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Top 5 Worst Technical Mistakes in MMA Fights

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As human beings we all have inherently bad fighting instincts.  We’ve been taught to protect ourselves by avoiding danger, but when you look in the wild you will see animals protect themselves by standing their ground and defending their territory.  Look at a an animal that might feel it has no other course of action but to attack, and it will.  Viciously…  Humans on the other hand tend to give up mentally before the fight is even lost or sometimes even fought physically.  This leads to a series of mishaps, bad habits for a fighter that must be eliminated through continuous training and exposure to combat and competition.  To highlight a few of those we will be covering some of the Top 5 worst technical mistakes that MMA fighters tend to make in the heat of combat.

1. Dropping your hands:  Many people say MMA is not like boxing and therefore certain things do not translate so well from boxing into an MMA combat situation, however, there is no question that keeping your guard up is always good practice in either sport. If you watch many fights (even professionals in UFC and Bellator) you will see they often drop their hands in the midst of a fight when either striking or attempting to avoid a strike.  Sometimes they are even just complacent or cocky and refuse to keep their hands up during a fight (Anderson Silva for example).  Yes it’s true that in boxing your hands provide more protection from strikes due to the size of the gloves, however, even a little bit of protection and the ability to guard against a body shot or a hook with your arm is critical in avoiding a nasty TKO.  So what ever you do, keep those hands up and those arms close to your sides to ensure you’re ready for what ever strike your opponent may try to deliver.

2. Refusing to slip a punch:  Yes, yes there are a few fighters out there with jaws of steel but seriously it’s not worth the risk of a TKO or broken jaw to sit there and just take punch after punch to the face.  Lot’s of fighters (pros and amateurs) get over confident and assume they can absorb any strike even if they don’t block, or slip.  However the better option to maintaining your standing in a fight is to avoid the strike all together.  Slip when possible.  Bobbing and weaving is a bit risky and can result in you getting a knee to your face but a slip is always a safe possibility to avoid straights from your opponent.  You gain two things by slipping, avoiding damage from impact and also taking point opportunities away from your opponent by ensuring they don’t get a high number of strikes landed.

3. Not checking kicks:  This one is just an awfully under used option for defense.  Those who study Muay Thai know how to check a kick using their shins, but many fighters are often a little slow to react so they will just take leg kick after leg kick either by turning outward slightly to absorb it in their hamstrings or they won’t turn away at all and just take it in the knee or quad.  There is no doubt this is a dangerous game that can and has ended fights.  Attacking the legs is one of the first best strategies for taking down your opponent with ease and knowing this developing a strong defense to those kicks is paramount for being a well rounded and effective fighter.  Practice checking those kicks.  Lift your legs (Muay Thai style) and check with your shin.  It will take conditioning but it will save you on more occasions than you might imagine.

4. Taking the fight to the ground before it’s necessary:  This is one of the most seductive scenarios for any fighter who believes they have strong ground skills (either BJJ or Wrestling).  However this is also a very dangerous position to put yourself in when in an MMA fight.  In BJJ and Wrestling there are no strikes but in MMA you can easily get pounded into a TKO if your opponent ends up on top.  Additionally you expend a lot of energy grappling and that can make it much more difficult to get through subsequent rounds without gassing out.  Only take the fight to the ground  when absolutely necessary or if you know you can finish it with a decisive series of blows to your opponent while they are on their backs.  What ever you do, don’t try to play the “Spider” lay on your back and try to lure your opponent in.  It may work for some but anything can happen and you have much more control on your feet than you do in a position on the ground.

5. Hesitation:  This can’t be stressed enough.  What ever you do no matter what, don’t hesitate. If you see an opening, if you feel you have an opportunity to land a strike, go for it.  Waiting will only prolong the inevitable and you’ll likely not get the same opportunity twice.  As each moment you spend analyzing your opponent, they are doing the same to you and the better you know each other, the one to hesitate least will likely come out victorious. Besides victory, a fight full of hesitation is an absolute bore to your fans and spectators.  Give them a reason to come see you fight again.  Even if you lose a fight, the harder you do fight, the more energy you put into it will likely land you at least another fight for the sake of entertaining the audience.  Remember you’re there not only to win but to put on a great show of your athleticism, determination and strength.  How you fight is definitely more important in the long run than if you just win or lose.

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Luca Rajabi
Luca has been passionate about martial arts and eastern philosophies since childhood. As an athlete, inventor and entrepreneur Luca founded SciFighting on the principal lessons learned from his life experience "fighting" to preserve his health and fitness. Although born with inherently poor and inconsistent health he pushed forward to learn as much as he could about the sciences of technology, medicine and mental health. Years of study, working with physicians and combined analysis finally began to bare fruit by his early twenties. Starting with Fencing, cross training and body building then moving to Boxing, Western Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Eskrima and an eclectic assortment of self defense techniques. Luca's core philosophy is that to win a battle every fighter must balance their mental and physical health. Luca has said that "With well developed technique, conditioning and mental focus a sound strategy will most often win over brute strength alone." It is in this spirit that he passionately advocates for the "Science of Fighting".
  • WalnutCreekScott

    Great article. I would add fail to sprawl to the list. I’ve seen striker after striker get taken down without even putting up a fight then look absolutely helpless on their backs. Strikers need to learn how to sprawl at the very minimum and grapplers need to learn how to throw a punch other than that God-awful looping overhand right that misses 99.99% of the time.

    • Excellent point Scott! Thanks for sharing that. Agreed on sprawling, an oversight on my part clearly due to my less prominent wrestling background. I think we will incorporate your suggestion into a follow-up article covering overlooked defenses and attacks.

      • WalnutCreekScott

        As a striker myself who grew up with the UFC, I saw the third one live and have studied every single one of them, I have come to realize that a striker can learn some wrestling basics in about six months but it takes a good five years to become a competent striker. Some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen were Olympic/Collegiate style wrestlers so this comment isn’t a disrespect just a statement of fact based on years of observation and personal experience. Teach a collegiate wrestler how to strike and in a couple of years you will have a champion on your hands.

        • I think you meant a competent wrestler? 🙂 And I agree… just like with Brazilian Jiujitsu the amount of drilling, which can only be truly effective when practicing with a partner to learn all the transitions is immense. You can keep yourself pretty limber as a striker with bag and mitt work with the occasional sparing but nothing can replace getting mat time as a wrestler / grappler. Last year I spent 9 months just blasting through BJJ for 9 hours a week straight. All of it one on one drilling / coaching. Expensive but well well worth the effort. Helped me catch up on a lot of what I’d missed, still even then you have to mix it up with different partners to get a feel for the sport. I am by no means the caliber of many I’ve rolled with. So I definitely appreciate your perspective Scott. 🙂

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