5 Best Types Of MMA Fighting Styles (& 6 Rarely Used) | MMA Hive (2023)

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The sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) can include just about any martial art in the world. Unless, of course, the martial art has moves that are against The Unified Rules Of MMA.

If you’re in a rush, here’s a short answer to the different types of MMA:

The fighting types of MMA typically include martial arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, K1 Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling. Slightly less common are Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, and Sambo, which have also been used effectively in MMA fighting sports.

There are many other types of martial arts that could be applied to MMA. But in this article, we’ll focus on the most commonly used MMA styles. As well as look at a few uncommon ones.

Table of Contents

Most Common Types Of MMA Fighting Styles

First, let’s cover some of the most common MMA types of fighting styles that you will see in combat sports like the UFC, Bellator, One Championship, and many others.

These styles are seen the most in the cage. Let’s get to the list.


Boxing is probably one of the most common forms of MMA fighting styles. Punching your opponent in the face and body is the broadest use of fighting techniques in competitions like the UFC, putting Boxing at the top of the most common styles.

Boxing today is generally shortened as an understanding of what is actually “Western Boxing,” which has developed over many years to bring in styles of Boxing from all over the world.

Having good knowledge of Boxing gives a fighter the ability to:

  • Throw a jab
  • Throw a cross/rear hand punch
  • Throw uppercuts
  • Throw hooks
  • Use footwork to defend, counter, and move around their opponent

Boxing has many variations, too, as it’s not just one way of fighting. Most Boxers stand in the orthodox stance, but the fighting as a southpaw is also really effective.

Boxers use different fighting styles, like keeping distance and using the jab, punching close in the pocket, or even Mayweather’s Philly shell style has been used in MMA.

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Kickboxing (K1 style) is generally known as using the fighting style of Boxing and building upon it to include using your feet to kick your opponent in their legs, body, and head.

There’s a good reason why there are entire fighting promotions that focus on just this style alone, it’s very visibly exciting, and the attacking techniques are very clinical and unforgiving.

A great kickboxer can outmaneuver and throw a much greater level of attacks to beat up their opponent. Their attacks can have spinning movements that make them even harder to predict and even trickier to avoid.

Suppose you were to pit a Boxer against a Kickboxer. In that case, it could be a pretty quick end for the Boxing fighter as they cannot predict and defend against an entirely new level of attacks.

Kickboxing is my personal favorite style of fighting. UFC greats like Israel Adesanya specialize in this style and have been hugely influential in keeping opponents at a distance, picking them apart, and getting great knockouts.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai has a lot of similarities to Kickboxing in that you also use your feet to land attacks, but “Thai Boxing” adds yet another level by introducing the elbows and knees as extra points of attack.

This Thai style is often referred to as “the art of eight limbs” because of the eight points of contact with which you can attack.

Muay Thai can include any attack from Boxing or Kickboxing, with a couple extra added in:

  • Using your elbows to strike your opponent’s head
  • Using your knees to strike your opponent’s body or head

Elbows can even have spinning variations often used in countering a forward advancement from your opponent.

Knees can be used to add extra damage to your opponent’s body and even used to attack the face with jumping knees.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the highly effective art of physically controlling opponents through technical grappling and submitting them.

BJJ is a widespread profession for MMA fighters because of its effectiveness in the cage.

With a good foundation in Jiu-Jitsu, fighters can use their entire body and limbs to control their opponent in a ground grappling scenario and even move them into a position for submission.

Submissions from BJJ come in many kinds, such as:

  • Chokes, like the Guillotine
  • Arm locks, like the Kimura
  • Hip locks, like the Electric chair
  • Leg locks, like the Kneebar
  • Cranks, like the Twister

These match-winning submissions often have origins in many other martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is specifically designed to be a complete grappling system. Any defense, attack, or control can be included if proven to be effective.



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Wrestling (like college or Olympic wrestling) is another highly used grappling martial art in MMA.

Mixed martial artists with a Wrestling background are some of the most powerful, explosive, and successful fighters in MMA competition.

Their unique abilities to control where the fight moves and whether it’s on the ground or on the feet give them the capacity to take the fight where they want it to go.

Wrestling techniques often include holding the opponent in advantageous positions (which is then very useful if they also have BJJ skills), throwing them to the ground, and keeping them there.

