I said I would analyse the technical aspects of the fights at UFC 119 and WEC 51 a while ago. The main thing I wanted to touch on was reach advantage. If you don’t already know (and I’m sure you do), reach advantage describes the difference in the length of the limbs between two competing fighters. In boxing this is only apparent in arm length and can be an advantage and disadvantage. A rangy fighter (like Tommy Hearns or Paul Williams) can utilise this by staying on the outside and popping off jabs and crosses. Not only are they able to do this outside the punching range (and relatively safely) of their opponent, they are also able to generate more power on their straight punches. Additionally if they have good movement, they can unleash counters quite easily. However this can also be a disadvantage if the shorter opponent is able to get close (as in Hagler vs Hearns or any Mike Tyson fight). This is because shorter fighters can generate more power up close with short punches like hooks and uppercuts. Additionally, shorter fighters can more easily duck and roll to avoid the lengthy and now less accurate punches of the taller fighter. In Kickboxing, reach advantage usually manifests itself in the legs, as fighters can stay out of their opponents punching range whilst using kicks. Taller fighters can stay outside of their opponents kicking range by using kicks as well. To avoid the kicking range, shorter kickboxers will move into punching range where they may throw leg kicks and short body kicks, but cannot utilise their full kicking arsenal, relying mostly on their hands.

This brings me to my point on reach advantage in MMA. In MMA, the clinch game is more developed. A reach advantage is useful at kicking range, punching range and clinch range. This is because MMA cannot shoulder roll, duck and dodge in close quarters for long periods of time without getting knee’d or clinched. The clinch effectively negates inside boxing. The Muay Thai clinch especially favours longer fighters who can get more leverage on the neck and head of their opponent with their longer arms. Longer legs make it easier for knees to find their target, especially when that target is the head. That’s not to say stocky fighters can’t compete, but they will most likely be doing it with fast movement and good wrestling a la Sean Sherk or with good greco/dirty boxing. Sean Sherk has been especially effective in using his frame for stifling top control, but as we have seen, it is not of use when striking against other non-little people.

Of course, Sean Sherk fought at UFC 119 where he lost to Evan Dunham (not officially, but obviously) based on his reach disadvantage. Dunham was able to throw straight punches, long uppercuts and kick combos whilst being safe from Sherks more technical inside boxing.

Dunham was not the only one who’s reach gave him a large advantage. Lytle used his to slam box Serra, Torres used his to tee off on Valencia, Cerrone (along with vastly improved wrestling and use of kicks) to punish Varner (great fight btw, as are all the ones listed here), Roop threw long punches and moved around the stationary Korean Zombie to notch a classic head kick knockout and Hominick (less of a reach advantage here) displayed how more technical outside, counter kick boxing can be used to frustrate brawlers and inside fighters.

I suppose this is why stocky 5 ft 9 monsters like Thiago Alves choose to stay at 170 where most opponents are under 6ft rather than move up to 185 where they tend to stray over 6 ft.

For me, the nature of the clinch in MMA helps taller fighters who struggle with classic inside boxing. Of course being stocky (or tall) have their differing advantages on the mat, but that is a discussion for another time.