The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) is both simple and nuanced. There's simplicity in the ultimate goal of a fight of course, but the art of fighting is complicated, with a wealth of techniques fighters utilise to win and must be prepared to defend against.

That complexity transfers to the virtual realm too, which offers players the chance to compete without the risk of ruining their good looks. With EA Sports UFC 2 launching this week we've put together a series of tips for beginners hoping to work their way up the ranks.

The (Very) Basics

Fights take place over three rounds or five, which is reserved in real life for main event and championship fights but is the default in EA Sports UFC 2's core fight mode. The object of a fight is to knock them out, force the referee to step in for a technical knockout or submit them. Fights that go the distance are decided by the judges, and fights can also be stopped by doctors if one fighter sustains a bad enough injury, though this is rare (to the point that I'm not sure it's even in the game).

A fight's stand up game consists of kicks, knees, punches and elbows to the head, torso and legs. In a clinch, fighters jostle for the best position while standing, often leading to strikes, a throw or a suplex (basically a more impressive throw). On the ground the fighter on top wrestles for a good position while the fighter on the bottom tries to work their way out or reverse so they are on top. This is where players are able to execute submissions.

The game does a good job of explaining how this corresponds to the controller, and a lot of the moves are easy enough to ascertain from the context of the player positions. For example: on the ground you move the right stick to the left to attempt a move in that direction, which might mean moving into a side position or moving your left leg to gain a deadly top mount position.

The Tips

  • Move both sticks up to get off the ground

Maybe I missed something in the tutorial, but early on, when I was left on my back with an opponent standing over me, I just flopped about until I did something right and my fighter picked his or herself up. Eventually I learnt how to do it: push up on both sticks.

Anyway, now for some proper fighting tips

  • Use the jab
Josh Koscheck
\"Yeah, jabs suck\" - Josh Koscheck. UFC

Tap the right and left jab buttons (triangle and square / Y and X) to execute a short, sharp punch to the face. Using the jab is a fundamental part of the game, especially in a game that focuses more on stand-up fighting than grappling on the ground.

A jab can work effectively at keeping opponents at a distance and slowly wearing them down. To see just how effective jabs can be, look to Georges St Pierre's humbling of Josh Koscheck at UFC 124 – where the Canadian jabbed his way to an easy victory.

  • Don't target only the head

Jabbing shouldn't be your only tactic, but it should act as a solid base. You'll also want to use body shots and leg kicks (hold the left trigger to lower your shots) to slow your opponent down and mix up strikes so you're not as easy to predict. Body blows in particular can be a quick route to gaining a significant advantage in a fight, causing your opponent's stamina to drain. Leg kicks meanwhile can slow down a fighter and make them more susceptible to takedowns.

  • Pace yourself

The most common mistake new players make - and the mistake established players can make at the first sign of an opportunity - is to gas themselves early by utilising heavy strikes (left bumper used with strikes) too often in an attempt to power their way to victory.

Pacing yourself is always the best tactic. Keep moving, gauge the distance between the two fighters and strike when there's an opportunity. If your opponent strikes low, block, strike high and move. Dish out strikes in bursts, before backing off to recuperate stamina before going again.

  • Stay aware of ring position

You don't want to be cornered, so try your best to stay on the inside of the Octagon and then use that opportunity to dictate your opponent's movement. Pen them in, force them back, then strike when there's nowhere else to go. Also track which way your opponent is circling and meet them with strikes to the side they're moving toward.

Similarly, if you're on the ground, on your back, and find yourself near the cage – use the left bumper to modify your next move so you use the cage to your advantage and flip the advantage.

  • Learn the ground game

No EA Sports UFC 2 player can claim to be an accomplished virtual fighter if they don't know their way around the Octagon mat. If you get taken down and don't know what to do, you're not going to last long. Mastering how to manoeuvre yourself while in a dominant position can make the ground game and easy route to victory, but if that's not your preferred method of play then you absolutely need to know how to defend yourself.

EA Sports has made a good practice mode that can teach you the basics, so make use of it and learn. That goes for all aspects of the game, but practice in actual matches are the best way to sew all your skills together in an effective way.

EA Sports UFC 2 is out now on PS4 and Xbox One.

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