Rubber guard. Armbar. Triangle. 20 years ago these words wouldn't have made much sense in a fighting context to the average person. Today they are as familiar as the jab in boxing or the curve ball in baseball.
Over the last decade MMA has been accessible through various cable channels and, thanks to YouTube, more people than ever can view just about any fight that's ever been recorded on video.
With exposure comes education and as any G.I. Joe would tell you, knowing is half the battle.
Does this mean that the average guy today is a better fighter than the average guy from before MMA hit the mainstream? It seems only logical that at the very least, people today will have a better strategy in a street fight than the hotheads from a quarter of a century ago.
It doesn't matter if you've never heard of MMA or if you don't know what a double leg is, fist fights have a tendency to end up on the ground. Armed with a basic understanding of ground fighting principles however, one would have a distinct advantage over one who's only fighting out of rage.
Imagine if back in the day when you were a kid or teenager, that you knew what you know about MMA today and nobody else did. Taking your opponent down to get side control or full mount would tip the odds heavily in your favor, knowing full well the importance of maintaining the dominant position.
If you happened to be on the receiving end of a takedown you would have the sense to do everything in your power to avoid getting mounted. You would work to get full guard as quickly as possible, most likely causing your opponent to wonder why he's all of a sudden wrapped between the legs of another man who seems to be disturbingly comfortable in the position.
Meanwhile you could look for a sweep or even attempt a sloppy armbar or the dreaded guillotine.
On the ground, rather than flailing wildly you would first seek to improve your position before mounting any kind of offense.
Obviously there are other factors involved such as size, athleticism and coordination, and if you were dumb enough to deliberately fall on your back to invite the guy into your fearsome guard, your nuts would probably get kicked in or stomped.
Still, having an understanding of MMA could save you from a heap of trouble in a street fight against someone who has never seen MMA. You might've even had the advantage against that hotshot karate kid who lived in fantasy land convinced that he could "wataaa" his way to victory, especially after he realizes how useless his black belt was as soon as his back hit the ground.
This isn't to suggest that watching the UFC makes one an MMA fighter, so if you're training in MMA there's no need to get your panties in a bunch and get all insecure. You can rest assured that you will still likely beat up anyone around your size who has never had any formal training.
The point is, knowledge is power and having even a secondhand understanding of MMA fundamentals could give you a very real advantage over anyone who does not.