The UFC, as the “Ultimate” part of its name suggests, was created to determine the best styles of martial arts. While Royce Gracie used Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) to win the first events, mixed martial arts has evolved to the point that grapplers can strike and strikers can grapple. Still, “styles make fights” and they can impact how the MMA betting odds play out.
How Styles Make Fights: Striking
There are many disciplines of striking in MMA, but the most commonly used ones are boxing, Muay Thai (or kickboxing), and karate. Taekwondo and Wushu Sanda (Sanshou) are also used. Fighters who mainly use a striking style are called “strikers” even if they are capable of grappling.
Strikers Versus Grapplers
In the early parts of MMA, strikers were typically beaten by grapplers. BJJ specialists like Royce Gracie or wrestlers like Ken Shamrock dominated the UFC as they took down strikers and dominated them. However, in today’s MMA, most strikers practice takedown defense. “Sprawl-and-brawl” has become a widely used tactic where strikers will sprawl to defend against takedowns.
A striker’s chance of success comes from their ability to keep the fight standing. Many champions like Jose Aldo and Israel Adesanya have made careers by defending against grappling attempts to knock out their opponents. The better a striker is at keeping the fight standing, the easier it is to bet online on them.
Strikers vs Other Strikers
This is where it becomes more of a debate on which striking style is the best. However, Muay Thai and karate are two of the most effective styles for a reason. Muay Thai fighters like Anderson Silva are able to attack with multiple parts of their body and in the clinch. When a Muay Thai specialist fights another striker, they tend to be a good pick in the sportsbook.
Karate fighters like Stephen Thompson are typically hard to fight since they are skilled at fighting at a distance. However, they also tend to expose one of their legs and can be susceptible to leg kicks, which Muay Thai fighters specialize in.
Boxers can also be prolific, especially if combined with a grappling style. The Diaz brothers have pieced up opponents, even kickboxers, using their boxing skills. However, they have also been beaten by better-rounded strikers who attack their lower extremities.
How Styles Make Fights: Grappling
Even with the progression of the sport, many will still argue that wrestling is the best base for MMA. Take a look at the Caucasus fighters. Khabib Nurmagomedov for one has destroyed all of his opponents with his indomitable wrestling. Georges St-Pierre, the all-time great, also used wrestling to win most of his fights. Wrestling, BJJ, sambo, and judo are the most popular grappling disciplines.
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Grapplers vs Strikers
It used to be that grapplers could simply take strikers down and finish them. But now, grapplers will need to be more resourceful in finding ways to tie up opponents. Wrestlers like Nurmagomedov or his protege, Islam Makhachev, can do it by taking down opponents. Once on the ground, these wrestlers can either control their opponents, ground-and-pound them, or submit them.
BJJ players have a trickier way of doing it, especially if they can’t wrestle too well. They’ll either need to clinch their opponents or lure them to the mat. Fabricio Werdum infamously does the latter by flopping on his back and then tying up his opponents with a triangle choke when they attempt to ground-and-pound him.
Grapplers vs Other Grapplers
While striker-versus-striker matchups can sometimes become chess matches with low output, a grappler-versus-grappler fight can become a striking contest. How so? Grapplers, especially wrestlers, will neutralize each other’s takedown attempts. Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler are two NCAA Division I wrestlers who stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out instead.
However, as in striking, not all grappling styles are made equal. Sambo may be the best UFC bet when pitting grappling styles against each other because it combines freestyle wrestling and judo. BJJ, on the other hand, can be difficult to use against another grappler if the fighter using it cannot wrestle or strike.