What Is The Best Martial Art In MMA? Often The Most Basic Is The Best

MMA_Gateway_UFC_Best_Martial art_Basic OverviewSo people sometimes ask me – Marley in all the years you have been watching MMA, studying and practising Martial Arts, then what is the best martial art in MMA? Now flat out in today’s world many fighters are starting younger and younger by focusing on learning all martial arts in MMA from the start.

But I want to point out here that most UFC and MMA champions in general will very often come from some sort of pedigree of a specific martial art.

Now if you look at the figures majority of MMA champions come from a Wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu background. Now this isn’t to say that Taekwondo, Karate, Judo or any other forms you can think of are not effective in the heat of combat, because those forms are devastating in the right practitioners hands as we have seen with the likes of former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (Taekwondo Black Belt), former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida (Karate Black Belt) and former UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (Judo Black Belt).

Sambo and Krav Maga also have a plethora of techniques which transition very well into MMA as well, but we will cover those forms in closer detail in future posts.

So we know these forms have worked for certain fighters, but as a matter of percentages – in unarmed combat it is he who can control the Wrestling exchanges, the Boxing range, the Muay Thai strike timing, and the submission grappling exchanges who 9 times out of 10 will win the fight.

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So why are the best martial arts so effective in MMA?

Well lets take a closer look at each of the most successful forms to see why they are so successful and give examples of the best practitioners of the art in MMA –

  • Wrestling – When I say that the most basic is often the best, I mean that very literally. Because to an untrained eye Wrestling may seem like a neanderthal martial art, but in reality it is one of the most dominating martial arts to ever be utilised in MMA.The reason why is very simple – Control. A high level wrestler has the ability to close the distance with his opponent, and once this is done and the Wrestler shoots in for a take down, the fight is essentially over very often, because the force that the Wrestler will take his opponent down will be massive, and the top pressure allows high level wrestlers to literally smother you on the ground to the point where you will not be able to breathe.800px-Olympic_Freestyle_Wrestling_(66_kg_-_Gold_Medal_Match_Simon QMMA_Gateway_UFC_Best Martial art Basic Overview

    Also on top of the control Wrestling gives you in a fight, the training that Wrestlers put themselves through is know for its toughness, so what happens is all Wrestlers build a really strong core strength and become mentally much stronger then most people – which is a part of why Wrestlers can seem so physically strong, relentless and mentally unbreakable in fights.

    The main weaknesses of Wrestlers is that they usually are not the best with their kicking game, they can be very exposed to Muay Thai techniques on the feet (I have seen so many wrestlers get Knocked out by a flying knee or some kind of elbow in MMA) also many Wrestlers are not used to being on their back on the ground – so if you find yourself against a powerful wrestler in your fighting career you must always bear these things in mind.

    Some of the best basic Wrestling techniques are – the Half Nelson, Single leg take downs, Double leg take downs, Ankle pick, Penetrating shots, Lifting your opponent, Pinning your opponent, learning escapes.

    Figures show that 6 out of every 10 UFC champions ever have had a Wrestling background. Heres a few of the best ever champion wrestlers in MMA you may already be familiar with – Demetrious Johnson, Henry Cejudo, Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier, Dominic Cruz, Tyron Woodley, Jorge Masvidal, Kevin Lee, Eddie Alvarez, Cody Garbrandt, Urijah Faber, Randy Couture, Mark Coleman and many, many more.

    Check out this page if you want to learn more about the history of wrestling and videos of basic techniques, and this video gives a good explanation of some great Wrestling techniques from UFC fighter Henry Cejudo –

    • Boxing – Again basics, that is a part of the beauty of boxing, because it is such a basic martial art in terms of boxing having less techniques then most martial arts. However, because the techniques are so basic yet effective, once a person becomes highly skilled at boxing, they are always likely to do well in MMA providing they can learn a few other points.First off its the accuracy and punching power that develops into an experienced boxers hands – which then enables the boxer to be able to decide how much power to use in each punch. You will often see many of the best boxers in the world that will start the fight with small shots, with no real power – this is mainly to gauge range of the opponent and to get your timing right.800px-Floyd_Mayweather,_Jr._vs._Juan_Manuel_Márquez (1)ian mcwilliams_MMA_Gateway_UFC_Best Martial art Basic OverviewThen as the fight wears on you will see the best Boxers in the world will slowly start increasing their punching power after they have got their range in the early rounds – most recently Floyd Mayweather did this expertly in a Boxing match with Conor McGregor.

