MIXED martial arts (MMA) might be considered an emerging sport, but its beginnings can be traced back hundreds of years. The origin of the sport dates back to the classic Greek era and an ancient Olympic sport known as Pankration, which featured a combination of grappling and striking skills – similar to the mixed martial arts we know today.
MMA, which has taken the world by storm, uses standing strikes like punches, kicks, elbows and knees along with wrestling and submission grappling techniques when a contestant is taken to the ground.
There are four main martial arts disciplines that a mixed martial arts competitor will usually have in his or her arsenal. Each of these disciplines plays a role in creating a “complete” mixed martial artist.
Boxing:The number one offence for any fighter is the punch. A boxing base is crucial in order to correctly throw a punch, evade an opponent and ensure that fighters utilise their power to the fullest. Elements of boxing can be found in every traditional striking art.
Muay thai: In MMA, there is no place for a one-dimensional striker. In order to keep an opponent guessing, and to attack from any angle, a fighter needs to have sufficient skills in muay thai. This includes kicks, knees and being able to work strikes from the clinch position, which is when one or both competitors grab a hold of the other.
Wrestling: Being able to dictate where the fight takes place comes from how well a fighter can grapple. Wrestling is the most prominent grappling art used in mixed martial arts and can be something that allows a fighter to control the pace of the fight and put their opponent in a position where the fight can be finished.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu: Once a contest hits the mat this is where Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), comes into play. Submissions, transitioning to a dominant striking position and being able to escape submission holds all come down to a mixed martial artist’s skill level in BJJ.
The sport of mixed martial arts features eight weight divisions. Each division has a maximum weight limit that a competitor can compete at. They are as follows (for men): Flyweight (57kg), Bantamweight (62kg), Featherweight (66kg), Lightweight (70kg), Welterweight (77kg), Middleweight (84kg), Light heavyweight (93kg), Heavyweight (120kg).
Contests will typically take place in a fenced enclosure often referred to as “the cage”. Competitors use fingerless gloves which give them the dexterity to grapple, while providing protection for striking. The competitors must undergo stringent health and blood tests prior to being cleared to compete.
Bouts can be three or five rounds, with rounds lasting five minutes each. A contest can be won in a variety of ways including knockout, submission, referee or doctor stoppage, injury or through a judge’s scorecard decision.
In Asian MMA, and most notably in the ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC), fights are judged on the entirety of action that takes place throughout the contest, and is not round-specific.
The fight is awarded to the winning fighter, with no scores given. Judges make their decision based on: near KO or submission, damage (internal, accumulated, superficial), striking combinations and cage control (ground control, superior positioning), earned takedowns or takedown defence and fight aggression.