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Conventional Boxing Vs. MMA Striking, The Importance Of Understanding Their Differences

Updated on September 6, 2013

Boxing In The World Of MMA

With the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Boxing became a very popular style to take up. If you are primarily a grappling and/or wrestling specialist with little to no striking background, you would most likely take up Boxing and/or Kickboxing (with the latter, you may find yourself preferring to throw punches rather than kicks). On the same note, there are many Boxers who are transitioning into MMA for numerous reasons.

Such Reasons Include:


  • Possibly Bigger Paycheck. If you are competing professionally, then you are doing it for money. While it is relatively easy to get into professional boxing, it's difficult to be making the "big bucks." There are many professional Boxers out there who participate in this sport for a long time but never ever get offered to compete in big money fights.


  • A Need To Challenge Oneself. There are Boxers who want to test their mettle against Karatekas, Judokas, Aikidokas, Tae Kwon Do users, Kickboxers, Wrestlers, Grapplers, etc. If you keep to Boxing, all you're going to do is compete against other Boxers. MMA provides that opportunity.


  • Feeling That It's Getting Boring In The Sport. You could be a Boxer and feel like you're cannot climb any further in the sport. This could be a reason you decide to transition from Boxing to MMA. Many fighters have transitioned from Kickboxing to MMA.

Keep in mind that transitioning from Conventional Boxing to MMA Boxing and vice versa is going to be somewhat difficult. If you have extensive Boxing experience, don't simply expect to dominate if and when you decide to expand into MMA. If you have extensive MMA experience, don't simply expect to dominate if and when you decide to expand into Boxing. There are plenty of distinct differences between the two types of Boxing. Both formats have their own individual sets of rules and circumstances.

However, the transition from Boxing to MMA striking and vice versa is not impossible. This can still be difficult to an extent. While Boxing is a martial arts style on its own, it's also a combat sport. The rules of Boxing are different from the rules of MMA Striking. MMA Striking is the sparring aspect of MMA training while "rolling" is the grappling aspect of MMA training. Pure MMA sparring encompasses both the training and grappling aspect.

Conventional Boxing

The typical format of Conventional Boxing is the four-sided ring (the same you see in World Wrestling Entertainment). What to expect in Conventional Boxing:


  • It is you and your opponent in the ring.


  • You are wearing protective gloves (they are to protect your hands from getting damaged).


  • The only strikes allowed are punches.


  • You are not allowed to strike below the waist (that's illegal in MMA, too).


In terms of stances, you are going into somewhat of a sideways stance.

I can recall back in early January 2011. My Tai Chi Chuan instructor invited me to this gathering where his Sifu would be teaching for the night. At the end, we were talking about martial arts. My Sifu was telling his Sifu about my extensive martial arts background. Then, we started talking about Boxing. His Sifu asked me to demonstrate my Boxing.

While I somewhat took up Boxing, my main Boxing background was through MMA striking. I assumed a Muay Thai stance instead of a conventional Boxing stance.

When the Tai Chi instructor saw my stance, he threw a jab at my face. Though he didn't hit me, he made his point. If I was in a Kickboxing or MMA match, that stance would've been all right because of all the other different attacks I'd have to worry about.

In a pure Boxing match, I would've left myself open. I'd be taking shots to the face, the chest, the abdomen, the sides, and the ribs. Staying in the proper Boxing stance, I would better defend myself against the punches.

In Conventional Boxing, you mainly have to worry about punches. That is unless you are going up against an opponent who's known for not playing by the rules.

If you have primarily an MMA background, going into Conventional Boxing could be rather difficult and daunting. It can be more difficult if striking let alone punching is not your strong suit. Keep in mind, many MMA fighters train at Boxing gyms to improve on their punching skills. UFC Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre trains under Freddy Roach for Boxing. Roach is known for being the Boxing coach of Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.

MMA Boxing

MMA Boxing is usually added as part of an “MMA Striking” class. There are plenty of MMA schools that teach Boxing as a standalone class. Learning MMA Boxing isn't much different than learning Conventional Boxing. However, there are differences you need to be aware of. In most cases, if you're competent (which you need to be in order to succeed in Boxing and MMA), you can make the transition into MMA Boxing if you have a Boxing background and vice versa.

Asides from punches, you now have to worry about other attacks such as:


  • Kicks


  • Takedowns


  • Throws


  • Knees


  • Elbows


  • Chokes


  • Submissions

In MMA, you will be going up against opponents that specialize in different skills due to their training in different styles. MMA Boxing is Boxing formatted for offense and defense against such opponents.

My friend Kadhafi gave this pretty humorous answer when someone asked him why people don't strike like conventional Boxers in an MMA fight. He answered by saying that in Boxing matches, they don't have to worry about getting "dry humped" by Wrestlers. What he meant was that you have to worry about getting taken to the ground and pinned. A good Wrestler will duck under the punch. The moment you throw that punch, you leave yourself open. By ducking under the punch, the Wrestler is at an excellent position to execute a takedown. If you do not have any takedown defenses, you will be taken down.

If an opponent manages to get a number of takedowns on you, you will probably lose the fight if it ends up going to a judges' decision. This is due to judges scoring higher for takedowns. If the opponent is versed in both Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you are at a disadvantage if you get taken to the ground.

With Wrestling, the opponent simply needs to pin you and maintain positioning. Though it's boring through the eyes of most spectators, it's a winning strategy for the opponent. As long as the opponent stays on top, that person's chances of winning are far better than yours if the fight goes to a judges' decision.

With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the opponent could get you in one of their many guards if you fail to connect with a punch. On the ground, you are at the opponent's mercy. It will most likely end up with you tapping out to a submission or a choke. In the case of going against a Judo specialist, that person can execute a Kani Basami and take you to the ground. By staying in that conventional Boxing stance, you are doing half the work for that person.

With Kickboxing or Muay Thai, you have to worry about kicks to the leg and the head. A good Kickboxer will wear down your legs. Gradually, you lose your lower body speed and your footwork gets all messed up. A Boxer depends on speed and footwork. Being able to plant your feet on the ground is important for waist rotation which improves your technique which gives your punches more power. Without your legs, your technique becomes less effective. If you are using a conventional Boxing stance, it takes one good Muay Thai sweep kick or leg roundhouse kick to take you to the ground.

However, don't feel discouraged. In terms of MMA Boxing, you are simply changing your stance and adapting your footwork. MMA Boxing is simply part of the MMA fighter's arsenal. In MMA, you are not going to learn just Boxing; you will be learning Wrestling, Throwing, Kicking, and Grappling as well. That's another difference between Conventional Boxing and MMA Boxing.

Fundamentally:

There are minor and major differences between the two formats. If you are willing to learn and adapt, you shouldn't have problems transitioning between the two. In one format, you have to worry about certain types of attacks. In the other format, you have to worry about many types of attacks.

However, the fundamental differences do not diminish the effectiveness of Boxing. In reality, training in Boxing does improve striking let alone punching. A good Boxer who can adjust their game to MMA will have a striking advantage over many opponents. Boxers are conditioned to be able to block and take punches; that's a very important ability in a fighter let alone MMA fighter.

For further reading, I have another hub called "MMA - The Four Staple Styles."

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