MMA Fighting Styles – Best of Combat Sports

January 10, 2023
From: Spartacus
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Enter the arena of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), where the thrill of combat meets the finesse of martial arts. MMA is the ultimate fusion of various fighting styles, where fighters sculpt their own unique approach to battle. With a diverse range of techniques at their disposal, MMA fighters can choose to grapple their way to victory or strike their opponents with lightning-fast precision.

This electrifying sport has witnessed champions rise to glory with their own signature fighting styles, paving the way for new contenders to challenge the status quo. Spartacus, through its thrilling events, has showcased fighters from diverse martial arts backgrounds. From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Muay Thai, from Boxing to Wrestling, Spartacus events are a testament to the rich tapestry of styles that make up MMA.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a curious newcomer, join us as we explore the multifaceted world of mixed martial arts, and discover which combat fighting style speaks to your warrior spirit.

The Three Main MMA Fighting Styles

Within the electrifying world of MMA, fighters have a choice of three distinct approaches to their fighting style. The first, and perhaps the most prudent, involves the mastery of grappling techniques, which prioritise control and submission over brute force. With origins in martial arts like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Luta Livre, Sambo, Judo, and wrestling, this approach offers a safer way to fight, minimising the risk of taking significant damage. However, it takes years of practice and patience to truly master grappling, and some fans may find it less exciting.

Alternatively, fighters can adopt striking techniques and immerse themselves in martial arts like Muay Thai, Boxing, and Karate, earning the nickname “strikers” in the process. These warriors rely on their lightning-fast punches and kicks to take out their opponents in spectacular fashion, thrilling audiences with explosive knockouts. But the risks are high, as striking exchanges can be perilous, and one misstep can lead to a devastating loss.

In the modern era of MMA, however, many fighters choose to blend both approaches, becoming complete martial artists who excel in both grappling and striking techniques. These versatile fighters, such as Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre, and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, have honed their skills to create a unique fighting style that can adapt to any challenge. As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to evolve, it is the fighters who can master the best techniques from both worlds who will emerge victorious.

Striking Fighting Styles

Throughout the history of mixed martial arts, nothing has gotten fans quite as hyped up as a show-stopping knockout delivered by a talented striker. But to ascend to the pinnacle of striking prowess in MMA, a fighter must possess a comprehensive understanding of various martial arts disciplines, including the likes of boxing and Muay Thai. Why, you ask? Because in MMA, fighters must utilise a wide range of strikes, from punches to kicks, elbows to knees.

However, striking in MMA isn’t just about mastering different techniques. Fighters must also grapple with the unique challenges posed by the sport’s stance and positioning, which demands a lower posture and wider base to fend off potential takedowns. It’s no wonder that some of the most effective martial arts styles in MMA are those with a strong emphasis on striking, such as boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and karate. So, if you’re ready to take your striking game to the next level, it’s time to delve deeper into the world of these dynamic disciplines.



When it comes to striking martial arts that pack a serious punch, kickboxing takes the cake. This combat style is an explosive blend of kicks, punches, and knees, making it a force to be reckoned with in the world of mixed martial arts. But don’t let its popularity fool you – kickboxing matches may be shorter than MMA bouts, with three-minute rounds, but that only means there’s no time to waste in unleashing a barrage of attacks.

Kickboxing also allows for clinching, albeit under strict regulation, and strictly forbids throws. Despite the success that many kickboxers have achieved in MMA, there’s one major obstacle they must overcome: their upright stance. While this posture is perfect for unleashing powerful strikes, it also leaves them vulnerable to takedowns, like the dreaded double leg. This is where MMA fighting stance comes into play, allowing kickboxers to adapt and defend against grappling attacks.

If you’re looking for some legendary fighters who have honed their skills in kickboxing, look no further than Alistair Overeem, Israel Adesanya, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, and countless others. These kickboxing titans have proven time and time again that their striking prowess is second to none. 

Muay Thai


When it comes to striking styles that dominate the modern mixed martial arts scene, Muay Thai reigns supreme. Originating from the heart of Thailand, this form of kickboxing is all about unleashing a deadly combination of clinches, knees, elbows, and leg kicks – all of which are perfectly legal in MMA. This means that Muay Thai fighters are able to quickly adapt to the rules and regulations of the sport.

But Muay Thai has even more to offer than just its versatile range of strikes. This combat style also allows for foot sweeps, making it a well-rounded option for MMA fighters looking to add some variety to their arsenal. And when it comes to defending against wrestlers, Muay Thai’s emphasis on leg kicks can be a game-changer.

