A Breakdown Of The Martial Arts Used In MMA

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the fastest growing combat sport on the planet and has enjoyed unprecedented success over the past decade. With high-profile names such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones, and Brock Lesnar catching the eye of fans outside of the pool of MMA diehards, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) alone has grown into a multi-billion-dollar business.

From the early days of the UFC to the establishment of other modern-day promotions such as ONE Championship, Bellator, and Rizin FC, MMA is now well and truly in the mainstream.

Muay Thai World Champion and ONE Superstar Sagetdao Petpayathai trains hard at the Evolve Fighters Program.

Although some fans tune in to the occasional fight, there are many who fail to understand the individual disciplines and arts that go into the “mix” of mixed martial arts.

Today, we will breakdown the five most prominent and effective of them all.




A better wrestler can often dictate where the fight takes place.

Aside from holding the titles of their respective divisions, Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones, Robert Whittaker, Kamaru Usman, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Henry Cejudo, and Amanda Nunes are also known for their strong wrestling bases. It is safe to say that wrestling is up there with the most important disciplines in MMA and the dominance of wrestlers over the past few years shows that.

Without wrestling, the ability to take fighters to the floor and develop a strong takedown defense would not be as important. That said, a good wrestler is a nightmare matchup for any fighter that is not strong in this department. Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, demonstrated how dangerous it can be when fighting a master wrestler (in Nurmagomedov, a Sambo specialist) in the most overwhelming loss of his career at UFC 229 in October 2018.

As there is no collegiate wrestling culture in countries like Ireland, the UK, Thailand, and many other parts of Europe and Asia, fighters from these regions tend to be better in stand up disciplines. There are fewer striking arts that can come close to Muay Thai, which is – in terms of effectiveness – the closest thing we have to wrestling on the feet.


Muay Thai


Muay Thai is also known as the Art of Eight Limbs.

When competing in MMA, Muay Thai – otherwise known as the “Art of the Eight Limbs” – is the most cultured and effective of all striking arts. With the use of the fists, elbows, knees, and shins, Muay Thai offers mixed martial artists a wide range of weapons that can be used to overcome any opponent.

Over the years we have seen a number of fighters such as Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Wanderlei Silva, Valentina Shevchenko, and many more demonstrate how effective Thailand’s national sport can be inside the cage. In ONE Championship, fighters like Yodsanklai Fairtex and Sam-A Gaiyanghadao show how it is done. Furthermore, the presence and reverence of Muay Thai in MMA gyms across the world demonstrates just how important it is as a striking base.

Amir Khan kicks during a ONE Championship fight

Muay Thai is the most complete striking martial art.

From leg kicks, teeps, clinches, sweeps, devastating roundhouses, nightmarish elbows, and a number of other techniques, Muay Thai is the boss in the striking department of MMA. Nothing comes close to this discipline for its place in an MMA practitioner’s arsenal of striking weapons.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Alex Silva knee bar

Every MMA fighter needs to know BJJ.

The UFC was co-founded by Rorion Gracie, the legendary BJJ master and patriarch of the world famous Gracie family. Gracie wanted to prove to the world that BJJ was the most effective martial art known to man and his brother, Royce, made an excellent case for this. Royce won three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships and would have likely had a clean sweep if not for exhaustion.

While no one quite knew how to deal with BJJ back in the early to mid-1990s, these days, training in the art is almost mandatory for any fighter with aims of making it in the sport. The list of legendary fighters who have won championships and established themselves at the top of the MMA tree on account of various submissions and techniques from the sport is far too long to mention.

From the popular rear naked choke and armbar to techniques such as the Von Flue choke and Gogoplata, BJJ is as important to MMA as wheels are to a car.



Amir Khan throws a punch during a ONE Championship fight

Boxing is also known as the sweet science.


The world’s most popular martial art just so happens to be one of MMA’s most important disciplines to bring into the cage. Whether you have a background in Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate, or Kempo, knowing how to throw a jab, a cross, a hook, and an uppercut is expected of any top class fighter.

Boxing, by nature, is a sport that places a huge emphasis on the ability to cut angles and find innovative ways to land strikes on your opponent. While the sport features no strikes or contact below the waist – thus making it a discipline that is not quite as comprehensive to base an entire MMA striking plan on – there are numerous advantages that come from being a savvy boxer inside the ropes.

Over the years, we have seen fighters such as Max Holloway, Jorge Masvidal, Conor McGregor, Nick and Nate Diaz, and Georges St-Pierre place a lot of emphasis on their boxing nous.




Muay Thai World Champion Sagetdao Petpayathai kicking his opponent.

Although Muay Thai is a more cerebral discipline, there are numerous fighters who have worked their way through the ranks as kickboxers before making it in MMA. The likes of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, Israel Adesanya, Holly Holm, Michael “Venom” Page, Mirko Cro-Cop, and Alistair Overeem have used their kickboxing talents to flourish in the sport.

While Kickboxing is an excellent striking base, it does lag behind Muay Thai given that it has fewer weapons for fighters to use. That said, it is still an important part of MMA and is surely worthy of a mention when it comes to the most effective disciplines in the sport.

Some may argue that Taekwondo offers more, but fighters with a background in the Korean martial art have not enjoyed as much success in the cage. The same can be said for Karate, too.


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