MMA Fighting Moves, Slang And Terms
This page was created to help the uninitiated fan into the world of MMA. When you read play-by-plays online, fight predictions, or even listen to the commentary as you watch MMA fights it’s likely that you will be confused by some of the terminology and slang.
Here is a list of the most commonly used words and terms in the MMA industry and what they mean so that you can better understand the sport of MMA.
Popular MMA Moves And Terms
Arm Bar - A joint lock in BJJ where one athlete extends the arm of the other and pushes pressure into the joint of the elbow with their hips until the arm breaks or the opponent submits from pain.
Back Mount - Perhaps more dangerous than the mount position in modern MMA, the back mount is when one athlete latches onto the back of another and controls him. The dominant athlete is where a traditional backpack would be on the other athlete.
Bottom Position - Commonly thought of as the inferior position in MMA, this is simply the guy who is on the bottom in a grappling exchange.
Boxing - a combat sport that allows only for the throwing of punches.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ): a self-defense art that was adapted to MMA by the legendary Gracie family. Mainly, a form of fighting on the ground, the BJJ practitioner will control your body by using grappling techniques designed to immobilize you and make you submit. BJJ is still the major martial art that is universally accepted as the best way to fight on the ground.
Catch Wrestling - Also known as catch-as-catch-can wrestling can be simply defined as wrestling with joint locks but it’s much more than that. Catch wrestling finds its origins in Europe and was developed out of Greco-Roman, freestyle wrestling, and Judo techniques that were adapted for different forms of unofficial competition. Not as well known or as widely used as BJJ, famous catch wrestlers like Josh Barnet, claim its dominance over traditional BJJ.
Closed stance: When an orthodox fighter fights another orthodox, or a southpaw fights another southpaw. The term describes the relationship of the stances between both fighters.
Cross: A straight punch that comes from a fighter’s rear hand, typically thought of as a power punch. For an orthodox fighter that would be the right hand, for a southpaw it’s the left.
Double Leg takedown: A wrestling technique where one athlete drops below the other in an attempt to gain control of both of their legs and hips and take them down to the ground.
Freestyle Wrestling: One of the primary disciplines used by mixed martial artists, the main function is to gain control of a standing opponent physically and force them to the ground by using various grappling techniques. In freestyle wrestling, attacking the legs is allows and encouraged.
Front Kick: a straight kick that is commonly delivered to the opponent’s mid-section or face with the toes pointed upward. “This is Sparta” kick from the movie “300” is a good reference.
Greco-Roman Wrestling: Arguably the oldest sport in the world, this style of wrestling forbids the use of attacking or defending with the legs. This rule results in the emphasis on using throws to take your opponent down.
Guillotine Choke: A choke from the front head-lock position where one athlete tucks the head of the other into their armpit to gain a suitable angle to choke them with their forearm.
Half-Guard: In between full guard and side control, the bottom athlete’s legs are wrapped around and control one leg, controlling one hip of the top athlete.
High Crotch takedown: A wrestling technique where one athlete drops below the other in an attempt to gain control of one of their legs and hips and take them down to the ground. The difference between this and a single leg takedown is where the head is positioned. For a single, the head is on the inside, for a high crotch the head is on the outside.
Hip Throw: When an athlete has under or over hook control over their opponent and uses the leverage created with their hips to throw their opponent onto their back.
Hook: A type of punch that is thrown with a circular motion attempting to attack the side of the opponent’s face, where the straight punches would attack the front. Typically thrown with the elbow cocked at 90 degrees using hip rotation (like all punches) as the primary method of building momentum.
Jab: A straight punch that comes from a fighter’s lead hand, typically thought of as a set-up punch. For an orthodox fighter that would be the left hand. For the Southpaw, it’s the right.
Judo: A Japanese martial art where the objective is to throw your opponent onto the ground. Judo has elements that are very similar to Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling but has more of a focus on hip throws and quick submissions. It doesn’t address the changing element of positional control and setting up submissions in the depth that BJJ does. It’s a hip throw specialist’s martial art.
Kickboxing: Similar to Muay Thai but differs in that it doesn’t classically address throwing knees and elbows or fighting within the clinch. (Aside from the massive cultural differences)
Kimura: A shoulder lock in BJJ that is found from various positions.
KO: This is when a fighter gets knocked out cold.
Lead/Rear: This is to refer which arm or leg a fighter is using in various ways. It cuts down on confusion when speaking across multiple stances. For instance, a southpaw’s lead hand is their right while an orthodox fighter’s lead hand is their left. Lead address both without having to take the time to refer to each individually. A term used commonly in MMA sports commentary.
Leg Kick (vs Head Kick): This is not a kick with the leg, this is a kick to the leg. You damage your opponent’s leg with a leg kick, you damage your opponent’s head with a head kick.
