Did I miss some kind of memo where it was announced that is now uncool to keep your hands up while fighting? Seriously, the last few MMA events I was at it was like keeping some kind of fighting stance was as passé as eighties hair and leg warmers. A tight economical structure can prevent any number of takedowns and strikes successfully landing, conserve energy and increase the chances of your own strikes and takedowns being successful. A loose structure has its advantages – and disadvantages – but no structure is just a recipe for disaster.

Don’t slam out of guillotines

Apart from the fact that attempting to slam out of any submission rarely works and usually just results in seriously pissing off whoever is currently cranking on your arm or neck, attempting to slam out of a guillotine is exceptionally dangerous as well.

At the time of writing 5 people in the past year have been rendered quadriplegics from attempting to slam out of guillotines and while this a relatively low rate of catastrophic injury these particular incidences were completely avoidable.

The mechanism is straight forward. A guillotine places direct pressure on the C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae – not a problem in itself – and attempting to slam free frequently results in massive amounts of force traveling through the spine as your head inadvertently smashes into the floor. Due to the pressure from the guillotine the C3/C4 & C5 vertebrae have no way to dissipate that force and, as a result, both dislocate and fracture under the stress.

Learn how to use the cage 

The cage has been referred to as the 4th discipline and that may be under valuing just how important knowledge of how to use the cage both offensively and defensively may be.

Part stand up, part clinch and part ground work the dynamics of the fight change radically whenever it is brought into play.  Athletes who know how to work the cage have a significant advantage over those who don’t.

Learn how to use half guard properly

You are way more likely to end up playing half guard against your will in an MMA match then you are in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament . A small mistake on the bottom can easily result in your opponent landing a few significant strikes and establishing a partial pass to half guard top. A sound knowledge of half guard enables the bottom player to neutralize strikes, recover full guard or, ideally, reverse the situation. A poor knowledge of half guard enables the bottom player to wear themselves out hanging on to a position they can’t maintain before succumbing to pressure and strikes.

Learn how to stand up

A strategy made famous by Chuck Liddell and further refined by the likes of Cain Valesquez and Georges St Pierre the ability to stand up and bring the fight back to its feet is crucial in modern mixed martial arts. While it is obvious why an athlete who prefers to stand and exchange strikes would need to be able to bring a fight back up from the ground this skill is also vital for grappling orientated fighters who have ended up on the ground on their opponent’s terms and not their own. If you can dictate where and how a fight takes place you have a significant advantage over your opponent.