The art of the throw in mixed martial arts is somewhat misunderstood by fans and commentators alike. When the majority of damage in MMA is inflected by strikes, and the majority of submissions are achieved with holds, what role can throwing people around possibly have?
Throws in MMA achieve three things: the possibility of damage and fatigue, control of distance and position, and frustrating your opponent. On the first point, using leverage to hurtle your opponent through the air can cause harsh impacts with the cage or the mat. These impacts can possibly bruise muscle or break bones. However, each impact is a drain on the opponent's stamina. Throws can be used as an element of beating the inferior conditioning of your opponent.
As most Judo practitioners know, throws are an excellent ways to pick where you will engage your foe. If you want to clinch, throwing your opponent up against the cage is an excellent way to reposition and stun them at the same time. If you want to get them on the ground, but avoid the wrestling aspects that a slam might bring about, a throw to the ground is a great option. Of course strikers want distance, so a throw that sends your opponent away from you and allows you to step back can be an important part of a fighter's tactics.
The frustration factor of a good throw shouldn't be underestimated. Not only does the throw 'score' with the judges on many levels (damage and ring control for starters), but they look quite impressive. This can be embarrassing for one's opponent, and take them out of their game plan. Throws also eat up the clock, meaning that as the fighter is scoring points, he's decreasing the amount of time that his foe has to gain them back.
MMA superstars like Fedor Emelianenko (taking third place twice in the Judo world cup), Chun Li (San Shou world champion), and Karo Parisyan (second in Judo's U20) all understand and use the power of throws in the context of their MMA combat. Given their levels of success, more fighters should probably consider more cross training in one of the throwing arts.