Leg Lock: A general term used in BJJ and MMA to describe the multitude of submissions that are aimed specifically at the legs.
MMA: Mixed Martial Arts, a sport in which all martial arts are welcomed and tested among one another to find the cleverest combat athletes in the world.
Muay Thai: The national sport of Thailand that is like a boxing match but instead allows for kicking, punching, kneeing, elbowing and clinching. Commonly referred to as the science (or art) of 8 limbs.
North-South Control: With one athlete on top of the other, this is a dominant position to control the upper half of your opponent’s body from the top position completely opposite of the guard. The bottom athlete’s face s directly under the top athlete’s sternum as both of their legs are pointed in opposite directions.
Open stance: When a southpaw fighter fights an orthodox fighter or vice versa. The term describes the relationship of the stances between both fighters.
Orthodox Stance: Typically a right-handed fighter, this is the stance where a fighter holds his left foot in front and his right in the back.
Overhook: A type of grappling technique characterized by the position that arm is in, in relation to your opponents. This is when your arm is over the top and hooking the arm itself.
Overhand: A type of punch that is delivered from the rear hand that is like a hook but has more of an over the top, arching motion. Almost the same arm motion as throwing a ball.
Pulling Guard: Eddie Bravo calls it “the third option.” This is when an athlete shoots for a takedown or initiates a clinch with the intent to take the fight to the ground and instead of pursuing the takedown to the dominant top position, maintains control of their opponent while falling to their back and dragging them down with them to grapple. Usually, an athlete will resort to “the third option” when they are very skilled grapplers but cannot win the takedown and must take the fight down to the ground by any means necessary.
Rear-Naked Choke: In BJJ, when the athlete who has taken the back of the other, successfully wraps their forearm and bicep under the chin and around neck of the defending athlete. In Brazilian Portuguese, it’s called the Mata Leao, which means “Lion Killer.”
Round Kick/Thai Kick: The most common type of kick that you will see thrown. When a fighter sends his shin careening into his opponent by lifting his knee and turning his hips over. A front kick is to a straight punch as a round kick is to a hook.
Side Kick: A kick that attacks the opponent with the same straight-line force as a front kick or a cross. This kick delivers the heel, or the blade of the foot to the target with the toes pointed completely left or right
Side Control – (or side mount): When the athlete in the top position has passed both legs of the bottom athlete eliminating the bottom athlete’s control of their hips. A dominant position to be in for the top athlete. The athletes are on the mat grappling chest to chest in this position.
Single Leg takedown: A wrestling technique where one athlete drops below the other in an attempt to gain control of one of their legs and hips and take them down to the ground
Southpaw: Typically a left-handed fighter, this is the stance where a fighter holds his right foot in the front and the left in the back.
Split Decision: When a fight goes the entire allotted time duration and 2 of the 3 judges score the fight the same way.
Sprawl: A technique within wrestling where an athlete will defend an incoming takedown by exploding their hips down and into the mat. One fighter shoots a takedown on the other by essentially diving at their hips (double or single leg takedown) the defending fighter resists the attempt to gain control of their hips by explosively driving them down and into the mats on the floor.
Submission: When a fighter verbally or physically admits defeat, usually as a result of a submission hold or crushing strikes.
Sweep: Various techniques in BJJ that allow one fighter to reverse the position of the other. Where the fighter in the bottom position gains top position.
The Guard: (or full guard) The safest position in BJJ when you find yourself on the bottom. This is when the athlete in the bottom position has both legs tightly wrapped around their opponent’s mid-section, controlling their hips from the bottom.
The Mount: A dominant position in BJJ where the top athlete is essentially sitting on the bottom athlete’s chest. An incredibly dangerous position to be in for the bottom athlete, especially when strikes are allowed.
TKO - This term stands for technical knockout and is a decision made by the referee when they no longer feel a fighter can defend him or herself. When the referee steps in and calls the fight, this would constitute a TKO.
Top Position: Commonly thought of the dominant position in MMA, this is simply the guy who is on top in a grappling exchange.
Triangle Choke: In BJJ, when the athlete in the bottom position is successful in locking their opponent’s arm and neck inside their legs in a triangle position. A very powerful choke from the guard.
Underhook: A type of grappling technique characterized by the position that arm is in, in relation to your opponents. This is when your arm is underneath your opponent’s grabbing either the back of his shoulder or back.
Unanimous Decision: When a fight goes the entire allotted time duration and all 3 judges score the bout the same way.
Uppercut: A type of punch that is delivered with an upward motion with the arm in a similar position as the hook. Where the hook is a horizontal punch, the uppercut is a vertical one.