The B.L. Morgan Boxing Blog: One Blueprint for Boxers Beating MMA Fighters at Their own Game

After the extreme debacle of James Toney trash-talking his way into a match with one of the UFCís top fighters and performing like a total idiot the debate has been opened as to which combat sport has better fighters all around: Boxing or MMA.

There is a large percentage of people (until recently I included myself here) who thought there was no debate at all. Both sports are so different that it made no sense to compare them. But with the growing popularity of MMA and with Toney the Un-elected representative of Boxing performing so badly the need for a blueprint for Boxers to follow should they decide to go to MMA most definitely exists.

There is also the factor of Bragging rights.

Once upon a time Boxing was considered to be the toughest sport on the planet and the top boxers were thought to be the toughest men in the world. With all the careful matchmaking practiced by several of Boxingís Superstars, (Are you listening Floyd?) Boxing might now have lost that designation. Avoiding your toughest challengers for any reason does not create the impression of bravery.

I will state that top MMA Fighters will not even consider stepping in with a top Boxer and competing in a match under the Marquis of Queensberry Rules as they are applied today. They know better. They know they canít compete in that arena with the best in Boxing. Even Fedor Emelianenko (long considered the best pound for pound MMA fighter) recently stated in an interview that he wouldnít stand a chance against either Klitschko brother in a Boxing Ring.

I believe that Boxers are overall special athletes and with some preparation, Boxingís Best can beat MMAís best.

First of all the Boxer needs to recognize that MMA is a different game. He can use the skills acquired in a Boxing Ring to good effect but he will also have to know his weaknesses and how to overcome those.

Quick strong strikes, movement and the ability to avoid takedowns and when taken down survive and quickly get back to the feet should be the basic battle plan. Quickness is the number one asset that a Boxer needs to succeed in MMA. The Toneyís of the world (overweight, slow Boxers) should not apply.

Back in 1997 Mark Coleman, a true beast of a man, was a dominant force in the UFC. His ground and pound game was basic, effective and scary as hell to watch. Coleman was a ball of muscle whose plan was to just tackle the opponent, (the Grounding) and beat the holy-hell out of him. (The Pounding)

This worked extremely well because of Colemanís unbelievable strength. At this point it appeared as though MMA was going to be a sport that placed physical strength over all other attributes. It looked like Conan the Barbarian would have ruled the UFC.

Then UFC XIII came and Maurice Smith appeared on the scene. Smith, a World Champion Kickboxer, told everyone who would listen (not many did) that the UFC had never seen a world class striker. He dominated Coleman with leg kicks, selective strikes to the head and merely sought to survive when taken to the ground. He won a decision and proved that when used intelligently, skillful striking is a tool that a ground fighter has no answer for.

MMA evolved instantly and more guys who used kicks showed up. They mixed their strikes with intelligent grappling.

Now Iím going to move to just recently.

On 10/23/2010 me and my wife Judi attended the Fathom Events presentation of UFC 121. From seeing the buildup shows on Spike Network about Brock Lesner, (The UFC Heavyweight Champion) and Challenger Cain Velasquez this match had the feel of a Godzilla versus Megalon fight, with two enormous beasts tearing up the countryside as they tore each other up.

Both fighters are huge with Lesner at 265 pounds looking like he escaped from a prison on Jupiter.

They had similar skills with one big difference: Velasquez appears to have top ten contender pro-Boxing skills. Iíve read several Cain Velasquez interviews where he states that Boxing is a major influence on his fighting style. You only have to watch one of his fights to see that his punching is very efficient and compact. Velasquezís Boxing skills are a level above anyone elseís in the Heavyweight Division of the UFC.

As the fight started Lesner charged, took Cain down. Velasquez popped up to his feet and punched. This pattern repeated until the Challenger caught Lesner with a short, quick, hard uppercut that blinded and badly staggered the Defending Champion. After that, Velasquez intelligently attacked, mostly with punches (although one bad-ass knee got through) and ripped holes in Lesnerís face.

It was so bloody that my wife, Judi had her hands over her eyes and sheís not the squeamish type.

In the theater for the Fathom Events presentation we were in the middle of a howling mob as Velasquez did his number on Lesner. I hadnít heard a crowd yell like that at a closed circuit anything since Ali fought Norton when I was a kid. It was electrifying.

When the fight was stopped I jumped to my feet and yelled, ďThatís what happens when a world-class Boxer fights in the UFC!Ē

I guess I was still hurting from the Toney embarrassment so I just couldnít resist.

But what does this mean to a Boxer looking to fight in MMA matches?

Study the way Velasquez punched. He didnít use extended combinations. He would use a three punch combo, pause and look for the hole opened up by the other blows and fire into those holes. Of course it wasnít as easy as it sounds because after Cain landed Lesner was moving fast to get out of his way.

Iím going to cover one more example before we get down to the blueprint for Boxers beating MMA Fighters. This example falls under the category of what a Boxer should not do.

