReMix (a predecessor to Smackgirl), U-Top Tournament, K-Grace, and AX.

Aside from all-female organizations, most major Japanese male dominated promotions have held select female competitions. These have included DEEP, MARS, Gladiator, HEAT, Cage Force, K-1, Sengoku, Shooto (under the name G-Shooto), and Pancrase (under the name Pancrase Athena).

In the United States, prior to the success of the The Ultimate Fighter reality show that launched mixed martial arts into the mainstream media, there was no major coverage of female competitions. Some early organizations who invited women to compete included, International Fighting Championships, SuperBrawl, King of the Cage, Rage in the Cage, Ring of Combat, Bas Rutten Invitational, and HOOKnSHOOT. From the mid-2000s, more coverage came when organizations such as Strikeforce, EliteXC, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Shark Fights invited women to compete.

Outside of Japan and the United States, female competition is almost exclusively found in minor local promotions. However in Europe some major organizations have held select female competitions, including It's Showtime, Shooto Europe, Cage Warriors, and M-1 Global.

Following Zuffa's acquisition of Strikeforce in March 2011, there has been lots of speculation concerning the future of women's competition, in term both of relevance and popularity.[68][69][70][71]

The next step was for the UFC to pick up women's MMA, however UFC President Dana White has been resistant. He has said, "There is not enough depth to create a women's division."[72]

Rule differentiation

The traditional MMA rules have often been adjusted for female competitions because of safety concerns. In Japan, ReMix prohibited ground-and-pound and featured a 20-second time limit for ground fighting. This rule remained following ReMix's 2001 re-branding as Smackgirl, though the time limit was extended to 30 seconds. The rule was abolished in 2008.[73]

In the United States, women's bouts organised by EliteXC saw three-minute rounds while those of Strikeforce were originally of two minutes' duration. These lengths compare to the more usual five minutes for men. They later changed this rule to allow for five-minute rounds.

Another form of rule differentiation is a change in both weight limits and weight classification. This has been seen in a number of organizations including, Strikeforce, Smackgirl, and Valkyrie.

Milestones

One of the first major female MMA fights was Gina Carano's Strikeforce debut against Elaina Maxwell where Carano won via unanimous decision at Strikeforce: Triple Threat in San Jose on December 8, 2006.

Strikeforce has become the first major promotion in the United States to have held a female fight as the main event on August 15, 2009. The fight between Carano and Cristiane Santos attracted 856,000 viewers.[74] Santos made history with her victory over Carano as she became the first Strikeforce Women's 145 lb Champion.[75]

Disagreement

Since its inception the role of women in mixed martial arts has been a subject of debate. Some observers have treated women's competition as a spectacle and a taboo topic.[76] In December 2004, lightweight fighter Takumi Yano refused to participate in a Pancrase event in protest of there being female bouts on the same card.

Amateur Mixed Martial Arts

Amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that incorporates striking (both standing and on the ground) and wrestling/grappling techniques. As governed by FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, the only international sports federation recognized by SportAccord and International Olympic Committee (IOC) that governs MMA),[77] it is practiced within a safe and regulated environment which relies on a fair and objective scoring system and competition procedures similar to those in force in Olympic wrestling. Amateur MMA is practiced with board shorts and a rashguard along with approved protection gear that includes head gear, shin protectors, and gloves (7 oz.) that allow grabbing and holding the opponent for a comfortable application of grappling techniques. Amateur MMA counts eight weight categories for men and five weight categories for women:

Men: -62, -66, -71, -77, -84, -92, -100, +100 kg
Women: -53, -58, -64, -71, +71 kg

Safety

Mixed Martial Arts competitions have changed dramatically since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, specifically with the inception of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. A paucity of data on injuries that occur in MMA and the resulting concerns and controversy with regard to MMA’s safety remain. Several recent studies indicate that the overall injury rates in MMA competitions are similar to other combat and martial art sports, including boxing and karate.[14][78]

Injury rates

A study using injury data compiled by the Nevada State Athletic Commission from professional MMA matches held in Nevada in 2001-2004 found an overall injury rate of 28.6 injuries per 100 fight participations (a “participation” is defined as one competitor in one bout).[14] Another recent study used data and records compiled by ringside physicians who were on-site at 12 separate professional MMA events hosted in Hawaii over seven years (1999-2006), with competitors from the United States, Japan, Brazil, and elsewhere.[78] They found an overall injury rate of 23.7 injuries per 100 fight participations. Abrasions, lacerations, concussion, orthopedic injuries, and facial injuries were found to be the most common. The injury rates in MMA competitions were found to be comparable to injury rates reported for competitive boxing and karate.[14][78]

Mental health

In preliminary results reported in April 2012 as part of an ongoing study of a 109 professional boxers and MMA fighters being conducted by Dr. Charles Bernick and his colleagues at Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, fighters with more than six years of ring experience were observed to have reductions in size in their hippocampus and thalamus whereas fighters with more than twelve years of ring experience were observed to have both reductions in size and symptoms such as memory loss (the hippocampus and thalamus deal with memory and alertness). Dr. Bernick speculates that studying cumulative lesser blows may eventually prove even more important than studying infrequent concussions.[79]

Fatalities

While competition in the MMA have been occasionally depicted as brutal by the media,[80] there were no documented cases of deaths after a sanctioned MMA event prior to 2007.[81] It has been noted that use of the word "sanctioned" can be perceived as "spin" by those who market the discipline.[82]

In the period of 2007 to 2010, there were two fatalities in mixed martial arts matches. The first was the death of Sam Vasquez on November 30, 2007.[83] Vasquez collapsed shortly after being knocked out by Vince Libardi in the third round of an October 20, 2007 fight at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.[81] Vasquez had two separate surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain, and shortly after the second operation suffered a devastating stroke and never regained consciousness.[83]

