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Beginner's Guide to Watching and Understanding MMA Fights

watching MMA for beginners

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has emerged as a globally celebrated combat sport, captivating audiences with its fusion of striking, grappling, and submission techniques. This diverse and dynamic sport offers a rich and exhilarating spectacle.

However, for those new to MMA or interested in becoming more involved as spectators, the intricacies of the sport may seem overwhelming. This guide not only aims to clarify the complexities of MMA but also sheds light on the often unseen aspects, such as the rigorous preparation and strategic planning that fighters undergo before stepping into the ring.

By understanding both the visible and behind-the-scenes elements, First-Time MMA Watchers will gain a comprehensive appreciation of the skill, dedication, and strategy that define MMA, enhancing their viewing experience.

The Basics of MMA

At its core, MMA combines elements from various combat sports and martial arts. Fighters can use a range of techniques including striking, grappling, and submission moves. A typical MMA fight consists of three to five rounds, each lasting five minutes, with a one-minute rest period in between.

Friends watching the UFC

Understanding the Rules and Regulations

MMA rules are designed to ensure fairness and safety for the fighters. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts govern the sport and cover everything from legal and illegal moves, weight classes, to the role of judges in the UFC. These rules are essential in understanding how fights are conducted and scored.

Scoring System

Judges score each round based on a 10-point must system. The winner of a round receives 10 points, and the loser gets 9 or less. Criteria for scoring include effective striking and grappling, control of the fighting area, effective aggressiveness, and defense. This round-by-round analysis is crucial in understanding how fighters strategise to win matches.

The Role of Judges in the UFC

For first-time MMA watchers, understanding the role of judges in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is key to appreciating the sport. Typically, three judges are positioned cage-side to assess each fight. Their role becomes crucial in determining the winner of bouts that do not end in a knockout, submission, or disqualification.


Judges evaluate the fighters based on a range of factors, including effective striking, grappling, control of the fighting area, aggressiveness, and defense. After each round, they independently assess the fighters' performances. At the end of the fight, their individual assessments are combined to determine the outcome. This can result in a unanimous decision (where all judges agree on the winner), a split decision (where judges are divided in their opinion), or a draw (where no clear winner is determined).


For newcomers to MMA, it's important to recognize that these judges play a pivotal role in ensuring fair play and objectivity, especially in closely contested matches where the margin of victory can be incredibly narrow. Their decisions are often scrutinized and debated among fans, adding another layer of excitement and discussion to the sport.

Fight Analysis

To truly appreciate an MMA fight, understanding the technical aspects of a bout is crucial. This involves recognising the different fighting styles and techniques used by the fighters. Here are some key elements to focus on:

Striking, Grappling, and Submission Techniques

– Striking: This involves observing how fighters use punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Look for combinations, footwork, and how fighters manage distance.

– Grappling: Notice how fighters attempt to take their opponents to the ground, maintain control, and transition between positions.

– Submission: These are techniques that aim to force an opponent to give up due to a hold that could cause injury or unconsciousness.

Analysing these elements helps in understanding the complexity of the sport and the skills involved in being a successful MMA fighter.

UFC fighters post fight

The Fight Build up: Behind the Scenes

MMA fights are meticulously organised events, encompassing various stages to ensure fairness, safety, and spectacle.

The process begins long before fight night, with fighters undergoing rigorous training and preparation. As the event draws near, fighters participate in promotional activities, including press conferences and media appearances, which help build excitement and public interest.

The official weigh-ins, typically held a day before the fight, are crucial. Fighters must meet the weight limit for their respective weight class, a process that often involves intense weight cutting strategies to gain a competitive edge while maintaining health and safety standards.

On fight night, the atmosphere is electric. The venue, whether a large arena or a more intimate setting, buzzes with anticipation. Fans, media personnel, and officials fill the arena, creating a unique energy. Each fight follows a predetermined schedule, with bouts organized according to weight class and significance, often culminating in a main event or championship fight.

The fighters, now at their physical and mental peak, enter the octagon to face their opponents. The bout is overseen by a referee, who ensures adherence to MMA rules and regulations, and judges score the fight if it goes the distance. 

Weight Classes and Fighter Types

MMA fighters are divided into different weight classes, ensuring fair competition. Each weight class tends to have fighters with distinct physical attributes and fighting styles, from the quick and agile lower weight classes to the powerful heavyweights. Click here to explore the various UFC weight divisions in detail

Understanding Fighter Strategies and Mental Preparation

Fighters enter the cage with specific strategies, tailored to their strengths and their opponent’s weaknesses. This might involve a focus on striking, grappling, or a balanced approach. Mental preparation is as crucial as physical fitness, influencing a fighter’s endurance and ability to adapt during a fight.

