The techniques utilized in mixed martial arts competition generally fall into two categories: striking techniques (such as kicks, knees, punches and elbows) and grapplingtechniques (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 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.
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, Mark Hunt and more recently Junior dos Santos. (May 22, 2013).
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, Jon Jones, Cheick Kongo, Mark Kerr,Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, and Chris Weidman.
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. Fedor Emelianenko, considered the greatest master of ground-and-pound in MMA history, was the first to demonstrate this dynamic style of striking in transition. He was striking his opponents on the ground while passing guard or while his opponents were attempting to recover guard.
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 majority or entirety 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. The implication of “lay and pray” is that after the wrestler/grappler takes the striker down and lays on him to neutralize the opponent’s striking weapons, he prays that the referee does not 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. Many consider Jon Fitch to be the poster boy for lay and pray. UFC Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierrehas been criticized by fans for playing it safe and applying the lay and pray tactic in his fights 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.
Submission-Seeking is a reference to the strategy 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.
Score oriented fighting
Especially used by fighters with strong wrestling background facing a highly skilled BJJ opponent, or by wrestlers who prefer stand-up fights. Usually fighters who adopt this strategy use takedowns only for scoring, easily allowing the adversary to stand up and continue the fight. They also want to land clear strikes and control the octagon. In order to win the fight by decision all score oriented fighters have to master perfect MMA defense techniques and avoid takedowns.
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.
The clinch or “plum” 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.
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 or “Wall and Maul”. Randy Couture used his Greco Roman wrestling background to popularize this style en route to six title reigns in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
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 aim to shut down their opponent’s game plan and chip away at them via clinching, smothering and ground-and-pound for most of the rounds. Prominent examples of grinders arePat Healy and Chael Sonnen.