MMA for Dummies: back to Basics

MMA rules

MMA Basics

When the names Conor McGregor, George St. Pierre, Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar, Khabib Nurmagomedov, among others are mentioned, only one thing comes in mind, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) greatest fighters. MMA traces its origin in the Greek where a similar sport called Pankration was played. In the sport, grappling and techniques such as striking were all allowed. It did not gain the required traction until the early 90s, precisely 1993 when the first event was held on US soil. The main purpose of the early events was to identify the effective martial art from the players who were fighting on various disciplines such as wrestling, karate, judo, and more.

Over time, the fighters went on from playing one discipline to adopting other disciplines which were an early indication of to be Mixed Martial Arts. A company that was earlier owned by Zuffa, 2016 saw the company under which MMA operates sold to a William Morris Endeavor-led group for a whopping $4.0125 billion.

MMA has fast risen to be a popular sport all over the world with many fighters being signed up and many fans all over the world catching up with the events such as UFC Pay-Per-View, UFC Fight Night, UFC Fight Pass, and The Ultimate Fighter series which is tailored for up-and-coming fighters looking up for a six-figure UFC contract. In 2012, Dana White, the UFC president, announced that women fighters would also be incorporated in the sport after making the first signing of Ronda Rousey.

Difference between UFC and MMA


With its popularity surging with each passing day, there is still some difficulty with some people differentiating MMA and the UFC. MMA is the sport that is played by the likes of Khabib while the UFC is the company/organization that promotes and organizes MMA. Just like Cristiano Ronaldo plays football in the League Serie A. Ronaldo does not play Serie A. He plays football which in our case represents MMA while the company/organization that organizes and promotes the football he plays is Serie A in our case now is the UFC. It’s that simple.

Up until today, more than 420 events have been hosted by UFC in more than 15 countries. But how is the sport played?


The sport is played in a trademark eight-sided enclosure popularly known as ‘The Octagon’ which is formed in a shape of a cage with a metal chain-link fencing and a mat with sponsorship logos and arts all changing up depending on the event being hosted.

The octagon

mma octogon

Here are the details of the octagon;

  • On the exterior – Diameter = 38ft (11.5m)
  • On the interior which is the fighting area – 30ft across (9.1m)
  • Walkway – 4ft wide, 4ft high (1.2m)
  • Two entrance gates placed on the opposite of each other – 3ft wide each (0.9m) and 5ft high each (1.5m)
  • Ground to Canvas height – 4ft (1.2m)
  • Canvas to Top of the Fence – 5ft 9” (1.8m)
  • The canvas used is hand-painted and only in use once for each event

Division classes

All the fighters signed in the UFC will have their classes where weight separates them. The following are the divisions provided;

DivisionMinimum Weight


Maximum limit


Maximum limit


Maximum limit


Strawweight11552.28 st 3 lb
Flyweight11612556.78 st 13 lb
Bantamweight12613561.29 st 9 lb
Featherweight13614565.810 st 5 lb
Lightweight14615570.311 st 1 lb
Welterweight15617077.112 st 2 lb
Middleweight17118583.913 st 3 lb
Light Heavyweight18620593.014 st 9 lb
Heavyweight206265120.218 st 9 lb

On the divisions provided, the women fighters are allowed on the following; Strawweight, Flyweight, Bantamweight, and Featherweight. No men fighters are on the division Strawweight. For title fights, fighters must be in the same division bracket. From the Unified Rules of MMA, there are other weight classes provided although they are currently not in use. They include; Super Lightweight, Super Welterweight, Super Middleweight, Cruiserweight, and Super Heavyweight.

Match rounds and attires

How does a match look like in MMA?

The rules in place set a normal bout in UFC to consist of 3 rounds each going for 5 minutes while a championship bout where there is a competition of the belt, a maximum of 5 rounds each going for 5 minutes is set. A winner may be known as the rounds progress or at the end of the rounds.

How do the fighters dress?

Men fighters are supposed to be in approved shorts with no shoes. Female fighters are, however, allowed to wear tops. On the safety part of it, fighters are allowed to have padded gloves, protective cups, and mouthguards. Male fighters are allowed to have a jockstrap.

Styles allowed

During the fight, many styles, as earlier mentioned, are involved and the following are the styles, techniques allowed in MMA.

  • Wrestling – Involves grappling of the opponent and try to pin and hold them on the ground according to the rules specified.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Slightly similar to wrestling where grappling and ground fighting is involved and a fighter can apply chokeholds and joint locks to get the better of his/her opponent
  • Kickboxing – Combat sport that involves kicking and punching
  • Boxing – Involves throwing punches to an opponent
  • Judo – Involves taking an opponent down, pin him/her down, apply chokeholds or joint holds to force a submission
  • Muay Thai – Also called the ‘art of eight limbs’ which involves the combined use of shins, knees, elbows, and fists.
  • Taekwondo – A Korean martial art technique with its emphasis based on jumping and spinning kicks, head-height kicks and fast kicking techniques
  • Karate – Another combined art discipline where striking involves kicking, elbow strikes, punching, palm-heel strikes, knee strikes, spear-hands, grappling, joint locks, throws, and knife-hands.

