MMA Glossary of Terms

Here is a guide to the most popular fighting terminology using in the UFC and other fight tournaments.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques, from boxing and wrestling to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. As the sport has evolved, so too has the terminology used by fighters and fans.

This glossary provides definitions for some of the most common MMA terms.

Glossary of Fighting Terminology

Achilles Lock or Ankle Lock

A foot lock that exists in many variations where a submission move applied to the joints in the ankle which causes a compression lock to the Achilles tendon, or sometimes also to the calf muscle.


The skill or sport of fighting with the fists usually with padded leather gloves. Referred to as the “sweet science,” boxers use elaborate foot maneuvers and quick jabs for offense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In the mid-1920’s, Carlos Gracie opened the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He taught the skills he learned from Japanese Judo master Esai Maeda. The skills were later modified to use less strength and to be more effective against larger opponents. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s reputation spread due to the success of its practitioners in no holds barred contests.


A move blocking the carotid artery in the neck where the flow of blood is restricted to the brain. Failing to submit or tap out can put the victim to “sleep,” or a temporary state of unconsciousness.


A position in which two fighters are face to face, usually with their arms and upper body locked. This can be used to slow action and/or to protect against strikes. A clinch can also be used for offensive purposes, throwing effective short punches and/or knees from this position.

Double Leg Takedown

A takedown that is accomplished by driving an opponent up and forward by grabbing both of his legs (or ankles), which leads to both contestants going to the ground.

Elbow Strike

A fighter throws an elbow intending to strike the opponent with the point of the elbow.

Eye Gouge

An illegal move where fingers protrude in and around an opponents eye.

Fish Hooking

An illegal move in most forms of mixed martial arts in which a competitor puts his finger into an orifice of an opponent and pulls, with the intent of tearing the skin.

Flying Knee Strike

The fighter jumps up or takes step, springing off one leg and in mid-air switches to the other knee to strike. (A spectacular sight if and when it connects).

Free Style Wrestling

Possibly the world’s oldest sport. Contestants struggle hand to hand attempting to throw or take down their opponent without striking blows. Some of the many styles of wrestling are Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and catch as catch can.


Grappling refers to the gripping, handling and controlling of another fighter without the use of striking, typically through the application of various grappling holds and counters to various hold attempts. Grappling can be used in both a standing position, where it is known as stand-up grappling, and on the ground, where it is known as ground grappling.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

Contestants struggle hand to hand attempting to throw or take down their opponent without striking blows. Some of the many styles of wrestling are Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and catch as catch can.

Ground and Pound

A fighter has another fighter in a side mount and throws a series of blows with his forearm and/or fist into his downed opponent’s face. It is a common finishing move.


A position where a fighter is on his back but is in an advantageous position. A fighter wraps his legs around the opponent at the hips and is in position to go for a joint lock or some type of a choke.

Guillotine Choke

A finishing hold where a fighter meets an attacking opponent and then wraps his forearm around the opponent’s neck and applies pressure to cut off air.

Half Guard

A position where one fighter is on his back and has opponent lying on top of him. The fighter on the bottom generally has both of his legs wrapped around one of his opponent’s legs.

Head Butt

An illegal move in which a fighter uses his head as a weapon to strike an opponent.

Heel Hook

A popular and effective submission hold, which is applied to the heel and achieved by twisting the knee at the joint.


Ancient Japanese martial art that encompasses throwing, joint locks, striking, and weapons training.


Sportive Japanese martial art founded in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Derived from Jujutsu, Judo is now an Olympic sport that emphasizes throws. Striking is not allowed in competition Judo.


Name used to identify many Japanese and Okinawan martial arts. While known for powerful, linear techniques, many Karate styles also incorporate softer, circular techniques. Some of the popular styles of Karate are Kyokushinkai, Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, and Kenpo which was the first “Americanized” version of Karate.


