Martial arts and combat sports take place in arenas of all kind. The roped, four-sided ring is one of the most iconic arenas for boxing, an open mat is perfect for a grappling match and the UFC octagon is nearly synonymous with modern MMA. The cage barrier of modern MMA is a weapon that can be a used to a fighter’s advantage when looking to corner their opponent’s movement and attack. There’s no question that they are a signature component to the modern look of the sport, but do MMA cages ultimately hurt or help a fight?
A fight cage is a very important component in creating your MMA game. If a fighter is losing the striking battle and gets backed up all the way to the fence, working your position out laterally is the only way to escape. As stated, it makes for a very intimidating and signature element to modern mixed martial arts, but it’s not without its disadvantages as well. Clinch battles at the cage are very hit or miss. A clinch battle can mean the perfect opportunity for a fighter to get a takedown and put their opponent in a very vulnerable position. For a fight on the ground, you can push off of the cage to get a better advantage that would not have been available in an open mat scenario. For ground striking, the cage can be an absolutely indispensable tool for trapping your opponent in the bottom corner with no escape.
Strikeforce used a hexagonal cage in its day for competitions. The main difference between the hexagonal and octagonal cage comes down to the corners. Because there is a tighter angle in the corners of the cage in a hexagon, you can trap an opponent’s movement more effectively.
Bellator’s cage is entirely rounded, not giving an corner advantages when it comes to positioning.
Pride FC utilized a roped ring. The limits of this arena were very tricky for MMA in that there was real danger of falling out of and hurting yourself. The indefinite limitations in the ropes made fighters very cautious when coming to the edge of the arena, especially on the ground. The corners were especially dicey, because a fighter could get trapped at their back with ropes at either side.
An open, grappling-style mat could add a very exciting element to modern MMA. Taking away the use of the cage could make for a very interesting change by taking away a tool in a fighter’s arsenal. Think about how many fighters would be able to escape from the receiving end of ground and pound situations that otherwise would have been trapped. Clinch battles would not have the option of being forced against a barrier where they can easily stalemate. An open mat would force a huge change to modern MMA by allowing fighters to utilize a lot more space in the fight. Modern MMA fighters would have to drastically adjust their grappling and striking game by taking away the use of a fence.
Does the limitation of a cage ultimately hurt or help modern MMA? What improvements do you think could be made by changing the shape of the modern MMA cage?