Styles disallowed

With all those styles allowed, MMA has set rules on some of the styles not allowed in the sport and they include;

  • Spitting to a fellow opponent
  • Groin attacks
  • Biting an opponent
  • Throwing the opponent outside the fighting area
  • Eye-gouging
  • Holding the ropes/fence
  • Use of abusive language
  • Intentionally breaking a fighter’s bone
  • Pulling an opponent’s hair
  • Fish-hooking
  • Spiking the opponent’s head or neck on the canvas
  • Throat strikes
  • Break attacks
  • Referee break attacks
  • Attacking after the bell has gone off
  • Head-butting
  • Applying a foreign substance to gain an advantage
  • Holding fellow opponent’s gloves or shorts
  • Hitting the opponent’s back of head or spine
  • Pinching
  • Twisting the opponent’s flesh
  • Disrespecting referee’s instructions

With a fighter well-conversant with the rules regarding the attires to use while fighting, styles allowed to get the better of an opponent and styles not allowed in MMA, the next section has to be ways of winning.

Ways of winning

What are the various winning instances?

  • Submission – A fighter is required to tap his opponent or the mat, submit verbally or communicate in pain (too much yelling) causing a referee to end the fight
  • Technical submission – In the case of lost consciousness or in the event of almost suffering a serious injury
  • Knockout (KO) – In the event of lost consciousness due to legal strikes from an opponent
  • Technical Knockout (TKO) – In the event, a referee stops the bout. TKOs are classified in the following categories;
  • Doctor stoppage – A doctor calling the bout off due to excessive bleeding or serious injuries
  • Referee stoppage – A referee calling the bout off due to a fighter being overpowered where he/she cannot defend him/herself
  • Corner stoppage – A cornerman concedes defeat by throwing a towel in the fighting area.
  • Decision – This lies on the judges’ desk depending on the points scored in the bout after the rounds are over. The following are the different decisions in UFC;
  • Unanimous decision – A win agreed by all the three judges
  • Majority decision – A win agreed by two judges with one going for a draw
  • Split decision – A win agreed by two judges with one going for a win on the other fighter
  • Technical decision – After an unintentional illegal move forcing judges to judge on the completed rounds (if they meet the number of rounds required for a decision)
  • Unanimous draw, majority draw, split draw, and technical draw (refer above)
  • Disqualification – In the event, a fighter applies an illegal move intentionally enough to affect the performance of the other fighter
  • Forfeit – In the event, a fighter cannot compete and prematurely ends about intentionally resulting an automatic win to the opponent
  • No contest – In the event, a fighter after an unintentional illegal move affects the performance hence unable to continue and the number of rounds completed is not sufficient for a decision
  • Retirement – After a fighter is exhausted and not in a position to proceed

Betting on UFC

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With the sport’s popularity growing and the rise of gaming, the sport has found itself in several bookmakers where fans can not only enjoy the bouts but also make money out of the bouts. On an upcoming bout, fans can log into their accounts on bookmakers such as FanDuel, William Hill, DraftKings, BetMGM, and more and place bets on various markets provided.

Betting types

Some of the betting options fans can expect to find include;

  • Moneyline – Dependent on the final result where bettors will simply pick the player to win the bout. It’s a pit between a favorite and an underdog with a favorite having low odds but if a surprise can crop up, and an underdog wins the bout, the winnings can be huge.
  • Over/Under – Betting on the number of rounds a patron thinks the bout will last. A common bet type is over/under 2.5 where an over pick will mean the rounds have to be three or more. An under pick will mean the rounds have to be less than two.
  • Methods of Finish – This type requires a prediction on how the bout is likely to be won. A player may pick the following ways; Knockout/ Technical Knockout, submission or decision.
  • Prop bet – Betting on a likely occurrence on the bout with options such as Fight of the Night, points handicap, Submission of the Night, and more
  • Parlays – Betting on several fights picking up a winner.
  • Round betting – Correctly predicting the round the bout will end.

Betting tips

After familiarizing with the betting options, it is only fair for new and existing bettors to get to understand various tips on making returns from the sport. The following are some of the betting tips and strategies to follow;

  1. Know the player’s strong point

Several elements make a UFC fighter among the successful ones. The elements include; knockout power, ground control, agile footwork, take-down technique and defense, submissions executions and defense, effective striking, ground and pound capacity. By studying his/her opponent and past fights, you can see where the fighter you backed stands.

  1. Fighter’s professionalism and preparation

A hard-working fighter who is always on training and highly-motivated will certainly have an upper hand as compared to one with no top fitness levels

  1. Look at the underdog

It is always common that bettors back the favorites but it is advisable to look at the underdog. Some crop up surprises especially due to the pressure not being on their side. Some up-and-coming fighters also may pose a threat. Never incline on favorites only.

  1. Form

The winning or losing streak of a fighter will also play a major role in making a potential winning bet. This is not to say that the one on the losing streak is automatically losing, factors like the turning point of the form should be considered and the head-to-head standings of the fighters in the bout.

  1. The training camp

Just like a school is judged from the results and the students it produces, a training camp will highly give you a sense of style, strengths among other details of the fighter drawing assumptions from the past fighters produced in the camp.

  1. Age

This is another crucial tip. With age, some positives can be derived such as much needed experience but on the flipside, the fighter might not perform to his peak especially when the game gets to higher rounds. This is a section that bettors should keep an eye on.

  1. Injury record

A fighter with an injury record may not be as sharp as compared to the other fighter. It means that he/she has taken some time off, the rhythm has not been the best among other factors.

However, while betting, bettors are advised to bet what they can lose and to always bet responsibly.