A category of mixed martial arts that have a basis in Karate that incorporates Shaolin Kung Fu and/or Kickboxing to make the art more technically complete. Kenpo is a Japanese word that is the translation of the Chinese term “fist law”.

Knee Bar

A submission hold that hyperextends the leg at the knee.

Knee Strike

Fighter thrusts a pointed knee straight upwards toward the opponent.


Sportive martial art combining boxing punches and martial arts kicks. Many different styles with different rules exist such as Muay Thai, Full Contact Karate, and Asian Rules Fighting.


An arm lock similar to a chicken wing often used to end fights named after Masahiko Kimura, a judo expert who fought in the 1950s.

Kung Fu

Also referred to as Gung Fu, Chinese Boxing, and Wu Shu. There are hundreds of Kung Fu styles. Many are patterned after the movements of animals. Some well known styles of Kung Fu are Wing Chun, Praying Mantis, Pau Kua, Tai-Chi-Ch’uan, and Shuai Chiao.

Leg Lock

A leg lock is a joint lock that is directed at joints of the leg such as the ankle, knee or hip joint.


An abbreviation that stands for no holds barred. It is a term mistakenly used to refer to mixed martial arts fights.


An abbreviation for mixed martial arts; it is a combat sport in which competitors combine martial arts, wrestling and boxing in bouts normally held in a cage.


One fighter gets the other flat on his back and then sits on his chest or stomach, preventing the downed man from getting his legs around him and moving into the guard position. It is a dominant position for the man on top, who has the option of using forearms and punches or looking for a submission.

Muay Thai

A form of kickboxing developed in Thailand. Muay Thai allows low kicks, elbows, and knees and ranks as an elite striking art.

Rear Naked Choke

A type of choke that is applied behind an opponent, capturing his back. A rear naked choke is the most advantageous type of choke as far as positioning.


Switching from being in a position that is not advantageous to a superior one.

Roundhouse Kick

A roundhouse kick (also known as a round kick or turning kick) is a kick in which the fighter swings the leg around in a semicircular motion, striking with the front of the leg or foot.


A Russian martial art that combines elements of wrestling and Japanese Judo. Sambo is known for its submission holds, especially on the legs.

Side Mount

A position where a fighter is laying on his back and the opponent is perpendicular, lying across his chest. It is a very advantageous position for the top fighter and is a spot from which many fights end with the fighter on top throwing forearms or punches.

Single Leg Takedown

A takedown that is accomplished by driving an opponent up and forward by grabbing one of his legs (or ankles), which leads to both contestants going to the ground.

Small Joint Manipulation

Illegal submission holds where one twists pops or hyper extends a small joint, such as the fingers or toes.


A left handed fighter.


When a fighter goes into a boxing stance and prefers to throw punches at his opponent.


The act of a fighter hitting an opponent using an arm, hand, elbow, foot, leg, or knee.

Tae Kwon Do

One of the most practiced martial arts in the world, Tae Kwon Do is a Korean style known for its flashy kicking techniques. Tap or tap-out: A manner of ending a match in which the losing fighter concedes defeat. He either verbally concedes to the referee or taps on the mat or on his opponent’s back to signify his surrender.

Take Down

The act of putting your opponent to the floor via tackle, sweep, Greco-throw, or other technique, typically involving the legs.

Tap Out

An act of submission where fighter “gives up” due to being captured in a submission hold or enduring continual striking. The fighter physically taps the mat to signal to an opponent and/or the referee to avoid going unconscious or bodily harm.

Triangle Choke

A type of chokehold that can be done with either the legs or the arms but is primarily used with the legs. It is often used by a fighter from his guard. The fighter on the bottom wraps his legs around his opponent’s neck in a triangular manner and cuts off the opponent’s air. It is often more effective when the head is pulled down.

Vale Tudo

Portuguese for “anything goes.” This term is made in reference to the “no holds barred” fighting that began in Brazil.


Contestants struggle hand to hand attempting to throw or take down their opponent without striking blows.