The second death stemming from a sanctioned mixed martial arts contest occurred in South Carolina on June 28, 2010, when 30-year old Michael Kirkham was knocked out and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead two days after the fight.[84] There have been seven known deaths in MMA to date.[82]

Legality of professional competitions

International Mixed Martial Arts Federation

On February 29, 2012, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) was set up to bring international structure, development and support to mixed martial arts worldwide.[85] As of May 2013, there are 23 total members from 23 countries, which come from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.[86]

United States

According to the Associations of Boxing Commissions, professional MMA competitions are allowed in nearly all states.[87] Alaska has no boxing or athletic commission, Montana has a state athletic commission although it doesn't regulate MMA, however MMA is legal in both states. West Virginia became the 44th state to regulate mixed martial arts on March 24, 2011.[88] On March 8, 2012, Wyoming became the 45th state to regulate MMA.[89] On May 4, 2012, it was announced that Vermont had become the 46th state to regulate MMA.[90] In May 2012 the New York state assembly failed to overturn the state's ban on mixed martial arts.[91] Legislation allowing MMA in Connecticut came into effect on October 1, 2013 making it the 47th state to regulate the sport.[92]

Canada

For many years, professional MMA competitions were illegal in Canada. Section 83(2) of the Canadian Criminal Code deemed that only boxing matches where only fists are used are considered legal.[93][94] However most provinces regulated it by a provincial athletic commission (skirting S. 83(2) by classifying MMA as “mixed boxing”),[95] such as the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario,[96] Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Northwest Territories. The legality of MMA in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and New Brunswick varies depending on the municipality.[87][97] Professional MMA competitions remain illegal in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Nunavut because it is not regulated by an athletic commission.

Canada formally decriminalized mixed martial arts with a vote on Bill S-209 on June 5, 2013. The bill formally gives provinces the power to create athletic commissions to regulate and sanction professional mixed martial arts bouts.[25] Bill S-209 does not in and of itself make MMA legal across Canada, it allows provinces to make it legal on a province by province basis.[95]

China

In 2011, the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation (RUFF) hosted the first MMA event in Shanghai sanctioned by China's governing body for combat sports, the Wushu Sports Management Center of the General Administration of Sport in China. RUFF will be crowning National Champions at their up-coming Superfight in early 2013. Along with receiving 1,000,000 RMB in prize money, each winner will walk away with the title of being China's first ever National Champions in MMA.[98] Other major MMA promotions includes Legend Fighting Championship, which has produced 10 events in the special administrative regions (SARs) of China in both Hong Kong and Macau.

Japan

MMA competition has been legal in Japan since at least the mid-1980s, when Pancrase fights began to be held. There are several MMA-related organizations, including DEEP, Pancrase, Shooto and ZST.[99][100]

Russia

In September 2012, MMA was given 'National Sport' status in Russia, and on the same day Fedor Emelianenko was appointed to the role of Russian MMA Union president.[101]

Sweden

MMA competition is legal[102] and under the purview of the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF) which was formed in 2007[103] and began overseeing MMA events in 2008.[104] In 2009 the SMMAF was accepted into the Association of Swedish Budo and Martial Arts Federation,[104] thus granting MMA “national sport” status and making its approved clubs eligible for partial government subsidization.[104] On April 30, 2011, the SMMAF sanctioned the first event under its purview to utilize the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.[105]

South Africa

MMA competition is legal and under the purview of the Professional Mixed Martial Arts Council or PROMMA Africa; which was formed in 2010 with its main purpose to regulate MMA at larger MMA promotions such as EFC Africa. PROMMA Africa began overseeing Rise of the Warrior MMA events in 2010. In 2012 the PROMMA Africa Council was accepted into the Mixed Martial Arts Association of South Africa (MASA) thus granting MMA “national sport” status. In addition to EFC Africa, there are other leagues such as Dragon Legends MMA.[106] Amateur MMA is also legal in South Africa and is also registered to the Mixed Martial Arts Association of South Africa.

Thailand

In 2012, the Sports Authority of Thailand banned competitions.[107] It has been speculated that the Muay Thai industry played a factor in the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT)'s final decision, as MMA could potentially take away business from Muay Thai, from fighters to profit.[108] SAT Deputy Governor Sakol Wannapong has said "Organizing a MMA event here would hurt the image of Muay Thai, if you want to do this kind of business, you should do it in another country. Organizing MMA here could mislead the public into believing that Muay Thai is brutal."

Jussi Saloranta, the owner of Thailand's only MMA promotion, DARE Fight Sports, revealed that his lawyers found that the ban was actually premature, and that from a legal standpoint, there is no law banning mixed martial arts in the country, and that the SAT's ban was more of a scare tactic. Because of this DARE continue to showcase events that fans are only informed at the last minute through texts on the day of the event, and videos are put up on YouTube entitled The Most Dangerous Gameshow.[109] Saloranta has also helped set up the MMA Association of Thailand, in the hopes of reaching a compromise with SAT and regulating mixed martial arts in Thailand.

On September 12, 2013, DARE Fight Sports released a statement announcing SAT had removed the ban on MMA and would henceforth sanction the sport in Thailand.

Australia

MMA is sanctioned in all States and Territories of Australia by various combat sports authorities/organisations. There is debate about the use of the cage, which is banned in Victoria and Western Australia (March 2013).

See also

References

External links

  • Vivemma Latin American Authority on Mixed Martial Arts
  • International Mixed Martial Arts Federation
  • Association of Boxing Commissions Unified Rules of MMA
  • International Sport Combat Federation
  • Amateur Mixed Martial Arts
  • MMA media profiles and bios