It’s no wonder that some of the most popular and successful MMA fighters of all time have a background in Muay Thai. Names like Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, and Valentina Shevchenko have all made their mark with their exceptional striking abilities. 



Once considered ineffective in mixed martial arts, karate has since undergone a resurgence in popularity, thanks to one particular style known as Kyokushin Kai. This form of karate is all about mobility and wide stances, making it incredibly difficult for opponents to execute takedowns. And with a wealth of unorthodox punches and kicks at their disposal, karate fighters are more than capable of throwing off the rhythm of even the most experienced kickboxers and boxers.

However, there are some weaknesses to this fighting style as well. Karate fighters tend to keep their hands low, which leaves them vulnerable to aggressive overhand punches. But despite this drawback, some of the most iconic MMA fighters of all time have been masters of the karate-style, including Lyoto Machida and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.



Boxing, one of the oldest forms of combat sports, is a fan favourite when it comes to striking martial arts. Known for its impressive punching techniques, boxing is a challenging sport that has made its way into the world of mixed martial arts. Boxers who pair their skills with takedown defence have found great success in MMA fights.

Thanks to the smaller gloves used in MMA, punches are more powerful and can do some real damage. But, as with any martial art, boxers need to adapt their fighting stance to suit the MMA rules and learn how to defend against takedowns and leg kicks.

Despite the challenges, many top-level MMA fighters have incorporated boxing into their fighting styles with great success. From Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz to Holly Holm and Cody Garbrandt, boxers have proven time and time again that their skills are a force to be reckoned with in the world of mixed martial arts.

Grappling Fighting Styles

Mixed martial arts is not like any other combat sport because it combines various techniques, including grappling. The ultimate goal of grappling is to throw an opponent onto the ground and submit them. Throughout history, many dominant MMA fighters have emerged with grappling backgrounds. From Khabib Nurmagomedov’s ground and pound to Georges St-Pierre’s wrestling, these fighters have demonstrated the power of grappling techniques. Let’s take a closer look at the three most popular grappling martial arts in MMA.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most effective grappling martial arts used in MMA. Royce Gracie introduced it to the world by using it to win the first two Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments. BJJ focuses on takedowns and submission techniques and is often called “the game of human chess” because of its complexity. Demian Maia, Gilbert Burns, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza are some of the most popular BJJ fighters in MMA.



Sambo, a Russian martial art that combines elements of judo, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling, is also highly effective in MMA. Sambo has a combat version that includes punches and kicks, making it similar to MMA. Fedor Emelianenko, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Islam Makhachev are some of the most dominant sambo champions in MMA. Due to its heavy emphasis on takedowns, submissions, and strikes, sambo is an excellent fighting style that you can easily adapt to mixed martial arts.



Wrestling is another highly effective grappling martial art used in MMA. Wrestlers can dictate where the fight takes place and can choose to fight on the ground or keep the fight standing. Grappling is a critical aspect of MMA and has proven to be an effective way to win fights. With these grappling martial arts, fighters can take control of their opponents and emerge victorious.

Many excellent wrestlers have competed in mixed martial arts, and more UFC champions come from a wrestling background than any other combat sport. Among the fighters that have backgrounds in wrestling are Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Tyron Woodley, Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Matt Hughes, Henry Cejudo, and many more.

Hybrid Fighting Styles

As the sport of mixed martial arts evolved, fighters realised that combining different styles of fighting was far superior to relying on one particular technique. The emergence of MMA as a standalone sport gave rise to numerous fighting styles, each with its unique set of skills. The first true mixed martial artists were those who combined techniques from different disciplines, such as wrestling, BJJ, and boxing, to achieve victory in the octagon. Examples of such fighters are Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre, who were proficient in all aspects of MMA. Let’s delve into some of the most lethal martial arts combinations in MMA.

BJJ and Boxing


The combination of boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu is one of the most potent fighting methods in MMA. It confuses opponents who struggle to anticipate what their opponent might do next. If a fighter has superior boxing skills, they can dominate the fight standing up, forcing their opponent to attempt a takedown. But, if the fighter also has BJJ skills, they can submit their opponent on the ground. Nick and Nate Diaz are two of the most famous fighters who have used this combination to great effect. However, fighters with good wrestling and powerful leg kicks can counter this combination.

BJJ and Muay Thai


Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai is a more advanced combination that covers all essential aspects of striking and grappling. A fighter who has mastered both these martial arts can be deadly in the octagon. They can use their striking skills without the fear of getting taken down, while also having the ability to submit their opponents on the ground. Charles Oliveira is an excellent example of a fighter who has perfected this combination. However, a superior grappler with good wrestling skills can still counter this type of fighter.

