MMA competition encompasses a diverse skillset across multiple fighting facets including striking, grappling and wrestling. To reach the pinnacle of the sport requires not just superb technique and conditioning, but also a strong tactical mindset during bouts. The ability to dictate pace and control where the fight takes place is a hallmark of elite fighters.
Implementing the right strategy and showing adaptability once the initial gameplan is solved is what separates champions from the rest. This article will break down core strategic concepts that help fighters out-think opponents enroute to victory.
Working the Outside and Fighting Long
One of the most vital areas to dominate is the outside striking zone. Maintaining the optimal distance to strike while remaining defensively elusive is crucial. Utilizing footwork and lateral movement to constantly circle and stay off the fence allows fighters to pick opponents off from range.
Fast jabs and long front kicks are perfect outside techniques, allowing stinging blows without overcommitting. The key is to fight ‘long’ – using speedy straight punches before opponents can respond. Remaining upright with a wide base further enhances outside mobility.
Of course simply staying on the perimeter is not enough – activity and accuracy are required to actually win rounds. The best outside fighters remain active with combinations, entering briefly to land hooks before angling back out again. Mixing up the timing, targeting different levels and capitalizing on small openings maintains an outside advantage.
Drawing Opponents In
While an outside fight is theoretically safe, remaining exclusively at range limits offensive output. The most dominant fighters can also draw opponents in when required to change the tempo.
Pulling opponents into range can be achieved by faking openings in your defense through feints and wearing your opponent down with leg kicks. As the opponent rushes in, superior footwork and head movement is used to make them miss before landing slick counters.
The key is to avoid overcommitting when drawing opponents in – strike and evade, don’t plant and trade blows. By drawing opponents into range, you can disrupt their rhythm while landing shots as they miss. This also limits the risks involved in closing distance.
Attacking the Legs
An underrated technique that can pay big dividends is leg kicks. They might seem inconsequential at first, but over the course of a fight accumulated damage takes its toll. Hard, unchecked low kicks impair mobility and reduce foot and head movement.
The constant threat of leg kicks also helps control opponents as they have to briefly pause movement to check them. This provides more time to land combinations against a stationary opponent.
When opponents lift their leg to kick, use the opportunity to step in and land punches. Followed up leg kicks with immediate blitzes put opponents on the defensive. Even fighters who like to move a lot can be slowed down by persistent leg kicks battering their thighs and calves.
Clinching and Ground Striking
While the outside zone and striking are important areas, elite MMA fighters require skills in the close quarters and ground phases as well. The ability to clinch up opponents and take them down expands strategic options.
Against aggressive opponents, clinching allows landing very short punches and elbows that do damage while preventing strikes back. Controlling opponents up against the fence drains their gas tank while landing heavy knees and dirty boxing blows.
On the mat, pounding away with ground and pound limits opponents offensive capabilities while racking up points. Threatening with submissions also creates openings for vicious strikes from top position. All greats are competent in these close range situations.
Maintaining Stance Integrity
A common habit that can undo otherwise competent strikers is squaring up and rotating to gain power. While rotation adds force on punches, it also expose fighters defensively by facing straight on.
Many strikers push techniques by turning their body and feet parallel to opponents – especially on rear crosses and power hooks. Savvy opponents will draw out these rotational techniques then punish the openings.
It’s crucial for strikers to stay side on in a bladed stance with feet under hips and shoulders for balance and defence. After combinations, immediately return to a tight guard rather than admire your work. Rotating only the necessary muscles rather than the entire body maintains power while staying defensively responsible.
Combinations and Set Ups
While single techniques can sometimes finish fights, they are lower percentage overall. The most dominant strikers blend their arsenal together intelligently to constantly create and exploit openings.
The rhythm of combinations should flow naturally with lighter faster strikes setting up heavier power shots. For example, using stinging jabs to raise defenses before unleashing crosses, or targeting legs to open up the head.
It’s also critical to follow up immediately when opponents are hurt rather than waiting and allowing them to recover. Plan combinations that naturally link together based on anticipated reactions. Drilling exchanges until they are second nature wins fights.
Cutting Off the Cage
Limiting an opponent’s movement is a vital facet of MMA competition. Many elusive outside fighters rely on near constant circling to avoid pressure. Cutting off their exits and trapping them against the fence flips the script.
Cutting off the cage requires proactive footwork – lateral steps during strikes to intercept attempted escapes. It also means engaging and throwing frequently even during retreats to show dominance.
Once trapped, the opponent must fight off the backfoot where offense is difficult. In addition to strikes, cage cutting creates opportunities for takedowns and clinch work. Taking away movement makes every technique more damaging.
The very best fighters are not beholden to only one approach. If plan A isn’t working, they display adaptability to remain in control. Changing tactics based on what opponents show in-fight is key.
For example, swarming elusive outside movers with constant pressure even at the expense of taking some shots to wear them down. Or getting taken down repeatedly? Scramble quickly back to your feet each time to nullify top control.
Having depth across all fighting facets facilitates adaptation. If one range or technique is solved by the opponent, switch gears to something they are less comfortable with. Remain a step ahead strategically.
Integrating MMA Strategy into Training
Simply having strong tactical knowledge means little without the ability to apply it in chaotic competition. Building the capacity to implement gameplans and adapt under fire requires specific preparation.
Sparring against many styles of opponents ingrains strategic skills needed to dictate fights. Drilling transitions between ranges and techniques in combos develops fluidity and depth. Strictly defined technical sparring rules teach you to remain disciplined.
At Apex MMA in Brookvale, our training integrates strategy seamlessly into each lesson. We focus on developing fight IQ alongside physical prowess. Join us to experience hands-on coaching that prioritises strategic dominance. Sign up now for a 7-day free trial and elevate your game!