MMA Dictionary


MMA Dictionary

The sport of mixed martial arts has its own, unique language. Browse through our glossary of terms to see how many words and phrases you know and use.

Americana: Also known as a keylock, this is a complex submission usually obtained from mount or side control position. An Americana is performed by isolating the wrist and forearm and twisting the arm to put pressure on the shoulder.

Anaconda Choke: A variation of the arm-triangle choke from the front headlock position. In order to execute the choke, the choking/attacking arm is pushed through past the neck and under the armpit before locking up with the second arm's bicep, thus impeding the blood flow on both sides of the opponent's neck.

Ankle Lock: A leglock submission hold where the ankle joint is attacked and hyper-extended.

Armbar: A common submission hold that entails an opponent's arm being straightened out between the instigator's thighs, before being bent and hyper-extended at the elbow to the point of submission.

Arm Drag: A move common in amateur wrestling, this act requires an attacker using two hands to control the wrist and tricep of their opponent and then pulling them into position to gain control of the side or back.

Arm Throw: The idea of gaining control of your opponent's arm and using it as a lever to pull the rest of their body over your center of gravity in order to complete a high amplitude takedown.

Arm-Triangle Choke: A submission hold whereby a person is choked with their own arm on one side and the attacker's arm on the other side of the neck.

Ankle Pick: A variation of the single leg takedown commonly featured in freestyle/folkstyle wrestling. In order to perform an ankle pick, the attacker grabs and elevates their opponent's ankles off the mat, before either lifting or driving through.

Bodylock: More commonly known as a 'bear hug'. From an upright position, a fighter's arms are wrapped around the torso of their opponent and then connected around the other side in order to set up a potential takedown.

Body Triangle:The act of controlling an opponent's body by wrapping one's legs around the torso. The ankle secures the lock when fitting under the knee of the other leg, thus producing a triangular shape created by both legs.

Bout: An alternative name for a fight or contest.

Boxing: A combat sport and form of striking where only the knuckles of the padded glove are used to strike the head and upper torso of an opponent.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: A grappling art first developed in Brazil in the early 1900's with a heavy emphasis placed on groundwork and submissions.

Butterfly Guard: A variation of the traditional guard, where both legs are hooked in between an opponent's legs, thus keeping the opponent inside the thighs of the fighter with his back to the ground.

Catch Wrestling: An amalgamation of grappling styles such as Greco-Roman Wrestling and Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling originated in England during the 1800's.

Cauliflower Ear: The calcification of the ear from repeated contact during grappling.

Choke: A generic term used in grappling to explain the restriction of blood to the brain as a result of pressure being applied around a fighter's neck.

Clinch: When two competitors mete in a standing position and grab on to one another in an attempt to exert their physical strength and gain close-quarter control.

Cornerman: Also referred to as a 'corner'. This is a source of support and advice for a fighter during a bout, whether it be a coach, assistant coach or cutman.

Counter-Punch: When a fighter evades or blocks a strike and then immediately returns with a punch of their own.

Cross: Thrown from an orthodox and upright stance, a cross is a punch performed by the rear hand and one normally delivered along a straight trajectory from the jaw to the target.

Crucifix: A grappling maneuver with the emphasis on ground control. In order to perform a crucifix, a fighter will stretch out and isolate their grounded foe's limbs with the use of their own legs and arms. Once the opponent is prone and unable to protect themselves, the attacking fighter will be free to end the fight unchallenged.

Catchweight Bout: When a fight is made at a pre-determined weight outside of the normal weight class parameters. Can also be used to classify a bout in which one competitor or both will not be able to make weight, but that has been determined beforehand to be held at the new weight. A fight in which one of the competitors does not make weight but still takes place is not a catchweight bout.

D’arce Choke: A choke named after grappler Joe D'Arce, who commonly used the technique in competition. It is also sometimes referred to as a Brabo choke. This is a variation of a front headlock arm-triangle choke and requires a fighter's attacking arm being pushed through their opponent's armpit and across their neck, before grabbing the bicep of the other arm, thus forming a connection and choke.

Decision: Should a bout travel the full scheduled distance, a decision will be rendered by three judges at its conclusion. These scores will be tabulated and the winner of the bout will then be decided.

Dirty Boxing: When two opponents engage in a close-quarter stand-up battle and choose to hold and control their opponent with one hand, while throwing punches, commonly hooks and uppercuts, with their free and spare hand.

Disqualification: A loss incurred by one fighter, usually due to a rules infraction.

Double Leg Takedown: One of the two most popular takedowns in freestyle or folkstyle wrestling. In order to complete a double-leg takedown, an attacker will drop down and drive between their opponent's legs with a step. The shoulder then impacts the midsection, thus tipping the opponent's center of gravity over the attacker and creating a loss of balance. Once this shot is initiated, the attacker will then use their arms and momentum to drive through, preventing their foe from regaining balance and fully executing the takedown.

