MMA Fighter Habits Are Spoiling Their Boxing Party

Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME

Former 5-time UFC welterweight champion Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley is now the latest decorated mixed martial artist to catch a loss in boxing on a big stage.

Jake Paul won the 8-round affair via split decision on Sunday from the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

Starting with Conor McGregor’s infamous loss to Floyd “Money” Mayweather, the move from mixed martial arts to boxing seems like a lofty yet unattainable goal to be successful at it.

The secret seems to be in the difference in training habits for both sports. Habitually, while trying to close the distance, Woodley did not let his jab go because he never had to in the past.

Woodley was looking for the one-punch KO, and en route to his sole defining moment in the fourth round, where he almost knocked Paul out of the ring, he was relatively inactive for most of the match.

When you look at McGregor’s performance against Mayweather, Anthony Taylor’s performance against Tommy Fury, Ben Askren’s against Jake Paul, and now Woodley, the one common thread is punch output—also leading off with the jab and lack of ring generalmanship.

In MMA, the ring general is established by takedowns, kicks, knees, clinches, and fast transitions to look active and in control. However, boxing limits the use of multiple appendages to strike an opponent eliminates the ground game.

The lack of additional weapons was Woodley’s most significant issue as he did not understand how to utilize the jab to close the distance and set up his power shots.

The same could be said for boxers that have transitioned into MMA, most notably, James “Lights Out” Toney who fought UFC legend, Randy “The Natural” Couture at UFC 118 back in 2010. Toney lost via arm triangle submission in round one.

Teaching a professional boxer to grapple and kick and a mixed martial arts fighter to jab is a proposition with an adjustment timeline that is longer than the opportunities currently available.

Although he took the patient man’s path in the fight, Woodley out-landed Paul in power punches 41-35. However, Paul out-landed Woodley 71-52 in total punches, which led to the judges scoring 78-74 and 77-75 for Paul, and 77-75 for Woodley.

Mixed martial artists should incorporate more boxing training in their repertoire, with Pandora’s Box open now for MMA vs. Boxing crossover fights. The financial opportunities are more significant. With paydays being typically lower for mixed martial artists, MMA fighters would be well served if they start training just for boxing for future bouts to be ready for the newest stage.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.