With the media attention brought upon us after the weekend Boxing Showdown between Manny Pacquaio and Joshua Clottey and the recent UFC signing of James Toney has brought to my attention the effectiveness of Boxing in MMA. Freddie Roach has said that Manny's Boxing would transition well into MMA, Roach has also coached a very good striker in Andrei Arlovski. Ray Mercer has knocked out a former Top 10 HW in the opening seconds of a bout, as well as a former Boxing Superstar Ricardo Mayorga slated to fight MMA veteran Din Thomas, also Hasim Rahman has expressed interest in MMA and the well known plan for Anderson Silva to fight Roy Jones Jr. Clearly MMA has drawn alot of Boxing fans in as well as take alot of inpsiration from the mold that built up boxing to help steadily build MMA, however Boxing and MMA remain entirely different sports as they should be. Good boxers in MMA are in the plenty from BJ Penn to Mirko Cro Cop. Also, successful MMA fighters that have ventured in Boxing or have come from boxing are also plentiful. Vitor Belfort and KJ Noons have boxed professionally and guys like Stephan Bonnar and Marcus Davis have come to MMA as professional boxers.
What people have to realize is that there are so many key elements that differ in each sport starting from the size and weight of gloves to the more obvious elements like the lack of leg kicks in Boxing. So yes granted there are alot of fundamental differences between the sports but whats more important if you dig deeper is how they are similar and how boxing and the techniques translate smoothly into MMA.
Take a look at the UFC champions. You have a genetic beast as Champion, an Enigma who is mastery is in Karate and Kickboxing, a legendary striker with extraordinary hands, an athletic freak and finally a Phenom in grappling and striking. To start we will take a look at Anderson Silva the UFC MW Champion. We have seen him dismantle people with kicks and knees however we have also seen how lethal his hands are. A very essential part of Boxing Tecnique in MMA compared to boxing is head movement. The reason behind it lays mostly on the fact that with 14oz Gloves or most types of Boxing Gloves the heavy padding makes it easier to defend the face. How many times in boxing have we seen a flurry of punches blocked simply by proper placement of the hands? I can recollect quite a few, however in MMA the gloves are 4oz and hardly provide padding to block a flurry if not just a well placed punch. Head movement is one of several essential parts of effective boxing. We have seen countless fighters excel in the striking game by using above average head movement. We hear Joe Rogan talk consistently of Randy Coutures and Rashad Evans head movement. Lets Take a look at a quick GIF displaying some great head movement.
Now Granted Forrest has never been the best striker and has always been a sloppy brawler of sorts but this is a prime example of how effective head movement can be. Forrest first throws a lazy feeler jab followed by a left hook right hook combo. He throws wildly because after missing the jab Anderson reaches in and connects on Forrest jaw. When Anderson stretches in it leaves an opening for Forrest... or so he thinks. Anderson is so fast with his head movement that he dodges the initial hook and ducks under the second haymaker if you will. Now Forrest has been caught reaching and realizes it to the the extent that he actually uses his right hand to cover his exposed chin. But its too late. The brawling style of Forrest continues to make mistakes even though he covers up his right side he still throws another left hook fully extended and the moment turns his body and as Anderson dodges the third hook a fully exposed left side is exposed on Forrests face. Missing punch after punch Forrest gets anxious and thus leads to opeings for Anderson all brought out upon due to his elusive manuevering. Here we can take another look atthe beautiful movement of Anderson Silva.
Okay, so the next aspect of Boxing I am going to go into his counter punching. What Anderson Silva did to Forrest aside from out manuever him is counter punch him. In Boxing Floyd Mayweather is a very prolific counter boxer. Its a good strategy. If you have great speed and agililty combined with precision punches you will be able to pick apart much more aggressive strikers. When someone is countered two major things happen. The aggressor most likely over exerts leaving a part of the body or face wide open and also the counter striker has the upper hand since the aggressors momentum is coming forward which is going to only strengthen the blow going forward. This is not to say aggressive strikers arent successful just that very good counter striking proves essential in MMA. Lets take a look at a couple of examples.
The epic dismantling of Diego Sanchez. This flurry pretty much started it all. Diego has found success in rushing opponents with his aggressive and dynamic striking (I.E. vs Clay Guida, Joe Riggs). However, when facing one of MMA's best boxers he was exploited. Diego leaps in with his 1-2 combo which most likely would have ended with his now well known uppercut ending except BJ beat him to the punch. We see BJ duck under the initial onslaught and as Diego presses forward he leaves his hands low leaving a wide open chin for a very precise punching BJ to connect with. Added to the precision of the blow was the forward momentum that Diego was rushing in with, that lead to the first time MMA has ever seen the granite chin of Diego broken. As fighters we often forget to keep out chins tucked and hands high all the time and when facing great strikers we often pay the price. Here Diego has foudn success so often in his last few fights with his aggressive out reaching combos that he felt too comfortable. Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida are no where near the level BJ Penn is at. Diego was counter punched and it set the tempo for the rest of the fight.
