Boxing vs. MMA: Who Would Win?

May 29, 2022

Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts are both very popular forms of combat. But have you ever wondered, which one is better? Or who has a better chance of winning, a boxer, or an MMA fighter?

In a fight with no rules, or with MMA rules, an MMA fighter clearly beats a boxer when in similar weight classes. If we are talking Mike Tyson vs. 135 lb semi-professional MMA fighter then there may be a different outcome. But if we are strictly talking two professionals (e.g. McGregor vs. Mayweather), then an MMA fighter always beats the boxer.

Now, under a boxing ruleset, a boxer clearly wins. The advantage a boxer has of honing a specific skillset for years on end is too great to overcome for an MMA fighter who has to spread their training time over several martial arts.

People become fascinated when they see professional fighters, fighting for titles on TV. However, many people cannot tell one martial art from the other. For a layman, both boxing and MMA may look the same. But there is a huge difference between MMA and boxing.

So let’s compare both the combat arts to find out which is better. But first, a brief overview of boxing and MMA.

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What Is Boxing?

Boxing is a combat sport that has been practiced by people for centuries. However, in recent years, it has become more popular. It is about landing punches on your opponent using a combination of punches to score points or knock the opponent out.

These matches are usually divided into three to twelve rounds, with each round lasting up to 1 and 3 minutes. If you knock your opponent to the ground, the fight takes a momentary break.

In this case, you need to wait for the referee to count up to ten and then declare the standing boxer as the winner. However, if the fallen opponent gets up before the count is over, then the fight continues.

In boxing, both the participants are required to wear heavy boxing gloves and a mouth guard for safety. It doesn’t involve any kicks or takedowns. In short, you cannot use any other fighting style. You need to knock your opponent out or win more rounds on points only with the help of punches.

What Is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

What is MMA

MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a fairly new form of martial arts that was developed in the early 1990s. It is a form of combat sport as well as a highly effective self-defense technique. The term MMA was first coined in 1993 and has evolved into its own martial art as it has gained immense popularity worldwide.

The thing about MMA is that it is a style that was developed by borrowing techniques from other fighting styles. These techniques were combined to form a new style called Mixed Martial Arts. Well, now you know why it is called so.

It involves wrestling, striking, grappling, and even boxing. It is performed both on the ground and standing position. In MMA, the fighter uses all kinds of techniques to finish an opponent. They are free to use whatever fighting style they want. However, in the UFC, they have a few rules to stop the fight from turning into an out and out street fight.

In MMA, two fighters with skills in multiple martial arts, compete against each other. The entire match is divided into several rounds. If you win more rounds than your opponent, then you will be declared the winner.

Usually, matches are divided into three rounds and each of the rounds lasts up to 5 minutes. A title fight will usually last five rounds.

MMA has its own set of rules that are entirely different than that of boxing. MMA is involves the ground game, where participants can engage each other using grappling techniques. In this case, they feature skills from other fighting styles like jiu-jitsu and wrestling.

There is a certain limitation on the type of strikes you can perform. But the good thing is that you are not just limited to punches. Elbows, kicks, and knee strikes are allowed in professional matches.

Boxing Vs MMA: Detailed Comparison


The rules of a combat sport determine most of its other aspects. The techniques perfected in a martial art are allowed in the ruleset of the competition version.

In boxing, the only strikes allowed are punches with the gloves to the head and the body above the waist. The referee separates clinches, but they are somewhat tolerated in professional boxing. Boxing matches are fought in 3-minute rounds with 1-minute rest in between in a square boxing ring.

The number of rounds depends on the level of the contest. Amateur matches are limited to 3 rounds, while professional bouts range between 4 and 12 rounds. The match can be won by a knockout, a technical knockout (the ref stops the fight to save the fighter from further damage), or a judge’s decision.

MMA, in contrast, is the combat sport with the most liberal ruleset. Strikes on the feet are permitted with every body part aside from the head. Most of the body is also a viable target, except the back of the head and groin. Because of the grappling aspect of MMA, the rounds are 5 minutes long with 1-minute rests.

Most fights are 3 rounds, with championship fights and UFC main events being fought in 5 rounds. Fights are primarily fought in cages that vary in shape, but some organizations hold MMA fights in a ring as well. Fights can end via a knockout, technical knockout, submission, or a judge’s decision.


Boxing has a very limited number of legal techniques. The fundamental punches are the jab, cross, lead and rear hook, and lead and rear uppercut. Of course, there are countless variations of these used from different ranges and positions.

But the small number of techniques puts more importance on other concepts like footwork, distance, and head movement.

