MMA for Beginners

mma for beginners

This will look at the technical aspects of MMA, rather than the rules etc, for those who want to train, rather than exclusively watch the sport.


Before you begin

  • Adopt a side-on boxing stance
  • Usually your dominant foot is at the back, so most people will have their left leg in front
  • Be on your toes or balls of your feet, not your heels
  • Practice moving sideways without crossing your feet
  • Push off from your back foot to move forwards, don’t bring feet together
  • Stay relaxed even when throwing punches
  • Start punches by twisting the rear foot for the cross punch
  • When throwing a left hook in a left-lead stance, rotate the left heel clockwise

Techniques to learn:

Jab – If you have your left foot forward, you left hand will throw the jab.

It’s generally a quick ‘feeler’ punch to gauge range and to set up other punches or keep opponent at bay.

More powerful jab punches can be used, but generally this is done sparingly to avoid fatigue and stepping in too far


A straight punch throw from the back-hand. So the right hand if you are in a left-lead stance.

It is important to have your rear foot on the toes, not heel, so that you can rotate your right heel outwards/anti clockwise.


Mark Hunt ROy Nelson KO Gif

Right uppercut – Bend to your right slightly, extend the hip and then follow with the fist. Keep the arm bent.

Tip – people often miss with the uppercut and hook as they underestimate the distance – aim for the throat area and you will normally hit the chin. (don’t hit people in the throat though, v dangerous)


Keep your arm bent as if you are about to hug an oak tree with one arm

For the left hook,  rotate the left foot first, then the hip, then whip the hand through in a relaxed state. Stiffen up and follow through on impact.

Boxing Combinations

There are many boxing combinations, including:

Straight punches – often thrown from distance:

Jab, cross

Jab, Jab, cross

Hooking punches – often thrown from a toe 2 toe position

Right uppercut, left hook, right uppercut

jab, cross, hook, uppercut

jab, cross, hook, uppercut

Boxing Styles

Boxing has many different styles. A great tip for shorter boxers fighting taller guys, is to keep your head off the centre, so keep moving it side to side. This is more dangerous in MMA however when kicks are allowed. You can make it difficult to throw round kicks by constantly moving forwards…but then there’s takedowns!


Muay Thai

Muay Thai fighters adopt a more square-on stance, to avoid kicks to the lead leg and so that they can kick more quickly from the rear leg.

Thai Clinch


A very powerful clinch – the Thai clinch is often used to set up and drive in knees to the head and body, or even to set up takedowns.

Grab the opponent around the crown of the head (where a bald spot may be!) and using your back muscles and biceps control his head and pull it down into a knee.

You can also use it to pull him down into a choke, or pull him down, then as he resists, let go an d shoot for a takedown – similar to the video below which shows a wrestling clinch set up rather than a Thai clinch


Roundhouse Kick

For more information on how to do a roundhouse kick see my specific blog post by click here.

To throw a right roundhouse, in left-lead:

  • Either step across (to the left) or pivot on your lead foot to point the toes to the left
  • Bring your left around and downwards* into the opponents leg
  • Extend your hips – i.e. straighten up your back on impact

*not all coaches will agree with kicking down into the leg. You wouldn’t do this for a body kick or a head kick either.

When throwing the roundhouse kick you are vulnerable to straight punches, so many fighters will set up the kicks by throwing or feinting a punch first.

Block a low kick by checking it on your shin – pick up your lead leg and contact your shin with his shin

Counter a low kick by stepping forwards with a punch or by throwing a straight kick


Drive your foot from the floor and lean back slightly as you make contact with the opponent. Watch Wanderlai in his Pride days:


Front kicks

Lift the knee, lean back, extend the leg.





Sprawling is the basic way to defend a takedown, you move your legs as far back as possible to prevent the other guy grabbing them.

You can also ‘stiff arm’ a guys head and use underhooks to defend a takedown.

Double Leg Takedown

The signature wrestling move – this takes a lot of practice and got consume a lot of energy.

A beginner’s mistake with the double leg, is attempting it from too far away from the opponent, you want to be in ‘touching distance’ of your opponent normally.
Set it up with a punch or some kind of clinch/tie up.


Single Leg Takedown

Often easier for beginner’s the single leg takedown involves grabbing one leg rather than controlling two

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ is so complicated it takes decades to master!

If you want to be competent in a street fight or at MMA in a shorter space of time, I would recommend learning boxing and wrestling first.

BJJ Signatures techniques include:

The Triangle Choke

The Arm Bar

Mount Position

Side Control





Obviously there are many more styles that are used an integrated into MMA, including Judo, Sambo and karate. Hopefully this article will give you a base of understanding when it comes to your first MMA lesson or class.

So good techniques to focus on as a beginner include:

  • Boxing punches & techniques
  • Low roundhouse & checking
  • Thai Clinch
  • Guillotine choke
  • Triangle choke defence
  • Single Leg Takedowns
  • Takedown Defence
  • Mount Escape
  • Side Control Escape

Good luck – have fun!

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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