The fighting stance is the foundational block upon the top of which everything else in fighting is built. Every move, whether offensive or defensive, is performed from some position. You know, it’s impossible to throw a meaningful punch from your normal resting stance.
Each combat sport has a stance that matches and facilitates the movements and techniques. As the two premier combat sports worldwide, boxing and MMA are often compared, each with specific stances.
The angle of the hips and the front foot are the main differences between MMA and boxing stances. The stance in boxing is more bladed, and the foot is angled diagonally to ensure more power in punches and make the body a smaller target. In MMA, the stance is more square, with the foot pointing towards the opponent to allow for easier leg kicks, checks, and sprawls against takedowns.
Let’s see how the different rulesets change the viable stance options.
MMA Stance vs. Boxing Stance: What’s In Common?
Before we start with the differences, let’s first see what all fighting stances (we will leave out the animal resembling stuff from kung fu) have in common.
A fighting stance should be staggered, meaning one hand and foot are always in front of the other. In most cases, the leading hand is the non-dominant one, and the stronger hand/foot pair remains at the rear.
This way, the more powerful limbs can generate even more power while the weaker ones are used to control the range. In a staggered stance, forward and backward movement becomes much easier and faster, and you are much more balanced and stable.
Of course, fighters sometimes place their feet in a line, but this is done in specific scenarios in a fight, not as an all-around fighting stance.
Depending on which hand is in front, the stances can be orthodox when the left hand is leading or southpaw when you are leading with the right. This principle is carried through all striking martial arts.
MMA Stance vs. Boxing Stance: What’s The Difference?
Now let’s see what separates boxing and MMA fighting stances.
Pugilism only allows punching. This limited availability of possible weapons means that boxers must be more creative in finding ways to open up the opponent, mainly through crafty footwork and distance management. It also means they only have to worry about incoming punches.
There are multiple stances in boxing, but we will use the standard and most widely used stance. It is a lot more bladed than the one in MMA. This means the body is more at an angle, and the front foot is pointing at around 45 degrees.
This is done to make the body a smaller target and to allow quick forward and backward movement. Many karate styles, for example, use a wholly bladed stance for optimal use of lateral movement and range.
In MMA, the variations of the stances are even more numerous than in boxing. But again, we will try and imagine the most balanced stance that encompasses all elements.
Like how Jon Jones or GSP fought, as fighters who dominated their opponents on their feet and the ground.
The front foot is now placed forward rather than diagonally. This reduces the leg’s vulnerability to low kicks. They can be easily checked, and even if the kicks land, there is less chance of losing balance.
The boxing stance also tends to be more lead-foot-heavy. The importance of the jab to establish the range and set up other attacks in the ring necessitates this weight transfer to the lead foot. In MMA, the range is quite different, and you must more evenly distribute the weight on both legs.
Another common difference is the use of the lead hand. Although some boxers like to fight with their lead hand extended far forward, this is more commonly used in MMA.
In the cage, this hand is used to stop the opponent, blind him, or quickly secure an under hook in the case of a takedown attempt or a clinch. Boxers rarely fight this way because it takes away from the power and snap of the jab.
Can You Use A Boxing Stance In MMA?
You can use a boxing stance in MMA, but you must always do this with the thought that you will have to suffer the consequences.
Both the Diaz brothers have used a very boxing-heavy style throughout their careers with great success. Still, both have also paid the price in the form of countless debilitating leg kicks.
Other fighters have adapted better from their boxing background to the octagon. Teammates Rob Font and Calvin Kattar have had tremendous success with a heavy boxing style centered on the jab.
Both are near the top of their divisions but also suffered from low kicks due to their preferred stance.
Despite some drawbacks, the traditional boxing stance has benefits for MMA. They are the same as in boxing- they facilitate the best possible punching attacks, defenses, and related movements.
Font, Kattar, the Diaz brothers, Junior Dos Santos, and other fighters understood the loose points of their boxing stance but still used it effectively. Other options may be more balanced, but the boxing stance is undoubtedly usable in an MMA match.
The other way round, however, is less potent. MMA has so much variety that you can make nearly anything work.
Boxing is more limited but more developed. There are fewer viable fighting styles and less margin for error, especially on the higher levels.
While the standard MMA stance is perfectly usable in boxing, it does not bring any tangible benefits that make it better than the established boxing stances.
MMA brings together specialists from all martial arts. Boxers, wrestlers, BJJ specialists, karate masters, Muay Thai practitioners, and many others exist. Each of them reworks their original stance to work in the cage.
However, let’s look at some of the most dominant champions like Jon Jones, George St. Pierre, and, more recently, Kamaru Usman (at least his more recent fights). They have a balanced stance that does not favor any particular fighting style.
All in all, in MMA, the stance is best adjusted to the opponent. You fight a powerful wrestler in a very different style than you would a lanky counter-striker.
You can break down fighting stances in detail, but you should remember that stances are fluid. A good fighter changes and adjusts the width, depth, and angle of his stance countless times during a fight. But this article should give you basic knowledge of how the boxing and MMA stances differ.