Paulo Thiago. He has potential written all over him. Dont get me wrong I dont think he is an elite boxer in MMA. This just demonstrates another example of counter punching. Josh Koscheck walks into this fight with "improved" stand up and wants to exchange with a relatively unknown Paulo. Koscheck lunges with the left and covers up with the right. Nothing too wrong there, he ducks the head as to cover possibly assuming a cross or overhand coming from Paulo. Instead a patient Paulo avoids the lunging jab and throws an uppercut. Similar to that of JDS on Werdum the momentum of Koschecks head is going downward while Paulo's uppercut is going full force straight toward Koschecks face. A counter uppercut ends Koschecks night and his hype to be a WW title contender. Keeping up with Paulo we will look at another clip of his fight with Volkman.
Here we see Thiago once more ou tcountering an opponent. His opponent Volkman charges rechlessly in fully extended hands out reaching and chin wide open, Thiago simply back peddles and picks his spot on a vulnerable opponent. Counter striking involves precise strikes, good footwork and the speed to be elusive. Great counter punchers like Lyoto Machida have found their success in MMA with their focus being highly on counter striking. This also decreases the damage sustained as you are avoiding strikes instead of walking into them. Just to add, never throw kicks with your hands down. A Good Counter Puncher will eat that all day long. I scream into the TV all the time "stop dropping your hands"
The next stop on our look into effective boxing is striking and defending in the pocket, or in a close range situation. This also can go hand in hand with dirty boxing which has been made famous by Randy Couture to us MMA fans. Surviving in a close distance situation is very dangerous, it is easy to get clipped and it is easy to find yourself in a scramble. But it can also be very lethal to your opponent as well. With good head movement as we have talked about early and the ability to accurately land strikes you will find success inside the pocket. Lets take a look at some examples.
Here we have some great in the pocket exhanges. Soko closes the gap initially with the kick then lunges with the left. Some of Minotauros punches are ducked under by Soko at which time eh delivers a well timed left to a open faced Lil Nog. We have all seen the speed displayed by Soko however this is one of the most dangerous places to fight him. He has the speed and the quickness in his strikes to find very little openings to exploit.
A very good MMA boxer... Rampage Jackson avenges two brutal losses to Silva with this brilliantly timed counter hook. What I most like about this is rampages ability to keep his head moving while also covering up crucial parts of his head. Rampage knows like the rest of us that Wand is a slugger with sloppy striking and Rampage I am sure prepared heavily for it. Whats important to point out that when Rampage starts his strike he has alot of torque behind it with the momentum of his hips and the placement of his hands from where he starts the motion. Not only does Rampage weather the flurry but he finds Wand in a bad scenario. With his hands stretched out and his chin straight up. Looking like a duck and cover move Rampage is able to counter the sloppy strikes with one single precisely placed blow to the chin. Notice the whole time Rampage is in the pocket in the reach of Wand and in an area where he can put alot of power into the strike.
Frank Mir The Striker. There is alot to be said of the improvement of Frank Mir in recent years. This however, may be his most prolific highlight reel moment striking wise. He starts in this GIF in the pocket vs Big Nog. He immediately throws a hybrid punch, similar to a overhand and hook. He lands the punch flush avoiding one of Nogs lead jabs and presses forward into a stunned Nog. He delivers an almost identical left flush once again on the button. This may not be the most technical combo as Mir walks in with his hands straight down however whats important to notice here is that Frank makes sure that he is within range to finish the fight.
Finally, I want to highlight some flurries and combos. I have talked about counter striking and what flurries can lead too. However, some fighters with good head movement and footwork as well as quick hands have been successful breaking into the defense of their opponents. Lets have a look.
Not the best boxer by any means but maybe the most wild and dangerous. This classic fight highlights the success one may find with well timed combos and as well as well placed power. Wand has all the momentum in his swings as he whips a left right combo on Sakuraba's face. Both punches have plenty of power behind them and as we see Sakuraba soon goes to sleep. I am not condoning Wand's tactics but his recklessness and power made him very successful for a very long time. The point of emphahsis here is the momentum and combination thrown and landed. Had Wand fought a very good counter striker then the possiblilty is high that he could have been picked off however this combination did the trick.
Maybe one of the best MMA strikers to grace our sport. This is one of many highlights Chuck has on his resume. What makes this my last and most important point is the clever and sneaky punches Chuck throws. Combos! Sure fights have ended with one shot but this is better. Chuck delivers strikes from all angles. And different types of strikes. Uppercuts, Hooks, Crosses and all of them hit different places, Sure you can launch one big missle and decimate a city. But Chuck shows what would happen if you unleash several bombs all over the city one after the other. Some punches slip in and other don't but if you take a deeper look into things you see that because of the variety in strikes and placement Tito has no chance to cover all of his face with the 4oz gloves. Truly great ending.
So... I hope that wasnt too long of a read I just thought I would dive into some essential parts of what makes for effective usage of boxing in MMA. Now just to lighten the mood. Hear is a clip of the boxing match involving Anderson Silva from years ago. Oh boy the difference.