MMA fight img from Venum

Tips to Get Started in Watching MMA

Watching MMA as a beginner can be more enjoyable with a basic understanding of the sport. Here are a few tips:

1. Start with Major Events: High-profile fights often feature the best talent and production value, making them more engaging.

2. Learn the Basics: Familiarize yourself with the basic rules, scoring system, and common techniques.

3. Follow Fighters: Choose a few fighters and follow their careers to better understand their techniques and strategies.

4. Watch with Friends: Watching with others who understand the sport can enhance your experience and learning.

5. Read Fight Analysis: Look for post-fight analysis to gain deeper insights into the strategies and techniques used.

Physical Fitness and Mental Preparation

Importance of Physical Fitness

MMA is a demanding sport requiring high levels of strength, endurance, agility, and flexibility. Physical fitness is not just about being able to execute techniques; it's about sustaining performance throughout the fight.

Mental Toughness in MMA

Mental preparation is as crucial as physical training. Fighters must be able to maintain focus, manage stress, and adapt to rapidly changing situations in the cage. Understanding this aspect can give you a deeper appreciation of what fighters endure both physically and mentally.

Round-by-Round Breakdown

For the First-Time MMA Watchers each round in an MMA fight offers a fresh start and a chance for fighters to adjust their strategies. A round-by-round analysis can reveal how a fight evolves, showing changes in tactics, energy levels, and the impact of cumulative damage.

MMA Gear: What do the Fighters Way

When watching MMA, you might notice the variety of gear used by fighters. This includes training gloves, protection gear, and the attire worn during fights. Each piece of equipment serves a purpose, from safety to performance enhancement. For instance, MMA gloves are designed to protect the hands while allowing the fighters to grapple effectively.

The Role of MMA Protection

Safety gear, like headguards and shin pads found in the MMA protection collection, is essential during training. It reduces the risk of injury, allowing fighters to train harder and more frequently.

Wrapping Up: Enjoying the World of MMA

As you continue to watch and learn about MMA, remember that every fight is a story of skill, strategy, and sheer willpower. Whether you're analysing the technical aspects of a bout, appreciating the physical and mental preparation of the fighters, or understanding the importance of MMA gear, your knowledge will enhance your enjoyment of this dynamic sport.

Remember First-Time MMA Watchers - MMA is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Each fight is an opportunity to witness human potential at its peak, where strategy, skill, and spirit come together in a captivating display of combat artistry. Keep exploring, watching, and learning, and you'll find that MMA has much more to offer than meets the eye.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About MMA and UFC

Is there a difference between UFC and MMA?

UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) are often used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference. MMA is a sport, a combat discipline that combines techniques from various martial arts like boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, etc. UFC, on the other hand, is an organiation that promotes MMA fights. It's the largest and one of the most popular MMA promotion companies in the world. Think of MMA as soccer and UFC as the Premier League.

Is MMA bigger than the NFL?

Comparing MMA to the NFL is like comparing apples to oranges. The NFL, focused on American football, is one of the biggest sports leagues in the United States and has a massive following. MMA, a global combat sport, has a diverse and growing fan base worldwide. While the NFL might have a larger audience in the U.S., MMA enjoys widespread international appeal, making it hard to directly compare their sizes.

What is illegal in MMA?

MMA has a set of rules to ensure fighter safety and sportsmanship. Illegal actions include eye gouging, head butting, biting, hair pulling, fish hooking, striking the spine or back of the head, throat strikes, and groin attacks. The use of certain holds like the "12-6 elbow" (a downward elbow strike) and small joint manipulation (like twisting fingers) is also prohibited.

Where can I watch MMA videos?

MMA videos can be found on various platforms, with YouTube being one of the most accessible. YouTube offers a wide range of MMA content, from fight highlights and full fights to training videos and fighter interviews.

What channels have MMA?

MMA is broadcasted on various television channels and streaming services. Some of the key broadcasters include ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports in the United States. Internationally, channels like BT Sport in the UK and others around the globe offer MMA content.

Can you watch live MMA fights on YouTube TV?

Yes, you can watch live MMA fights on YouTube TV, provided the service includes channels that broadcast MMA events, like ESPN. YouTube TV offers a range of live sports content, including MMA, through its subscription service.

Do you have to pay to watch MMA fights?

Watching live MMA fights often requires payment, either through a cable subscription or a pay-per-view (PPV) purchase. However, some fights and older content may be available for free on platforms like YouTube or on the websites of various MMA promotions.

Are UFC events worth it?

UFC events are generally considered worth it by fans of the sport. They feature high-level MMA fights with some of the best fighters in the world. The production quality, the excitement of live fights, and the overall experience make UFC events highly appealing for MMA enthusiasts.