One of the great things about mixed martial arts is that to some extent it is still a young sport. If one has some free time (we all do), it is possible to watch the history of mixed martial arts in a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, given that the sport as we know it originated during the 1990s, most events were televised or at least recorded and can be watched on the internet. Basically, there are very few significant events in the history of the sport that will ever be lost.
With the advent of UFC Fight Pass, there is now an ever-expanding library of fights from various promotions, so if you want to see a mixed martial arts event, it is probably out there. The same can’t be said of other sports. Many great moments in NFL history are all but lost save for some poor quality YouTube videos. The same can’t be said of mixed martial arts and this is great for new fans. Rather than just hearing about the exploits of someone like to continue with the NFL example, Jim Brown, new martial arts enthusiasts can relive Royce Gracie’s UFC victories or Bas Rutten dominating Pancrase.
While plenty of new MMA fans are humble, eager to learn about the sport, and ask questions, fake MMA fans are far too common and pretend to have a wealth of knowledge. They are generally either just there to see some violence (with little or no knowledge of the training and respect the athletes have for each other) or just want to look cool and smart, without putting the time in. Here are fifteen terms and names that the majority of these fake or new fans likely don’t know or are confused about. I’m guessing there are guys out there who sit on Sherdog and Tapology all day (and s**t in buckets to save time) who will call me a fake MMA fan or hate this list and have a better one of their own, and I’d just like to say, I look forward to your hate tweets, you magnificent keyboard warriors.
15. Mark Coleman
Known as the “Godfather of Ground and Pound,” Mark Coleman was one of the original stars of the UFC. An aggressive wrestler, he won UFC 10, 11 and then at UFC 12 he bested fellow MMA legend Dan Severn to win the first ever UFC Heavyweight championship.
A UFC Hall of Fame inductee, Mark Coleman is an essential name for any MMA fan. Other first champions of other weight classes from the early days of the promotion are important too but a few of them, such as Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich are better known. For most people reading this, I’m willing to be that none of what I’ve written so far is news.
If you’re a Brock Lesnar fan and a fan of ground and pound, then you need to look into Coleman’s body of work.
14. Promotions Other Than UFC
One of the easiest ways to determine whether someone actually cares about the sport of mixed martial arts is if they call themselves a UFC fan or a mixed martial arts fan. Granted, UFC is the first promotion with which many people become acquainted, but if someone can’t name a few other promotions, they can’t be considered much more than a casual observer. Obviously we can’t fault someone for not knowing smaller regional and amateur promotions, knowledge of the existence of other ones is important. If they can’t name PRIDE and Strikeforce, they may be new.
In addition, knowing that the UFC absorbed several of these other major promotions: PRIDE, Strikeforce, WEC and Elite XC.
13. Fedor Emelianenko
Much like a real fan knows the names and slight differences that define other promotions than the UFC, even some of the defunct ones, anyone who actually likes and respects the sport of mixed martial arts needs to know the name of (most likely) the greatest Heavyweight of all time. He may be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but a case like that would require a comparison to other greats such as Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Matt Hughes, and a few others. We don’t have time for that.
With that said however, whether or not he is the GOAT, he is the greatest fighter never to fight in the UFC and had just one loss in his first 33 matches. He went early 2001 until around the end of 2009 without a loss (but one no contest after a headbutt during a fight with Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira). If someone doesn’t know this name, chances are they just watch UFC and pay no attention to the sport of MMA outside of that promotion. Don’t get me wrong, UFC is amazing, I like the product and it is the most widely covered, but you’re going to see amazing things in any promotion, so following other ones is a good use of any fan’s time.
12. Significant Strikes
What is a strike and what is a significant strike? Well, one could argue that a strike is any punch, kick, knee, or elbow thrown with the intent of causing damage to an opponent. Where the line for “significant” is drawn is very subjective and depends from fan to fan and more importantly, judge to judge.
Some may suggest that any strike that causes movement or a reaction from an opponent is a significant strike, others argue that any punch that is not a jab counts as a significant strike, but both these definitions are wrong. There really isn’t a steady definition and therefore “significant strikes” can be a problematic stat when analyzing a fight. As with any other sport, MMA is far more than just the stats compiled throughout a fight.