Least Common Types Of MMA Fighting Styles

Now let’s take a look at some of the least common types of MMA fighting styles that you’ll see. Some of these can still be used in combat sports and by highly successful fighters, but they are often more specialized.

Kung Fu

One of the flashiest martial arts in existence, Kung Fu and the Chinese martial arts are sometimes seen in professional MMA fights.

Even some of the greatest knockouts in UFC history have been some variations of Kung Fu moves.

The simple history of Kung Fu in China and its popularism in Western movies makes Kung Fu continue to be popular.

Kung Fu could be seen as not all that effective for MMA, and I’ve definitely seen flashy Kung Fu fighters get caught out with a counterattack during their attempts.

At the end of the day, Kung Fu is about light movement and attacking. It doesn’t have much in the area of defense!


Using Judo techniques in MMA fighting is actually reasonably common for some fundamental throws.

Many MMA fighters will use a few ordinary trips and sweeps to get their opponent onto the ground to start a control there. But advanced Judo skills are rare, though there have been champions who specialize in Judo.

Some great examples of the best Judo fighters in UFC history are Ronda Rousey and Vitor Belfort.

Judo throws like O Soto Gari and O Uchi Gari are seen relatively often and prove to be really useful for forcing an opponent to the ground.

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Karate is a hugely popular type of martial art worldwide, but specializing in this type is a bit less common than similar styles like Muay Thai or Kickboxing in MMA.

But specialists do exist for Karate. A great example is Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, who has a uniquely Karate style when in the cage.

If you ever see a fighter bouncing on his tiptoes with a wide-legged stance, you’re looking at a Karate-dominant fighter.

Karate focuses on straight punches to the midline of an opponent coupled with a wide variety of big kicks to the head. It can be hard to see one of these kicks coming, as they often appear as a countering attack.


Taekwondo can sometimes be seen in MMA, with some fighters having this as their background.

This fighting style is notably fast and extremely powerful and uses a variety of kicks, just like Karate.

Valentina Shevchenko strikes me as a highlight fighter with a background in Taekwondo. She studied this martial art since she was just five years old.


Sambo is a combination of Kickboxing and Wrestling styles that have many similarities to an overall “MMA” fighting style.

Fighters will use punches and kicks to disorientate their opponent before securing a takedown. Then they will usually try to submit their opponent.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is a prime example of an experienced Sambo fighter.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga utilizes the self-defense techniques of the Israeli army to destabilize an attacker and disengage as efficiently as possible.

This martial art is often up for debate about whether it’s effective for combat sports. Still, its techniques can commonly be taught in MMA gyms, and some professional fighters have studied it in their careers.

That’s been my list of the most common and uncommon types of MMA fighting styles that you can expect to see used (or not so much) in the UFC and other MMA promotions!

From here, you might want to learn how to get into MMA and find your own ideal fighting style.

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5 Best Types Of MMA Fighting Styles (& 6 Rarely Used) | MMA Hive (1)

Joe Bloom

Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.




What are the top 5 fighting styles? ›

These five martial arts styles are ideal for teaching you what you need to know if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • #1 BJJ for Self Defense. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is great for self-defense because size doesn't matter. ...
  • #2 Muay Thai. ...
  • #3 Filipino Martial Arts. ...
  • #4 Krav Maga. ...
  • #5 for Self Defense MMA.
23 Jul 2019

What is the best style in MMA? ›

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ is the best base in all of MMA. It's a better base than wrestling because if two guys are fighting and one had great wrestling and terrible Jiu Jitsu—and the other has terrible wrestling and great Jiu Jitsu—most likely the one with the great Jiu Jitsu will win.

What is the rarest fighting style? ›

Abir is a martial art that is the rarest of the rare. It is, perhaps, the oldest martial art in Israel with the earliest records dating back to the 18th century BC.

What are the main styles in MMA? ›

3 Main MMA Fighting Styles: Striking, Jiu Jitsu, and Wrestling.

What is the strongest fighting form? ›

Some pro-level fighters regard Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as the toughest of all the martial arts. And if you compare it against the other combat sports, it's hard to argue with them. MMA draws on a number of different methods including kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What is the oldest fighting style? ›

In fact, you might be surprised to learn just how old the oldest known art is. Its name is kalaripayattu, literally, “art of the battlefield.” The art originated in southern India thousands of years ago.

