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Learn MMA Terminology

Positions are where the two fighters are relative to one another. Most technical jargon used by commentators in a fight involves describing the fighters’ position and how they may transition into a different one.

Standing– Standing refers to when both fighters are on their feet with some distance between them. Most fighting from this position is done with punches, kicks, or other strikes. Offensive and defensive capability in this position is called the stand-up game.

The standing position is the default starting position in MMA. At the beginning of every round or if the referee calls for a reset, fighters will be in this position.

Clinch– A clinch is when both fighters are still on their feet, but engaged in grappling. Knees and other short range strikes are often seen during a clinch, as well as attempts to force the opponent to the ground or smother them against the wall of the octagon.

There are several types of clinches. Examples include a Thai clinch, named for its popular use in Muay Thai kickboxing, where one fighter will cradle the back of his opponents head with his hands in order to control his upper body movement or pull him down into a knee strike.

Guard– The guard is when both opponents are engaged in grappling on the ground with one on top of the other. The fighter on the bottom is on his back, facing up, with his legs between him and the fighter on top. The fighter on top is referred to as being in the other fighter’s guard, as the fighter on bottom can use their legs to limit the top fighter’s movement.

When the fighter on the bottom has his legs wrapped around his opponent’s waist, this is called a closed guard. If he simply has his legs between him and his opponent, it is called an open guard.

The guard position is considered disadvantageous for the fighter on the bottom in MMA and is scored negatively. However, many submissions (explained in part 2) can be executed from guard and some fighters, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, are notorious for being able to mount an offense from this position.

Since mounting an offense from guard is a large part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the ability to attack from the bottom is often associated with fighters who have an extensive Jiu Jitsu background.

Half-guard– The half guard position is like the guard position, except that the fighter on the bottom has his two legs wrapped around one leg of the fighter on top. This provides the bottom fighter less control over the opponent’s movement than guard and is considered an even more disadvantageous position.

Submissions can still be attempted from half-guard, but are more difficult to accomplish. In turn, the top fighter can more safely strike the one on the bottom.

Side control– Side control, also called a side mount, is when one fighter is perpendicular to the other, pinning his opponent down with the weight of his upper body placed on the other fighter’s chest. This is a very advantageous position for the fighter on top, as the fighter on the bottom has almost nothing in the way of offensive options except to try and get into a better position.

Mount– A mount is when one fighter is on top of the other, without the bottom fighter’s legs between them. This is another situation where the fighter on the bottom has little to no offensive options, and is often considered preferable to side control given the range of offensive options the top fighter has.

That covers some basic position terminology. Part two will contain an explanation of technique types, such as submissions and takedowns.

By: Peter Lampasona

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