FightNoob is a recurring series on Single Blog Takedown where we help new fans and neophytes understand the sport of mixed martial arts. This is the third edition. Previous editions can be found right here.
Having already talked a little about some of the major misconceptions in MMA, it's time to start discussing the action inside the ring. While it's pretty easy to tell who wins the match — he's the guy with his arm raised at the end — in order to enjoy MMA it would help to know why he won. And to determine a winner you need to know the rules.
A summary of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, including a short history, ways to victory, and other regulations, can be found over at Wikipedia and has the added bonus of staying pretty current. Rather than rotely go over them here, why don't you go read those over and take a little time to absorb the basics? Then come back and we'll talk about them.
Studied up? Good. Let's explore some of the finer points.
How does the length of rounds affect fighters?
While the standard length of fights is three five-minute rounds, a few promotions or circumstances can mean a difference to established fight structure.
Championship fights, for example, are five five-minute rounds. Obviously, this favors those with better conditioning that can go the distance, although a fighter with one-shot knockout power can frequently negate that advantage by going for an early kill shot. Meanwhile, a long-defending champion has an advantage because they're familiar with what it takes to get to the final bell. For example, any fighter looking to take Georges St-Pierre's title is facing an uphill battle as GSP's gone to the championship rounds — and won — in each of his last three fights. A fighter who trains regularly to go three rounds has an adjustment to make the first time he gets a title shot.
One of the reasons female fighters were so irked about having to fight three-minute rounds (before Carano vs. Cyborg) is the thought that a three-minute round strongly favors effective strikers and devalues grapplers. While a good striker can keep the fight on their feet and win via KO there, a grappler first has to take their opponent down successfully and then establish an advantageous position (against an opponent that's gotten to rest more recently than a fighter at the 4:30 mark of a round). Developing one quality submission can take the full three minutes, and by the time it's cinched in, the victim is saved by the bell.