      I must point out on this though that if Floyd had fought Conor in an MMA bout, it is highly likely that Conor would KO Floyd with some type of head kick, or even use take downs to get the win.

      Of course in MMA its totally different to a Boxing bout, however every fight starts on the feet, and ultimately if anyone wants to wrestle and grapple you, they will have to step into the pocket, which always gives a Boxer a chance to get an early KO in MMA – so many times I have seen a Jiu-Jitsu based or Wrestling based fighter shoot for a take down, or try to clinch, and walk straight into a big combination, or big single punch from the boxer that ends the fight.

      This alone makes Boxing such a great base for MMA. However, the problems Boxers face in MMA is first off if they fight against a good Kickboxer, Muay Thai Fighter, or a Karate or Taekwondo specialist  – boxers can struggle to even get into boxing range, because ultimately legs are much longer and are usually more powerful striking tools then punches. Punches are better for combinations, but single Kicking techniques usually have more power then punches.800px-Ouch-boxing-footwork_MMA_Gateway_UFC_Best Martial art Basic Overview

      Also if a boxer cannot establish his range well in an MMA fight, especially if he fights a top Wrestler or Jiu-Jitsu fighter, then ultimately the boxer will be taken down. Boxers are some of the worst martial artists off their back, even worse then Wrestlers, because the world of grappling can often be an alien and scary experience for Boxers, the whole idea of getting manhandled – after the boxer is taken down, then a prolonged ground and pound beating or submission will ensue to end the fight.

      The basic techniques in Boxing are: The Jab, Straight Right/Left hand, Hook and the Uppercut. These techniques will be learnt along with: Stance, Footwork, Defence and Guard. The non punching hand should always be protecting the other side of your body, and you should always control your breathing with the punches exhaling sharply on every shot.

      Some of the best Boxers to step foot into MMA are: Conor McGregor, Holly Holm, Jorge Masvidal, Vitor Belfort, Kimbo Slice, Tyrone Spong, Walt Harris, Junior Dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Anthony Johnson, Cody Garbrandt and many others.

      Look here for the history of Boxing, and check out this video to get a good grasp of boxing from respected trainer Freddie Roach

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    • Muay Thai – Muay Thai was once used to defend Thailand from invaders in ancient times, and as a Martial Art it has really has changed the sport of MMA forever in terms of striking on the feet, because without question some of the most devastating Knock outs in MMA history often come from Muay Thai technique being utilised.800px-Womens_Muay_Thai_teep_Eric Langley MMA Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic OverviewThe reason for this is that within Muay Thai essentially you will learn how to inflict striking damage to your opponent with any part of your body. Predominantly this will be your legs, knees, punches and elbows, yet even shoulder strikes and headbutts are taught within Muay Thai (however headbutts are illegal in MMA).
      To put it simply Muay Thai techniques encompass some of the most powerful single strike techniques in all of martial arts form my perspective -Now we will cover all the best Muay Thai Fighters that have competed in MMA, but really it was after I saw Anderson Silva defeat Rich Franklin twice with ease utilising devastating Muay Thai techniques, which really opened up my eyes to how powerful Muay Thai is in an MMA fight.

      It is not just how devastating Muay Thai techniques are, it is also how the timing of a great Muay Thai fighters have to land the big shots at the right time – it is one of the most dangerous fighters for a Wrestler or Jiu-Jitsu specialist to face, because the actual stances taught to Muay Thai fighters essentially prepares them very well for take downs – it can be very scary for a wrestler when he wants to shoot for a take down, but he keeps worrying about walking straight into a huge knee that puts the lights out.

      As I mentioned earlier I have sen so many wrestlers/grapplers get knocked out while shooting for a take down against a top quality Muay Thai Fighter – try watching Yoel Romero vs Chris Weidman to see a great example of what I’m saying.

