So called boxing experts constantly criticise the punching skills of MMA combatants during fights.
The sweet-science of catching, blocking, slipping, rolling and countering punches doesn’t exist in the octagon. Instead a cruder form of stand-up striking emerged, and despite the abundance of different techniques on display, boxing purists still can’t get their heads around the punches.
Take UFC bantamweight champ, Ronda Roussey – predominantly a judoist, she easily dispatched Bethe Correia in 31 seconds, by using her previously unseen striking and boxing skills. Professional and retired boxers sniggered at her trainer’s suggestion that she could also become a boxing champ. They criticised her limited head and upper body movement and how she walked onto punches while telegraphing her own blows.
Interestingly her next fight is against former welterweight boxing champion, Holly Holm, who made the transition into MMA in 2011. It’s an intriguing match-up between a top-boxer versus a judo expert who is still learning to strike. The feeling among fans is it will be a short night’s work for Roussey as boxers in general haven’t fared well in past MMA fights. Yet they still criticise how punches in particular are thrown so differently to those thrown in the Queensberry rules.
Some of the reasons are due to the stance and range between opponents. In boxing, a conventional fighter angles their body with their feet closer together, tucking their chin down and keeping their hands up. This enables them to continually snap out the jab and move into the pocket. At close quarters they bob and weave, side-step and work angles until there’s an opening. Then they grip the canvass and rotate their body to gain leverage and generate power for their combinations.
However snapping jabs won’t effectively control the distance in an MMA fight, and if a fighter is in the pocket, the opponent will launch a take-down. This is the most decisive move a fighter can make to bridge the gap to try and end the fight with a ground and pound or a submission. Fighters defend take-down attempts by sprawling their legs from a more square-on stance with their body weight on their rear leg ready to deliver powerful kicks. This wider distance between combatants often forces fighters to throw huge winging and wide looping shots which are all cardinal sins in boxing.
Glove size also impacts how punches are thrown, boxing gloves for professional matches range from 8oz to 12oz with padding. Originally designed to lessen the force of blows they enable boxers to catch, block and parry punches with their hands. The 4oz gloves used in MMA have less padding and are a step back to the old bare knuckle days of fighting. These gloves cut fighters up more easily, flash knockdowns happen all the time and catching punches on the hands isn’t effective for defence. Fighters also have to be more cautious about damaging hands. Typically there is less force and leverage on punches thrown in MMA which can be viewed as poor technique.
These so called boxing experts that criticise MMA need to understand that the variables between the two sports change the mechanics of how a punch is thrown and delivered. What is effective for boxing is not necessarily effective for MMA.