The Evolution of MMA Over Time | Easily Explained

The UFC was originally formed to see which martial art was the best martial art. If two individuals were locked in a cage without weapons to fight, which martial art would triumph?

evolution of mma

1990 Through 2010

Open Weight Class

In the early days, most Mixed Martial Arts organizations had an open weight class format meaning you could be 145 lbs fighting a 230 lbs heavy weight.

That's not exactly the most ideal scenario right? Well in this era there were a few problems.

There weren't enough competitors to form multiple weight classes with solid depth, and there weren't any unified rules of MMA that every organization adopted.

When the Unified rules of MMA were implemented in 2000, it essentially legitimized MMA as a sport and helped the sport take a forwards towards the national spotlight, and away from the perception of 'Human cockfighting'.

mma submission

After Weight Class Implementation

Once weight classes were implemented, fighters would then fight vs other fighters that were of similar height and weight.

This changed several things about fights. The days of a very undersized fighter having to use his speed to tire out his opponent without getting grabbed were over.

With weight classes, technique became more important than ever. Fighters couldn't rely on just brute strength to overpower their opponents.

Fighters would then not just focus on the martial art that they were good at, they began looking at other opportunities where they could improve.

Cross-Training Era

It's important to note that it was not common for fighters to 'cross-train' other martial arts in the earlier days.

They would rely on their strength and just keep on working on that to win. Sounds very amateur-ish looking back on it now, but at the time that was just the normal way to approach fights.

After weight classes were implemented, the playing field became much more even.

mma strikes

This is when fighters began going to other gyms to train on their weaknesses, and hopefully make it a strength.

Wrestlers would go to other camps to work on their striking and Jiu jitsu, strikers would go to other camps to work on their takedown defense and jiu jitsu.

The list goes on and on, but this was a huge turning point in the sport.

This is now common practice for fighters, and if they ever want to sniff becoming a high level MMA fighter, they will have to be extremely well rounded.

Modern Day

An interesting statistic from the modern day is that fighters have become more well rounded and fights have actually been proven to last around 2 and a half minutes longer when compared to fights in 2002.

mma kick

Trendy Techniques

As the height of the sport is constantly pushed from high level fighters becoming better and better, techniques that have success become 'trendy'.

A recent example of this is a calf kick.

Dustin Poirier destroyed Conor McGregor's leg in under two rounds in their rematch before knocking him out.

Calf kicks had been gaining popularity in the lighter weight classes, but it wasn't until Dustin used it in a huge Pay Per View, that it reached the national spotlight.

After that fight, you see calf kicks being thrown by many fighters as they have already implemented that into their game.

Film Study

The calf kick brings us to this next point which is film study.

In the earlier days of MMA, fighters would just know that their opponent is a "Karate guy" or a "Wrestler" and work off of that information to prepare for their upcoming fight.

film study

Now, all fights are available on UFC Fightpass, there are breakdowns on YouTube, accounts posting fight content on Instagram and even Twitter.

The point is, if footage to these fights are this accessible, you can bet fighters and coaches are both using them to learn the tendencies of opponents, their habits, how they react to certain moves etc.

This also affects how long these 'unbeatable fighters' reign supreme.

It was a lot easier for a fighter to remain unbeaten or dominant, when other fighters could only prepare off of limited information.

This made the gap that much wider, and harder to close.

Now, this footage also limits the time of how dominant champions can be as those dominant champions have to keep improving and using new techniques or the competition can catch up much faster.

Better Athletes

As the pay increases, and as the popularity increases, better athletes who in the past would choose other sports are now getting into MMA.

We're even seeing Division 1 all American wrestlers and football players transitioning into the sport, after their collegiate playing days are done.

MMA in Ancient History

Pankration was the earliest form of Mixed Martial Arts as it combined grappling techniques along with striking techniques for competitors.

The rule system included very few rules and it was a sport where competitors could 'prove themselves'.

They also held a tournament format meaning the winner advanced the bracket, and whoever was able to successfully win through the bracket would win the tournament.

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