      The flaws of Muay Thai is usually that Muay Thai fighters like boxers are not used to wrestling and grappling, so if they cant get the big strike when the Wrestler/Jiu-Jitsu fighter shoots, they will invariably end up taken down and on their back getting pounded and likely submitted.

      Also Muay Thai fighters punching skill is rarely as good as their kicks, knees and elbows, so if Muay Thai fighters try to box with boxers, then that can result in the Muay Thai fighter getting outscored in the pocket.Anderson_Silva_vs_Thales_Leites_UFC_97_Elite Sports Tour_MMA Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic Overview

      Some basic Muay Thai techniques are: Low kicks, straight teep kick, rear teep kick, straight knee, diagonal knee, side knee, horizontal elbow, uppercut elbow, forward elbow thrust, slashing elbow. As devastating as these basic techniques are, the more advanced Muay Thai techniques are even more devastating, but we will cover those in future posts.

      Some of the best Muay Thai based fighters to enter into MMA re the likes of: Anderson Silva, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jose Aldo, Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Joanne Calderwood, Eduardo Dantas, Douglas Lima, Jon Jones, Ben Saunders and Tyrone Spong.

      For the history of Muay Thai and basic techniques look here, and this video gives a great overview of basic Muay Thai techniques –

  • Jiu-Jitsu – Jiu-Jitsu is connected to MMA in more ways them most martial arts, because it was really ever since Royce Gracie started utilising his Gracie family created martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in UFC 1, everyone has seen how effective Jiu Jitsu is.Royce showed us all from the beginning how to apply Jiu-Jistu technique to win fights via submissions and ever since then, everyone who has succeeded in MMA has always had to learn the basics of Jiu-Jitsu at the very least, because even if you are not a specialist at submitting people like Royce Gracie, you absolutely must learn how to escape certain positions and make sure your general submission defence is effective so that you can keep the fight standing, or stay safe and maintain your own dominant position on the ground.800px-Royce_Gracie_Demonstration_07_MartialArtsNomad MMA Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic OverviewWhen a high quality Jiu-Jitsu fighter gets hold of an opponent that does not know anything about Jiu-Jitsu, then its really not fair, because the Jiu-Jitsu fighter will submit his opponent with ease – I have seen so many pumped up wrestlers that go for a big takedown on a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, but then get submitted a few minutes later – look up Fedor Emelianenko vs the late Kevin Randleman to see an amazing example of Jiu-Jitsu technique turning a fight on its head.

    Or maybe you might see an over zealous striker starts throwing as many shots as possible, but then is exposed to the take down, then the Jiu-Jitsu fighter take the striker down, works into a dominant position like full mount and finishes with a submission.

    Jiu – Jitsu gives you the ability to physically control your opponent when wrestling/clinch and grappling exchanges happen as the fight gets closer and more grinding, and even if your opponent is significantly stronger then you, Jiu-Jitsu technique is mainly based on leverage, meaning that it is possible to over power someone that is much physically stronger with Jiu-Jitsu technique.

    This is one of the main reasons why I always suggest Jiu-Jitsu as a great option for general self-defence for Women, Children and physically weaker males, because your lack of physical strength does not matter in Jiu-Jitsu for the most part, and you will be able to end fights in the safest manner possible.

    The Issues with Jiu-Jitsu  usually come when the Jiu-Jitsu fighter has not developed enough striking quality and so can get sometimes get desperate for a take down, and as good as Jiu -Jitsu fighters are at submissions, if your take down entry is not good enough or is too telegraphed you will get cracked hard.MMA Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic Overview

    Also some Jiu-Jitsu fighters can have a tendency to be too comfortable on their back, meaning some Jiu-Jitsu fighters will just accept being put on their back, because they are so confident about getting submission from any angle.

    But for MMA judges they will often look down upon this, especially if your not actively looking for submissions, so remember if your a serious Jiu-Jitsu fighter and you transition into MMA – don’t spend too long on your back, because the fighter in a more dominant top position will usually be scored higher.

    Some basic Jiu-Jitsu techniques are: The Ability to Relax While Training, The Armbar, Rear naked choke, Americana, Guillotine, Bridging and Shrimping, Gripping Correctly, The Standing Guard Pass, Escaping Side Mount, Breath control, The Straight-Armlock from Guard, The Scissor Sweep, Single leg take down, Double leg take downs, Foot sweep, Fake Guard Pull To Ankle Pick.

