So a boxer and a grappler step into the cage...

A few weeks back I wrote up a post about bullshido in movies where I contended that the emphasis on stand-up striking and really impressive flying spin-kicks in those films gives a very skewed and dangerous idea of what realistic and effective martial arts are all about. I also pointed out that studying at least some kind of groundwork is critical to being a complete martial artist.

And I made the claim- one that might seem bold at first- that:
The reality is that, in a one-on-one situation, ground-fighting beats stand-up striking up to 90% of the time. Take a stand-up striker, dump him on his back via a single- or double-leg takedown, and start working through his guard. Or, better yet, let him make the elementary mistake of turning his back to you when he's trying to get back up. 
And that's it- you've got him. He's done. His ability to fight when he's on the ground is completely removed, because you've nullified the advantages of his biggest and most powerful weapons and can now work him over more or less at your leisure.
This sounds like an audacious thing to say- until you see the recent video posted of Conor Macgregor engaging in some light, fun sparring against a professional boxer and friend:

Now, a rigourous examination of the facts requires that we concede certain things.

First, this is light sparring. This is not a real fight-to-win contest. You can clearly see Conor Macgregor giving Patrick Hyland time to stand up and resume striking. In a real MMA fight, Mr. Hyland would be on his back- or, worse, on his front- with a skilled grappler choking him out within seconds.

Second, as you can see from the disparity in their respective leg sizes, Conor Macgregor is fully capable of throwing solid kicks- but like many boxers, at least in the lighter weight classes, Mr. Hyland's legs are not developed for striking. That's because boxers, after all, don't need to use their legs except to move themselves around and give themselves a solid foundation for striking.

Third, it is to Mr. Hyland's enormous credit that he was humble and self-aware enough to get into a cage with a skilled grappler and let himself be filmed doing so. Getting dumped on one's back is not fun for someone who likes to "stand up and bang", as one of the black belts at our school rather amusingly put it recently after his successful amateur MMA debut. (That was a fun fight to watch- our friend's opponent got TKO'd in about 20 seconds with a single clean right cross!)

So, does all of this mean that Ronda Rousey, for instance, would actually be able to beat Floyd Mayweather, as she claimed to be able to do earlier last year?

Ummm... no.

My reasons for saying that she wouldn't be able to defeat Floyd Mayweather are the same now as they were a year ago.

The difference in bodyweight alone is enormous. Ronda Rousey weighs roughly 150-155lbs in her "off season" and fights at 135lbs. Floyd Mayweather, who never lets himself get out of shape, fights at welterweight, which in boxing is 147lbs. It's fair to bet that he weighs roughly the same amount in his off-season that Rousey weighs, probably more.

When you factor in the fact that men have, on average, 36% more lean muscle mass than women of the same weight, and that therefore makes men vastly stronger than women of equivalent weight, you will then realise just what a challenge Rousey would face.

Rousey could certainly take Mayweather down to the ground. It's not actually that hard to pull a double-leg takedown or a judo takedown on a bigger and stronger opponent- Ms. Rousey has done it before:

(To be fair, Bas Rutten didn't exactly know it was coming- if he did, I seriously doubt she would have been able to pull it off; Bas Rutten is a highly accomplished grappler and takedown artist.)

But she is also shorter than Mr. Mayweather. Ms. Rousey stands at 170cm- tall, for a woman- with a reach of 173cm. Floyd Mayweather is about 3cm taller, with a reach of 183cm.

Think about that carefully. That's a 10cm difference in reach. That's a gap that Ms. Rousey is going to have a very hard time overcoming- all Floyd Mayweather has to do is stick his hand out and watch Ronda Rousey walk into those punches all day long.

And that's before we get to the significant difference in muscular strength between the two. A single good, hard punch from Mr. Mayweather would be enough, given the disparity in muscle strength and weight, to stop Ms. Rousey cold.

Between two similarly sized fighters, groundfighting skills will make a huge difference in the overall outcome. You put a pure striker against a pure grappler, and the grappler is very to highly likely to win. That's not a certain outcome- there are ways for a pure striker, especially one trained in particularly lethal striking arts like muay thai, to avoid getting taken down. But it's not easy.

The great thing about (mixed) martial arts is that, at some point or another, you have to put up or shut up. You can't get away with BS for very long in this world- once you step into a cage and the door gets locked, that's it, game on. The trash talk and nonsense and stupidity that precedes the fight goes straight out the window, and after you touch gloves, you're no longer friends. When the bell rings, it's time to fight.

And that, ultimately, is what will prove or disprove claims that various people make- including me. It is because I know a little something about martial arts, because I watch MMA and have friends and mentors who actively participate in MMA, that I can say that a ground fighter is more likely to prevail over a stand-up striker than the other way around.


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