There’s a debate ranging back to the early days of MMA regarding the boxing technique in Mixed Martial Arts versus that in Boxing. If you come from a Boxing background, watching two Mixed Martial Artists “Box” with each other, using only fists, you might think it laughable. The lack of a consistent jab, not rolling with punches, no shoulder rolls, obviously these guys don’t know what they’re doing, right? Well you might want to reconsider.
Simply put, there is no comparison. Every combat sport has its own story. Even boxing. Evolution is a process that you can see in almost any sport, any profession, any art. Boxing and MMA are no different. If you give people one set of rules to compete with, over time the strategies will change and become more specific to the aforementioned rule set. The key element here? Gloves.
All of the techniques I listed above, exist because of the 12-18oz gloves used in Boxing. They are larger, offer more defense, and absolutely change the game of punching. Boxing gloves give Boxers the tools they need to stand close to their opponents, defend themselves, and deliver their own offense, all within a couple feet of the opponent. They can fully cover their heads and bodies with the much larger glove, block more efficiently, and overall defend themselves much better than somebody with MMA gloves. Simply put, the boxing glove itself has evolved into an extremely effective defensive tool that is fundamentally necessary for any of the beautiful boxing techniques to work. Boxing itself has proven the point about evolution of a sport based on what the athletes are given.
If you look back to the 1920’s, those of the bare knuckle boxing days, the art looked very different from what we see today. As opposed to the hundreds of punches thrown per round that we see in current Boxing, it was not uncommon for bare knuckle Boxers only to throw five or six punches each round. This was because each punch offered both a possibility of finishing the fight, or breaking your hand. Defense in those days was based much more on avoiding the punch all together as opposed to blocking, and distance was a much bigger factor. Imagine if boxing had stayed this way forever, and how it might look today had they not evolved to use larger gloves.
Well this sounds familiar doesn’t it? MMA boxing defense is based around avoiding the punch, much more than it is about blocking it. So MMA boxing has evolved towards distance, footwork, angles, and timing. You cannot stand on the inside blocking, parrying, and shoulder rolling your way through a flurry of punches in order to land your own. There is a much greater chance you’ll get clipped by one of those punches wearing MMA gloves. Your best option is to avoid punches using distance, and wait for the opening to throw your own.
MMA is a comparatively young sport, and athletes like Georges St-Pierre are just starting to show the early stages of the participants evolving their striking for the specific rule set given to them. Due to differences in rules and equipment (such as gloves), its very unlikely that boxing in MMA will ever look the way that it does in pure Boxing. Instead, we will have another group of athletes adapting to the tools they are given, producing their own techniques, and using them as efficiently as possible. This is the beauty of combat sports.
What are your opinions on the evolution of MMA versus Boxing? Are techniques moving in the right or wrong direction? We want to hear from you!