    Some of teh best Jiu-Jitsu fighter to step into MMA are the likes of: Royce Gracie of course, Frank Mir, Jussier Formiga, Antonio Minotauro Nogueira, Demian Maia, Fabricio Werdum, Rafel Dos Anjos, Ronaldo Jacare Souza, Charles Oliveira, Rousimar Palhares, Roger Gracie and many others.

    Click here to research the history of Jiu-Jitsu, and this video will give you a good break down of basic Jiu-Jitsu technique –

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So your saying I should train just one discipline?

ArianeSorrisoVsFeierHuang_LeoCavalcante MMA Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic OverviewNo I’m not saying that, but what I am saying is that in 2017 yes you can just start learning MMA to start incorporating all of these martial arts from day one. This is certainly becoming a more popular practice nowadays, as the sport of MMA continues to grow.

But still I would always suggest to someone to start off by focusing on one important area, because being a master of one area can be the difference between winning or losing a fight when you get to MMA.

If you start by learning every martial art in MMA from day one, you may find that you over complicate yourself and will be average at everything but not stand out at anything, which is not really what you want.

You must be a specialist in one of these 4 martial arts we have been discussing today, and then add all the other areas later as you transition into MMA, that is more likely to make a champion of you in MMA.

Also like I said earlier that is not to say that you have to start one of these 4 martial arts, but from my opinion they are the best 4, but you might find that Taekwondo, Karate, Judo or Jeet Kune do or something else might suit you more.

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No matter what – Walk as the noble warrior

Whatever martial art you decide to focus on first, make sure you walk the path of a noble martial artist, help your brothers in sisters, be the gentle warrior always brave enough to stand up when the time comes to defend those that need defending –

Or that brave enough to do the toughest of training camps and make the long walk to the MMA cage to express your skills and provide food for your family and loved ones.Walking_reflection_Tomascastelazo_MMA_Gateway UFC Best Martial art Basic Overview

You must always walk with the samurai spirit, humble yet confident, honourable and dignified, ready at any moment in life to utilise the techniques you have learned to improve your own and others lives.

Reflect, always know there is no plateau to our learning, we can always change, build more, expand more – and always spread the knowledge you build, which allows others to walk the process of improvement that you have to get where you are now, on this road of life.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post, and as always if you have any questions or general feedback then please feel free to post something below.

stay tuned for more technique based posts in the future right here at the MMAGateway.

See you soon!


Marley Dawkins


  1. I did not know so much went into MMA. I didn’t know that there were certain types of fighting styles, to be honest. I always thought they just went out and found angry guys put them in an octagon and let them have at it.

    After seeing this I feel more knowledgeable about the MMA than I ever have.

    • Hi James, nice to see a new face round here! But yeah there really is alot of different fighting forms and styles, and really in 2017 you need to be functional at all of them  – but as i point out in teh post it is still best to be a specialist in one area if you can.

      If you want to start training more yourself then make sure you get a great pair of gloves for sparring and bag/mitt work.

      See you again bro!

  2. I have been working on getting my black belt in Kenpo Karate for up to 4 years while at college and I currently have my green belt and am working on my brown. I will say that it certain does help to focus on mastering one martial art before you master another, because it can make mastering two at the same time more confusing to me for one thing. I also attempted to learn Jiu-Jitsu and Aikido along the way and not only was it a difficult schedule conflict, but it was to much stuff for me to focus on at once. Therefore I decided to just stick with mastering Kenpo Karate first before I move on to another. Honestly, would you think I should focus on Jiu-Jitsu or Aikido next?

    • Hey Tyrel! Well done on getting your green belt in Kempo Karate, that’s a great striking form, i can also tell that you will get the black belt one day as you sound determined 🙂 I agree with what you say as well that you should focus on mastering one form first before trying to do too much at once. But honestly bro Akido does not have a huge amount of effective techniques in real life combat – Jiu-Jitsu is one of the best martial arts ever and would be a great switch up from your Karate training, giving you a much wider base as a martial artist.

      Look at this system as well, because its solid.

      See you again buddy!

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