Floyd Mayweather is a divisive figure, particularly in the mixed martial arts community.
On one level, no other boxer's image has benefited so much through inactivity and hand-picking opponents on the occasions that he does fight.The man essentially out-waited the pressure for a fight with Manny Pacquiao, missing out on a huge pay day and removing the prospect of the only boxing match that casual fans actually care about in the process.
On the other hand, Mayweather is truly a scientific boxing master—he has one of the best punches-connected-to-punches-received ratios in boxing history and is always a technical marvel, if sometimes a chore to watch.
While the idea of Floyd Mayweather partaking in an MMA fight has been thrown around before, and is of course stupid—because he is making real money for his boxing matches—there are certainly some aspects of Floyd Mayweather's style which are worth studying for every fighter hoping to wrestle or strike in MMA.
The purpose of this article is not to add to the growing pile of over-analysed fantasy fights, but to briefly examine why Floyd Mayweather's particular style might be especially well-suited to MMA if placed on a fighter with a well-rounded game.
Mayweather is not great because of his reactions or his physical attributes—he rarely throws lengthy combinations with blistering hand speed, and he struggles to hurt many of his opponents with his punches. He is a success because of his science, his timing and his experience.
Now, I think it's a fairly safe bet that a good number of people will have read the title and come in just to comment "Floyd would get taken down in a second in MMA!" That assertion is absolutely correct—Mayweather's style of boxing is actually fairly clinch-heavy, which would be counteractive to someone wanting to avoid takedowns.
But think about that fact from the other side: If more wrestlers could be taught some of the tricks and tie-ups that Mayweather uses, we could be seeing a new generation of mixed martial artist.
Mayweather is famous for often leading with power punches rather than coming in behind his jab. Now many commentators will write this off as a feat of speed, but in fact it is a feat of science.
Mayweather will jump in with a power punch, normally a right-hand lead or left hook, then immediately move to a clinch position to prevent his opponent from retaliating. If Mayweather feels he has connected with a good punch, he will immediately cross-face his way out of the clinch and hit the opponent as they try to hold him.
A look at Mayweather's fight with Ricky Hatton reveals a clinic in this sort of technique. Mayweather retreats, walks Ricky onto a right-hand lead, then ties up. If he feels he did damage, he pushes away and continues to strike:
Clinching up off of the right-hand lead can be done one of two ways: The head can be kept to the left and the right used to under-hook the opponent's left as you move chest to chest with them, or the head can be weaved underneath the opponent's left arm:
Now imagine how effective this technique could be in an MMA context. It's not completely unheard of: Fedor Emelianenko used to tie up or take his opponents down off of the right hand lead all the time. But since Fedor's retirement, it's still pretty rare to see.
Many grapplers and wrestlers who enter MMA are taught bog-standard boxing—led by the jab—when in fact it can prove counterintuitive to their intention to clinch.
Watch King Mo vs. Roger Gracie and notice how Gracie's solid jab only serves to maintain the distance between the two fighters when Gracie actually wants to close it. The simple jab-and-shoot or jab-and-clinch just doesn't work at the highest levels any more, unless you are Kevin Randleman and can cover half a ring with your shot anyway.
Mayweather's tactics are about always being too far away to hit or too close to hit effectively while landing good shots in the transitions between these distances, and this skill is worth studying by any fighter.
Take a look at this wonderful little highlight of some of Floyd's tricks and notice just how much of the world's top boxer's game is actually wrestling with punches thrown in:
Cracking the Nut: The Body Jab
A wonderful feature of Mayweather's game which continues to go undervalued in boxing and is almost completely absent in mixed martial arts is the body jab. The body jab is a punch which is not respected by many trainers, because they believe that a fighter should be conditioned to not be bothered by a punch which shouldn't have that much power on it.
A fighter who takes the time to study the jab to the solar plexus and develops good speed, power and accuracy, however, can make life very unpleasant for an opponent. Mayweather and Sugar Ray Robinson are excellent examples of fighters who committed to learning the body jab.
Now of course, a fighter should not start letting his hands move out of position or start punching down as an opponent comes in with the body jab, but it's always surprising just how many disciplined, professional boxers can be frustrated into making mistakes by this punch, which serves more as an annoyance than a power strike.
Mayweather used the body jab masterfully against the late Diego Corrales. Even a disciplined, world-class boxer like Corrales found his attention being drawn away from his defence, and eventually, as Mayweather crouched for what Diego assumed was a body jab, he found himself falling to the mat from a left hook to the jaw line.
Mayweather has combined the body jab with right straights to the head and left hooks with equal effect.
A look at how effective a good body jab can be in drawing even the most disciplined opponent out of position can be seen in Mayweather's bout with Shane Mosley.
Mayweather is known for his excellent stone-wall/shoulder-roll/Philly-shell defence (the terminology is far from uniform), where jabs and hooks are checked with the rear hand, while the lead shoulder takes care of the opponent's right-handed attacks. Mosley's repeated use of the jab to the sternum eventually got Mayweather—always the perfectionist—reaching to parry the low jabs, and Mosley was able to land a good right to the head:
Now, with the smaller gloves and lack of defensive discipline in MMA, the body jab holds the potential to be an even more effective weapon. Just as Fedor was the only elite MMA fighter demonstrating punch-and-clutch with any level of aptitude, Junior dos Santos is perhaps the only elite MMA fighter who has committed himself to mastering the body jab.
Watching Dos Santos' opponents' hands start to sag as they eat jab after jab to the solar plexus, knowing that an arcing bomb to the dome is on its way at any moment, is one of the things that makes him such a pleasure to watch.
Let's not forget that the current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was drawn into punching downward in retaliation to Cigano's body jabs and straights in their first meeting. When he did so, Dos Santos came over the top with a right hand, and that was all she wrote. If it can fluster the current heavyweight champion, the body jab is a technique that deserves thorough investigation in MMA.
Mayweather is never going to have a professional MMA fight—unless he gets really desperate in later years—but to pretend that an MMA fighter cannot take volumes of notes away from each of his fights is madness.
Pick up Jack's ebooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking at his blog, Fights Gone By.