Nick Diaz: You know, I know my way around a boxing gym. I’m about the only one in the sport. There are some people that are really skillful… Frankie Edgar, Masvidal, KJ Noon. A lot of these kickboxers, they throw their punches all awkward and they’re not tight, look at Jose Aldo, he’s swinging wild out there, they’re throwing looping punches out there. I called that fight, he’s going to go straight down the middle just like I would with nice tight punches. You see McGregor works in a boxing ring, with headgear and shoes on…
See when I train my boxing I throw every punch correctly, or my trainers are going to tell me to throw them right, so when you’re throwing the punch you’re protected at the same time. The thing is, kickboxers have no concept of that, so I think that’s what happens to all of these guys. So you know when Hendricks was knocking out all those guys, they’re all with these kickboxing coaches, and they have no experience. If they had done one day of the sparring I got they’d get stomped in two rounds by some of these boxers…
I’m going to use Nick Diaz’s breakdown that’s going viral in the striking community to talk about some history, major concepts, and the misconceptions flying around. First let me just say I’m a fan of the Diaz’ fighters and fight styles, but this stuff is just absurd and silly, especially the part where he says kickboxers can’t punch and implying that their kickboxing coaches don’t know how to teach.
Just about every major MMA camp and top fighters work with legit boxing coaches… but let’s not even go into that. Let’s talk about Javier Mendez (AKA) and Mike Winklejohn (Jackson-Wink)–MMA striking coaches with a kickboxing background, who both have fighters that beat the Diaz brothers.
Javier Mendez and Mike Winklejohn are both world champion American Kickboxers. What was American Kickboxing? It was essentially a hybrid of point fighting karate and western boxing. The major rules that distinguish it from today’s kickboxing is the lack of clinch fighting with knees and lack of low-kicks allowed.
Lets go back into history a bit. In 1988, arguably the greatest American Light Heavyweight / Heavyweight Kickboxer, fought a Muay Thai fighter named Changpuek Kiatsongrit in a fight with low kicks. This would come to be known as the “Fight that Changed History / Fight that Changed The World.”
Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing: “The Legendary Fight That Changed History”
The Roufus brothers, Rick Roufus and Duke Roufus, would be so deeply influenced by this bout that they’d immerse themselves into Muay Thai and forever change their fighting stance when low kicks are allowed.
Rick would study under Saekson Janjira, a Lumpinee Stadium champion who cornered against him in the Changpuek fight. Duke Roufus would go study under Yodtong Senanan at the famed Sityodtong camp in Thailand.
The Roufus brothers also came from a martial arts family with deep boxing connections. Rick was trained and managed by the great Sugar Ray Leonard. He’d fight as a pro boxer, though failing to capture the USBA title against Arthur Williams (who also tried to kickbox in K-1, suffering the same fate as Rick but in a much quicker affair).
Rick Roufus would become the head striking coach of Benson Henderson, and Duke Roufus would become the head coach of Anthony Pettis.
Winklejohn vs. Muay Thai
Now back to Winklejohn, he’d also fight a Muay Thai fighter named Lakchart Sor Prapasart, who would continuously go to the legs of Winklejohn’s bladed stance. After this bout, Winklejohn would capture Muay Thai titles, beating the likes of Muay Thai legend Coban. As you all know, Winklejohn produces fighters that do not primarily fight out of the bladed boxing stance. He’d also produce one of the great female boxers of this era… whose was also a kickboxing and MMA world champion–Holly Holm.
All of these American Kickboxers produced fighters that have beat the Diaz brothers, save for Duke, but I’m certain Anthony Pettis would do fine against Nate Diaz.
Training Without Shoes
Nick Diaz: You have these guys, they don’t know their way around the boxing gym… no offense I like Rockhold but you see him walking into a boxing gym and not wear shoes, to me that’s really embarrassing. The people in the gym are embarrassed for you.
The logic behind this is pretty simple to understand–emulate fight conditions. If you don’t fight with shoes on, then the benefits of training with shoes decreases. Yes it grips better, pivots better, and helps you move better, but Rockhold is not wearing shoes for a reason.