In MMA, everything that someone found a way to use effectively within the rules is used. But in general, the punches are taken from boxing, with a few minor exceptions.

The kicks come from karate, Muay Thai, taekwondo, and others. On the ground, there is another universe of moves and positions used in BJJ, Judo, wrestling, and many other grappling martial arts.


There’s quite a variation in boxing stances. Still, the fundamental boxing stance is with both feet shoulder-width apart, the dominant leg and hand staying at the rear, while the weaker one is leading. The knees are slightly bent, and the lead leg points forward or 45 degrees.

Both hands are up near the head. The boxing stance has to allow the fighter to move in all directions, attack with weight behind his punches, and defend in the shortest amount of time possible.

In MMA, there are too many styles, each of which uses a different type of stance. The only common thing is that there is a lead and rear hand. However, punchers fight in a specific stance, kickers fight in a very different stance, wrestlers fight with their weight lower to the ground, etc.

And on top of that, you must often adjust the stance according to the opponent’s game plan. Even the best striker cannot use his usual stance against a grappler who aims to take the fight to the ground at any time.


A lot of the equipment needed to train in boxing and MMA is common. The boxing gloves, mouth guard, and groin guard are shared between the two sports. Boxers train and fight with boxing shoes, while MMA fighters are barefoot. The latter must also have shin guards for striking sparring and drills. Then they also need MMA gloves, MMA shorts, possibly special rash guards for extended grappling sessions.

Competitive Scene

The end goal of both sports is to win in a competition, and the competitive scene in both sports is fierce and brutal.

Boxing has been around for a century and a half, and the scene is more developed. You can have a successful career as a boxer without even entering the professional ranks. Being an Olympic sport, boxing has an extensively developed amateur scene with government-funded national teams, school programs, and top-to-bottom architecture. This is something that is still missing from MMA.

On a professional level, boxing continues to have a larger audience and general public recognition. However, MMA is rapidly growing in popularity.

Moneywise, in the upper echelons of the sport, boxers earn quite a lot more money than their MMA colleagues, despite the brutal nature of MMA and the punishment they go through.

Is Boxing Or MMA Better?

Is Boxing or MMA better

Now the question is which one is better? Boxing or Mixed Martial Arts?

Before we dive into this topic, we would want to make one thing clear and that is there is no “better” martial arts style. No matter, what type of martial arts you talk about, they all have their fair share of pros and cons.

The best form of martial arts is the one that you have practiced the most. Every individual will have a martial art style that is better suited for them because of their body type and natural attributes.

MMA is a mixed form of martial arts that combines the fighting styles of different martial arts. If you have to step into an MMA octagon, you at least need to know more than one type of martial arts.

Jumping into an MMA octagon, without having any knowledge about MMA could end badly for you. You at least need some amount of understanding backed by training to compete against an MMA fighter.

If you don’t have any background in martial arts, then boxing would be a better starting point for you. It has just one standing position and stricter rules to deal with. This would be easy for new competitors as they can get familiar with it easily.

However, they need to learn to control their body, power, speed, and reach. But most importantly, one needs to know their limitations.

It will allow you to focus on the techniques that would help you win a boxing match. It is better than learning a wide variety of movements and techniques.

However, if you are already trained in more than one martial art, then you can benefit from choosing MMA over boxing. In an MMA competition, you can use a wider variety of styles of choice to finish your opponent.

MMA teaches you to identify your weaknesses and helps you to work on them so that you can become a well-rounded fighter. It helps you become a more effective competitor.

From the above discussion, we know that both MMA and boxing has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to your choice of what type of fighter you want to become. For instance, if you want to be a well-rounded fighter, then you are meant for MMA and if not, then boxing is the option for you.

As far as who would win a match is concerned, it depends on how great of a fighter you are and how you use your techniques to be more effective. The more you practice a combat style, the better you get at it.

Is Boxing Or MMA Better For Self-Defense?

Boxing vs MMA For Self Defense

All types of fighting styles are treated as a form of self-defense. Similarly, both MMA and boxing are self-defense styles when they are performed outside the ring. The moment you use any fighting style to protect yourself, it becomes self-defense.

As far as self-defense is concerned, you probably know the answer. MMA is no doubt better for self-defense as it involves a wider variety of fighting styles and a variety of different positions.

MMA will be more useful in handling different situations. When you are attacked, you never know what the situation is going to be like. If you are trained in MMA, then you can adjust yourself to deal with that specific situation.

In a situation where your life is threatened, the only way out is to beat your attacker. With MMA, you have better chances of winning as you are trained to fight at range, in close quarters, up against a fence, and on the ground. However, that is not the case for a boxer.

