UFC for the Martially Unartistic

By Mithalina Taib

The UFC wasn’t always interesting to me. It looked like a lot of hugging on very, very sweaty ground. Why were they hugging? And why for so long? Follow along, and with this extremely basic guide you will be able to analyse the next UFC matches like a pro.

What is the UFC?

Walking into Tuns, where the martial arts societies had gathered to view UFC 294 on Muay Thai’s invitation, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if a fight broke out in the middle of it. As it turns out, a couple of people exactly 30 years ago had the same question. What’s the most effective martial art? The United Fighting Championship (UFC) was then born – the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) event in the world. MMA is a combination of striking and grappling. Martial arts like Boxing and Muay Thai are striking focused, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Wrestling are grappling-focused. Fighters are typically dominant in one martial art, but have to be versatile and borrow from the others. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. With minimal rules, the clash of styles make for exciting matchups. 

Some terms:

Before we continue, MMA is not UFC. MMA’s a fighting style, and UFC is just one of the many MMA tournaments out there (Bellator, ONE Championship, etc.)

Striking is hitting someone with your limbs and joints, while grappling is gripping, grabbing, holding and submitting another person with chokes (3a) and joint locks (3b).

What’s in a fight?

You get over the general violence and find yourself watching. Congrats! If you’re wondering why there’s so many fights, don’t stress. There are 3 categories – the Main Card, the Preliminary Card, and the Early Prelims. The Early Prelims happen first, followed by the Preliminary Card to build suspense and warm the crowd up, with the most anticipated fights of the night being in the Main Card. You may have noticed that the title of the UFC events have a pair of names behind it, eg. UFC 294: Makhachev vs Volkanovski. This is the very last fight of the night! Typically, this main fight will last for 5 rounds, while the rest last for 3. There’s a couple of ways to win – but as a baby spectator, don’t worry too much and enjoy the ride.

Do I need to know anything to guess who would win?

Contentious but I’ll say it anyways – no. Have the audacity to make some crazy claims, it’s all part of the fun. If you’re asked “Who you got?”, flip a coin in your head and you’re good to go.

Feeling kind of left out … when do I say “ooh” and “aah”?

Strikes that land (fig. 1): A solid jab or hook to the face would do it! Or a crumpling body shot. Yikes.

Takedowns (fig. 2): Some people hate fights being brought to the floor, but I guarantee it would put your heart in your throat.

Submissions (fig. 3): Watching a good rear naked choke (3a) or an armbar (3b) being cranked is enough to make you wince and squirm. You’ll be participating in the collective “ooh” before you even realise it.

Do I need to watch all the fights?

You could just stay for the Main Card, but there’s plenty of excitement in the Preliminary Card and matches outside of numbered UFC events. Use it to practise your new lingo, get a sense of what’s a good thing to do or what’s a bad thing to do (the “oohs” and “aahs”). Being introduced to the world of fighting via extremely rudimentary BJJ, the grappling parts were always of interest to me. While Diego Lopes is known for his grappling, with that beautiful triangle-armbar on Gavin Tucker in UFC Nashville (a very technical, very fascinating ouch), his fight against Pat Sabatini during UFC 295 was a refreshing contrast – a flurry of stand-up fighting, ending with a ground-and-pound.

What now?

Get to a watch party! Next up is UFC 298: Volkanovski v Topuria on 17 February. Some things you can mention to demonstrate your vast knowledge would be “Yeah, that was a wicked armbar he cranked in the last one” or a simple “I think he’ll end it with a Makhachev kick”. For an extra thrill I suggest pointing at the screen and yelling “Just stand up!” You’ll kickstart the engines of any UFC fan you plan on going with. Happy watching!

Confused by the UFC and MMA? Look no further than this article by Mith, which will arm you with all the expert knowledge you need to enjoy the sport.


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