On June 26, 2010 the then perceived #1 MMA Heavyweight fighter in the world Fedor Emelianenko fought Fabricio Werdum. Fedor is known as a very well rounded MMA fighter, while Werdum is a Ju Jitsu ground fighting specialist.

Fedor landed a quick punch and when Werdum went down he followed him to the mat.

He played Werdumís game and got submitted by a combination of a triangle choke and arm bar at 1:09 of the first round.

The lesson: Do not follow a ground fighter to the ground. Unless you specialize in that form of combat donít go there unless youíve got a badly hurt opponent who is clearly on the way out.

Now we finally get to a Blueprint on how a skilled pugilist can approach a match against an MMA Fighter under MMA Rules.

The advantages that a top Boxer should have over most MMA Fighters are razor-sharp reflexes, the ability to take a good punch, and (if he is a light-footed Boxer) more effective foot movement. Some people are going to disagree with me about the last part of the preceding sentence but if youíve ever been in a Boxing Ring you learn quickly the need to properly position yourself, in relation to your opponent to be able to get leverage and power on punches.

Thatís what commentators like Teddy Atlas are talking about when he mentions using angles. Itís also why Floyd Mayweather is so frustrating to fight. Floyd knows how to totally stop opponents from getting the right angles to hit him with power shots. Itís why he seems to stand right in front of opponents and they still have an extremely hard time hitting him clean.

It may not be exciting but it is effective.

The approach top Boxers have to take when fighting in MMA is an obvious one but often the obvious needs to be stated or it gets overlooked. The Boxer needs to force the combat to remain where he is most comfortable, standing up.

Use quick straight strikes to soften up the opponent or even put him out cold with one shot. Watch Ray Mercer versus Tim Sylvia to see what Iím talking about. The clip of that mugging is in Youtube. Sylvia is not a bad MMA Fighter but being able to take a punch from a world class Boxer who specializes in landing quick effective bombs with his fists is a special ability that very few humans own. Itís the reason why so many Amateur Boxers never go pro.

When the MMA Fighter shoots for the takedown, and believe me most will, be ready to instantly move to the sides. Never willingly back into the fence. Run if necessary but stay the hell away from that fence.

If taken to the mat do anything and everything to stifle the opponentís attack and get quickly back up to the feet. Be prepared to hug and hold-on but do not extend the arms when down. That invites disaster in the form of arm bars and several other Submission Holds. While we are on the subject of Submission Holds, it is extremely important to have a working knowledge of submission holds to know how to defend against them. To ignore Submission Holds is to ask that the opponent slap one on you and do wonderful things to your joints. Ask James Toney about Submission Holds. He found out more in that one round than he ever wanted to know.

The bottom line is, know what the opponent can do and donít allow him to do it. Donít wrestle with a wrestler. Donít grapple with a Jiu Jitsu fighter.

If the Boxer stifles the ground game then the fighters are stood back up or just get up on their own. Always be first with punches and make them count. This is not the time or place to jab and dance. The Boxer should have a striking power advantage. He needs to use it.

When a Boxer uses his advantages he will dominate. Top world-class Boxers learn how to plant their feet and fire power shots simultaneously. Most MMA Fighters are still learning how to do that when they reach the upper echelon of their sport. Most MMA Fighters that I have seen do not know how to properly throw straight punches. They almost always telegraph their shots. They get away with it because the opponent doesnít know how to properly block or slip shots either. Just look at Chuck Liddell. Heís is a great striker for MMA. He loops almost everything he throws.

As for defense: Letís be honest here, how many world class Boxers can you visualize getting caught with something called a Superman Punch? The reason you never see that in a Boxing ring is because it would get you killed against any skilled opponent. A Superman Punch is a regularly used punch in MMA matches.

A world class Boxer should not even be worried about an MMA Fighters punches. Theyíre just not in the same league as what heís used to.

Every MMA Fight begins on the feet and if a Boxer competing in MMA prepares for the challenge properly he can keep it most of the time on the feet. Cung Le Former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion does it. Le is primarily a Kick-boxer who keeps the fights standing. World Class Boxers can do the same. On the feet is a Boxerís territory. Thatís where he can cause massive damage. Thatís where he can dominate and destroy MMA Fighters.


I put this article together a few months ago. After watching an MMA fight today between two top fighters whose lack of skill was what made it interesting (neither one of them had a clue as to how to block or slip a punch) I decided to send it out now.


Boxing quote of the week: ďFor two million Iíd fight an old lady with a kickstand. Nothing personal.Ē ---Bobby Czyz on wanting a good payday.


B.L. Morgan is the author of Blood and Rain, Blood for the Masses, Blood on Celluloid and Night Knuckles through Speaking Volumes

He is also the author of Blood and Bones & You Play, You Pay through Publishing. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Article posted on 05.02.2011

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