Duck Under: A common wrestling maneuver performed while standing in or close to a clinch position. The idea is to gain an advantageous position on an opponent by driving one's head under their elbow/tricep and moving to the side or back.

Fight Camp: An intense period of sustained training, usually carried out for eight to ten weeks before a scheduled bout. It is during fight camp when trainers and sparring partners help prepare a competitor for an upcoming bout.

Fireman's Carry: A wrestling takedown performed from a tie-up position. To complete the move, an attacker holds on to their opponent's arm, ducks under and drops to both knees, while shooting their other arm through the opponent's legs and pulling them over their shoulders and on to their back.

Fish Hook / Fish Hooking: The illegal and prohibited move of putting fingers in an opponent's mouth and then 'hooking' inside the cheek area.

Folkstyle Wrestling: A style of amateur wrestling practiced in the United States in the scholastic system and predominantly through college.

Footwork: In the striking arts, footwork is the term used to describe one's ability to maintain balance and control distance through movement.

Foul: An illegal maneuver or conduct administered by a fighter during a bout.

Freestyle Wrestling: One of the two Olympic amateur wrestling styles .

Front Kick: A linear kick performed by lifting the knee straight up, straightening the leg and then thrusting the ball of the foot at a target.

Gable Grip: Named after legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable, this move places emphasis on a palm-to-palm clasping of the hands with thumbs at the side of each hand, as opposed to intertwining them.

Gi: A Japanese term for a training uniform worn by many exponents of traditional martial arts such as karate and Judo.

Gogoplata: A complicated chokehold performed from the guard, and one which involves an attacker using both an arm and leg (shin) to squeeze the neck of an opponent.

Gracie Family: The pioneering fighting family and celebrated originators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Grapevine: The concept of using one's legs to intertwine with those of an opponent in order to maintain control while on the ground.

Grappling: A general term that covers the techniques and disciplines used to gain an advantage over an opponent without the use of striking.

Greco-Roman Wrestling: One of the two Olympic amateur wrestling styles that prohibit holds below the waist and therefore places an emphasis on throws.

Ground and Pound: A tactic originally employed by wrestlers to take an opponent to the ground and begin striking from a grounded position.

Guard: A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu position that requires a fighter lying flat on their back and controlling an opponent's movement and position by keeping them tied up and restricted between their legs. There are many variations of this position. 2. A boxing term describing the act of keeping both hands up to protect the face.

Guillotine Choke: One of the most common and popular submissions, this move is sometimes performed in a standing position, but more often from the guard. It requires an attacker gripping on to the prone neck of their opponent in a front headlock position and then squeezing the grip tightly until rendering a submission.

Half Guard: This is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu position commonly used when full guard is unavailable. If a grounded fighter is unable to secure complete control via full guard, they will settle for trapping only one of their opponent's legs between their own in order to complete half guard.

Hammer Fist: The act of an attacking fighter using the side of their clenched fist to strike down on a grounded opponent.

Haymaker: A wild, fight-changing power punch.

Head and Arm Throw: An amateur wrestling takedown that requires an attacker using their opponent's head and one arm to throw them to their back.

Heavyweight: A weight-class where competitors range from 206 lbs (93.4 kg) to 265 lbs (129.2 kg) in weight.

Heel Hook: Considered one of the most dangerous submissions in the sport, this move requires an attacker immobilizing an opponent's leg and then placing their forearm on the side of the heel to twist it and force the submission.

Hip Toss: A common amateur wrestling throw performed when the attacker secures one of their opponent's arms and slides their other attacking arm around the opponent's back/waist area. The attacker then turns and lifts their opponent up, over their back and on to the ground.

Hook: A punch delivered by the lead hand in a circular motion from the standing position. 2. In grappling terms, 'hooks' refer to the act of seizing and restricting the movement of an opponent's limb to establish a dominant position.

Jab: A fundamental strike in boxing and one performed by snapping out the lead hand along a straight trajectory

Joint Lock: This describes any technique used to make a joint suffer unnatural movement or contortion, thus causing pain, discomfort, damage and potentially a submission.

Judge: One of three neutral adjudicators selected by an Athletic Commission to score and decide the outcome of a fight which goes the scheduled distance.

Judo: A grappling martial art and sport created in Japan by Kano Jigoro in the late 1800's. Judo is an Olympic sport that allows groundwork and submissions, and is commonly noted for its emphasis on throwing techniques.

Karate: A predominantly striking martial art, first developed in Okinawa/Japan and with many branches and variations.

Keylock: A submission obtained when a fighter is in the mount or side control position and isolates the wrist and forearm of their opponent in order to then twist the arm and apply pressure to the shoulder.

