anatomy of a fighter

Anatomy of a fighter – An introduction

In this series we will be identifying fighters from different stylistic backgrounds and analysing what attributes, techniques and skills they harness to be the best. We will look into both natural ability and technical background to find out which styles are most effective with which type of fighter.

Why is this important?

MMA is one of the most unpredictable sports there is, be it Tyron Woodley upsetting Robbie Lawler, Michael Bisping shocking Luke Rockold or Matt Serra shocking the world by KOing GSP. Many times a fighter comes along with a new style that makes us all look differently at the fight game and wonder how they’ll ever be beaten. Lyoto Machida hit the big time in the late 2000’s with a hybrid and elusive Karate style and his destruction of Light Heavyweight UFC Champ Rashad Evans made the MMA world thing twice about the dominance of Wrestle-boxers in the sport. The days, the title positions in the UFC are held by a range of different styles, from Bisping’s hard cardio Kickbocking, to Daniel Cormier’s wrestling and the precision striking of Conor McGregor. With the most recent title changes it’s arguably one of the most open and unpredicatable times for the UFC as the top tier of the sport and this is filtering down to lower ranked organisations too.
We are analysing which fighters benefit from what styles to ensure that we can understand how best to adjust and overcome, to become the fully rounded martial artist.

What are we looking at?

Body Type

The key point of a series like this is to pick standard indicators to ensure that we are assessing each fighter on a level playing field. While we obviously can’t compare the physiology of Mighty Mouse to Stipe Miocic, we can certainly look at how their relative types have influenced their careers. The first point we will be assessing is physical make up. How someone’s relative height, natural weight, reach and core strength ratios influence them as fighters and influence their performance within the next two categories: Style and Career.


Style is hugely important as it is the basis for the premise of MMA to exist in the first place: Which martial art is the best? Obviously we’ve moved on from Art Jimmerson attempting to punch Royce Gracie with one glove and the world being amazed that a little ju-jitsu guy can take out men twice his size, but MMA is still very stylistic. One of the things that makes the sport so interesting is that there is no fixed answer to that. Different fighters pose different challenges to each other. For every TKO finish Conor McGregor has involving a big shot and then a swarm of ground strikes (see Brimage, Poirier, Siver, Brandao and Mendes), he faces a Nate Diaz. At UFC 202 McGregor repeatedly connected with his trademark stun gun left hand, dropping the Stockton fighter. Each time McGregor had to avoid the follow up swarm because he could not risk ground engagement with a high level BJJ black belt who possesses longer arms and legs than him. Style and Body are huge.


Career provides context to the decisions fighter make daily. Previous knock outs can have a massive effect on a fighters durability as well as their attitude to risk. What also must be considered is narrative. Remember, storylines sell fights, and combat sports are judged by their ability to generate interest and revenue. A fighter like Ronda Rousey cashes in on being an unbeatable monster and that narrative influences the way she fights. This was detrimental against an experienced striker like Holly Holm and now the UFC and Rousey have a big question of how to sell her next fight. Fedor Emilianenko is another major victim of the “monster” narrative. As soon as the defeats started coming (as they inevitably will in high level MMA) his stock dropped hard. In contrast to that, there has always been fighters who can lose courageously and maintain their image. Forrest Griffin, the Diaz Brothers, Wanderlei Silva and Michael Bisping have all dropped numerous fights but haven’t been massively diminished as a result. When looking at the DNA of a fighter, we must always consider how their experience effects their future performance.

For this series there is no concrete plan to focus on any particular era or fighter type, but if there’s any request you wish to make, please do so in the comments or on Twitter!