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MMA vs. Boxing 2022: What Are The Major Differences

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Combat sports have been a test of skill and courage since the dawn of civilization. Although boxing and wrestling got all the press in ancient times, pankration was part of the Olympic Games. This full-contact sport combined wrestling with boxing and was the precursor of modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

The appeal of boxing and MMA fights is constantly breaking records in TV viewership, and sportsbooks facilitate wagering on the most popular bouts. However, before googling how to bet on boxing, it is crucial to learn the difference between MMA vs. Boxing.

Fighting Styles

It has been said that a boxer needs to have good footwork and a strong punch. All of the great fighters danced around the ring, throwing lightning-fast punches. However, in MMA, punches are only a tiny segment of the techniques used to bring an opponent down. The concept of the sport is to incorporate various fighting styles, which include grappling, kicking, and punching. Most MMA fighters train in kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and other disciplines.

This wide range of styles means that contact is allowed in every part of the body, except the eyes and groin area. This is one of the most significant differences when discussing MMA vs. Boxing, with the latter having more limitations, as boxers cannot strike below the waistline. There is no holding, slapping, or striking when an opponent is down. Something that is not a rule in MMA, where fighters can go at it while they are on the ground, with minor exceptions, such as stomping and soccer kicking to the head.

Knockouts are part of both sports, although MMA fighters frequently aim for submission, which involves many skills.

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Weight Classes

The scenery for an MMA fight resembles a scene from an action movie with illegal underground fights. But, in reality, the sport is highly regulated, with fighters allowed to compete only in their weight class. This aspect is one of the most significant differences in MMA vs. Boxing.

Organizations that promote MMA bouts typically have 14 weight classes that differ between 5 to 20 pounds. However, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) includes 8 weight classes for men and 4 for women.

But the regulation in MMA is constantly evolving. The problem for most fighters in UFC and similar promotions is that the reduced number of weight classes means more drastic cutting of weight when they want to migrate from one weight class to another. The same applies to when they want to move up and have to add extra weight. The heavyweight division gets capped at 265 pounds.

Boxing is more versatile in the organization of weight classes. There are 18 classes for professional boxers. The reason for the large number is the smaller weight difference between classes, ranging between 3-8 pounds. This makes it possible for boxers to be champions simultaneously in multiple divisions because shedding a couple of pounds is not a problem. And heavyweight divisions have no limit in boxing, unlike MMA.

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Round Count

A standard boxing bout lasts for 12 rounds with 3 minutes per round. Matches can end earlier in case of a knockout or if a boxer cannot continue because of an injury. If the boxers are standing when the bell signals the end of the 12th round, the victory goes to the boxer with the most points from the judges.

The fight protocol in MMA is remarkably similar to boxing. Points, knockouts, or a submission determines the victor. A submission means a fighter is in an inescapable situation and yields. The biggest difference is in the round number, with the MMA fight having 3 rounds, each lasting 5 minutes.

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MMA Octagon vs. Boxing Ring

The stage for the matches in boxing vs. MMA differs in dimension and shape. The MMA fights are held in a cage in the shape of an octagon, with a wire fence separating fighters from the audience. The size of the octagon can vary depending on which organization is promoting the fights. In the case of UFC, matches are held in an octagon of 750 square feet.

The boxing ring is a square with boundary lines demarcated with ropes, and there are about 20 feet between the ropes. Most combat sports fans believe boxers benefit from the ring because the corners make it possible to trap an opponent, while the MMA cage limits options for fighters. Nevertheless, some have used the net as leverage for leg kicks to get some extra altitude when hitting an opponent.

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Fighting Gloves

Participants in both sports do not enter the ring or octagon barehanded. They wear gloves that offer some degree of protection to the hands and limit the damage that can get inflicted on an opponent.

In both sports, the gloves are different in weight and shape. MMA gloves get tailored for grappling, meaning the fingers are exposed. The gloves are also lighter, weighing around 3 ounces, offering a large degree of flexibility when making takedowns and chokes.

Boxing gloves are designed for punching and weigh up to 12 ounces. The hand is clenched in a fist, without any option for grappling an opponent.

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Organizations

Boxing is an Olympic sport, and internationally every country has a domestic federation that promotes matches. A few of the most popular organizations are WBA, WBC, IBF, and the WBO. Every federation has its own rules, and a boxer that holds a title from one federation can compete in another organization. For example, Lennox Lewis unified the WBC title with the IBF and WBA titles.

MMA is a young sport, where UFC is the dominant force – the first organization to promote MMA fights in the USA. UFC is the epicenter of the sport and attracts the best fighters worldwide. Bellator and Japanese ONE FC are promotions with a market share and influence.

Conclusion

Combat sports tap into the instinctual impulse for survival and always draw crowds that enjoy the catharsis offered by a match. Boxing vs. MMA popularity is growing, and both sports generally have the same fan base.

Not surprisingly, we are starting to see cross-over matches, such as the Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor match two years ago.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the thought to be impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live since 2017. He now does work for PROBOX TV, the first truly global boxing network.