Fans of this brutal, technical sport will find an amazingly accurate simulation of MMA brawling here, but the move complexity and finicky controls can be a steep climb for newcomers. UFC 3 tries to bring newcomers into the octagon with a number of training videos and challenges to introduce concepts of grappling, striking, submission holds, and fight mechanics. These fundamentals are somewhat reinforced in the main career mode, where players spend time between fights sparring with training partners, learning new moves from coaches, and promoting their upcoming fights. In fact, promoting fights and making appearances are vital if you want to headline fights or be recognized as a legitimate contender; failing to do so cuts into your popularity and your paycheck. Striking the balance between being loved by fans and prepping for fights can be tricky, because while you can be incredibly popular, there's always the possibility that your opponent is faster, better, stronger, or more skilled than you. This adds an interesting bit of tension in your training camps: Will the clues you receive during sparring be that edge you need to beat your opponent, or will it be meaningless when the bell has rung and the fight is on?
In some ways, the better opponent issue is one of the bigger problems of UFC 3. Regardless of what difficulty level you set or how good a fighter you are, there's an opponent that will suddenly step up whose stats are vastly more powerful than your athlete, whether that's in a game mode or in online play. That not only turns surviving a fight into a battle governed by luck instead of skill, it makes the ranking and contender system seem fickle and at times even malicious, as if it's trying to humble the player. Another issue that pops up is that some controls can seem to not work in the midst of battle. You can time a block perfectly and have full stamina, but the block won't work at all. You can try to focus on indicators of where a fighter may try to move to escape a grapple hold, but these indicators don't always pop up, resulting in you flailing on the thumbstick to maintain an advantage. It's a double-edged sword -- it forces players to become more adjusted to and comfortable with various moves and counters, and more strategic in their fights, but it could frustrate newcomers who are just getting used to the game and can't understand why things aren't working as expected. That's unfortunate, because UFC 3 is an incredibly deep game, probably the best version of the sport yet released. But if you're not willing to put in the hours to understand its mechanics, or unwilling to climb its steep learning curve (which will dismiss some players), you won't enjoy this round in the octagon.