11. Gina Carano
Given her dominance of both women’s MMA and the media over the last couple of years, many people associate the women’s side of the sport with Ronda Rousey. It’s not without good reason, but she is not the original big name female in the sport. That title goes to Gina Carano. There were however, many more women who participated in martial arts events before Rousey and Carano. With all that said though, plenty of people can’t name female martial artists before Carano, but what’s important is to know that there were other female fighters before names like Rousey, Tate and Holm.
She went 7-1 in her MMA career, losing to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in her final fight in Strikeforce. Also, her nickname is Conviction, which is one of the best in MMA.
If someone is watching an early UFC event of a grappling tournament and calls the white clothing article worn by for example, Royce Gracie, a robe or anything like that, they need some education. Someone who really knows their stuff may use the word keikogi or dogi, which means literally “training uniform” and “uniform worn in the art.” Throughout North America, these words are often not used, in favor of the simple “gi” which means “uniform.” The specific parts of the uniform all have specific names, but at least knowing “gi” is enough.
If you want to look smart, if ever Georges St-Pierre comes back, when he’s walking out to the octagon in a “gi,” point it out to your buddies. They’ll think you’re a genius.
9. Vale Tudo
This phrase is important to the historical aspect of mixed martial arts, but is seldom used today. Nonetheless, if someone starts using this phrase, they probably know what they are talking about. Loosely translated to English, vale tudo means something along the lines of “anything goes” or “no holds barred.” Throughout the early and mid 1900s in Brazil, skilled martial artists would participate in fighting contests similar to what we now know as MMA.
One of the most notable examples of early vale tudo competition is the Gracie Challenge, in which members of the Gracie family issued an open invitation to other martial artists to engage them in interdisciplinary fights. A fan with some knowledge and respect for the history of mixed martial arts should probably know the significance and meaning of these words.
8. Names of (At Least a Few) Prominent Trainers and Camps
Most professional martial artists are natural athletes, but none would be where they are without top tier coaches and a crew of training partners. It’s like any other sport, around any athlete is a team of people who helped them get there and a ton of people helping them stay on top.
While guys like Firas Zahabi (Tristar Gym) are important to know, nobody can call themselves much of a dedicated MMA fan if names like Serra-Longo (Matt Serra and Ray Longo) and Greg Jackson don’t at least ring a bell. Of course, the list of trainers goes on. Other big name camps that a true fan should know include Blackzilians, Alpha Male, American Top Team, American Kickboxing Academy and Nova Uniao are all pretty important. Few fans can match all major fighters with their camps, but at least some knowledge of trainers and their gyms is pretty important for a person’s credibility.
7. Dirty Boxing
In most sports, hearing the word “dirty” often means something is being done that is against the rules or unsportsmanlike. In hockey and football, a hit to the head is considered dirty, along with jersey pulling and cheap shots. Those kinds of “dirty” plays can result in ejections, fines or suspensions. However, that’s not the case when it comes to “dirty boxing” in MMA circles.
In mixed martial arts, dirty boxing is not “dirty” in that sense and simply refers to strikes thrown within the clinch. This won’t be news to plenty of enthusiasts but because of the fact that punches thrown while in a clinch situation are illegal in boxing, the name has been a part of MMA jargon for a long-time and fake fans might be a little confused if Joe Rogan were to use it during a UFC event.
6. UFC Founders and Owners
Much like it’s important for a dedicated fan to know the fighters who made the sport great, they should know the minds who actually created the biggest promotion out there. Nobody should be faulted for not knowing who runs Bellator, for example (it’s Viacom, thanks for asking), but if you don’t know names like Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, Roiron Gracie, Art Davie, that is a significant gap in knowledge. Everyone knows the name Dana White, but that’s because he’s one of the most vocal non-athletes in the sports world and it’s hard not to know his name.
The story of the early days of the UFC and the trials and tribulations encountered by the founders of the promotion is a tale as important to the sport as it is interesting. Knowing the nonsense that Davie, Milius, MacLaren, Meyrowitz and Gracie had to deal with in the early and mid 1990’s is an essential part of the history of the sport..
