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 fifth edition. Previous editions can be found right here.
So after a few weeks of getting our bearings in the world of mixed martial arts, it's about time we had a look at the action inside the ring.
It's entirely possible to acquit yourself in a conversation about MMA knowing simply results and fighters. At the very least, you'll know who won every fight. (Hint: it's the guy with the raised arm when it's over.) But to understand things like WHY Anderson Silva is so feared and WHERE the flaws in Brock Lesnar's game are, you need to understand the principles behind effective mixed martial arts.
I may not be able to teach you as well as a top-tier professional fighter, but I do know what's good out there and can impart that to you when you're checking out the fights.
For this week, we'll start with the first position every fighter finds himself or herself in after they touch gloves: the stand-up game.
This is not a friendly sort of hug.
Volume 5: Get Up Stand Up
I don't think it's a stretch to say that most fans of MMA have seen much more boxing than they have grappling sports (with amateur wrestling fans being the major exception). That means generally that MMA fans have a better understanding of standup than they do the ground game. Partially, it's because most of the actions are results-intensive. To wit: while it's hard to immediately understand the tactical significance a fighter passing from full guard to half guard, the stand up game simplifies the equation to "Man hits face. Face goes unconscious."
Guys who get in the ring and just start throwing bombs, though, tend to have short careers. In MMA, that's even more true, as one-dimensional stand-up gunners tend to have serious deficiencies when getting to the ground.
When you're watching MMA and trying to pick out the good strikers, here are some of the basic things you should be looking for.
Footwork and distance: One of the first things you'll notice about a good striker is their stance. As opposed to a classic boxing stance, the MMA stance (see here for Silva showing how it's done) tends to have the legs spread much wider with a fighter sitting back over their base. (Boxing stances tend to emphasize a more forward position.) Why the difference? After all, if a boxing stance can generate explosive punching power through the hips and body, why wouldn't MMA fighters want to leverage that?