Popular MMA Fighting Styles

MMA Fighting Styles

One of the most important strategies to becoming an effective and profitable mixed martial arts bettor is properly educating yourself on as many aspects of the sport as possible. The cliché phrase "Knowledge is power" could not be truer when it comes to any type of sports betting, regardless of which sport we're talking about. Now, no one has time to learn EVERYTHING about a sport, so it's important that you focus your time and efforts on learning what is the most beneficial to you and making correct predictions and more profitable bets.

With mixed martial arts, the absolute most important thing that you can learn to improve your chances of being a successful bettor is the different fighting styles employed by fighters and how they lend themselves to mixed martial arts. Understanding which forms of martial arts a fighter excels at and which they lack in is important to help you understand what their game plan is going to be. What is MORE important is to know how that style is going to match up with their opponent's style (or styles) and which is going to be more effective. When you can effectively piece these pieces of information together, making your predictions and picks will become immensely easier, and you should see your accuracy increase.

Now, before we get into the particulars of the different styles, we want to bring a few things to your attention that you must know to digest this information properly.


Many Fighters Specialize in Multiple Fighting Styles

In the early days of mixed martial arts, fighters only knew how to do one thing. They never really "mixed" the martial arts as the name of the sport would indicate they might. The term "mixed" usually just meant that each fighter might have their own single style. As the sport has evolved, fighters have learned the importance of being great at multiple fighting disciplines. The important takeaway here is that you should always make sure not to classify a fighter only by their main discipline, but look to see if they have been improving at or specialize in a secondary fighting style. Their skill level in their secondary style can change very rapidly as well, as they may be dedicating a lot of time to it with some of the best coaches in the world. The learning curve may be significantly steeper (faster) than it would be for a normal person or a first-time martial artist.


Understand That There are Variations of These Styles

It's important to note that there are a lot of different variations of all of the styles we've listed below. Why is this important to you? It's important because some variations of a certain martial art are going to lend themselves better to mixed martial arts-style fights than others. We don't recommend exhausting yourself by trying to learn every single variation of style there is, but we do want you to be aware there are going to be some differences that you may want to look into if you're picking an important fight.


Fighters Don't Always Stick to What They're Good at

This one is a bit perplexing, but we do have a few reasons we think it happens. First, let's make sure you know what we're referring to. A lot of times you will have a fighter who is an expert in one type of martial art choose to predominantly use a different fighting style that they aren't as proficient in. From a strategic standpoint, this really doesn't make a lot of sense unless it's a style that doesn't match up well against their opponent's or they think that their opponent will do worse against their secondary style.

There are a few reasons we think fighters might defer away from their expertise in a fight. The first might be ego. A fighter that is used to grappling or submissions may want to stand and bang with an opponent who has taunted them into doing so. Another might be a fighter looking to test their skills and see how much they've improved in a certain discipline. Whatever the reason, you should pay attention to fighters that don't utilize their strong suits as much as they should. These fighters can be liabilities when it comes to sports betting on them.


Styles Will Vary on Effectiveness Under the Standard Rules of Mixed Martial Arts

This is an extremely important point for you to be aware of. Certain martial arts are fantastic when they are fighting against untrained opponents in the street in a self-defense situation or when pitted against a similar style in a one discipline only competition format. When other styles are introduced, though, some of these styles become much less effective or can become dangerous. It's important to pay attention to the adaptations of each fighting style to a mixed martial arts fight. With each style below, we've done our best to draw your attention to the more important advantages and disadvantages of the style when used in mixed martial arts. Specifically, regarding the disadvantages, some practitioners will struggle with these while some have learned to adapt their style and eliminate these making them much more effective. Make sure you pay attention to this when researching fighters and making your bets.


Our first style we're going to look at is boxing. Boxing is a form of fighting that utilizes punches and only punches. Fighters wear relatively heavy gloves and are only allowed to punch their opponent above the waist. If you've ever watched boxing on TV or in the Olympics, this is the style we are referring to. While boxing is a major sport all on its own, it does play a large part in the mixed martial arts realm. There are actually very few fighters that classify themselves as boxers when asked about fighting styles, but plenty of mixed martial arts fighters study boxing and utilize some of its strong points in their fighting style.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Knockout Power

It's surprising how many mixed martial arts fighters on the professional level still are not the best at throwing a proper technical punch. Whether they don't know how to or they just get carried away in the fight and want to throw haymakers, the result is the same. You end up losing a lot of power on your punches. A well-trained boxer or someone trained in boxing will be skilled in throwing punches for maximum power with maximum accuracy. This is going to result in a higher knockout percentage as well as more damage done from their strikes that are going to land more often. Basically, standing toe to toe with a boxer and exchanging punches can be a nightmare if you aren't as equally skilled in the art.

