Knowing your opponent is one of the key differences between competitive fighting and the good old fashioned sort you may find behind your local bar. Fighters size one another up, establish strategies based on strengths and weaknesses, and approach their fight with a tailor made game plan specifically designed to pick one enemy apart – often using methods that may not be as effective against another opponent.

This form of combative chess isn’t always easy to find on the battlefield, where troops may have an understanding the equipment or strategies employed by the enemy, but countless intangible variables remain. However, there is one battle space this form of opponent specific planning remains paramount: dog fighting in the skies high overhead.

The United States employs a variety of fighter jets, some better suited for dog fighting than others, but all capable air-to-air opponents in a potential future war with a near-peer level national military. America’s enemies could find themselves squaring off with anything from an F-15 to an F-35, and if they hope to make it out of the interaction alive, you’d better believe their strategy throughout the engagement will have be tailored specifically to the kind of aircraft they square off against – and vice versa.

As I headed into my first official “fight” as a mixed martial arts fighter, I had to do a lot of the same quick math a fighter pilot might need to when spotting a potential opponent on radar. Because it was in a tournament, I didn’t know who I’d be facing until twenty minutes or so before the fight, but in that time I made a series of adjustments to my strategy based specifically on what I saw across the cage waiting for me.