Outside of countering, a clinch is performed by pressing forward on the right stick - but is easy to counter with an elbow to the face. A variation "striking" clinch is performed when combined with the left bumper. Clinching refers to two fighters grappling on their feet, and if they're either a wrestler or judoka, is an optimum position for flooring your opponent. Much like the real UFC, five three-minute rounds rarely end with both combatants having been on their feet from start to finish. A takedown attempt can be made at any time by holding the left trigger and flicking the right stick. And once on the floor, Undisputed's fighting system is at its most impressive, but equally, its most confusing for beginners.
In the ground game, one fighter is dominant (on top) whilst the other is defending (bottom). Generally the ground game will start in what's referred to as the open guard - where the defending player still has their opponent caught between their legs. This isn't a major disadvantage for the defender as the dominant player is outside of effective striking range and can only attempt basic submissions with a low chance of success - combatants are not allowed to punch each other in the balls. However, by making 90 and 135 degree rotations on the right analogue stick, the dominant player can attempt to improve his position via major and minor transitions. This can take him to half guard (pinning one leg), side control (side-on to the opponent) and north south (pinning the opponent's head and chest).
The most dominant position in the game is the mount (sitting on the opponent's chest). Once here the defending player has few options left and will likely be pummelled unconscious or submitted with an armbar - unless they fluke an escape or catch the opponent's punch with a counter. However, to stop their opponent reaching the mount, a player can perform counter transitions either to stop the opponent from transitioning or to reverse the dominant and defending positions entirely. Brazilian jiu-jitsu players are particularly annoying for this. For a novice who doesn't yet grasp the input times for transitions, or the most effective way to get back on their feet, it can be frustrating to play against an opponent who goes straight for the ground and pound. But for players who've invested in the training mode, unravelling the mysteries of Undisputed's fighting system, fights turn into a very tense experience.
It's all about managing your stamina effectively, mixing up your strikes so as to avoid a counter, predicting and countering your opponent's strikes and - should the opportunity present itself - taking down your opponent and dominating in the ground game. Indeed, Undisputed really shows its value going into the third round with an evenly skilled opponent. By this stage both fighters will be visibly damaged and low on stamina. In the last minute the opponent attempts a knockout roundhouse kick, you dodge back with it missing your face by inches. You immediately counter with a jaw-shattering superman punch to the face, and as you watch your opponent's legs buckle under their own weight, the sense of elation in a hard-fought victory is immense.
Right, that's over half the review spent trying to convey the tightness of the gameplay and how well it comes together - the most important factor in any fighting game. But what about all the other stuff? As well as an Exhibition mode for fighting against the CPU or a friend, Undisputed also has a stab at the often ill-fated Career mode. Rather than picking one of the 80+ real-life fighters from Undisputed's roster, the Career tasks players with creating their own fighter. As well as choosing their two primary fighting styles and weight division, you're also required to put points into their attributes and skills. In terms of attributes, strength governs how hard you hit and grapple, speed dictates how quickly you dance about the octagon and cardio represents your fighter's overall fitness and stamina recovery.
Fighting skills come in 16 flavours and include "standing striking offence", "ground grapple defence" and "clinch striking offence". Both attributes and skills can be maxed out to 100. But a new fighter can only allocate 30 of his few starting points to a specific skill or attribute. Undisputed also allows players to tinker with their fighter's appearance. Muscle tone, tattoos, jaw size, etc. are all catered for, although due to the serious tone you can't make them wear silly hats. Plus hairstyles are mostly restricted to everything between skinhead and crew-cut.