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Boxing vs MMA: Is There A Difference In Striking?


By: Hans Themistode

The world’s of boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) have always been kept separate. Although they are combat sports, they are considered to be extremely different. Jiu Jitsu, Muay thai, grappling and so on are big parts of MMA. Boxing on the other hand is strictly stand up striking. The contrast between the two has always been thought of as vast. Or at least that was the prevailing thought.

Striking in MMA looks a bit differently doesn’t it? Let’s not factor in kicks and elbows. Just strictly from a striking standpoint using only a fighters fist, it seems to look different from traditional boxing. There is a sweet science that applies to the sport of boxing. When we take a deep dive into striking in both forms of combat, they are both eerily the same. That is the belief of long time boxing and MMA coach Ray Velez.

Ray began his boxing journey in 1977 and enjoyed a successful pro career of eight wins and only two losses. His aforementioned success, undoubtedly would have continued if not for a tragic incident which occurred several years ago.

“I was playing a pick up game of football,” recalled Velez. “I was having a great time, until all of a sudden I ran into a flag poll. I ended up having seizures because of it. I also had a contusion on my brain as well. That incident effectively ended my career.”

Although Velez was unable to box, he did manage to turn to coaching full time. He has spent over 25 years teaching boxing and roughly 17 years teaching striking in MMA as well. According to Velez, there is no difference between the two.

“Striking is the same in boxing and MMA,” said Velez. “ There are four punches in boxing. You have the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. Some people will tell you that there is 21 punches but that just is not true. A hook is a hook, no matter if it’s to the body or the head. It’s the same kind of punch. When I teach people how to strike, whether it’s in a boxing gym or MMA cage, I teach them the same fundamentals.”

With striking in both forms of combat, one would think that boxers would have the upper hand in that category. However, with the recent infiltration of boxers entering the world of MMA, they have struggled. Velez understands the problem that boxers are having once they enter the cage.

“The reason why boxers have so many issues when they enter the world of MMA is because they get away from simply boxing. They want to start grappling and kicking. That isn’t in their nature. If they just simply stick to boxing they would be a lot more successful. If I’m going to prepare a boxer to fight an MMA fighter, I’m going to teach them basic things such as how to block a kick and how to defend a takedown. Just keep the fight standing at all times. Once they deviate from that, is when things go wrong. Boxers will always have the upper hand striking because they are more accustomed to it. They just need to understand that and play to their strengths.”

What it all comes down to is teaching. That is what truly differentiate’s the level of striking between two fighters.

“It’s really all about teaching. With boxing they have more time to focus on striking because that is all that is allowed when they fight. With MMA, since they focus on everything, they don’t have as much time when compared to a boxer in terms of learning the intricacies of everything.”

Boxing and MMA has been viewed as two sports that are completely different, however, it seems that they are much more similar than we ever realized.

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