It’s probably this reason: Georges St. Pierre spent a big section in his book on emphasizing the training of the feet without shoes and relating it to fight conditioning. He would also critique he role of shoes and how it hinders the ability to move like it once its taken off–balance and base with the foot must be learned without the shoes. And for the record, GSP, Anderson Silva, and Rory MacDonald all can be found wearing shoes in a boxing gym, but if Nick’s point is to purely say that Rockhold should follow traditions, then fair enough.
Muay Thai Fighters Can’t Punch?
See when I train my boxing I throw every punch correctly, or my trainers are going to tell me to throw them right, so when you’re throwing the punch you’re protected at the same time.
The thing is, kickboxers have no concept of that, so I think that’s what happens to all of these guys.
I’m going to use this section to talk about Muay Thai. Let’s skip the discussion of how kickboxers can’t punch–that’s just straight silly. Western boxing and kickboxing being extremely intertwined is common knowledge. However, going past that, there’s a very popular generalization that Muay Thai fighters can’t punch and don’t train punching. That is quite far from the truth. Yes, there are many Muay Thai fighters that don’t emphasize punching, just like how theres many MMA fighters that don’t emphasize bottom game or kicks.
But if you think all Muay Thai fighters can’t punch, you don’t watch Muay Thai. If you think some of Thailand’s most famous fight camps didn’t have elite boxers, you also don’t follow Muay Thai history. Here’s two Muay Thai fighters in the greatest of all time category, Sagat Petchyindee (whom the street fighter Sagat was based on) and Samart Payakaroon boxing at a Muay Thai gym, probably in order to prepare for their professional boxing bouts.
Both these guys are Muay Thai world champions first and then boxing champions second. Samart would capture the WBC world boxing title, while Sagat would fight for the world title on his 3rd fight, probably attempting to match a world-record feat that the Nak Muay legend Saeksak Muangsurin would achieve 3 years prior to Sagat attempting it.
Needless to say now, Sityodtong, Petchyindee, Muangsurin are all major fight camps that have had their fair share of boxers and even world champions. Actually, Sityodtong had several throughout their prestigious reign in the Muay Thai world.
But when you watch all of these guys fight Muay Thai, including Samart and Sagat, they changed the way they stood in order better compensate for clinching, elbows, knees, and kicks. They adopted a stance much more adaptable and versatile for the art of 8 limbs. This isn’t because they can’t punch–they just knew when to go in and out of an optimal punching stance to account for the other weapons.
Take Tyrone Spong’s recent boxing match for example, and look at differently he fights and stands in comparison to his kickboxing self. It is also different from how he stands when he fights MMA.
The Heavy Lead Leg
Nick Diaz: Everyone’s complaining about how we don’t check kicks. Well you know, I’m not going to come out of my stance so I get knocked out. Kick that leg all that you want, you better be good at kicking. And you know, I will check the kick, so you got to watch out. But everyone’s like, oh he’s real heavy on that front leg… but no one understands what he’s working with here.
First, I’ll leave you with this. Benson Henderson, trained by Rick Roufus, punching Nate Diaz in the heavy lead leg… something Muay Thai fighters do to toy with sparring partners that keep their lead leg too heavy instead of slamming in a low kick to remind them that it is.
A great case study of how to render Nate Diaz’s boxing and stance ineffective is in his fight against Rafael Dos Anjos. RDA kicked Diaz so many times that he had Diaz switching into his opposite stance (a common thing to do when it’s hurt) and he has Diaz trying to engage in the clinch and going for takedowns.
Here’s a story most people dont know: RDA spent long periods of time at Evolve MMA–pretty much the modern day Sityodtong. The founder of the camp recruited some of the best trainers and fighters at Sityodtong and brought them over to Singapore. Sprinkle in dozens of all-time great legends, and thats the gym where RDA stumble into in order to take him from essentially a grappler into a killer striker. He’d spend years in Singapore sparring with all-time great legends Namsaknoi and Orono Wor Petchpun… and by the way, Evolve also has some of the greatest Thailand boxing champions as full-time trainers there as well.
Once RDA broke Nate’s boxing heavy stance, he could land heaps of “unorthodox” punches and take downs.