Defensive Footwork

One of the biggest things that will help a boxer be successful in their career is getting hit less. Boxers will spend just as much time as they do on offense learning how to move their feet and use angles to get out of the way of attacks. This might not sound like that big of a deal, but until you step in the ring with someone who is a master of footwork, it's hard to understand how utterly frustrating it can be to fight against. A lot of people knock Floyd Mayweather (one of the most famous boxers ever) for being a boring fighter and always "running." While we agree this makes for boring fights to watch, it is important to note that this is not him running away but him expertly using his footwork to avoid shots and get in, land his strikes, and get right back out. While it's boring to the casual fan, those that appreciate the art that is boxing love it.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Strike Susceptibility

In a strictly boxing match, you have the luxury of only having to worry about two weapons coming your way - the left hand and the right hand. In mixed martial arts, though, most fighters are utilizing eight different weapons (two hands, two elbows, two legs, and two knees) as well as takedowns and submissions. This can create a lot of problems for boxers if they don't learn to deal with these other attacks and defend themselves accordingly. Boxers are trained to place a lot of their body weight on their front leg to allow them maximum reach and maximum power on their shots. Try this in mixed martial arts, though, and another fighter is going to leg kick you into oblivion or get you off balance and takedown where your fancy footwork is worthless.

It is important to note that boxers do well learning how to get out of the way of certain shots because of their ability to understand angles. Though, this only happens if they take the time to learn and have adequate sparring partners that can show them all the different types of attacks. Pure boxing usually does not do great in mixed martial arts without some supplementary training, adapted movements, and a different game plan.

Brazillian Jiu Jitsu

A ground fighting system, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), focuses on submitting your opponent through the use of chokes, joint locks, and other creative methods. It's somewhat rare that a great self-defense art translates well to the rule based mixed martial arts system, but BJJ is definitely good in both areas. BJJ practitioners will look to put their opponent in a position where they are forced to tap and admit defeat or risk serious bodily injury or being rendered unconscious. While there are hundreds of different submissions in BJJ, there are several moves that you see utilized in mixed martial arts. These moves are much more popular due to the fact they are higher percentage/easier to finish, and they don't sacrifice position or risk putting you in a bad spot if you aren't able to finish the move.

A Few Popular Submissions
Rear Naked Choke

Contrary to what people might think, this submission attempt does not require the removal of any clothing. The rear naked choke is a submission done by placing your arm under your opponent's neck and applying pressure and leverage with your hips and the other arm. The submission is done when you are on your opponent's back (known as having their back). This looks like a piggy back ride but only on the ground and is arguably the worst position that you can be in during a mixed martial arts fight. This submission attempt is also probably the safest for a fighter to utilize as if they miss the submission or can't finish it, they rarely lose their dominant back control position. If a skilled BJJ practitioner gets your back, be ready to most likely be finished with this submission in a mixed martial arts fight.

. Please be careful and don't try this at home and all that safety stuff etc., etc.

Arm Bar

This submission can be done from a lot of different positions but is most commonly seen in a mixed martial arts fight by the fighter that is on the bottom when the two are grappling on the ground. This submission traps the opposing fighter's arm behind the elbow and applies a joint lock that will break the arm if enough pressure is applied. While this is a great submission, you do run the risk of giving up positioning if you miss the submission. Because of how you are forced to move your legs, you risk allowing your opponent to advance into a much more dominant position. Some experienced grapplers will even bait their opponent into trying this submission so they can smash down and move to the more dominant position. Still, an experienced BJJ practitioner can effectively pull this off and end the fight in the blink of an eye.

