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The UFC and MMA: How Are They Different?

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The UFC, which stands for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, quickly gains in popularity in the United States and Europe. The latest statistics reveal that people watch the UFC more willingly than they watch championship in boxing. Now, you may be wondering how the Ultimate Fighting Championship is connected to MMA and what is the difference between them. This is a valid question to ask, because many people, not specialists in martial arts, would also confuse between the UFC and MMA. If you have just begun to explore combat sports, this article is elaborating on the differences between the UFC and MMA, creating a clear picture of both of them, so that next time you watch the UFC Online Live Stream or you watch it on your TV, if you are American, you understand the rules of the fight easily and thoroughly.

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Mixed Martial Arts, abbreviated as MMA, cannot be confused, because they are different notions, though both of them refer to the combat sport. The defining difference between them is that MMA is a sport, while the UFC is the organization within this sport that promotes MMA. Yet before we talk about the function of the UFC, it behooves us first to understand what mixed martial arts are and how they are different from other combat sports, such as boxing, for example. Some explanatory words about MMA are thus in order.  

When we are talking about mixed martial arts, we refer to the sport involving two competitors. They try to overcome each other by resorting to three general fighting tactics: striking, clinching, and ground fighting. The term “striking” refers to stand up fighting, though strikes can be done on the ground, too. To comprehend the term clearer, think of “striking” as the tactic that excludes grappling. In mixed martial arts, combatants use striking tactics from different stand up fighting disciplines – karate, kickboxing, Krav Maga, and Tae Kwon Do, among others. “Striking” overall refers to all movements that fighters make on their feet.

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Also referred to as “clinch work,” “clinch fighting” is the part of stand-up fighting where the fighters are grappling in a clinch, using clinch holds. “Clinch fighting” is used in the middle phrase of the fight, between the free-movement phrase and the ground-fighting one. “Ground fighting,” also called “ground work” or “ground game,” is a hand-to-hand fight. In “ground fighting,” both combatants are lying on the ground, grappling each other with various grappling holds. While they are on the ground, the fighters may use such techniques as chokeholds, joint locks, pressure point techniques, and different strikes, though performing these techniques requires a different level of proximity between them.

There are various other techniques that the fighters are permitted to use in mixed martial arts.  Among them are kicks, joint-locks, takedowns, punches, and throws. The fight ends, with one of the fighters attaining victory, in three cases.  The fight can be stopped by the referee, the doctor, or the competitor’s cornerman. The most common ending of the combat is, however, when one of the fighters gets knocked down. But note that in addition to the knockout (KO), there can be what is called “the technical knockout” or TKO. The knockout is straightforward: one of the fighters hits the ground and cannot stand up. If this is the case, his opponent wins. The technical knockout is more complicated. Sometimes, one of the fighters stops defending himself, either too tired or weak to evade his opponent’s strikes; or his brow might be cut and bleed profusely, opening with every new punch; or he might be too exhausted to begin a new round. In all these cases, the victory is achieved by the technical knockout.  

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Victory in MMA is also gained through submission; that is, when one of the combatants concedes defeat by tapping either the mat or his competitor’s back. There are different kinds of submission in mixed martial arts. Using the “rear naked choke,” for instance, the fighter prevents the oxygen and blood from flowing to his opponent’s head by blocking the carotid arteries. If the opponent refuses to submit under the rear naked choke, he will simply feint.  Another technique to force the fighter to submit is referred to as “guillotine.” The combatant presses on his opponent’s trachea or the carotid arteries, thereby causing him to lose consciousness. Like “rear naked choke,” “guillotine” restricts blood flow to the head of the fighter. Fighters are also forced into submission with the help of the technique called “arm triangle.” To execute it, the fighter presses his opponent’s arm and shoulder into the opposite side of his neck and, in so doing, restricts the blood flow into his neck. In danger of suffocation, the opponent usually immediately taps the mat.

Submission is the technique that distinguishes mixed martial arts from, say, boxing, where the fighter wins only either through knockout or technical knockout, or points. The time of rounds are likewise different in boxing and mixed martial arts. A boxing round lasts about 3 minutes. A fight can have from 6 to 12 rounds. In the MMA, there are 3 rounds, each of which lasts 5 minutes. Punches are also different in both sports. Boxers cannot punch below the waist or hit the prostrate opponent. Nor can they grab the opponent and throw him on the floor. These moves are, in contrast, legitimate in mixed martial arts. In addition to any types of punches, the fighter in this sport can kick and use his knees and elbows to strike. They are also permitted to grab their opponent, throw him on the floor, and hit him, while he is lying there prostrate. Attire is different as well in the two sports. Boxers wear cushioned, heavy gloves, weighing up to 0.5kg.  The gloves worn by the MMA fighter are lighter, weighing only 0.1kg. The fighter’s fingers are exposed to perform takedowns and submissions.

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The techniques and rules of MMA are promoted by the UFC. The first Ultimate Fight Championship was held in 1993 in Denver, Colorado, organized to define what martial art was most effective: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, sambo, or Taekwondo. Its organizers did not plan to hold another such competition. But what was designed as a one-time event became an annual championship.  Today, the Ultimate Fight Championship is the strongest MMA fighting organization attracting the best fighters from around the world. By attracting the strongest combatants and sport fans enjoying their performance, the UFC has also grown into the multi-billion-dollar entertainment.