Kickboxing: The generic term for a sport and style of striking that utilizes hand and foot techniques. Some forms and styles of kickboxing include the use of knees and elbow strikes as well.

Kimura: A submission similar to a keylock or americana, and named after a Japanese Judoka, Masahiko Kimura, this move occurs when an opponent's arm is isolated and cranked behind their back, thus putting immense pressure on their shoulder.

Kneebar: This submission is achieved when an opponent's knee is locked out straight by an attacker, who then places pressure on the ligaments behind the knee in pursuit of a tap.

Knee Tap: A freestyle/folkstyle wrestling takedown that requires an attacker placing one hand on the outside of their opponent's knee to prevent movement, while they drive in that same direction.

Knockout: A strike that leaves an opponent unable to continue and results in a premature conclusion to a bout.

Kung Fu: A generic term that refers to the entirety of Chinese martial arts.

Leglock: A general term for the act of isolating an opponent's leg and executing any one of many possible submissions.

Level Change: When a fighter moves from an upright stance to a lower stance, by dropping down to the waist or legs of their opponent, in order to elicit a reaction or shoot for a takedown.

Light Heavyweight: A weight-class where competitors range from 186 lbs (84.3 kg) to 205 lbs (92.9 kg) in weight.

Lightweight: A weight-class where competitors range from 146 lbs (66.2 kg) to 155 lbs (70.3 kg) in weight.

Majority Draw: The decision rendered when two of the three judges rule a bout even at its conclusion.

Middleweight: A weight-class where competitors range from 171 lbs (77.5 kg) to 185 lbs (83.9 kg) in weight.

Mount: A dominant grappling position which allows the attacker to straddle their opponent's torso from the top and thus enjoy a greater sense of control.

Muay Thai: A kickboxing/striking art and the national sport of Thailand. Muay Thai specialists utilize hand, foot, knee, and elbow strikes from a stand-up position.

Neck Crank: A grappling submission and control move and one that entails an attacker applying force on an opponent's neck to create pain and discomfort and potentially force a submission.

No Contest: The outcome of a bout that prematurely ends due to unforeseen circumstances, with no victor rendered at the end. A stalemate.

North South Choke: A choke submission achieved when an attacker is on top and chest to chest with an opponent, but positioned in an opposite north-south direction. The attacker then proceeds to wrap one arm around the neck of their grounded opponent before squeezing to generate the submission.

Octagon: The eight-sided specially-designed structure where all UFC bouts take place.

Omoplata: A submission hold that requires the attacker using their legs to isolate an opponent's arm and apply pressure to the shoulder. It is most commonly obtained while utilizing the guard position.

Overhand Right/Left: An arching and curved power punch thrown with the rear hand.

Overhook: Also commonly referred to as a 'whizzer', an overhook is performed in a clinch or tie-up situation by taking an opponent's arm and burying the hand in their chest or ribcage, and then moving so that both torsos are facing the same relative direction.

Over-Under Position: A very common clinch/tie-up position where both combatants have one arm around the opponent's body and the other arm over the opponent's arm, sometimes clasping hands around the back in order to set up an upper body throw.

Pankration: An ancient Greek Olympic competition and style which featured some of the same techniques and methods of today's modern mixed martial arts.

Peruvian Necktie: A variation on the front choke (i.e. guillotine, anaconda choke), this move requires the attacker briefly standing up, scooting in and sitting down, before throwing their legs up and over the back of their opponent.

Posture: One's ability to keep their torso perpendicular to the floor, especially useful when looking to avoid chokes in an opponent's guard.

Pull Guard: If a grappler is unable to take their opponent to the ground via takedowns, they will clinch and pull their opponent on top of them by wrapping their legs around the torso, initiating full guard and then looking to set up a submission or sweep from a grounded position.

Pummel: Fighters will pummel when battling for position of the arms and torso while in the clinch, with the aim of getting both arms on the inside and around the opponent's mid-section.

Push Kick: A variation of the Muay-Thai front kick, this move requires the ball of the foot moving forward in more of a linear motion, sometimes resembling a stomp. At times referred to as a teep.

Rear Naked Choke: This is a common choke applied when an attacker secures the back of their opponent and uses this advantageous position to set up a choke from the opponent's blind spot. In order to finish the choke, the attacker will sometimes vine their opponent's legs or utilize a body triangle to reduce the chance of losing position.

Referee: An official appointed by the applicable Athletic Commission and someone fully responsible for ensuring the bout rules are adhered to and that the safety of the athletes is paramount.

Round: A five-minute time period within which two fighters compete under mixed martial arts rules. Non-title bouts consist of three rounds and title fights consist of five rounds.

