Boxing vs MMA Part 5

In my last post on MMA vs. Boxing, we explored how having more excuses for the referee to insert himself into a fight is one reason why boxing has a disadvantage compared to MMA when it comes to overall excitement.

In this post, we explore Reason 2: The gloves.

Professional boxers use 8 to 10 oz gloves and professional mixed martial artists use 4 ounce gloves. This difference is a major reason why any single punch in MMA is more likely to produce a knockout or a knock down than in boxing.

For my explanation, I shall resort to Newtonian physics and Euclidian geometry to illustrate the basic difference between the concepts of force and pressure. Newton’s second law of motion states that the force of an object equals its mass times its acceleration. F=ma is how the law typically appears, and the unit for force is called the Newton (N). Greater mass or acceleration produces greater force. Pressure, on the other hand, is an object’s force divided by the area upon which it acts. Greater area makes for reduced pressure. Pressure is typically shown as P=F/A, and its unit is called the Pascal (Pa).

To visualize the difference (and if you will pardon the simplistic graphics), imagine a two identical knives falling the same distance onto identical pieces of paper.

As you can see, the second knife had a much more dramatic impact on the paper than the first. Why is this when, according to Newton, the knives struck the paper with equal force? The answer is that by striking a smaller area on the paper (by virtue of its sharp point), the second knife applied the greater pressure. 20 square centimeters of paper can withstand the force of a falling knife. 0.2 square centimeters cannot. F/0.2 is greater than F/20 by two orders of magnitude, which is why the paper punctures for the second knife and not for the first.

So, what does this have to do with boxing? Didn’t they ban sharp objects in boxing gloves back in the 50s?

Why, yes they did. But the gloves were known as caestÅ«s back then, and Rome hadn’t even become an empire yet.

In my last post on MMA vs. Boxing, we explored how having more excuses for the referee to insert himself into a fight is one reason why boxing has a disadvantage compared to MMA when it comes to overall excitement.

In this post, we explore Reason 2: The gloves.

Professional boxers use 8 to 10 oz gloves and professional mixed martial artists use 4 ounce gloves. This difference is a major reason why any single punch in MMA is more likely to produce a knockout or a knock down than in boxing.

For my explanation, I shall resort to Newtonian physics and Euclidian geometry to illustrate the basic difference between the concepts of force and pressure. Newton’s second law of motion states that the force of an object equals its mass times its acceleration. F=ma is how the law typically appears, and the unit for force is called the Newton (N). Greater mass or acceleration produces greater force. Pressure, on the other hand, is an object’s force divided by the area upon which it acts. Greater area makes for reduced pressure. Pressure is typically shown as P=F/A, and its unit is called the Pascal (Pa).

To visualize the difference (and if you will pardon the simplistic graphics), imagine a two identical knives falling the same distance onto identical pieces of paper.

As you can see, the second knife had a much more dramatic impact on the paper than the first. Why is this when, according to Newton, the knives struck the paper with equal force? The answer is that by striking a smaller area on the paper (by virtue of its sharp point), the second knife applied the greater pressure. 20 square centimeters of paper can withstand the force of a falling knife. 0.2 square centimeters cannot. F/0.2 is greater than F/20 by two orders of magnitude, which is why the paper punctures for the second knife and not for the first.

So, what does this have to do with boxing? Didn’t they ban sharp objects in boxing gloves back in the 50s?

Why, yes they did. But the gloves were known as caestÅ«s back then, and Rome hadn’t even become an empire yet.

More to the point, by being more massive than the MMA glove, by containing more padding, and by covering the entire hand, the boxing glove must therefore be larger. A quasi-scientific home experiment shown below shows how much larger in terms of surface area at point of contact.

Step 1: Gather materials: 10 oz boxing glove, 4 oz MMA glove, chess board, pencils, paper, 3 Bendaroos (waxy, shape-forming toy sticks, 15cm long), tape measure, ketchup (Not pictured: dinner plate and one extra Bendaroo).

Step 2: Smother the business end of the boxing glove with ketchup.

Step 3: Apply downward pressure on the paper on the flat chessboard.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the MMA glove.

Step 5: Use Bendaroos and tape measure to compare circumferences of surface areas based on stains left by the ketchup. Note that I only measured where the mark was white since this was truly the point of contact, not the ketchup stain’s perimeter.

Note also the following:

The circumference of the stain left by the boxing glove is the length of two Bendaroos minus 1 cm (29 cm). And the circumference of the stain left by the MMA glove is the length of two Bendaroos minus 9 cm (21 cm).

So, according to the data above, a solid punch from a typical 10 oz boxing glove will connect with a circumference of approximately 29 centimeters. Since circumference equals twice its radius times pi, we can derive radius from circumference by dividing the circumference by two times pi. From this we get a radius of 4.62 cm (29/2Ï€). And since area equals pi times the radius squared, we can see that the glove connects on an area of around 67.06 cm**2 (Ï€4.62**2). The same shot from a typical MMA glove will cover a 21 cm circumference. That is a radius of 3.34 cm and an contact area of 35.05 cm**2.

From this, it’s easy to conclude that a punch from an MMA glove will apply greater pressure than the same punch from a boxing glove. This may be true, but we still have to figure in the difference in mass of the glove. Boxing gloves are more massive, and while greater area reduces pressure, greater mass increases it.

