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When it comes to all combat sports, the basis of all movements is the stance. That being said there are several different stances in the world of combat sports with each of them being tailored towards the rules of their sport as well as what the fighter wants to prioritize. That’s why you tend to see people in different combat sports stick to a very similar stance, with some variation and wildcard standouts of course. 

What this article covers

That being said some stances are similar to others, and two of the stances that look the most similar are the stances commonly taken in MMA and in Boxing. Despite MMA having the loosest rules and therefore the most variety in terms of stance, most fighters take a similar stance that bears a very strong resemblance to the stance that you typically see in boxing with a boxing stance

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MMA vs Boxing stance

While at first glance the stances seem to be more or less the exact same, there are several small intricacies that more experienced people will notice and they are very important to note.

Origins of MMA 

Before we get into the differences between the stances it will help to talk about the history of both combat sports. 

MMA, as we know it today, isn’t that old with its modern origins starting back in the early 20th century. There are connections to the ancient Greek art of Pankration but the modern form of MMA has no direct connection to this sport in its development. In the early 1900s various styles of combat sports were popular in different parts of the world, such as boxing in the United States and Britain, and judo and wrestling in Japan.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Brazilian jiu-jitsu began to gain prominence, thanks in part to the Gracie family's success in various martial arts competitions. Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which focuses on grappling and ground fighting, became a key component of what would later become known as MMA.

The first organized MMA competitions took place in the 1980s in Brazil and Japan, where fighters from different martial arts backgrounds competed against each other. These early competitions were often unsanctioned and lacked rules, leading to criticism and controversy.

In the 1990s, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was founded in the United States and quickly became the most prominent organization in the sport. The UFC introduced rules to make the sport safer and more palatable to mainstream audiences, including weight classes, time limits, and restrictions on certain types of strikes.

Since then, MMA has continued to evolve and grow in popularity around the world, with many different organizations and styles of competition. Today, MMA is a widely recognized sport that combines elements of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and other martial arts disciplines. That gives MMA many aspects they need to deal with when it comes to making an MMA stance. 

Origins of Boxing 

The origins of Western boxing can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the sport was known as "pugilism" and was practiced as part of the Olympic games. In ancient Greece, boxing was a brutal and bloody sport, with fighters using their bare fists and often ending up with serious injuries or even death.

Over time, boxing evolved and became more regulated, with the introduction of gloves and rules to protect fighters. In the 18th century, boxing began to gain popularity in England, where it was known as "bare-knuckle boxing" and was often associated with gambling and criminal activity.

In the 19th century, boxing underwent significant changes and became more regulated and formalized. The introduction of weight classes, the Marquess of Queensberry rules, and the use of gloves made boxing safer and more accessible to a wider audience.

Boxing continued to grow in popularity throughout the 20th century, becoming a mainstream sport and an important part of popular culture. Boxers such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson became household names and inspired generations of fans.

MMA Stance vs Boxing Stance Differences 

When it comes to the stances of the two sports, there is variety but we are going to go with more standard versions of the stance that you see the vast majority of fighters in both combat sports take. 

When it comes to a proper boxing stance whether they are in an orthodox boxing stance or a southpaw boxing stanceThey will generally stand with their dominant side in the rear and weak side forward 

This is the same in many different stances in combat sports including MMA, where most fighters follow the same rule and have their dominant hand in the rear with their non-dominant side forward. However, one difference in MMA you will see fairly often compared to boxing is that fighters will regularly switch their stance, whether they are doing it in space or during an attack with shifting strikes.

This is more uncommon in boxing, where it is called switch stance boxing, due to the far fewer number of weapons that are legal to use in that sport compared to MMA. 

However similar these stances look superficially, there are differences that more keen or experienced competitors in both sports will notice. 

MMA Vs Boxing Stance Posture And Positioning Differences 

When it comes to the posture and positioning of both stances the differences are subtle but massively important. 

When it comes to foot placement, boxers will often turn their lead foot inside so that it faces a similar direction as their rear foot. This is done to help aid in pivoting motions on that lead foot as well as turn the body in to protect from body shots. 

In MMA the lead foot is generally placed so that the toes are facing forward, often toward the opponent. This is because if the foot and toes are turned in you are susceptible to many of the weapons that are used to attack the legs in MMA, mainly low kicks and takedowns.

