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Part of the reason I enjoy watching UFC is it allows us to witness combat sports evolve, which styles/techniques are doing well and what kind of counters tend to be most effective. While a lot has changed over the past decade or two, I have noticed that there has not been much innovation in how deception is used. As I see it, deception is a critical tool for the martial arts. I won't go into all its benefits, but its fairly axiomatic that deception creates opportunities that can then be exploited with technique or power.

Yet as it stands, my assessment of deception in the UFC is heavily skewed towards feints. It's a universal part of the MMA toolkit to probe the opponent's defenses and see how the respond and/or program a response. But even here, I would argue there are levels. There doesn't seem to be a UFC analog of the Muay Thai fighter Saenchai who actually uses misdirection which borders on optical illusion.

In an even more dramatic application of deception, I have only seen a few faked 'dazes' or 'disorientations' whereby the fighter acts like he/she has been significantly affected by a strike but is actually planning a surprise ambush should the opponent re-enter the pocket. Note: I'm not advocating faking eye injuries or other antics to appeal to ref intervention. Though just a handful, I was still surprised that this kind of tactic hasn't caught on. In Verdum versus Emelianenko, Verdum would likely have never landed that arm-bar on Emelianenko had it not been for his faking pain to get Emelianenko to enter his guard. This video shows a few other successful feigns, but note how rare they are:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0SfQHXLr_8

Question

Why hasn't deception been studied and applied more broadly in MMA beyond just feinting?

**Tagging since there is not deception tag.

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    Hmm... I wonder if perhaps part of it is that the UFC, due to vagaries of combat sports rules in the United States, allows referees very broad ability to proclaim a Technical Knock Out if someone looks dazed and unable to defend themselves. As commented by Ramsey Dewey, you can have a TKO declared even if you don't look dazed, but aren't defending yourself. Nov 18, 2021 at 13:13
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    Personally, I think it's a cheap trick, on par with punching someone while touching gloves. Is it a legitimate tactic? I suppose, but it's not a street fight, acting class, or chance to see if an opponent's humanity makes them hesitate. Nov 18, 2021 at 13:45
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    I love the approach Anderson Silva took early on in his UFC career. The way he could psych people out and get in their heads was spectacular. Everything he did was to confuse his opponent. His opponents had no defense for it. If I had to label it, I'd say it was a form of hypnosis. Studying his tactics would go a long way to understanding deception and decoying. Nov 18, 2021 at 16:09
  • Although, admittedly, his career was plagued by cases where he got a little too clever for his own good. Nov 18, 2021 at 20:38
  • @MacacoBranco Yes! Eventually people figured him out enough to mess him up. And he got overly cocky. Haha. But wow, those fights were amazing to look at. Nov 18, 2021 at 21:15

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I'll admit that I don't have a ton of experience with MMA, but I suspect that there are a few factors:

Feigning being disoriented can lead to a Technical Knock Out

As discussed by Ramsey Dewey here, a TKO can be declared in MMA any time a fighter does not seem to be intelligently defending themselves. This can include cases where the fighter isn't actually dazed with cases including fighters being flagged with a TKO because they're trying to act tough, lowering their guard and weathering punches because the symptoms of brain trauma are difficult to determine in the ring, and someone who has taken sufficient brain trauma in the ring such that they're knocked out on their feet can be indistinguishable from someone playing rope-a-dope to wear out their opponent. Similarly, if a fighter feigned an injury, he risks having a referee stop the fight early.

Technically, it could be illegal as "timidity"

As per the "unified rules" of UFC:

Timidity (avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury)

My understanding is that this is more for if you don't attack at all, trying to run out the clock, versus trying to fake an immediate daze/injury lure someone in and then counter-attacking, but just noting that "faking an injury" is specifically called out.

Deception can be a risk

As Steve Weigand pointed out, Anderson Silva is an excellent example of a tricky fighter, constantly moving and faking out opponents, faking being dazed by hits, etc. And, well, when it worked, it worked really well. When it didn't work... well, UFC 162, Silva versus Weidman had him dropping his guard, seemingly doing his usual "feign getting pummeled" and then his legs went wobbly and he fell to the canvas. Using deception in the ring tends to be a gambit, where you sacrifice to draw out an opponent, or attempt to be unpredictable to avoid your opponent's strategy. That said, it often does leave you in a potentially bad situation, an unlucky dodge could put you moving into an attack, and once an opponent knows you like to use tricks, they'll be expecting them.

Yes, a tricky movement might help you secure a victory, but to use it well, you'll have to train it, and one could readily argue that putting that training time into your regular martial arts, or into conditioning, may serve you better. Honestly, I'd say that Anderson Silva got away with it for so long due to a combination of natural athleticism, and good instincts, and eventually, he was brought down to normal and started losing.

It might negatively affect your bottom line by weakening your persona

Most people are in MMA for the money. There are a few "blood warriors" who are in it because they like to scrap, but for the most part, fighters want that purse and they want those endorsements. And, of course, the fighting leagues want fighters who will draw in audiences. A fighter who feigns an injury or uses trickery might not sell as well (although they've definitely got a place in professional wrestling or the staged MMA shows).

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A lot of the times especially now the deception will often confuse the ref and he might even stop the fight. Let's say you get a gnarly liver shot. If you bend over in (fake) pain, the ref might jump in and wave it off, rendering the fight over, and you just blew it because you tried to make an attempt to have the opponent come in closer so you could rock his face off to Pluto. Point is, don't fake it because the ref might just call it off when he's just trying to do his job. This is MMA, not wrestling. If you try do the most minimal so you can actually respond with some actual damage.

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