5. Mount, Guard, Pass and Position Variations
Newer fans of MMA and casual observers who take in a couple of big events per year may well think of wrestling as a case of “whoever is on top and whoever is on the bottom.” However, that couldn’t be further from the case, as there are plenty of names for the positions that fighters will be in while they are on the ground.
Guard is of course the control position while one is on the bottom while grappling, and the mount position is the dominant position. Half guard, and certain variations on the position such as rubber guard are important tidbits of information, but even rubber guard. are a rare thing to see. Passing refers to the act of moving limbs to gain better position while grappling. Again, not news to a lot of fans, but terms that may float over the heads of new fans or those without any martial arts experience.
Another term from the world of grappling, while a takedown is fairly straightforward and self-explanatory, the sprawl is less well known. When defending a takedown, “moving out of the way” is not always an option. Fighters move in quickly and can usually get a leg. The sprawl is a move in which a fighter tries to shoot his or her legs backward and out, to establish a strong base, while forcing their hips down, effectively limiting the opponent’s chances of properly getting under them and actually taking them to the ground. Any MMA fan will tell you, a good sprawl is a true art form and an essential tool in the bag of any fighter.
Obviously the word scoring is a simple one, but the concept and specifics are things that often escape many people who watch MMA. Judges score matches based on a few considerations: strikes, grappling, control of the fighting area and aggressiveness. Every round each fighter is given a score out of ten, usually not less than seven. At the end of the fight, whoever has the most points is determined to be the winner. This isn’t news to many fans, but far too often there is outrage because the man who gets badly beaten up and looks worse after the fight did not get the decision.
Most recently, Michael Bisping beat Anderson Silva in a decision. It was controversial because Silva scored a knockdown in the third round that many thought was a knockout (it wasn’t watch it again) and some suggested that Bisping only won because the fight was on his home turf. The Englishman looked rough after the fight, as Silva did score some very effective shots, but Bisping vastly outpunched Silva and clearly won three of the five rounds, and the judges therefore scored it as a win for him.
Another similar fight was Georges St-Pierre’s final fight against Johny Hendricks. GSP’s face looked terrible after the fight and Hendricks’ face looked far more intact. St-Pierre however, controlled the octagon most of the time, grappled effectively when on the ground, and while Hendricks landed plenty of solid strikes, the judges scored the fight a win for the champ, who retained his title.
2. “Hook”, “Hooks” and “Over/Underhooks”
These refer to three different aspects to MMA and the terms can confuse fans who don’t know what’s going on. A hook is a punch thrown to the side of an opponent’s head or body accomplished by using force transferred from the legs and abdominal muscles and bending the elbow slightly while turning the body.
Hooks can also refer to the heels of the feet during wrestling. In back control, for example, when a competitor uses his or her heels to dig into an opponent’s thighs for greater control, this is known as “having the hooks in.”
Over and underhooks of course, refer to the placement of the hands and arms while in the clinch. “Overhooks” are when your arm is over top of your opponent’s arm and double underhooks refers to a clinch position in which both arms are underneath those of one’s opponent, and allows for maximum control of that opponent.
A pretend MMA fan I met a few months ago, who presented herself as a “casual but informed enthusiast” became the inspiration for this article after I discovered she didn’t know the members or significance of the Gracie family.
If you can’t name at least four members of the Gracie family, you cannot call yourself an MMA fan. It is because of these people that Brazilian jiu jitsu, a style that is practiced by virtually every person in the sport today, was popularized. Royce Gracie was the first huge star of the UFC. Others who participated in MMA include Royler and Renzo, Rickson, and Rorion, who was one of the original founders of the UFC and brought Gracie Jiu Jitsu to the United States. There are many more.
Helio and Carlos Gracie (both deceased) are the two founders of the Gracie jiu jitsu family, and there are dozens of other Gracies involved in MMA and submission wrestling. In addition to knowing these names, pronouncing the R in names like Royce, Renzo, and Rickson is a sign of an uninformed fan. The “R” is pronounced more like an “H” in English.
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