Analysis: Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts

By Tom Donelson
Updated: February 28, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The latest buzz around boxing is the fear that Mixed Martial Arts and in its various evolutions will replace boxing as the number combat sport.

Since the early 80?s when ESPN introduced kick boxing ; there have been various styles of mixed martial arts and the sport has continued to evolve in various forms.

Watching the recent Showtime edition, I can understand its popularity and see its weakness. The strength is in its promotion. The round cage gives the impression of two men in, one man out (or two women in, one woman out.)

One expects Mel Gibson and Tina Turner to show up in a scene from the Thunder dome. Lights, screaming fans in full arenas followed up an atmosphere that resembles professional wrestling produces live event worth attending.

Unlike professional wrestling, the results are for real and not choreographed. Mixed martial arts do have one advantage over professional boxing.

There was a time when a young man received boxing lesson when he needed to learn self-defense. Now, junior takes Karate lessons. I would wager that there are more black belts in various martial arts than amateur or professional boxers.

The decline of amateur boxing has closed many doors to young athletes to learn boxing and the predominance of dojos in even many rural communities gives mixed martial arts a solid base to draw fans.

Another factor helping mixed martial arts is boxing itself. Boxing has managed to throw away all of its advantages through some of sports worst managements.

Only professional hockey has bungled their sport worst. As one long time boxing pundit observed, what you see in a mixed martial art event audience include young men along with their dates.

It is a sport reaching to the younger audiences.

The weakness of mixed martial arts is actually what happens in the ring. There were more punches thrown in one round of the Mosley-Collazo bout than entire evening of Showtime mixed artist.

Much of a mixed martial match happens on the ground as the artists work their advantages through grappling on the ground. Victory is often happen through submission on the ground as through knock outs punches or kicks.

In the main event of Henri Gracie and Frank Shamrock showed this weakness. Gracie advantage lay in his ability to get Shamrock on the ground.

And most of the main event was fought on the ground and the question that remains, how long will fans love a sport that is fought mostly on the ground?

Much of what happens on the ground in a mixed martial has meaning as fighters grapple to gain the upper hand. Throughout the match, Shamrock found himself on the ground and trying to avoid the submission hold of the Brazilian fighter.

Shamrock?s advantage lied in his punching and kicking ability but in many of these events, the ability to fight on the ground is as important as punching or kicking.

When Gracie had Shamrock on the ground, he held most of cards and Shamrock defense consisted on nailing Gracie with kicks to the ribs and heads.

One of those kicks landed on the back of Gracie?s head and led to a concussion. And this led to Shamrock’s disqualification. The bout ended as weird or unsatisfying as any produced in boxing.

What boxing has going for it is action or more action than any mixed martial art match. There are no staged cages but count the number of punches.

One of the my sensi once told me that most street fights end up on the ground within 30 seconds, unless one knocks out the other in quick order.

This is what happens in the mixed martial arts matches that I observed. After the initial attempts to land punches or kicks, many of the martial artists attempted to get their opponents on the ground.

Floor techniques are important to many of the martial artists as important as their kicking or punching techniques.

So what boxing has in its favor is that all of the action is happening in the ring and not on the ground. What boxing doesn?t have is the Promotion savvy of its younger competitors.

Mixed martial arts have been around for at least four decades but boxing is now entering third century. What martial arts have so far avoided is being trapped in sports red light district whereas boxing have resided there for centuries.

Boxing has the advantages of action but Mixed Martial artist have the advantages of promotion and edge that boxing lacks.