The Differences Between MMA And Boxing Explained

The Difference Between Mma And Boxing Explained
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What are the major differences between MMA and boxing?

On August 26, 2017, the biggest and most anticipated fight of the century occurred in Las Vegas. A battle beyond just fighting, with superiority, dominance, reputation, and legacy at stake. The bout between boxing champion Mayweather versus the well-accomplished MMA champion McGregor.

Months to the fight, it gathered a lot of speculation and sparked up intense debate among sports pundits and fanatics fans on which was the dominant sport; the MMA or boxing.

Sports journalists turned historical sports analysts digging into the depth of both sports, citing the difference, the advantages, and disadvantages. News media made a long list of the difference in both sports and picked their various favorite to win.

In this article, we delve into the ultimate comparison between boxing and MMA, including major differences, and similarities in the rival sports.

What is the point of boxing?

Boxing is a sports activity that involves two athletes fighting with the fist, with padded gloves in a roped square ring. The sole aim is to knock each other out or dominate by an accumulation of points through tactical punch strikes over a predetermined period.

What is the point of MMA?

Mixed martial arts in full is a cage fighting sport that involves full-contact in combat and features striking, grappling, and ground wrestle. It is a combination of various combat sports and martial arts from multiple roots around the world. The fighters aim to dominate their opponent utilizing tactics such as striking, finishing holds, and control.

The differences between boxing and MMA

1. Fighting Style

The sports of MMA goes beyond throwing punches with the fist. It involves and incorporates several genres of fighting techniques ranging from fist strikes to kicks, and kneel tackles. A wide array of martial skills is legal in the sports of MMA. Compared to its rival sport, boxing, it only permits the use of arms and hands only in knocking out opponents or winning points.

MMA, as stated earlier, is a combination of different fighting techniques. It allows the use of arms and hand strikes, boxing an opponent, or kickbox, Muay Thai skills, takedowns, ground tackles, and fights, and submission.

While submission is not as glamorous as knockouts finishing, it is still effective in getting the job done, but involves a lot of skills, efforts, and strategy. It is simple, moderate, and gives accounting facts of the precision of a fighter.

In the sports of boxing, the primary weapon is the fist. It permits only punch strikes. Leg kicks, ground wrestle, are disallowed. Boxers are not allowed to hit opponents below the waistline or hit an opponent who’s already down. Grappling an opponent is forbidden as well. Backfiring or slapping aren’t allowed either.

However, in MMA punches of any kind, elbow jabs, knee strikes, kicks are part of the sport. Grappling is permitted, throws and jumps hold, chokes, joint locks are too often common sight in the cage.

2. Number of rounds

A round in boxing lasts an estimated 3 minutes, with a total of 12 rounds in a fight. Fights do not necessarily need to extend to the 12th round to determine a winner in all cases. Bouts can be over in less than the determined 12 rounds if either participant is knocked out or deemed unable to continue the fight. Other than that, fights go on till the 12th round, and the boxer with the highest accumulated points emerge the winner.

MMA, however, is a three-round fight with each round lasting 5 minutes. The similarity in its fights protocols with boxing: fighters in the MMA can also win via knockouts and points; still, it doesn’t end there. Victory can also be via submission, a fighting situation where either fighter been placed in a complicated hold by the dominating fighter yields in defeat to the opponent.

3. Fighting Gloves

The fighting gloves used in both sports is another highlighted difference. Gloves used in MMA are much lighter compared to gloves used in boxing.

MMA fighting gloves weigh 0.1kg and are more flexible. It gives room for exposing fingers to allow fighters to accomplish specific strikes, chokes, takedowns, and submissions.

Boxing gloves weigh between 0.3-0.5kg, thus heavier. It doesn’t provide room for exposing fingers; instead, it protects it. Its design protects the hands while punching.

4. Boxing Ring & MMA Octagon

The platforms where the fight holds in both discipline’s combat sport features another difference between boxing and MMA—starting from the size. A standard boxing ring has a distance between 16 and 20 feet between the ropes and 2 feet outside. From the ground, it is about 3 to 4 feet, then covered with about 1 inch of padding layered on stretched canvas.

However, the MMA Cage compared to the boxing ring varies in size. The UFC Octagon is 750 square feet and measures exactly 30 feet across and 6 feet in height with a circumference of about 4 feet.

From an athletic point of view, the boxing ring gives added advantage during a fight compared to the MMA Octagon. Boxing rings have corners that allow fighters to trap in their opponent. It also provides room for skilled boxers to deflect and escape punches via maneuvering assistance of the ring’s ropes. The MMA Octagon holds no such advantage.

5. Basic Rules

Although various organization hosting MMA event such as the UFC has specific rules apply only within the organization, there are universal rules that MMA fighters must conform with, notwithstanding the organization they’re plying their careers. Some of these MMA rules bear striking differences with boxing rules.

5.1. MMA Rules

  • Fighters are permitted to implore legal strikes, throwing, and grappling techniques in fights to defeat opponents.
  • Intentionally throwing an opponent outside the cage is disallowed.
  • Strikes to the groin, the back of the head, eye-gouging, biting, grabbing of the throat, head butts, hair pulling are disallowed.

5.2. Boxing Rules

  • Punching with a clenched fist is the only permitted mode of attack.
  • Strikes below the belt, the kidneys, and the back of an opponent head are not permitted and would be penalized.
  • Once an opponent is down, further attacks and strikes are halted.
  • Boxer hit with a low blow is allowed up to five minutes to recover.
  • In the case were unintentional foul ends the fight before the fourth round, the bout is ruled as a “no contest” from the fifth round onward. The decision of the bout is based on the judges’ cards.

6. Winning Situations

Fights in the MMA can be won via knockouts, Judges’ decision, submission, technical knockouts, and forfeit.

In its rival sports boxing, it shares certain similarities in its winning process. If the fight goes the distance, the winner is decided on the scores of the judges. Other than that, contests can be won via disqualification, knockouts, and technical knockouts.

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7. Knockout (KO) & Count Rule

In boxing, the famous ten count rule comes into application in a fight after a boxer is knocked down. The boxer must rise to their feet without any form of aid or assistance before the court of ten. If unable to rise up before the tenth count, the boxer has thus been knocked out.

However, in contrast to MMA, the knockout procedure is different as the count rule doesn’t exist. If a fighter goes down in a fight, the fight still goes on as MMA allows for a ground wrestle, grappling, and floor pound. Only when obvious a fighter has lost consciousness (“goes limp”) due to legal strikes from the opponent, be it on the ground or while on feet, a knockout is declared. 

In other words, the MMA doesn’t need or require the count rule as boxing does to declare knockouts.

Bottom Line

The fight of the century mentioned on the outset between boxing champion Mayweather and MMA legend McGregor ended in favor of Floyd Mayweather. It wasn’t a shocker Mayweather won considering the bout took place under boxing rules.

To Mayweather, it was just another boxing fight. It would have been a terrible insult and murderous blow to the boxing world if he had lost.

Both fighters are masters in their various disciplines of combat sport and well respected.

Die-hard fans look forward to another fight of this kind between champions of different genres of sport. However, it should be with utter freedom to fight as deemed in each fighter’s respected combat discipline and not under one fighter’s combat rules as it was in Mayweather’s case. That will balance the odds and level the scale of play.


Please feel free to share your thoughts about this MMA and boxing comparison in our comments section below.

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