The most commonly used MMA slang terms

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

March 24th, 2021

Do you know the difference between a Muay Thai clinch and a kimura? If you're new to mixed martial arts you may not, as the sport's unique vernacular can sometimes seem incomprehensible to the uninitiated.

Learn how to sound like a pro by mastering these 15 key MMA words and phrases.


MMA is most often referred to as "cage-fighting" due to the fact that the competitors compete in a semi-closed ring. Though the ring is technically an octagon, you’ll hear it called a cage more often than not.


A clinch is a common maneuver when both opponents tie each other up in close quarters. This locked position can allow fighters to land shorter, more devastating blows and body shots, or attempt takedowns.

Dirty boxing

Dirty boxing is a powerful striking tactic performed in the clinch, which utilizes both strikes and grappling techniques. Unlike professional boxing, fighters will not be separated by an official in a clinch, so fighters more adept in close quarters can do serious damage.

Eye gouge

This is an extremely illegal move whereby a fighter attempts to poke an opponent's eye. Eye gouging can result in penalties, including immediate disqualification.

Gas in the tank

A euphemism to describe a fighter’s remaining endurance in a taxing fight. If a fighter is taking considerable damage and visibly slowing down, announcers use this phrase to emphasize the dire situation.


Considering one of the critical skills in MMA, grappling is a general term used for styles aimed to restrain or submit opponents. This is commonly used when describing wrestling or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners.

Ground and pound

A technique that involves a fighter forcing their opponent to the ground and bombarding them with strikes. This savage display is one of MMAs most exciting and violent moves.


This is a defensive grappling position when the downed opponent has their legs wrapped around the attacker. Variations of the guard include the full guard, pulling guard, and rubber guard.


A grappling submission hold also known as a double wristlock. It is named in honor of Masahiko Kimura, a prominent Japanese judoka who rose to fame in the 1950s.


This is when the attacker attempts to gain control on a grounded opponent, either setting up a submission attempt or to initiate a ground and pound. Variations include front mounts, side mounts, rear mounts, and reverse mounts.

Muay Thai clinch

Unlike the regular clinch, this Muay Thai technique has the attacker putting both hands behind his opponent’s head to restrict movement. This style of clinch is used to land debilitating knee strikes.


MMA categorizes any hits from the hands, knees, elbows, and legs as strikes. The term "significant strikes" usually refers to strikes landed when fighters are not in a clinch or in a grounded position.


A ground defense technique when an opponent springs back and applies their weight to their attacker's back, denying their chance to gain ground control.


When an opponent concedes defeat in a submission hold. The submitting fighter may tap out as a visual cue to indicate the submission.


A takedown is when an attacker forces their opponent to the ground. Variants include the single-leg and double-leg takedown, the scissors (or tripping) takedown, and slams.

Learn more about MMA

That should wrap it up, leaving you well-versed in some common terms heard during MMA fights. For a more detailed breakdown, check our guide on how to bet on MMA, and read our detailed previews for upcoming fights on the TwinSpires Edge.