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Boxing vs MMA: three of the most memorable bouts ever


Boxing vs MMA: three of the most memorable bouts ever

Boxing vs MMA: three of the most memorable bouts ever

The hours are ticking by and fight fans don’t have much longer to wait until lineal and WBC heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, and MMA superstar, Francis Ngannou, meet in the ‘The Battle of the Baddest’ in Saudi Arabia. Find all the latest odds in our sportsbook 

The 2017 ‘Money Fight’ between modern boxing great, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, and MMA superstar, Conor McGregor, will be at the forefront of fight fans’ memories this week and may just provide some pretty accurate foreshadowing of what might happen in Saudi Arabia.

McGregor is a sharp, accurate striker in the Octagon but had absolutely no professional boxing experience. Mayweather was a supremely gifted technician who had disarmed some of the best boxers of this era. The result was a massively successful event but an entirely predictable fight.

McGregor did as well as could be expected but the meticulous Mayweather simply waited for him to tire and stopped him as soon as he decided to accelerate through the gears.

There is, however, one aspect of the fight which just adds an element of intrigue to Fury-Ngannou. The two men are giants and it may only take one shot from Ngannou to turn the sporting world on its head.

There have been plenty of other match ups between boxers and MMA practitioners and the results are usually pretty emphatic. Let’s have a look back at a few.

Art Jimmerson v Royce Gracie

November 1991 and eight martial artists meet in Denver for a one-night tournament which would crown the very first Ultimate Fighting champion of the world.

The fights would take place in a cage – which became known as the Octagon – and there were only three rules; no biting, no eye-gouging, and no groin strikes. There were no weight classes, no time limits, no rounds and no judges. The only way to win a fight was by knockout, submission, or a fighter’s corner throwing in the towel. As somebody who impatiently waited for a VHS copy of the event to arrive in the mail, it was an incredible time to be alive.

The draw was made. Art Jimmerson, a talented boxer who had fought the excellent Jeff Harding just 18 months earlier, would take on Royce Gracie, a practitioner of the mysterious and relatively unknown art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Jimmerson attempted to mix his martial arts before MMA was even a term. He made the brave and bold decision to enter the cage with one boxing glove and one bare fist, a tactic he figured would allow him to punch without damaging his knuckles and grapple using his free hand.

Jimmerson didn’t land a single punch. Gracie clinched, took him down, mounted him, head butted him and forced Jimmerson to tap out without even applying a submission. Quickly realising the hopelessness of his situation, Jimmerson wisely decided to escape with as little damage as possible.

Wearing the single boxing glove wasn’t a smart choice. It prevented him from being able to grip Gracie and – if Jimmerson had had even the scantest knowledge of what to do on the floor – it would have made it incredibly easy for Gracie to take an arm or apply a choke.

The previously unknown Gracie won the one night tournament without breaking sweat, beating two other fighters and claiming the inaugural UFC title in a combined time of four minutes and 59 seconds. He single-handedly changed the face of combat sports in one night.

Jimmerson went back to professional boxing and retired with a record of 33 victories and 18 defeats.

Randy Couture v James Toney

Couture v Toney

James Toney attacked the world of MMA with the same level of bravado and confidence he carried through his outstanding boxing career. He chased Dana White around the country for months, bad mouthing the sport and promising to prove that boxing was superior.

Eventually in 2010, Toney talked himself into a fight in the UFC and 19 years after winning his first world title as a middleweight, the multi-weight world champion found himself walking to the Octagon to fight UFC legend and former two weight world champion, Randy Couture. The boxing Hall of Famer couldn’t have chosen a worse opponent.

Couture was a major player in the golden era of the UFC which launched the sport to worldwide prominence. Primarily a wrestler and practitioner of ground and pound, at 47 years old Couture had learned everything there was to know about Mixed Martial Arts and there was absolutely no possibility that he would risk standing up with Toney for a second longer than he needed to. If it is possible, there was an even smaller chance that Toney would be able to prevent himself from being taken down by Couture.

Toney stayed upright for all of 16 seconds. Couture casually shot for a single leg takedown, Toney went down in instalments and Couture effortlessly moved to mount where he worked relentlessly for an arm triangle choke. Toney submitted at 3.19 of the first.

As ridiculous as it sounds given the ease with which he was beaten, ’Lights Out’ lasted surprisingly long. It may have been more through good luck than good management, but surviving three minutes on the matt with an experienced grappler takes some doing however you manage it. Still, it was an embarrassing episode for a truly great fighter.

Predictably, Toney’s MMA career started and ended that night in Boston.

Ray Mercer v Tim Sylvia

Tim Sylvia was a two-time UFC heavyweight champion but he never earned the same level of respect or love as the fighters who came before or after him. Primarily a striker, the tall, slightly awkward Sylvia did well to maximise his gifts but by 2009, his star was beginning to fade. Sylvia attempting to inject some life into his career by deciding to box is understandable but – for some reason – he decided he wanted to box Ray Mercer.

Mercer is one of the toughest – and most underrated – fighters to have competed in the heavyweight division. The former Marine won the WBO heavyweight title in 1991 and scored a brutal knockout of Tommy Morrison in his only defence. Mercer pushed Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis to the very limit. He may have been 48 when he fought Sylvia but Mercer will be a handful for as long as he lives. He was however 0-1 as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter; Kimbo Slice submitted him with a guillotine in 2007, and he had also lost two K1 kickboxing matches.

Sylvia was denied a licence to box Mercer due to his lack of boxing experience so a compromise was reached. The pair would meet in a cage under MMA rules. With Mercer a boxer and Sylvia more comfortable on his feet, it seemed like the pair would settle their differences on the feet anyway, albeit in 4oz gloves.

Now, whether or not we choose to believe the stories that Sylvia and Mercer made a gentleman’s agreement to only throw punches, what can’t be denied is that Mercer took great exception to a leg kick Sylvia threw within a couple of seconds of the opening bell. He waited a second longer, judged his range and poleaxed Sylvia with a right hand. It was done and dusted in nine seconds.

Sylvia fought on for a few years in various MMA promotions whilst Mercer would never fight again.

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