How to: Train!
First thing to realise is that everything cycles, sometimes not all the steps are there, sometimes the middle ones shuffle around a little, different times are spent on different steps during different cycles etc. Maybe you'll need to cycle 1 and 2 a few times before being ready to go to 5. After 5 you're going end up back at 1, it is a cycle.
1 - First thing you have to do is learn the technique. Let's say we want to slip a jab and counter punch. We do it a few times, picking up the speed as we go, getting use to doing the technique. No resistance, just the technique, sort of like the step sparring of Traditional martial arts. Everyone looks pretty much the same doing it.
2 - Now we got to add a little timing and move with it a little. So our partner is going to try and land that jab, we are going to start moving around like we where sparring and do our best to slip it without getting hit. Here some differences between people start coming out, but for the most part everyone still looks pretty similar.
3 - Now maybe we add some variety, He's throwing the jab, but we got some options, we can slip, catch, cover, duck, parry and then counter punch. This is where different people start looking different. Different techniques and strategies will work for different people, and this will begin to show up in this stage.
4 - Keeping the same theme lets now allow both people to initiate, so either of us can initiate the jab, the other has to defend and counter punch. After initiating trying to avoid the counter of course (Should be doing this right from the beginning). So now even more differences show in drilling. Everyone is doing the same drill, but everyone is doing different things.
5 - Put it into sparring. Start throwing combinations, any punches you like. Now everyone should really look different. It is at this stage that "styles" get created.
The other thing to keep in mind is Speed. Drills do not always need to be done at full speed. While that is good and necessary, alone it is not as good as combined with slow sparring. Try sparring with both of you fighting each other as if you where fighting a 7 year old. No strength, nice and slow, keep an eye on proper technique.
If we are grappling and my partner does a sweep right, I let them do it, not fight it. They do the same. While this is not "real" sparring it is a great fir cleaning up technique. If he is trying it and it is not quiet right I don't go, instead I point out what is wrong. This game has no room for ego though, because as soon as winning and losing come into it, The point of it is lost. Same for stand up, punch slow, just work on clean technique, good set ups, and keeping good posture. Doesn't matter who get hit the most, just learn. After all you're hits should be more like touches doing this anyways.
This is defiantly not a replacement to sparring hard, but is a supplement, and part of another cycle that exists within each of those steps. Do it slow to clean it up and focus on strategy, then put it to use at full speed, slow back down and clean it up a little more, then pick it up again.
One of the biggest problems in martial arts today, is that the cycle is not done. Schools teach Step sparring (step 1) and after doing that for a long time Free sparring (Step 5) is supposed to be there. But nothing is done in the middle. Footwork is mostly absent, as are timing and set ups.
Now my definition of what MMA is, is that. Right there. That progression, for ALL ranges and all skills. Integrating them into one system. Styles aren't defined by techniques or patterns, they are defined by training methods.
Techniques come from training methods and rules
Does a spinning heel hook kick work? Sure it does, under some rules. Not under others. Eliminate the stylistic rules and apply that series and the techniques that will work are the ones that get used in MMA.
Does a spinning heel hook work without stylistic rules? Experience says no, you'll likely end up on the ground if you try it.