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Home Hybrid Mixed Martial Arts Top 10 MMA Fighting Styles

In 1993 the UFC tried to answer a very fundamental question. Which style is ultimate? The answer turns out to be not so simple. Yes, Gracie dominated UFC 1 and no sane fighter (are there any?) will enter a cage without experience in ground work. But from how fights have played out all these years after the Gracie dominance we can all agree that combat constantly changes.

First we had the grapplers (Gracies) that dominated the scene, then came the ground and pounders like Tito Ortiz, Fedor Emelianenko, and Mark Coleman that beat them on the ground. After that the sprawl-and-brawlers kept the fight on their feet (Liddell) and finally today we have the extremely well-rounded champs like Jon Jones and GSP. It turns out no one fighting style can be Numero Uno.

In this article, I have listed the Top 10 Fighting Styles in MMA that have shaped mixed martial arts as we know it today.


Boxing is the refinement of fist fighting to the point of being a science. The concept is simple, close your fist and slam it against the other guy’s face to knock him out. Of course there is a lot more to boxing than just smashing faces. There are a wide array of punching techniques that are excellent in their own right and are very effective in MMA. In the video are two of the best boxers in MMA Nick Diaz and BJ Penn slugging it out in awesome fashion.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do started out equally putting emphasis on punching and kicking and even some submissions. But as it became mainstream it has focused more on kicks than anything else. Anyone with a background in this pure sport will have no problem adapting to the striking component in MMA. A lot of professional fighters have backgrounds in Tae Kwon Do most notable of them is Anderson Silva.

Just for your enjoyment here is an effective Tornado Kick in an MMA match. I don’t know who the guy is so if any of you know please leave a comment.


It has boxing, kicking and coolest of all takedowns. It was developed in China for military use but eventually made its way to the Olympics. It is a derivative of Wu Shoo. Other names for it are Sanda and Chinese Kick Boxing. The most successful fighter in MMA today that has Sanshou as base is former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is the art of 8 limbs. It teaches fighters to make good use of elbows and knees along with other strikes to take out opponents. It’s no surprise that this art has become a mainstay for numerous MMA fighters. Muay Thai also teaches some good clinch-fighting techniques that was on full display when Anderson Silva took the belt from Rich Franklin.

Kyokushin Karate

This striking method emphasizes hard kicks to the head and punches to the body. Back in the day they allowed punches to the face but it turned out too bloody so they stopped it. The most notable aspect of Kyukushin Karate is its training emphasis on sparring and toughness. Most notable fighter to be associated with Kyokushin Karate is GSP.


Judo is a form of self-defense art that specializes on holds and throws. Judo throws usually end up with the opponent under you, which is great for MMA. From that position one can land deadly blows or secure a submission. The most prominent judokan who fought in the UFC is probably Karo Parisyan. He dominated bigger, stronger opponents with his masterful takedowns and sweeps. The best judokan can execute Judo throws without the gi.

Jeet Kune Do

Not exactly a style but rather an approach to fighting, Bruce Lee wanted to create a system that was both practical and effective. With his ideas on fighting, Bruce is probably the first ever Mixed Martial Artist. His philosophy was to get rid of the useless and restrictive movements that were commonplace in traditional arts and just focus on what works. Of course purists hated Lee for it, much the same way purists hate modern day Mixed Martial Arts. 40 years ago Bruce Lee already knew the answer to the question MMA is seeking to answer. The answer is ever changing— like water.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

GRW is a form of grappling wherein fighters are restricted from any hold below the opponent’s waist. This restriction results in the development of throws from the clinch. The idea in Greco-Roman wrestling is to pin the opponent’s back on the mat. The requirement is to hold both shoulders down until the referee scores it as a win. In MMA Randy Couture was probably the best fighter to have used Greco-Roman Wrestling techniques throughout his career. Jon Jones during his fight with Stephan Bonnar also showed some sick throws from the clinch.

Freestyle Wrestling

Probably one of the most important fighting styles in MMA a fighter should learn. Freestyle Wrestling emphasizes takedowns through sweeps and throws. The aim in Freestyle Wrestling is to pin the opponent’s shoulder to the mat. In MMA freestyle wrestling is used to take the opponent down for a good ground and pound or to finish off with a submission. Another very practical move derived from Freestyle Wrestling is the “sprawl” which is a defensive move against take downs. The sprawl is an important move to master for dominant strikers trying to keep the fight on their feet.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Art that shocked the world, very sneaky and confusing to watch for the average spectator back then but it remains to be very effective in 1 on 1 combat. When Royce Gracie submitted the heavily favored Ken Shamrock nobody even realized Ken had tapped until the fight was over. Everyone was like “WTH happened??”

This list is not exhaustive by a long shot. Feel free to write in the comments other fighting styles that have influenced MMA.

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