Sambo: A relatively modern Russian martial art and sport and a hybrid of submission arts and amateur wrestling. Sambo tournaments incorporate both grappling and striking.

Shrimping: A grappling technique utilized by a mounted fighter, who will look to turn to their side, pull their knee through to the chest and secure a more positive half guard position.

Side Control: Sometimes referred to as 'side mount' or 'cross mount', this is a grappling position that positions the attacker on top of their opponent's torso and perpendicular to them on their back.

Single Leg Takedown: One of the two most common takedowns in freestyle/folkstyle wrestling, and one performed when an attacker grabs an opponent's leg with both hands and drives them to the mat. There are many variations of this particular technique.

Sit-Out: A grappling technique most common in folkstyle wrestling, this move occurs when a fighter claims their opponent's back in a sitting or standing position, only for the position to then be reversed when the fighter in the disadvantageous position reaches back between their foe's legs to grab a knee and switch positions.

Southpaw: A striking term used to describe a competitor who fights with their right hand and right foot forward and throws a jab with their right hand.

Sprawl: A defensive grappling technique used to avoid a double or single leg takedown by throwing your legs behind you and dropping your weight on top of the attacker.

Sprawl and Brawl: A term used to describe a fighter who avoids takedowns and likes to stand and strike.

Stalemate: When two fighters cannot advance position or gain success in a sustained grappling position.

Submission: The act of utilizing a grappling technique to force an opponent to concede defeat via tapout or other means.

Superman Punch: An elaborate strike set up by first faking a kick and then immediately following through with a punch. The created momentum drives the attacker's body forward and into the air, which helps cover distance quickly.

Suplex: An amateur wrestling throw commonly obtained through a bodylock position from an opponent's back .The aggressor uses the bodylock to lift their opponent up and over in a back arching motion so that the opponent lands on their shoulder blade area.

Sweep: In a grappling confrontation, this is the process of maneuvering from a disadvantageous position beneath your opponent to a more advantageous position on top of them.

Tae Kwon Do: A Korean martial striking art that heavily emphasizes flexibility and kicking.

Takedown: Any way by which an attacker can bring their opponent to the ground with a grappling maneuver

Tapout: The act of a struggling competitor signaling to the referee, usually by quickly tapping three times on the mat or opponent, that they give up and concede defeat.

Technical Knockout: A term used to describe the reason for a bout's conclusion, either because the referee, fighter, or physician determines a combatant is unable to safely continue a bout.

Teep: A type of Muay Thai style front kick, also known as the 'push kick'.

Thai Plum: Also known as a 'collar tie up', this is a clinch commonly used in Muay Thai competition, where the attacker's hand hooks their opponent's neck and the forearm runs down the inside of the chest. The other hand can then also attack the other side of the opponent's neck, locking the hands, controlling movement and delivering knee strikes.

Throw: The act of pulling an opponent up off their feet and then throwing them into the air with some amplitude.

TKO: The abbreviation for Technical Knock Out.

Toe Hold: A footlock submission that involves one hand cupping the top of the foot and toes, while the other hand grabs the wrist of the attacking hand, using the forearm as a fulcrum on the opponent's calf to create pressure.

Triangle Choke: A submission hold where the attacker uses their own legs to isolate and squeeze the neck and one arm of an opponent, commonly performed from the guard position.

Turtle: The act of balling up on elbows and knees in a grounded position, in order to prevent an opponent landing strikes of getting their hooks in.

Two on One: when one fighter grips their opponent's forearm/wrist area with two hands.

Underhook: When an attacker in a clinch situation puts his/her arm under their opponent's arm and tries to grip the shoulder or back to gain control. Double underhooks enable greater control and will also set up a throw. Obtaining an underhook while on the bottom of a grounded position allows a fighter to rise to their feet with more ease.

Unified Rules: A set of rules recognized worldwide by athletic commissions as the standard by which professional mixed martial arts are governed.

Uppercut: A power punch delivered in a circular fashion, rising up from underneath and targeting the opponent's chin. It is especially useful against an opponent who leans in or someone significantly shorter.

Weight-Classes: A set of divisions by which mixed martial arts divides competitors up by weight.

Welterweight: A weight-class where competitors range from 156 lbs (70.7 kg) and 170 lbs (77.1 kg) in weight.

Whizzer: Also known as an overhook, this move is performed in a clinch or tie-up position by placing an arm over the opponent's arm and then burying the hand in their chest or ribcage. The initiator will then usually move out to that side so that both torsos are facing the same relative direction.

Wrestling: The generic term used for any of a variety or grappling disciplines that don't necessarily incorporate submissions.

X-Guard: A variation of the open guard, this is where the fighter in the disadvantageous bottom position attacks the leg of their standing opponent with their own legs, thus creating an entanglement and allowing the possibility for submissions and sweeps.