Is MMA harder than boxing? ›

As far as who punches harder between boxers or MMA fighters, this is still left open to interpretation. Ultimately, it comes down to the fighters as individuals. More than likely the overall nod would have to go with boxers for overall pound-for-pound power. Punching is what they train, and punching is what they do.

How many MMA styles are there? ›

Fans of mixed martial arts (MMA) have long argued which fighting style is most dominant. The primary fighting styles found in the UFC include wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Karate.

What is the ultimate fighting style? ›

Mixed martial arts (MMA), sometimes referred to as cage fighting, no holds barred (NHB), and ultimate fighting, and originally referred to as Vale Tudo is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports from around the world.

What fighting style is easiest? ›

Muay Thai (Kickboxing) is arguably one of the easiest to learn and a great starting point for beginners. Muay Thai focuses on the clinch technique this is also useful for judo and wrestling. Techniques that are integral to Muay Thai are knee strikes, punches and kicks.

What is the hardest martial on Earth? ›

Diamond is the hardest known material to date, with a Vickers hardness in the range of 70–150 GPa. Diamond demonstrates both high thermal conductivity and electrically insulating properties, and much attention has been put into finding practical applications of this material.

What is the weakest form of fighting? ›

Maxim.com donned its all-purpose black belt and tracked down the five least effective martial arts.
  • 5) Sumo.
  • 4) Capoeira.
  • 3) Shin-Kicking.
  • 2) Aikido.
  • 1) Tai Chi.
4 Nov 2013

What is the number 1 fighting style in the world? ›

1) Mixed Martial Arts: the Most Popular Martial Art in the World. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a practice of hybrid martial arts which blends all forms of combat. There are plenty of theories about who founded mixed martial arts.

Is MMA better than karate? ›

MMA is far more effective than karate, but it is much harder to train in, and it takes a lot of time to become a skillful fighter. Karate is a martial art that puts a lot of emphasis on striking and competition. Training is much safer because there is no full contact sparring (except for Kyokushin).

Which MMA is best for street fight? ›

Muay Thai is the number one, undisputed striking art, making it very effective for self-defense and street fights. The art works on clinches, kicks, and other striking factors.

What is the scariest fighting style? ›

The most deadly martial art has to go to the Israeli art of Krav Maga. When a martial art is developed to ensure the survival of a people that faced extermination it goes number one. Not only is it theost deadly martial art, but one of the most complete self defense systems in the world.

What fighting style has the most powerful kicks? ›

Muay Thai consists of flying knees, spinning back elbows, high round kicks, crushing leg kicks, and more. It's one of the most effective styles for kicking in all of martial arts.

Which martial arts is self taught? ›


There are some simple techniques of Jiu-Jitsu that you can do easily at home all by yourself. But some techniques of Jiu-Jitsu require a partner. This form of martial arts was developed for smaller people to defeat a larger opponent with little or no injury.

What was the first MMA style? ›

A brief history of Pankration - the earliest form of mixed martial arts. Pankration used to be one of the most popular sports of the old Olympic Games that were held in Ancient Greece.

Which is the mother of all martial arts? ›

Kalaripayattu is the mother of all martial art forms. It's gaining in popularity because it uniquely combines defence techniques, dance, yoga and healing systems.

Is MMA or wrestling harder? ›

Out of each individual discipline that makes up the sport of MMA, none is harder to master than wrestling. Whether it's freestyle or Greco-Roman, the amount of work and dedication it takes to become a successful wrestler is virtually unmatched by the other aspects of the game.

Is MMA easy sport? ›

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques and skills from a mixture of other combat sports to be used in competition. The rules allow usage of both striking and grappling techniques while standing and on the ground.

Is MMA a serious sport? ›

How Dangerous is It? MMA is about as dangerous as any other full contact sport. Like in sports such as hockey and football MMA athletes are prone to a wide variety of injuries ranging from mild sprains to brain injuries such as concussions. Just like in other sports, not every athlete will sustain a major injury.

Who is the No 1 MMA fighter? ›

Men's pound for pound
RankFighterWeight class
1Alexander VolkanovskiFeatherweight
2Islam MakhachevLightweight
3Leon EdwardsWelterweight
13 more rows

Who is No 1 in MMA? ›

UFC Men's Pound-for-Pound Rankings 2022
RankFighterWin Streak
1Alexander Volkanovski22
2Islam Makhachev11
3Leon Edwards2
4Kamaru Usman0
11 more rows
30 Nov 2022

Who hits the hardest in MMA? ›

Francis Ngannou is the hardest-hitting athlete in UFC history. The MMA heavyweight took those skills to strange levels when he whacked a Jackass star in the groin.