A boxer in a real-life situation can feel trapped as they are used to only throwing punches and fight in one single position. If you fall on the ground, you won’t be good at defending yourself. But with MMA, you know how to takedown your attacker or in fight in a standing position.

So if you are looking forward to learning a self-defense technique, MMA would be a better option for you. But if you aim to become a professional fighter, then you can choose the one that better suits you.

Both MMA and boxing may look similar from the outside, but they are different forms of combat sports. By now you should know the difference between the two. The main point is that neither of the forms is “better” than the other.

They both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s the fighter who wins the match. If you want to become a fighter, it’s you who have to decide which style you like best.

Boxing vs. MMA: Who Would Win?

MMA vs Boxing

As you already know MMA is a combination of multiple fighting styles. An MMA fighter may have an upper hand in the octagon as he is allowed to use various techniques both on the ground and standing position.

Whereas a boxer is limited to only punches and has no experience on the ground. Without proper training, a boxer will have a tough time facing an MMA fighter.

A boxer may not be trained to handle a variety of strikes. This can be a problem for him in defeating a person who is trained to use a wider variety of fighting techniques. For example, a boxer may be able to block and slip punches thrown at his head, but he may fall short of defensive techniques, in case of a knee strike with full impact.

For a boxer, the ground game can be a big-time issue as they are trained to fight only in the standing position. Not just that, but the ground is considered their “safe zone” during a fight.

It provides them a quick recovery if they get knocked down. In boxing, if you get knocked down, the fight is usually over if you fail to get up. However, that is not the case in MMA.

When an MMA fighter gets knocked down, the opponent usually uses it as an opportunity to seize him and acquire a dominant position on the ground. He can then end the fight with a knockout or submission.

In most cases, boxers would be finished once they hit the ground. That’s because they are not equipped to deal with a fight in that situation. A simple joint lock submission and they would be done.

However, that doesn’t mean MMA fighters don’t face any difficulties when they step into a boxing ring. An MMA fighter is trained to use multiple types of strikes. This makes them accustomed to it and they act out of their instincts in the ring.

This often gets an MMA fighter disqualified when they are fighting in a boxing match. They see a chance and land a kick instinctively which is not allowed in boxing.

The fighting style is one of the biggest problems faced by MMA fighters in a boxing ring.

MMA matches consist of fewer rounds lasting for longer periods. However, they still end up being shorter than a boxing match in total fight time. This could be a problem for an MMA fighter if they don’t pace themselves appropriately.

On the other hand, a boxer who is trained for these types of matches would be more capable of handling all the rounds. In this case, a boxer may out last an MMA fighter in the last few rounds.

These are not just mere assumptions. These have been evidenced in the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor title boxing match of 2017. Conor McGregor, who is an accomplished MMA fighter, was set to fight against Floyd Mayweather, an accomplished boxer.

In the first five rounds, the match was dominated by McGregor. He landed blow after blow, stopping Mayweather from landing effective punches.

McGregor burnt most of his energy in the first few rounds. In the seventh round, McGregor was seen to restrain himself from throwing kicks. In the end, Mayweather was successful to outfight and outlast McGregor and thus, winning the fight.

Boxing vs. MMA: Which Should You Choose?

Boxing vs MMA What's The Difference

The choice between MMA and boxing is personal and depends on your personal goals. But the first piece of advice I want to give is to sign up for the gym closest to you. A 10-minute travel time difference is insignificant, but an hour more means there is a much higher chance you will skip sessions.

So early on, it’s better to choose the closer gym, whether boxing or MMA, unless you are adamant about training one of the two.

With that said, boxing may be the easier of the two sports to get into. MMA has many techniques to learn at once, which may be too much for most people. Boxing has a more mellow learning curve for beginners.

However, there are so many subtle nuances needed to be the best at the highest levels that I can argue that boxing is the most challenging combat sport.

MMA is more versatile and more practical. It’s better for self-defense and makes you a complete fighter and a martial artist. Nowadays, everyone, even boxers, should have some proficiency in defending kicks, takedowns, and some of the most popular submissions.

The diversity in mixed martial arts also demands that the physical attributes be more well-rounded. You can’t go wrong with either sport. If the gym, the trainer, and the people training there are solid, you have made a good choice regardless of whether it’s MMA or boxing.

About the author 

Plamen Kostov

Plamen has been training for the last 14 years in karate and kickboxing, before settling in for MMA for the last 5 years. He has a few amateur kickboxing fights and currently trains with and helps a stable of professional and amateur MMA fighters.


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