Well, I've commented on a few articles, but this is my first go at writing one. And it is a nice broad question: Which is better/do you prefer?
The Ring vs. the Cage
Forgetting all the "Fight in the cage, earn minimum wage" gags, and assuming all ring ropes are sufficiently taut, there are obviously numerous arguments for and against. I'll try and break some of these down now. If I forget any, please feel free to mention them in the comments below. Also, I hope these are sufficiently clearly written to get my point across; hopefully you will understand what I am driving at.
1. Cage for wrestlers, ring for BJJ and striking
Both the ring ropes and the cage act as boundary delimiters. The cage acts as almost as a "wall," a solid boundary to prevent retreat. The ring ropes also act as a boundary, though with a certain amount of give, so I would describe them as a "softer boundary" than the cage.
I have heard arguments that the cage suits heavier wrestlers, so if they are able to get their opponent pressed against the cage, then it is harder for the opponent to move their limbs efficiently for a strike, and ultimately gives them less room to maneuver. The slight give in the ropes also allow for easier movements in avoidance.
If the fighters are against the cage, then it is harder to get a genuine submission due to less movement, and I feel the cage therefore encourages simply pressing your opponent against it and pounding them to a TKO/KO.
However, fighters can also get tangled up in the ropes of a ring. This raises the question of restarting. However, the argument of re-starting standing vs. re-starting grappling is really for another discussion.
Personally I like seeing two good grapplers go at it on the ground, so I preferred the Pride style of moving fighters back into the centre of the ring, repositioning to the original maneuver, and then restarting. However, in cages the fighters generally restart standing. This leads onto the differences in rule-sets and the preferences of the fans in the next question, so I'll move on.
Finally, I have seen some fighters (Heath Herring vs. Fedor for example) go through the ropes to escape (although I can't really blame Heath in that case). I think that without some sort of yellow card system this would be unavoidable.
2. Cage for "bouncers cock-fighting," ring for already recognised combat sports
I think this argument is often overlooked. It may even be more of a political argument, than a fighting argument. If MMA wants to be recognised as a true combat sport, in many American states and indeed gain the recognition it deserves in many countries, is the cage holding it back?
Rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my view), here in the British Isles MMA is still seen as "cage-fighting." People ignore the skill, training, commitment etc. involved and see two probably skin-headed and tattooed bouncers "killing" each other. Yet boxing is seen as a gentleman's sport all around the world, and kickboxing and muay thai are also internationally recognised.
Would the use of the ring in all tournaments increase the inclination of non-fans to view MMA as at least "another combat sport," even if they don't like it, rather than little above a "blood sport"?
3. Size, and shape, of both?
How big do you think the area should be basically? Would the octagon with ropes be better, or a cage around a square?
4. Grabbing of the boundary
This happens in both cases, I have seen fighters grab both. It isn't acceptable for either, but the only way to stop it would be to have a solid (possibly flexible boundary) too high for even someone like Semmi Schilt. There's not much I can say to change in this one (apart from bringing back yellow cards; these would be great), but it leads to the next section.
5. Opinion of fans (i.e. you guys)
And what about the fans? The UFC is actively trying to garner the WWE fans, who as casual MMA fans just don't get grappling and want to see a load of strikes. Are these fans more attracted to the UFC because "it's, like, really in a cage man"-style MTV ramblings? I much prefer Asian (Japanese, Korean, etc.) crowds because they seem to know what's going on to a greater extent, and as far as I know only rings are used in both of these countries.
Which gives the better view? Does the octagon block the view of fans who are "cage-side" more than the ropes do of fans who are "ring-side"? Unfortunately I've never seen an event live, only on camera, so I can't comment on this one. Thought I'd mention it in completeness.
From my ramblings above, you can probably guess that I prefer the ring. The ultimate dream for MMA fans must be Olympic recognition (even if it is a distant dream), the same as Boxing, Greco-Roman wresting, Freestyle wrestling, Tae Kwon Do (even with their corrupt scoring system), etc. Can anyone really see a cage in the Olympics?
I would appreciate input from all and sundry regarding your preferences, opinions, and if possible, experiences.