In terms of low kicks, having the lead foot turned in makes it much harder to defend against them. The time it takes to turn the lead leg around and point the shin out to check a low kick is greatly increased to the point where you are likely to get kicked in the process of lifting your leg up, which might in turn make the kick even more damaging and possibly turn you around and put you out of position. Turning the lead leg inside also exposes the back of the leg which is more susceptible to damage and generally gets hurt easier. 

That foot position also makes it hard to pull the leg back, another common defense for leg kicks. This makes it so that the main option for defending against low kicks in a boxer's stance is to move away, which is not always an option as you can end up against the ropes or a cage or even worse in a corner. 

The lead foot being turned also makes it much harder to defend against takedowns, specifically wrestling shots to the legs like single legs, double legs and high crotches. The turned-in nature of the lead foot makes it hard to sprawl when either or both legs are being pulled at. 

When it comes to foot placement in other regards in the MMA stance, the feet are generally wider apart and the weight is distributed more evenly between both legs. Doing this allows for easier takedown defense as well as a stronger base for defending and taking lower body strikes as well as for strength in the clinch. 

In contrast, the boxing stance has a narrower stance with more weight on the back leg. This allows for better head movement, as well as pivoting to aid in power and combination punching. 

When it comes to hand positioning in the MMA stance, the hands are generally held higher to protect the head and the lead hand is extended slightly forward. This helps dig in underhooks and over hooks for clinches and takedown defense, as well as help defend against upper body kicks and punches. 

In the boxing stance, the hands are held closer to the face, with the lead hand extended forward and the rear hand positioned at the chin or cheek. This helps cover all the defensive bases that one has in boxing, keeping both the head and the body safe from punches. 

The posture of both stances is also worth noting. In an MMA stance, especially if a fighter is expecting their opponent to shoot for a takedown, they are more likely to take a lower, more squatted stance and might even add some rounding into their lower back. This allows the fighter to sprawl faster on any shot attempts as well as end up in a stronger position if the fighters enter a clinch situation.

By contrast, a boxer can stand taller to maximize the distance their head has from their opponent's hands, as there is no threat of a takedown. However, some boxers, especially ones that are either power punchers and/or use lots of head movement might also take a low stance to get their head away from their opponent faster and to get more of a spring into their punches. Mike Tyson is a perfect example of this in boxing, as he was short for a heavyweight, he took a smaller stance to make the distance from his opponent's gloves to his head even more exaggerated. 

Attacking from an MMA Stance vs Boxing Stance 

While both stances offer a variety of offensive capabilities, the boxing stance is specifically designed for boxing techniques like jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. In contrast, the MMA stance is more versatile and can be used for striking, grappling, and takedowns.

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Differences between MMA and Boxing stance

One thing you might also notice is that boxers tend to use more combination attacks than MMA fighters. It is not uncommon to see most MMA fighters stick to single strikes or at most two or three-strike combinations. This is done as the threat of being takedown mid combination is a big worry for many MMA fighters. More grappling-based MMA fighters will also use those shorter combos to get their opponent thinking about the strikes, especially to the head, so that they will not expect the takedown to be coming, increasing its chance of success. 

However, boxers, with their only weapons being punches, don’t have that same worry, which means that they can fire longer combinations with both hands and just have to worry about their opponent’s counter punches in turn. This allows them to open up more with longer and more creative combos.

Defense from an MMA Stance vs Boxing Stance 

The MMA stance offers more defensive capabilities than the boxing stance due to the much larger number of weapons that MMA fighters must deal with in that sport. In the MMA stance, the fighter can use their lead leg to check kicks and their lead hand to deflect strikes. The ability to sprawl on takedowns is also necessary. That being said head movements like slips and bobs are less used in MMA as using those motions to defend against punches leaves fighters open to other kinds of strikes like kicks and knees, as well as takedowns because your center of gravity is not over your hips. 

In the boxing stance, the fighter relies more on head movement and footwork to avoid strikes. Blocking is also used in boxing but it is commonly seen as better to avoid the punch entirely to avoid any possible damage as well as set up devastating counter punches of your own.

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