. Again, please be careful and don't try this at home and all that safety stuff, etc., etc.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Grappling Experience

Most BJJ practitioners are also fairly skilled with general grappling. A lot of times they will have wrestling experience, Judo experience, and just a lot of experience working with their body weight in tough situations. This, as you can probably imagine, translates into a huge benefit in the cage as they'll be able to dictate where the fight goes. If they want to stay standing, they'll have experience shrugging off takedowns, and if they want to get it to the ground and use their Jiu Jitsu, they will certainly know how to handle that. Ultimately, it's a martial art that is studied alongside other arts extremely frequently.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Sweat and Blood

Finishing submissions require you to trap certain parts of your opponent's body and not allow them to escape. In the beginning parts of a fight, this is significantly easier because you are able to grip your opponent well without any troubles. As the fight progresses, blood and sweat are usually present and can make the fighters slippery. This can make using submissions much more challenging and can end up resulting in a fighter losing dominant position due to slippery submission attempts. This certainly doesn't mean that submissions don't happen late in fights, but they just become a bit more challenging and need to be done with expert precision.

Extra Importance of Adaptation

Before being used in mixed martial arts, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu was designed as a self-defense art and was also developed to be used in BJJ competitions. The problem is that a lot of the moves designed specifically for these two instances do not translate well to mixed martial arts competitions, specifically the competition style moves. In a BJJ competition, there is no striking. No one can punch or kick you which allows a lot more freedom to set up submissions. You also don't have to worry if your face is exposed to getting struck as it's not legal. In mixed martial arts, though, striking is legal and significantly changes the game. Certain submissions should not be tried, and others must be adapted to fit the dynamics of the fight. Thanks to its self-defense roots, this is an easy adaptation, and most fighters are well versed in it though we do occasionally see a fighter too aggressively going for a risky submission that results in them getting their face smashed in.


This form of martial arts has been made famous by several fighters including probably the most famous Judoka, Ronda Rousey. Judo is known for its throws and takedowns and its ability to get an opponent to the ground whenever you want. Unlike wrestling or other takedowns, Judo typically involves highlight reel style throws that inflict damage on top of getting the opponent where they are wanted. Traditional Judo does teach some strikes, but they are not practiced in their form of sparring and therefore shouldn't really be weighed in your fight predictions. Some Judo is taught on the ground and resembles a lot of what you would see in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. This SHOULD be noted when making your fight predictions as it is an active part of the martial art.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Damage Inflicting Takedowns

Getting your opponent to the canvas when you want to is already a big win in a mixed martial arts fight. Being able to do it while simultaneously inflicting damage is extra credit that goes a long way. There have been fighters hit with Judo throws that have been knocked unconscious the second they hit the mat. The ability to possibly end the fight with just a takedown or hurt your opponent where controlling them on the ground becomes a lot easier is a huge of having Judo in your arsenal.

Threat of Takedowns

Sometimes just being capable of something is enough to alter the course of the fight. If you are fighting someone who knows you are capable of highlight reel style Judo throws, they're going to be forced to fight a totally different fight against you. They won't be able to fight inside as much as they might like to due to fear of being viciously tossed around the cage. They may even look to limit the number of kicks they throw to prevent this, though, this is more common against wrestling style takedowns.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Competition Moves

Like we say with Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, Judo is also a competitive sport. It's actually in the Olympics, and they have major tournaments worldwide all the time. There are several throws in Judo that even when completed and done properly will result in you landing in a bad position. Some throws, when done correctly, might hurt your opponent but will land you on the ground giving up your back. Throws when done incorrectly also run this risk quite often. Fights have been lost by fighters missing one Judo throw and not being able to recover from the lost position. Regarding betting, you'll want to research the fighter's Judo ability and look how well they've been able to adapt it into past mixed martial arts fights. Don't pay too much attention to how they've done in Judo competitions, though, it is still important.


This is a style that we see less frequently than some of the others on our list, but it is definitely one that needs to be discussed as there have been several top level fighters using it effectively. It's also important to point out that out of all of the styles on this list, this is the one with the most variations. While the general idea of the martial art is the same across all variations, there are a lot of subtle differences that will have a profound effect on its effectiveness in mixed martial arts.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts

Karate is fairly famous for using a lot of different types of strikes that are very unconventional in the world of mixed martial arts. If you've never seen these strikes before or have limited experience defending against them, you're going to have a big challenge on your hands fighting a Karate fighter. Not only are the methods of striking unorthodox, but the angles at which the attacks come at you will be varied and can really throw a fighter for a loop. Even though there are Karate schools and Dojos everywhere, it can still be a challenge to get a sparring partner who understands the combat effectiveness of Karate and can give you decent sparring practice.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Combat Effectiveness | Power