Wrestling and Boxing


Wrestling and boxing is the best combat fighting style in MMA. Wrestlers typically have a well-developed lower body, which enables them to generate powerful punches. Their wrestling skills also allow them to throw punches without fear of getting taken down. Additionally, both wrestling and boxing require good footwork, making it easy for wrestlers to learn boxing and vice versa. Fighters such as Tyron Woodley, Cody Garbrandt, and Kamaru Usman are prime examples of fighters who have perfected this combination.


The world of MMA fighting styles is a dynamic and exhilarating realm where warriors from diverse backgrounds clash in epic battles. From the lightning-fast strikes of Muay Thai to the technical ground game of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, each style brings its own unique flair and strategy to the cage.

MMA is a melting pot of fighting styles, each contributing to the dynamism and unpredictability of the sport. To dive deeper into these styles and witness them in action, download the Spartacus app and immerse yourself in the thrilling world of MMA.

As we’ve explored the various styles, it becomes clear that MMA is not just a sport; it’s an art form. It’s an ever-evolving canvas where fighters paint their stories with blood, sweat, and determination. The athleticism and discipline required are unparalleled, pushing the boundaries of human potential.

But beyond the physicality, MMA embodies the spirit of courage, resilience, and respect. Fighters train tirelessly, honing their skills and pushing their limits, not only to achieve personal glory but to inspire others to pursue their own dreams.


What are the three main fighting styles in MMA?

In the combative tapestry of MMA, three principal fighting styles emerge: striking, grappling, and wrestling. Striking disciplines like Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing are all about attack range and impact, aiming to incapacitate an opponent through punches, kicks, and elbows. Grappling arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and judo are based on submissions and positional control, using leverage and technique to render an opponent defenceless. Wrestling, which includes freestyle and Greco-Roman forms, bridges the two, allowing fighters to take their opponents down to the mat and maintain control, setting up either strikes or submissions.

How does grappling differ from striking in MMA?

Grappling and striking are two sides of the MMA coin, each with its own tactical landscape. Striking is the art of hitting without being hit, employing footwork, timing, and combinations to outmanoeuvre the opponent. Grappling, on the other hand, is about controlling the opponent’s body, either to achieve a submission or to establish a dominant position. In striking, distance and range are your currencies; in grappling, it’s all about leverage and positional hierarchy.

Who are some of the versatile fighters excelling in both grappling and striking?

Fighters like Georges St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Amanda Nunes have proven their mettle in both striking and grappling. Georges St-Pierre was renowned for his ability to outbox his opponents and also take them down at will. Khabib’s grappling is legendary, but his striking is also formidable. Amanda Nunes excels in boxing and BJJ, making her a dual threat in the women’s division.

What are the challenges of using kickboxing in MMA?

Kickboxing, while devastating in its striking arsenal, presents challenges in MMA. Its stance is often too upright and leaves one susceptible to takedowns. Moreover, kickboxers often lack the ground game to fend off skilled grapplers, making them one-dimensional in a sport that prizes versatility.

How does Muay Thai differ from traditional kickboxing in MMA?

Muay Thai is often dubbed the “Art of Eight Limbs” as it incorporates punches, kicks, elbows, and knees, making it more versatile than traditional kickboxing. Its clinch work also prepares fighters better for the grappling exchanges that are inevitable in MMA, making it a more well-rounded striking base for the sport.

What is the role of Karate in modern MMA fighting?

Karate in modern MMA serves as a potent striking base, offering a different rhythm and cadence that can confuse traditional strikers. Fighters like Lyoto Machida and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson have utilised karate’s emphasis on distance, timing, and explosive in-and-out movement to great success.

How has boxing been adapted for use in MMA?

Boxing in MMA has evolved to account for the varied threats posed by kicks, elbows, takedowns, and submissions. The stance is generally wider and more square to defend against leg kicks and takedowns. Punching combinations are often truncated to avoid compromising position, making it a streamlined version designed for MMA’s unique challenges.

Which are the most popular grappling martial arts in MMA?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, judo, and wrestling reign supreme as the most popular grappling arts in MMA. BJJ is the go-to art for submissions and ground control. Judo offers throws and positional dominance, while wrestling provides the takedown and control elements crucial for setting up either strikes or submissions.

What are some examples of effective hybrid fighting styles in MMA?

The fluidity of MMA encourages hybrid styles. Fighters like Jon Jones blend Muay Thai striking with Greco-Roman wrestling. Conor McGregor fuses boxing with Capoeira kicks. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson merges Muay Thai, wrestling, and BJJ seamlessly. These fighters epitomise the beauty of MMA—where martial arts converge to create a style greater than the sum of its parts.

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