Mixed Martial Arts (or MMA), the popular combat sport which has supplanted boxing as America’s most popular form of fight entertainment, is a combination of different fighting styles used to beat one’s opponent in a one-on-one bout. Different fighters favor different styles, but what are the best martial arts for MMA? Which specific types of combat training generally lead to success in the ring (or, as is primarily the case, octagon)? There are various opinions, and no two fighters share the same methods, but there are a key group of styles that have proven to be the best martial arts for MMA competition.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
The most well known and popular school of fighting in the MMA world is by far Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Adapted from the style of Judo and formed by the world-renowned Gracy family, it was used to popularize the sport of MMA around the globe. BJJ is one of the best martial arts for MMA, if not the best because it focuses on three different kinds of fighting: striking techniques, free form fighting (the anything-goes approach most commonly associated with MMA), and, most importantly, ground grappling with an emphasis on submission. A practitioner who masters the art of BJJ is likely to excel in MMA, as is the case with some of its most famous and popular champions: the Gracie clan, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Nate Diaz.
Muay Thai Kickboxing
A popular combat sport in its own right, Muay Thai kickboxing has been used as one of the best martial arts for MMA competition. Formed in Thailand, it focuses on stand-up striking combined with various techniques of clinch fighting. It is a high-impact combat style that results in many amazing knockouts. Famous MMA champions that have used Muay Thai kickboxing include Mirko Filipovic (also known as Cro Cop), Anderson Silva and Ramon Dekker.
Most people, when they think of Wrestling, think of the Greco-Roman style seen in the Olympics and high-school competitions. Although this is used in MMA, there are other forms of Wrestling that are essential for building a good ground game. Other Wrestling styles which are amongst the best martial arts for MMA include folkstyle (which uses strength in order to dominate) and freestyle (which focuses more on scoring points against your opponent). MMA is not just two men slugging it out; much of the sport consists of the competitors trying to get on top or around their opponent when they are both lying on the mat. Wrestling skills are key here and lead to many victories and defeats. Some of the best wrestlers in MMA history are Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, and Matt Henderson.
Of course, for as intricate and delicate as MMA can be, sometimes it is just about two men (or women) slugging it out in the middle of the ring (octagon). Here is where old-fashioned boxing skills come in handy. Knocking out one’s opponent with a devastating blow is always a possibility, and it is the kind of highlight that MMA fans embrace the most. Some of the best boxers in MMA are Roy Nelson, Nick Diaz and BJ Penn.
These styles comprise the best martial arts for MMA, but there are many others out there as well. The key to winning an MMA match is to surprise your opponent with an offense they are unable to anticipate, so it is important that no fighter rely on one martial art to the detriment of others. This keeps the sport from becoming stale (as many say boxing has become); you never know what kind of fight you’re going to experience.