I always hear the same question asked by people who don’t know much about combat sports and that question is, what’s the difference between sport A and sport B. Whether it’s MMA or Boxing, Muay Thai, or Kickboxing. Therefore I’m going to explain each sport with a little more detail and what the exact rules are in each style in order to alleviate the confusion.

Boxing is still the biggest combat sport worldwide today. It goes way back in history and has origins starting with bare knuckle boxing in Europe. The current and main set of rules for boxing are as follows, the only attacks you are allowed to throw are punches that connect with the first two knuckles. That’s why you don’t see back fists or hammer fists in boxing. All punches have to be above the belt line, so no attacks to your opponents legs. Championship boxing matches are always twelve three minute rounds. While normal matches could be between four and ten rounds, depending on your rank and the contract. Of course there are fouls and the competitors are not allowed to throw headbutts, elbows, kidney punches, groin punches, punches to the back of your opponent’s head or hitting after the bell rings. If the fight goes though all twelve rounds with no KO’s (knock outs), DQ’s (disqualifications) or TKO’s (technical knock outs) then it goes to decision. Decision is where three judges take into account the amount of punches thrown and landed, the amount of knockdowns and how much damage each boxer gave and took to determine a winner.

Kickboxing has a few different set of rules but, the most popular tend to be the Glory Kickboxing and K1 rules. Kickboxing is designed to be fast paced and exciting so there are only three three minute rounds thus encouraging the fighters to be very active and quick with combos. Punches, Kicks, and Knees are allowed, no elbows. There is also limited clinch work allowed. Fighters can clinch and only throw one or two knees before the referee will break it up. No sweeps are allowed either, this is when you catch an opponents kick and sweep out there other leg making them fall down. In kickboxing a fighter can win by KO, TKO or decision, scored by the three Judges. The Judges score based on who hit the most, who did the most damage, kicks and knees are usually considered a more damaging attack. It’s not uncommon for tournament style kickboxing matches to be set up where one fighter will compete 2-4 times a night for a trophy or a chance to fight the current champion.

Muay Thai also known as Thai Boxing is an old sport originating from the martial arts of Muay Boran from Thailand. Muay Thai is the art of eight limbs because you have two fists, two feet, two knees, and two elbows. Muay Thai fights are five three minute rounds. The Main difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing is, Muay Thai has unlimited clinch work and elbow are legal. While in a clinch if fighters are still throwing knees and are active then the referee should not break it up. All punches, kicks, knees, and elbows are legal as long as they are at thigh height or above and not in a foul area like the groin. You can also sweep from the clinch or if you catch a kick. If there are no KO’s TKO’s or DQ’s then it will go to the decision of three judges who scoring based on what attacks are used. The order of attacks from the most points to the lowest are as follows; elbows, knees, kicks, and punches. They also take into account the amount of damage done, ring control and the amount of sweeps performed.

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship it’s a MMA organization here in the USA. American MMA has all the attacks from Muay Thai minus the 12-6 straight downwards elbow. But MMA also has full on grappling like wrestling and jujitsu. So you can take your opponent down and beat them up with punches, kicks, knees, and elbows from the ground. Or you can try and submit them by going for a choke or trying to go for a joint lock attack. Almost all submissions are legal unless it’s small joint manipulation like finger or toe locks but wrist, arm, shoulder, leg locks, neck cranks and chokes are perfectly legal. Championship fights in the USA are five three minute rounds while normal fights are three five minute rounds. If the fight goes to decision the judges award points based off attacks landed and damage dealt, the amount of take downs and if ground control was achieved, as well as aggression and who controlled the center of the cage. There are other MMA organizations around the world with different rule sets. One big difference between USA MMA and Japanese MMA is in Japan no elbows are allowed at all, but you can kick, knee, or stomp a grounded opponent. In American MMA that is illegal you can only punch or elbow grounded opponent’s in the head with no face stomps ever allowed.

I hoped you enjoyed reading this blog post and now have a better understanding between the difference of these combat sports. Have an awesome rest of your day and feel free to check out Roundhouse Fitness to learn some kickboxing your first class is always free.