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Does Hair Matter in a Fight?

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Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images

There’s no doubt that shaving your head makes you look more intimidating. As a matter of fact, that notion is now supported by scientific studies.

According to University of Pennsylvania Researcher Albert Mannes, in an interview with Time, he claimed that his experiments showed that people tend to perceive individuals with shaved heads as more dominant.

In three experiments, researcher Albert Mannes, a lecturer at the Wharton School at U. Penn — and a balding man himself — found that guys with shaved heads are not only perceived by others as more manly and dominant than other men, but also taller, stronger and having greater potential as leaders.

Could this be why so many mixed martial artists choose to shave their heads? Is it to hold a psychological advantage over their opponents inside the cage? Possibly, but it’s not likely to be the only reason. Some mixed martial artists like Randy Couture and Robbie Lawler shave their heads as a preemptive strike against male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia). But what about fighters like Tarec Saffiedine and Georges St- Pierre? They’re not bald, yet they willingly rock the chrome dome regardless of their existing hair follicles.

Photo via espn.go.com
Photo via espn.go.com

Anyone who’s trained in a combat sport will tell you: having long hair sucks. It can obstruct your vision when it covers your face, it makes more sweat accumulate on your head which can eventually get in your eyes, and it’s just annoying. It’s much easier to just shave or buzz it off. Shorter hair requires less maintenance. Less maintenance = less stuff to worry about and more time to focus on training.

Lot’s of jiu-jitsu practitioners and wrestlers have even told me that having a shaved head helps them get out of tough spots because it makes their heads more slippery, therefore, it’s easier to pull out of guillotines and headlocks. So if shaving your head is more convenient for fighters, then what about other parts of your body?

Roy Nelson’s beard has been brought into question many times by members of the mixed martial arts community. UFC President Dana White has stated he wants him to shave it off. Other fighters have expressed that they think it offers him protection.

According to Yahoo Sports, Miesha Tate thought Nelson’s thick beard gave him a protective advantage against punches.

Former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champ Miesha Tate (@mieshatate) said on Twitter “@EricHolden I bet [having a beard] helps the punches slide off the chin instead of sticking.”

Since there’s been no scientific studies on the subject, no one can confirm if sporting some thick facial hair actually protects you from punches in a fight. Even so, some fighters believe that it does.

Head and facial hair also brings in the question of body hair. Does shaving your arms and legs help slip out of arm and leg locks? Many mixed martial artists’ bodies are hairless when they enter the cage. It could be for aesthetic purposes, but could it be for the functional benefits as well?

This topic is up for debate. Here at SciFighting, we would love to hear your opinion. And even if we never get to a decisive conclusion, one thing is for certain: nothing is worse than this:

Photo via blog.betdsi.com
Photo via blog.betdsi.com