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MMA vs Boxing: The Major Differences

by Engage Team May 12, 2020 4 min read

MMA vs Boxing: The Major Differences

At a glance, anyone can tell you the difference between MMA (mixed martial arts) and Boxing. They are both combat sports, but they have a vast amount of differences. You could probably even write books about how one is different from the other.

We won’t go that far, but we will break down the key differences between MMA and Boxing. Each fighting sport has had a unique evolution to the sports they are today. Take a look down below and learn about some of the major differences between MMA and Boxing.

Fight Gear

The first difference you notice between MMA and boxing is what they’re wearing. The uniforms or gear they are wearing are quite different than the others.

  • Boxing Gear: A pro Boxer’s uniform consists of Boxing gloves, hand wraps, shorts, shoes, mouthpiece, and cup. Boxers can customize and accessorize what they wear to include their own styles along with their sponsors. Amateurs have to wear regulated tank tops and usually headgear
  • MMA Fighter Gear: An MMA fighters’ gear is a little different consisting of MMA gloves and also mouthpiece and cup-like in Boxing. But the key difference is the shorts because MMA/UFC fighters can wear a bigger variety of shorts. They could wear MMA shorts, Muay Thai shorts, or spandex.

Different Fighting Dimensions

The biggest difference between MMA and Boxing has to be that they’re fought in different dimensions. Boxing in one and MMA in three

Boxing’s Dimension:

  • Striking: The sport of boxing involves all punching strikes to the front of an opponent’s body from the beltline and up. Legal punches allowed must be with your front knuckles.

MMA’s Dimensions:

  • Striking: MMA also involves striking, but it includes punches along with elbows, knees, and kicks. These strikes can be done standing to every part of your body, except the groin, back of the head, and spine.
  • Clinch: The next fighting dimension in MMA is the clinch. Fighters may instigate a clinch to open up strikes, submissions, or takedowns.
  • The Ground: On the ground, MMA fighters work to do two things. Either control an opponent to set up a submission or land strikes.

Fighting Areas

Boxing matches: Legal boxing bouts take place in a ring. The standard size of rings that commissions allow are from 16 and 20 feet (4.9-6.1 Meters). The number of ropes varies by commission usually with 2ft (.61 M) of the ring between the ropes and floor.

MMA Cage fighting: While an MMA fight can also legally take place in a ring, they usually take place in cages. The cages vary from octagons to circles. UFC’s Octagon has a diameter of 30ft (9.1m) with a 6ft (1.8m) fence on a 4ft (1.2m) platform

Different Rounds

Boxing: A Boxing bout consists of 4-12, 3-minute rounds with a minute rest between each round. Championship bouts are 12 round fights.

MMA: MMA rounds consist of 3-5, 5-minute rounds with a 1-minute break in between. Championship matches or main events are 5 round fights.

Rules Differences

Rules of Boxing: In Boxing, you are only allowed to strike the opponent to the front of their body above the beltline. There are no kicks, knees, elbows, biting, groin shots, headbutts, or holding allowed. A dropped fighter is given to the count of 10 to get up or the fight is stopped.

After getting up, they’re given a standing 8 count and checked by the referee if they can continue. If they show they’re able to continue, the fight resumes. Depending on the commission, there may be a 3 knockdown rule in place.

Rules of MMA: The rules of MMA allow a fighter to strike their opponent to their body, head, and legs. Illegal strikes include eye gouging, any strike to the groin, back of the head or spine. In the UFC, there are no knees or kicks allowed to a downed opponent.

There are no count-outs in MMA. If a fighter is not intelligently defending themselves from strikes, then the referee will step in and stop the fight. In a chokehold, the ref can also stop the fight if the fighter is unresponsive to the ref’s check.

Ways To Win

Boxing: To win in boxing, you must either knock out your opponent or win by decision. If the fight goes to a decision 3 judges that scored the fight will tally their points for a decision. The decision can be unanimous, split, or a draw in which there is no winner.

MMA: In MMA, you can win by stopping your opponent with strikes, a submission, or a judge’s decision. The judging structure is similar to boxing.

Weight Divisions

A major difference between MMA and Boxing is the number of weight divisions in each sport. Boxing has over double the weight classes that MMA has. Here is a list of the men’s divisions in each sport.

  • Boxing Weight Classes: Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight, Light Middleweight, Welterweight, Featherweight, Super Featherweight, Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight, Flyweight, Super Flyweight, Light Flyweight, Strawweight
  • MMA: Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight, Lightweight, Featherweight, Bantamweight, and Flyweight

They both have some of the same divisions' names, but the weights are different.

Different Promotions

Both sports consist of multiple promotions, but each has around 3-4 promotions that really control the sport.

Final Thoughts

This just about sums up the major differences between MMA and Boxing. Both are great sports full of talented athletes that put it all on the line when it’s fight night. Which fighters are better, however, is a matter of opinion, but that can be a breakdown for another time.

MMA vs Boxing: The Major Differences Infographic

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