Nick Diaz: So as far as kickboxing vs boxing… the thing is, these kickboxers out there, they know they’re going to kick a boxer. You’re going to kick them right in the head, right in the leg, or grab them with a Muay Thai clinch. I’m like, of course you can, but then once you learn how to defend a kick, and how to break out of a clinch, you’ve got to get back to a fundamental, re-establish them when it comes to boxing, and the way that you throw your punches. See when I train my boxing I throw every punch correctly, or my trainers are going to tell me to throw them right, so when you’re throwing the punch you’re protected at the same time.
The thing is, kickboxers have no concept of that, so I think that’s what happens to all of these guys. So you know when Hendricks was knocking out all those guys, they’re all with these kickboxing coaches, and they have no experience. If they had done one day of the sparring I got they’d get stomped in two rounds by some of these boxers… and they’ll say “well ya, cause they can’t grab on and they can’t kick. Well ya no shit maybe you should learn how to punch so that you can stand your ground in there against someone who can punch, so when you go fight in the UFC you don’t just go and get KTFO.
Rory MacDonald against Nate Diaz is another great case study of how to pepper the legs from orthodox stance and then blast a right roundhouse to the body. It was Nate Diaz that attempted to clinch and wrestle more often in this fight in the early rounds. In the later rounds when there would be grappling exchanges, Rory also won those, but he was definitely winning the stand up portion as well.
Speaking of which, Rory is an example of a fighter that can kick from a longer and wide stance while applying the fundamentals of boxing. Both him and GSP can check kicks and deliver kicks from their wide and relatively inverted lead knee. They have an adaptable style, just like how Samart and Sagat could move in and out of different stances in order to deliver the attacks of their choice.
This article is not meant to be a knock on the Diaz brothers. They are great fighters and I definitely appreciate their style–as all martial artists should. But since Nate’s win over Conor McGregor, some of the silly things that the Diaz brothers say have become gospel.
The video clip is pretty much Nick saying how “kickboxers” punch like shit, strongly implying that their coaches don’t know how to teach them on how to punch… which is absurd and silly. So the purpose of this article was simply to say that this isn’t true. What is true though, is that Nick and Nate has a very unique style that can work against many fighters. It’s true that they are better boxers than most people they face, but they are not boxing in the cage. Their style comes with pros and cons, and when there’s heavy emphasis on one aspect, it comes with great advantages on one end and great disadvantages on the other.
Perhaps more important to note is that the ability to throw damaging low kicks is not a skill easily acquired. Shins are not nearly as conditions as it is in MMA relative to kickboxing, and especially Muay Thai. Kicks in general are also more risky when facing wrestlers. For these reasons, you don’t often see great low kickers in MMA.
The fighters facing Diaz brothers probably start emphasizing low kicks when they’re matched against them, and although being heavy on the lead leg and having a inverted stance does make it harder to check and brace the kick, that is non-issue if the low kicker can’t do damage. If not enough damage is done via the low kick, then they will just keep pressuring forward and the energy is simply wasted by the kicker.
It’s awesome that the Diaz brothers can apparently do great rounds with boxing champions like Andre Ward and Joe Schilling. However, regarding how Nick said most MMA fighters would get finished at a boxing gym within 2 rounds if the boxers wanted to, we have to be fair–the same could be said about MMA fighters if they were at an elite kickboxing or Muay Thai gym… or wrestling room, or grappling mat. This is always true if we’re talking about the elites of the elites, unless the MMA fighters was an elite coming from those disciplines. Even if they can hold their own, it’s most likely because their sparring partner is operating at a lower notch than their maximum capacity.
Styles make fights, and adaptability will always be the key to a long reigning champion. Some fighters also have adaptable styles but fail to use it, such is the case of Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor in the losses that are currently defining their career to the fair weather fans. When McGregor fights Diaz again, or when Aldo fights McGregor again, it’s pretty much a guarantee that more low kicks will be thrown.
If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for the release of my upcoming e-book. It will breakdown kickboxing and Muay Thai via the styles of two of the greatest fighters–one in kickboxing and one in Muay Thai. It will also discuss the interesting historic affect between the two sports. For updates, simply subscribe to the mailing list!