What fight style is John Wick? ›

Gun fu in John Wick, as described by director Chad Stahelski, is a combination of “Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical 3-gun, and standing Judo.” Under the watchful eye of Jonathan Eusebio, the fight coordinator for both John Wick films, Keanu Reeves took those arts (and others) and threw them into a ...

What fight style is Goku? ›

Goku uses a hybrid fighting style of karate, Wing Chun, and Kung Fu. Goku's fighting stance is a loose mǎbù (马步, “horse stance”), with the torso turned sideways. It is called a “square stance.” That's as short as it gets, but there is more to it.

What are the 3 martial arts style? ›

There are many different types of martial arts, including taekwondo, karate, and jiu jitsu, as well as MMA (mixed martial arts).

What fighting style has the best punches? ›

Muay Thai is, in our opinion, the best striking martial art one can learn. It is a complete standup style that teaches you how to use your entire body as a weapon. It is both the most useful striking style one can learn for self-defense or to fight in MMA.

What is a fast martial art? ›

Tai Chi is the fastest martial art when you are in contact and being reactive. A good Tai Chi user follows their opponent so softly and perfectly they can react to the slightest shift in energy or tension without losing contact with the skin.

Who has the hardest punch in fighting? ›

Ngannou himself holds the current record for the hardest punch in the world, having clocked a striking power of 129,161 units on a PowerKube, which measures the power of a punch based on a variety of different factors, including force, speed and accuracy.

What is the hardest punch type? ›

An uppercut will be the most powerful when the opponent's head is dropping, while a counter overhand will be the most powerful option if the opponent is caught while stepping in with a jab or a hook.

Is MMA deadlier than boxing? ›

So Which Is More Dangerous? Studies that have been done show that MMA is statistically safer than the sport of Boxing. One of the most notable studies cited was done by researchers at the University of Alberta's Sather Sports Medicine Clinic.

Is MMA better than gym? ›

MMA training gives you a better workout than traditional gym workouts, but that doesn't mean you should give up on your weight training routine. A sport-specific lifting program can improve your performance during MMA classes, and lifting weights helps build bigger muscles.

Is MMA better than Taekwondo? ›

Kicks are an integral part of MMA, and the Korean martial art is solely focused on kicking, which makes it an excellent base to build on in MMA. But in a direct fight, MMA obliterates Taekwondo. The narrow focus of Taekwondo leaves too many gaps that any MMA fighter can easily exploit.

What is the best all around martial art? ›

The conditioning of bones together with the rigorous training of the most effective striking strategies of arguably any martial art, Muay Thai is to stand-up fighting what Jiu-Jitsu is to grappling. It is the number one, undisputed striking art.

Which MMA is best for self defense? ›

The 7 Best Martial Arts For Self-Defense
  • Taekwondo. Taekwondo has earned a reputation for being a competitive sport, but the martial art was originally developed for self-defense. ...
  • Submission Grappling. Every match goes to the ground. ...
  • Muay Thai. ...
  • Wrestling. ...
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. ...
  • Mixed Martial Arts.
7 Aug 2019

What age is best for MMA? ›

Experts reckon that the ideal age to start a MMA practice is between the ages of 13-16, when the adolescent body is growing and learning to identify with the adult body. To start MMA training, the child must have a background in fitness, strong muscles, motivation and strong immunity.

What is the most popular fighting style? ›

1) Mixed Martial Arts: the Most Popular Martial Art in the World. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a practice of hybrid martial arts which blends all forms of combat. There are plenty of theories about who founded mixed martial arts.

What is the number one best fighting style? ›

The conditioning of bones together with the rigorous training of the most effective striking strategies of arguably any martial art, Muay Thai is to stand-up fighting what Jiu-Jitsu is to grappling. It is the number one, undisputed striking art.

What is the least effective fighting style? ›

1) Tai Chi

Tai chi advocates will say they employ their opponents' energy against them with little effort – the classic McDojo defense – without ever acknowledging that they have no idea how to implement that when being attacked by someone both violent and prepared.


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