7 Types of MMA Fighting Styles: A Complete Guide

The American martial arts studio industry was worth $9.7 billion in 2022. Countless people train in MMA fighting styles, for fitness, sport, and self-defense.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has propelled the industry to stardom. The blend of fighting styles in MMA makes an efficient, effective fighting system. But which styles does it include?

You might want to start training in MMA fighting styles. Or you might want to train in a specific martial art that you’ve seen in MMA.

But where do you start?

We have a guide to types of MMA fighting styles. Take a look and see which ones interest you the most.

1. One of the Most Effective MMA Fighting Styles: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-jitsu was an unarmed samurai martial art developed somewhere between the 3rd and 8th centuries. There is evidence of jiu-jitsu practices in India and China too, but the Japanese style is the most famous.

Jiu-jitsu uses locks, throws, pressure points, and levers to submit an opponent. Back on the Japanese battlefield, jiu-jitsu was essential for combat against armored enemies; hand strikes were futile.

Instead, samurai choked, pinned, and locked their opponents. The weight of armor became a liability when on the ground. This method of overpowering larger, heavier foes is still present in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

But how did jiu-jitsu cross the Pacific?

Mitsuyo Maeda, a jiu-jitsu champion, took the martial art to the world stage. He traveled the globe demonstrating its effectiveness. In Brazil, he attracted the attention of Carlos Gracie, who studied under Maeda for years.

Gracie became the grandmaster of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Through his family, honed the martial art into what we know today. It is a complete grappling system, teaching students to defend on the ground and take down foes.

2. Muay Thai

The art of eight limbs is Thai-style kickboxing taken up a few notches. Muay Thai fighters hit with elbows, knees, shins, and of course, fists. They use grappling, sweeps, and clinches to defend and attack.

Fighters strike with shins rather than feet. The roundhouse technique differs from kickboxing and karate. These styles raise the knee and strike in a snapping motion; Muay Thai roundhouse kicks are like the swing of a bat.

Fighters score points for knockouts, hits, style, and knocking the opponent down. In live combat, Muay Thai is brutal and effective. It tends to have less head movement than western boxing and uses high guards for defense.

For self-defense, Muay Thai is one of the best martial arts. For those with no striking experience, kicks can be tough to master, but the basics will help you in a rough spot.

Tremendous power, skill, and stamina are present in the best Muay Thai fights. Many types of MMA fighting styles use Muay Thai as a base.

3. Wrestling

Perhaps the oldest combat sport, wrestling equips fighters with takedown and submission skills. Wrestlers learn how to outmaneuver an opponent standing and on the ground. They vie for the dominant position.

Throws, like the suplex, can be devastating, knocking the wind out of an opponent or KO’ing them. Old-school wrestling in Greece and Egypt sought to throw down a foe to win the match. Now submissions are key, too.

Fighters learn to pin down opponents for a set amount of time. You can see this is entertainment wrestling too, although these fights are staged.

Coupled with a striking style and BJJ submissions, wrestling can take MMA fighters to the top. Many of the famous middle and heavyweight MMA fighters had wrestling backgrounds.

4. Boxing

Boxers use their fists only, and there are strict rules they must follow. Grappling, throws, and elbows are all banned. But there is an arsenal of punches: hooks, jabs, uppercuts, and body shots.

Boxers learn how to hit and avoid being hit. Head movement and skillful footwork let them dodge foes and move into a counter position. Some of the most successful MMA fighters had boxing backgrounds.

For self-defense, boxing is effective, but fists are easily damaged without gloves. The defensive styles let boxers evade strikes, and it is excellent for fitness. But the lack of leg strikes can leave boxers with limited options.

5. Kickboxing

Kickboxing takes techniques for boxing and adds in leg strikes too. This makes it more effective in most cases as fighters have greater striking options. Footwork is essential, and fighters must have excellent stamina.

Unlike Muay Thai, kickboxers use only their fists and feet to strike. Grappling is banned, as are throws and sweeps. This makes kickboxing less versatile than Muay Thai, but nonetheless a powerful fighting style.

Together with a grappling art, kickboxing helps MMA fighters win against most opponents. For self-defense, kickboxing is a powerful system. Fighters learn to strike hard and avoid hits.

6. Karate

Known as the way of the empty hand, karate is a traditional system of unarmed combat. Karate fighters use elbows, fists, feet, and knees to strike opponents. Locks, throws, and sweeps complete the system.

There are countless styles of karate, but Shotokan, Wado Ryu, and Kyukushin are among the most popular. Kyokushin is championed by Stephen Wonderboy Thompson, and Lyoto Machida uses Shotokan methods.

MMA fighters with a base in karate show unique styles in the octagon. The wide stance and bouncing style are eye-catching. Karate fighters are powerful opponents, and it is a popular Olympic sport.

7. Judo

Judo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. People practice judo on almost every continent. It became an Olympic sport in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics.

Judo started as an educational system for young students based on samurai techniques. It embodies discipline, style, and effective techniques. Sweeps, throws, locks, and even chokes let judo fighters win matches.

The weight of the opponent helps defeat them. Momentum lets smaller students defeat larger opponents, using their own movements against them. Judo techniques are effective in MMA, letting fighters take down foes.

Want to Get Started With Mixed Martial Arts?

We hope you enjoyed this guide to MMA fighting styles. Whether you want to watch MMA, practice it, or bet on big matches, this information will help you succeed. Variety and versatility are champions of mixed martial arts. Want to stay up to date on other news? Sign up here for free.

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