Is MMA the Pinnacle of Combat Sports?
Mixed martial arts is considered by many to be the pinnacle of combat sports because it combines the elements of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and grappling. But the reality is that MMA training often leads to a watering down of each discipline and an overall loss of technique. This can be very apparent in the stand-up game, where many fighters could improve their strikes substantially by internalizing a few boxing basics.
Protect the Chin: Keep the Hands Up and the Chin In
Keeping the hands up and the chin down is one of boxing’s most fundamental lessons. One clean shot on the chin and it’s lights out. Many high-profile MMA fights have ended because a fighter came out with their unprotected chin on display. Rampage Jackson’s KO victory over Chuck Liddell? Boxers around the world are still shaking their heads.
Move in Circles
The typical beginner reacts to being hit by moving straight back away from the attack. That leads to one place – jammed into the corner, ropes, or cage and absorbing more punishment. Experienced fighters move in circles so that they’re constantly stepping out of their opponent’s line of attack and always keeping an escape route open.
Never Be Flatfooted
Footwork is one of the most important elements of the stand up game. Landing punches and dodging attacks requires mobility, something a flatfooted fighter doesn’t have. Staying light and on the balls of the feet enables explosive movements and quick changes of direction.
Speed Before Strength: Always Use Clean, Short, Sharp Techniques
Speed is the predominant factor in generating punching power. A fast, clean punch packs more power than a slower, heavier one. Any introductory physics textbook will tell you that the formula for kinetic energy is 1/2 mass multiplied by velocity squared. In layman’s terms, doubling the speed of a punch will quadruple the power behind it.
Use Straight-Line Punches on the Outside
There’s a reason that overhand haymakers aren’t a common boxing technique – good boxers see them from a mile away and will dodge or block almost every time. On the outside, it’s the straight-line punches – the jab and the cross – that are most effective because they’re quick to reach their target and leave the opponent with less time to react.
Uppercuts and Hooks at Close Range
The curving punches like hooks and (especially) uppercuts are most effective at close range when the fighters are locked up and there’s less distance to cover. The hook can also be used on the outside, but with correct technique. A hook shouldn’t be a large swinging motion, rather it travels in a straight line until the very end of the technique, when it quickly curves in towards its target.
Strike From the Hips
Ask any boxer where their striking power comes from and they’ll give the same answer – from the hips. It’s the basis of the famous “Joe Louis hip swivel”. Watch a boxer’s lower body – every punch is accompanied by a hip twist in the direction of the punch. Good strikers don’t just punch with the arm and shoulder muscles, they punch with their whole body.
Power is Rooted in the Feet
A fighter’s feet are his foundation. They provide the purchase point for making the swiveling motion with the hips. For maximum power, both feet should be set solidly (but not flatfooted). Boxing trainers often talk about “squashing the bug” when throwing a punch. This refers to the twisting motion of the ball of the foot on the floor, which provides that extra bit of power – enough to turn a sting into a knockout.