Over the years, Karate has taken a lot of guff for being a martial art that looks cool but isn't that effective when it comes to inflicting damage on your opponent. There are probably two reasons for this. One, there a lot of Karate schools that have forgotten the combat effectiveness of the art form and are teaching a watered down version that looks to be trying to make money first and train students second. When the priorities get out of whack like this, the art form loses its punch. The second reason could be due to the fact that Karate competitions are designed to be very low impact. While this is smart to protect the competitors, it teaches them to adopt a style that is more about scoring points than it is about being effective. If you've ever watched a Karate points competition, you can quickly see that most of what they are perfecting would be worthless in a real mixed martial arts fight. Though this is the case with a lot of Karate schools, it's not the case with all and some fighters are still effective using the style.

Muay Thai

Time and time again, Muay Thai proves to be one of the most effective forms of striking and defense in mixed martial arts. Originating in Thailand, Muay Thai has made its way into mixed martial arts cages thanks to its vicious style and intense training. Muay Thai fighters are trained to attack with more than just their fists. They use all eight of their limbs including hands, legs, knees, and elbows.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts

It's no secret that Muay Thai fighters have some of, if not the most intense training of any martial art on this list. They train intensely on toughening their body and hardening their shins to absorb more punishment and keep fighting. It's not uncommon for Muay Thai fighters to fight weekly or monthly and spar hard several times a week. As it's impossible to block all eight attacks, they must be conditioned properly to keep going in a fight. This translates extremely well over to mixed martial arts as it makes them extremely difficult to finish via strikes. The mental hardship they put on opponents who have thrown everything in their arsenal and not dropped them is intense and extremely effective in mentally breaking their opponents.

Diversity of Strikes

Much like Karate, Muay Thai works with a lot of different strikes by using the entire body as a weapon. This diversity of strikes allows the fighter to keep their opponent off balance and unsure about what attack is coming next. Just when you think you're getting a handle on a couple of strikes, your opponent could throw several new ones at you and completely throw you off or knock you out. This can be overwhelming and is extremely effective in winning fights.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts

To be completely honest, there really isn't a drawback to using Muay Thai in mixed martial arts. The art form doesn't really need to be tweaked at all and is extremely effective "as is." The only thing a Muay Thai fighter needs to learn is some form of a ground game or the ability to stay on their feet versus takedowns. Even this is already touched on with clinch work of Muay Thai, so the fighters have a head start.


A lot of the most successful fighters in mixed martial arts have come from some form of a wrestling background. Whether freestyle or Greco-Roman, wrestlers seem to have a great ability to succeed in mixed martial arts. Wrestling is all about controlling your opponent. This could mean controlling them from the feet and taking them down to the ground or controlling their position while already on the ground. Most wrestlers will use their skills to get their opponent to ground, hold them there, and land ground and pound. It's fairly common to see fights get stopped with the wrestler on top pounding away at an opponent that can't seem to find a way to escape.

Advantages for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
Ability to Dictate the Fight

When you have the ability to stay on your feet and defend takedowns and the ability to take down your opponent at will, you have complete control to dictate where the fight is going to take place. If it's someone that you think you can beat on the feet, then you're able to keep the fight there. If you'd prefer to take down the fighter because they're a skilled striker, you can when you choose. This can help you stay protected and negate their supreme striking skills. If you do choose to take your opponent down, you are usually much more skilled in how to keep them there than say, a Judo fighter might be. This sort of control goes a long way to finishing fights and also to controlling and sometimes winning less than exciting fights.


A lot of times when fights hit the ground there is a point where there is no established position, and the fighters are scrambling to gain the dominant position. This can usually look like a sloppy mishmash of flailing and speed, but it is actually calculated efforts. Wrestlers, most likely due to the nature of their training, seem to excel at scramble positions and do seem to come out on top (literally) majority of the time. This might seem like something small, but the fighter that is winning the scrambles is usually the one that is also going to be winning the fight.

Disadvantages and Dangers for Use in Mixed Martial Arts
The Turtle Problem

We are not referring to the actual position of turtle, but we're referring to a real life, living and breathing turtle. They're pretty functional when they're climbing on top of things but put them on their back, and they are helpless. This tends to be a big problem for wrestlers as most of their training and control is done from the top position. For this reason, they tend to avoid being on their backs like the plague. The good news for them is they usually have great takedown defense and can avoid this, but they do fall into this position occasionally after scramble or maybe by a BJJ fighter that pulls guard.



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