Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

MMA Footwork with Dr. Paulie Gloves

Legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski once said, ““Footwork is one of the primary prerequisites to becoming a great player. He has never trained a professional fighter. But his views on footwork holds true in most athletic endeavors known to man. Proper technique starts from the ground up. In prize fighting, if you don’t know how to use your feet, you will end up off of them. Learning proper MMA footwork is essential if there are any aspirations for success in the sport.

Mixed Martial-Arts (MMA) has a diversity of options towards victory. Because of this, mastering one aspect can be difficult since time needs to be dedicated to all aspects to become a well-round pugilist. So for the fighters that attain an elite level of comprehension in the basics like footwork, it often means they have a leg up (or foot) on their opponents.

It takes a special mastery of striking fundamentals to be able to convey the importance of good footwork. Dr. Paul “Gloves” Gavoni has that mastery. He won a Florida Golden Gloves title in 1998 and has been coaching fighters for over a decade. He has become a sought after expert—while working for American Top Team affiliates–in helping MMA fighters to improve their boxing and fighting acumen.

Matched with his analysis, this is a showcase of several fighters that merge the essentials of boxing footwork into their MMA striking.

Frankie Edgar

The New Jersey native, known as the “Answer”, has been a problem for his opponents during his career. Boxing icon “Sugar” Ray Robinson once said, “Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that’s in rhythm or you’re in trouble.” Edgar is all heart and his rhythm is incomparable.

He is what Paul Gavoni would describe as a long-range fighter. The use of his movement is key in setting up his strikes and evading others. But I will let the expert elaborate on that.


Dr. Paul “Gloves” Gavoni’s Analysis:

Frankie Edgar is what might be considered a “long-range rhythm fighter.” He uses distance and lots of lateral movement, to search for angles and the right moment to strike.

Boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard and Hector Camacho can be seen applying this style. As they rhythmically bounce while using distance and lateral movement to find an opening. Like a well-trained sniper–patiently waiting for the right shot.

While not a classic long-range style; characterized by taller, rangier fighters patiently waiting to draw an opponent forward to counter with lighting strikes; Frankie’s style can be considered long range because of his use of distance, timing, and foot work. In the above gif, you will notice Frankie actually uses elements of a mid-range style, as he “catches”, to time his counter. And the short range style as he finishes with a slip.

Frankie effectively combines elements of other styles to compensate for a lack of superior reach, which is common to long-range style fighters. Once he strikes, he’s back on his horse using lateral movement to draw his opponent in and time his counter.

Edgar’s Long-Range and Footwork Contemporary in Boxing History: “Sugar” Ray Leonard


B.J. Penn

Penn is one of the best lightweight fighters in MMA history. In the period when he dominated that division, it was his boxing that was head and shoulders above the rest. His ability to excel at “mid-range” allowed him to stay within distance to do damage to his opponents but dodge counter attacks.

While not the thesis of constant movement like Edgar, Penn’s foot placement and steps puts him in a position to land effective and clean strikes.


Dr. Paul “Gloves” Gavoni’s Analysis:

B.J. Penn has a classic boxing style, built primarily on using a mid-range style. In the gif, notice how B.J. catches the punch of, long-range expert, Nate Diaz and uses that catch with shuffling footwork to close the distance and counter.

The mid-range style might be considered the “blue collar” worker of styles. Julio Ceasar Chavez had a classic mid-range style–no frills. Fighters using this style, use plodding and strategic footwork to progressively move forward like a lion stalking prey. As the fighter moves forward, they catch punches on their gloves, arms, and shoulders, while searching for the opportunity to land.

Penn’s Mid-Range and Footwork Contemporary in Boxing History: Julio Cesar Chavez


Ross Pearson

The “Real Deal” has proven to be a stalwart of the UFC’s 155 and 145 pound divisions for seven years. He has long been respected as an entertaining fighter who is fierce and willing to exchange. Since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter Pearson has seen measurable growth in his boxing, making him a formidable opponent for any fighter hoping to rise to the top of the company.

His style leans towards–what Gavoni would specify as—“short-range”. It is a style that focuses on standing toe-to-toe and being able to slip-and-rip. Short-range relies heavily on head movement.


Dr. Paul “Gloves” Gavoni’s Analysis:

Finally, let’s look at Ross Pearson’s short-range style. This might be considered one of the most exciting styles in fighting. Where long-range fighters might be considered “matadors,” short-range fighters can be considered “bulls.”

This style is characterized by head movement in the pocket and punches with bad intentions. This is best suited to beat long-range styles, as fighters seek to slip or roll inside their opponent’s offense, in order to unleash very powerful strikes. Where long-range style seeks to finish with footwork and distance outside of an opponent’s range, the short-range fighter begins and finishes with head movement, to avoid counters in the pocket.

These fighters can be seen using “lunging” footwork at the right moment, to close the distance on rangier fighters. The short-range fighter can rarely be seen backing up or using lateral movement. Randy Couture actually used this style when he knocked out Tim Silvia many years ago. And Mike Tyson is the undisputed king of, what has been described as, “peek-a-boo.” Or what I have named “controlled chaos” when adapted to MMA.

Pearson’s Short-Range and Footwork Contemporary in Boxing History: Mike Tyson


Proper footwork is essential in a number of sports. It can be the difference between being good and being great. Being an also-ran or a success. In any venture in life, everything is built from the ground up. Professional fighting is no different. The success of these three men shows how one of the basics of boxing can lead to great prosperity in MMA.

Dr. Paul “Gloves” Gavoni is also a contributor for and their fighting techniques section. If you’re interested in greater depth on his theories of range fighting click on the link. Or check out his video on the topic below.


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