Let’s say a disembodied fist (0.72 kg) in a 10 oz (0.28 kg) boxing glove accelerates at 50 m/s**2. According to the second law of motion, it generates a force of 50 N (0.72 + 0.28 Ñ… 50). Since pressure is force divided by area, it exerts 0.75 Pa of pressure per strike (50/67.06).

The same 0.72 kg fist in a 4 oz (0.11 kg) MMA glove accelerating at the same rate generates a force of 41.5 N (0.72 + 0.11 Ñ… 50). This divided by an area of 35.05 cm**2 produces 1.18 Pa of pressure, an increase of over 60% from the pressure produced by a boxing glove.

My point is that even with its smaller mass, MMA gloves allow fighters to apply more pressure than boxing gloves. Of course, for simplicity’s sake, we disregarded things like air resistance, the motion of the fighter getting hit, the softness and hardness of the gloves, how the different masses of the gloves affect their acceleration, and many other factors, I’m sure. I am aware that the stains left by the gloves in my little experiment were not perfect circles. I also had no way of making sure that the pressure I applied onto the paper was the same for both gloves. (So if anyone has the resources and wherewithal to take this experiment to the next level, have at it).

But given my limitations, my conclusion here is that all things being equal, the boxing glove has the edge in force, but the MMA glove has the greater edge in pressure.

So how does greater pressure increase the chances for knockouts and knockdowns?

I’m sure there are several reasons, but the one I believe is most important is that a blow to the jaw or chin in MMA has a greater likelihood of violently moving or snapping the skull in a certain direction. A knockout is basically a concussion caused when your brain collides with the inside of your skull when it is jerked violently in one direction.

Blogger Gajotap describes it like so:

Back to the brain… This floating organ in our head is like a rodeo cowboy and goes with flow whichever direction our head goes. A sudden powerful hit will jerk your head so violently that the floating brain will bounce around in the skull hitting the bony walls. This is what you call trauma and it will make the nerves all over your body go in an electrical haywire. In effect, your body will go limp or may sometimes do uncontrollable jerky movements and in many cases, you will be out only to wake up with a mammoth headache.

Mike Chiapetta in his essay Anatomy Of A Knockout, also describes what a blow to the chin can do to you.

Two of the most common acceleration blows are strikes to the chin or the side of the head. The former disrupts the circulation in the back of the brain and also disrupts the mechanism in the back of the brain that controls alertness. As a result, the brain temporarily switches off.

Dr. Margaret Goodman, former ringside physician in professional boxing, has her say as well:

Some fighters have a “glass jaw” and others don’t. This also relates to one’s anatomy and refers to when the boxer is hit square on the jaw. The force of the blow is transmitted to the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) where the power temporarily disrupts cerebral circulation.

Goodman goes on to advise boxers to keep their chins down and to strengthen neck muscles to prevent this from happening:

You don’t have to have a neck like a linebacker, but alternatively develop selective muscles alongside the neck will prevent your head from moving after getting hit. Bottom line, if you head doesn’t move with a punch, you can’t get KO’d.

It stands to reason then that MMA gloves, with its smaller target area and greater pressure, will have more impact on the most movable parts of a fighter’s head, namely his chin and jaw. In comparison, a similar punch in boxing will either move the jaw less or be absorbed by a greater target area forcing a fighter’s entire head in one direction rather than jerking his jaw one way and the rest of his head the other.

Based on the information above, I would argue that a fighter runs a greater chance of a knockout or knock down in the latter circumstance than in the former. My point isn’t necessarily that there are more knockouts in MMA than in boxing. My point is that a fighter has a greater chance of being knocked down or out by a single power shot in MMA than in boxing. And that leads to greater, edge of your seat excitement in MMA.

This is why Mike Tyson was so exciting and why Manny Pacquaio still is today. You never know when a single blow from either of them will annihilate an opponent, so you cannot take your eyes off of them. But where fighters like Tyson and Pacquaio remain somewhat rare in boxing, they are somewhat less rare in MMA. Paul Daley, Josh Koscheck, Jake Ellenberger, and Jonny Hendricks, just to name a few in one weight division, are such devastating punchers that their bouts can end at any moment.

Even mid-level MMA guys have been known to bring it with one punch. The best recent example I can think of is Chan Sung “the Korean Zombie” Jung’s 7-second destruction of former featherweight world title challenger Mark-Hominick in 2011. Jung is no power puncher with only 3 of his 13 wins coming by way of knockout. Yet he rung Hominick’s bell with one punch, and the fight duly concluded.

It’s a foolish thing to blink during a top-level MMA bout. And one major reason, I believe, is the greater pressure brought to bear by the smaller size of MMA gloves.

To further support this conclusion, click here and start at the 45 second mark to watch two-time heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman describe his historic 1994 knockout of then heavyweight champion Michael Moorer. It happened in the 10th round. Foreman was trailing badly on all the judges’ cards. Then a one-two from Foreman ended the night.

The first punch I hit him with was the straight right,” Foreman said. “It was just a little too high. He didn’t move out of the way because he was kinda stunned. I expected him to fall, but he didn’t. And I said right then that I was gonna lower it just a little bit.

Foreman needed to lower his punch so that it would strike Moorer on the point of the jaw, which it did. And Moorer couldn’t recover.

Reasons 3 and 4 as well as my conclusion will appear in my next post on MMA vs. Boxing.