Pankration (meaning ‘all force) was introduced in the ancient Olympics. It was a mix of boxing and wrestling styles.
These sports evolved into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). How does pankration vs MMA compare today?
MMA shares the same fundamentals with Pankration regarding the ground and striking game. Punches, kicks, and submissions are free to use in both sports. Modern Pankration focuses more on submissions, whereas Ancient Pankration was far more lethal.
The argument has been ongoing since 1996, when Royce Gracie competed in his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with no rules. He took home the winner’s belt in just 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
Keep reading to learn more about the unique differences and similarities between Pankration and mixed martial arts.
Is pankration like MMA?
Modern Pankration is similar to MMA both in the striking and ground game. Kicks, punches, and different kinds of choke holds are widely used in both martial arts.
Pankration moves are the ancestor of the modern MMA moves we know today. The only difference is that MMA has more rules and regulations than Pankration.
Despite being an older martial art, you can also learn Pankration online like other remote MMA programs.
Every mixed martial artist has a different background, and as such, they prefer different fighting styles.
Some like to box, and some use karate, but at the end of the day, only two fundamental disciplines can be used in mixed martial arts: striking and grappling.
Every fighter will have their own preference for which one they would rather do more than the other.
Pankration has a lot of similarities to modern MMA. Both include striking with fists and leg kicks and are strongly influenced by grappling and wrestling.
The ground submissions are very similar across both sports. This was the main aim of Pankration, and many MMA fighters are most successful with submitting their opponent.
In striking, MMA and Pankration can be described as a carbon copies. You can throw as many elbow strikes and knees in Pankration as you do in MMA.
Every submission in MMA is legal in Pankration. With this, you’ll have no problem executing your trusty RNC, Armbar, and Kimura in both of the sports.
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Despite that, not all Pankration submissions are allowed in MMA. In Pankration, strangling your opponent’s neck using your hands in the full mount is a quick and easy way to win.
But in MMA, this submission is not allowed and is considered illegal. Plus, it doesn’t jive with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique.
When it comes down to it, all you need to know is which discipline is better against your opponent’s preferred style.
The difference is that MMA has a much stronger use of head striking.
As mixed martial arts has grown, it has become clear that a more straightforward win for the accurate few is to go for head strikes and get the knockout.
With influences from many martial arts used in modern MMA, the potential for knockouts could be far greater than Pankration from Ancient Greece.
Another major difference between MMA and modern Pankration is the point system.
MMA’s point system is based on the fighter’s dominance in a specific round in either striking or grappling.
While Pankration’s point system is a bit similar to Taekwondo. Specific strikes correspond to a certain number of points.
For example, a clean kick to the thigh is 1 point, and a body kick is 2 points.
Is pankration better than MMA?
Modern Pankration is better than MMA in terms of the variety of moves. Pankration has a more brutal fighting style. It allows almost any strikes and submissions except for eye gouging and biting.
Ancient Pankration focuses more on making opponents quit. But today, modern Pankration follows a more organized point system.
Unlike MMA, where every move is calculated, Pankration is more barbaric. It aims to immobilize its opponent and destroy them with any strikes available.
In Ancient Pankration, groin grabs are used to take advantage of their opponent. That’s how extensive the move set of Pankration is; literally, whatever it takes just to win.
As Pankration evolved into a more civilized combat art, groin attacks got banned. Attacking the occipital bone and spinal column is also prohibited.
Yes, MMA is also a martial art with a diverse move set. But if you compare it to Pankration, MMA has a much more controlled fighting environment.
Pankration is considered one of the most effective martial arts in the world. Even Kung Fu can’t keep up with it.
Who wins a fight between a pankration or MMA fighter?
A Pankration fighter will obliterate an MMA fighter in a street fight. It’s like fighting a Pankratist in their comfort zone because they’re used to fighting with little to no rules.
MMA fighters are more cautious and hesitant with their moves because they’re used to following rules.
While a Pankration fighter’s goal is to hold you down and strike you until you quit.
This specific fighting of Pankration makes the combat sport excellent for street fighting.
If a Pankration fighter fought in MMA, they would still have a great chance of winning. All they have to do is to tone down their fighting style and keep the overall fight rules in mind.
MMA fighters with a Pankration background
Below are some MMA fighters you might know that have a solid Pankration background. Have a check.
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is the former 12-time UFC Flyweight Champion. His Pankration background is significantly seen in his superb wrestling game inside the cage.
DJ trained at AMC Kickboxing & Pankration. He sharpened his striking skills in this gym, especially his Pankration game.
Having a Pankration base solidifies his versatility as a fighter. He can easily strike as much as he can dominate his opponents on the ground.
He adapted Pankration’s wildness in strikes. This helped him win his ONE FC Flyweight belt back against Adriano Moraes via flying knee.
Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov is probably the most dominant UFC Lightweight champion. His wrestling is greatly inspired by Sambo and Pankration.
Before being the UFC Lightweight champion, Khabib grabbed the Pankration European title. He used his Pankration background to improve his ground game significantly.
Some of Khabib’s most notable performances are against UFC future hall of famers, Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirer, and Conor McGregor.
Ali Bagautinov is one of the UFC’s forgotten jewels. Like any Dagestani fighter, he is known for his dominant ground game, mainly wrestling.
Little did anyone know, this wrestling pedigree was influenced by Ali’s Pankration background. Before entering the UFC, Ali became the Pankration world champion.
Final say on pankration vs MMA
Ancient Pankration and modern-day MMA have a lot of similarities.
While Pankration was focused on ground submissions to force the opponent to give up, in modern fighting, a lot more focus is put on knockout techniques.
Like with all martial arts, there are merits to many of them as a base for MMA.
Pankration’s heavy wrestling has influenced much of the practice by some of the greatest MMA fighters of this generation. So it’s definitely not something to snuff about.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.