Styles Do Make Fights: A Breakdown

In Styles Do Make Fights: An Expert Analysis, I introduced the reader to the concept of style classifications. In this article I will present some common characteristics and tips related to each style classification.  First of all, let’s first take a look at the crowd-pleasing short-range style made popular by Mike Tyson.

Short-Range Striking

In essence, a “short range” style is intended to be used against opponents with greater striking range. Therefore, the style is ideal for shorter fighters who prefer to move forward when striking or seeking a takedown. This is in contrast to the taller fighter who is seeking to utilize a reach advantage to strike and/or avoid takedowns.

Fighters employing this style typically throw punches with “bad intentions.”  Using a “squared stance,” fighters maximize punching power through full trunk rotation.  Because of the explosive nature of the style, combos are intended to be thrown in short bursts. As such, training should be tailored to the style (e.g. interval training with bursts). The primary defense of this style is head movement. Fighters are best served by “slipping and rolling” just enough to elude punches without comprising posture and kick defense. Punches from this style should be thrown with the head “off-line” in order to maximize power while simultaneously incorporating defense.

Strengths of this style include penetration of a longer opponent’s range, takedown positioning, and knockout type power punches. As a result of the head movement, weaknesses include susceptibility to head kicks and counter punches.

Short-Range Striking at a Glance


“The Bull”

Body Rotation Full rotation “punches thrown with bad intentions”
Common punches Hooks and overhands
Frequency of punch output Intermittent: “striking in bursts”
Offense Primarily powerful punches thrown off of head movement
Defense Head movement based: “slip and rip” to elude punches while moving forward to counter
Hidden Defense Head off-line when throwing punches
Stance Hips and shoulders are more “squared” to the opponents
Footwork Forward movement, with lunges to allow the fighter to close distance and simultaneously unleash offense
Hand Positioning Fists slightly turned closely towards the face at a 45 degrees angle
Strengths Increased power; sets up take downs; “crowd pleasing”
Weakness Increased susceptibility to knees and head kicks
Best Suited For Shorter fighters with wide hips, strong legs, and a good chin
Keys to Style Trunk rotation speed; head movement used to throw strikes with full power


Mid-range Striking

A “mid-range” style is the “default-style” in all combat sports. Used by warriors like Donald Cerrone, elements must be applied by all fighters, regardless of their style, in some form. For example, a short-range fighter will need to use a high guard to defend head kicks. This style allows fighters to “stalk” their opponents as they enter striking range prepared to give and take offense. This is in contrast to the shorter fighter who is seeking to slip inside the range of their opponent. Or the longer fighter who is seeking to remain just outside the range of an opponent.

This style uses a high guard with hands positioned slightly in front of the face. Like a tank methodically trudging forward through enemy fire, the mid-range fighter uses plodding footwork.  This allows the fighter to remain constantly in position to throw offense or defend and counter using a variety of kicks and strikes to the legs, body, and head. Because the fighter is in striking range at a higher rate, hands held high with raised shoulders provides the fighter with greater defense.

Strengths of the style includes the ability to throw and defend a variety of offense not available to other styles. In addition, this style allows fighters increased opportunity to enter into the muay thai clinch or “plum.” Weaknesses include increased takedown susceptibility because of the high guard and forward movement.

Mid-Range striking at a Glance


“The Tank”

Body Rotation Medium:  Finish combos with power punch
Common Punches Varied combinations
Frequency of punch output Higher volume
Offense Diverse
Defense “Catch and throw” using hands, arms, and shoulders to absorb punches and counter
Hidden Defense Consistency of hand and body positioning to defend while striking
Stance Lead foot and trunk slightly turned in
Footwork Plodding forward footwork characterized by a “stepping” motion intended to allow the fighter to remain in position to throw offense or defend
Hand Positioning Slightly turned towards face: “45 degrees, palms facing in”
Strengths Increased power; sets up take downs; “crowd pleasing”
Weakness Increased susceptibility to takedowns; predictability
Best Suited For Durable fighters of average height for their weight class
Keys to Style High guard; defending offense and immediately responding; durability

Long-Range Striking

A “long-range” style is most effectively used by fighters with greater striking range and timing. Consequently, the style is ideal for taller fighters with superior reach who prefer to strike at a distance.  This style, used fluently by the Diaz brothers, is also effective for those fighters who are attempting to avoid takedowns. Because of the distance employed in this approach, it is the antithesis of the short-range style.

Relaxed in nature, this style is most effective against opponents who move forward aggressively or are seeking a takedown. Much like a matador against a bull, this style seeks to entice opponents forward allowing the fighter to counter effectively. As compared to the “squared stance” required for the short-range style, the long-range stance is more linear in nature.  Punches through this style are thrown with hand speed, accuracy and relatively minimal trunk rotation. Because of the distance required of this style strikes should be primarily long.  As such, straight punches with the guard held relatively low and relaxed are most effective as it allows longer and swifter strikes.  By fighting long and using a shuffling draw step with lateral movement, defense is simultaneously incorporated as the fighter strives to remain just outside the opponents reach to “snipe” an incoming opponent.

As a result of its relaxed nature and strategic application, one strength of this style is energy conservation. In addition, takedown defense is strengthened as the result of the lowered lead hand and distance control. Weaknesses of the style include susceptibility to low and high round house kicks under certain conditions.  To be effective with this style, fighters must be masters of a range.  If they are not, their lowered guard can become a weakness.  When an opponent compromises the long-range fighter’s distance, they must adjust to either mid or short-range strategies.

Long-Range Striking at a Glance


“The Sniper”

Body Rotation Minimal.  Knockout punches with full body rotation are thrown strategically
Common Punches Jabs and crosses thrown at the full extent of the fighter’s range
Frequency of punch output Lower output; however, aggressive opponents will evoke a higher output from the long-ranger fighter
Offense Primarily straight punches
Defense Based on distance and footwork using a lowered guard catch and parry incoming strikes
Hidden Defense Distance and footwork that allows the fighter to remain just beyond an opponent’s reach
Stance More linear in nature
Footwork Primarily lateral “micro” footwork characterized by a small shuffling movement to allow the fighter the ability to maintain distance and look for opportunities to counter
Hand Positioning “45 degrees, palms facing out” to allow for effective parrying punches in the air
Strengths Takedown defense, energy conservation, and increased speed as a result of relaxed shoulders
Weakness Increased susceptibility to low kicks on the lead leg; lateral movement can be viewed as “running” if the fighter does not aggressively counter
Best Suited For Taller fighters with longer reach
Key to style Distance, footwork,  hand speed, timing, and aggressive countering

Final Thoughts

Remember, most fighters do not fit cleanly into one style classification. A short-range fighter might use short range strategies 80 percent of the time, and mid-range 20 percent.  The same fighters might strategically use a different ratio of each style to counter an opponent’s propensities. Or some fighters may simply apply a element of a style strategically in key moments of a fight.

Elements of different styles can be used effectively regardless of a fighter’s height or reach. For example, just because a fighter has an average reach does not mean they cannot be effective with a long-range style. Timing is one strategy that can be employed effectively to overcome a reach advantage.

The more a fighter applies elements of a specific style, the closer they are to the purest form of a given style classification. This series of articles is intended to encourage the reader to theorize styles through my proposed classification system. Assessing fighters and opponents through this conceptual lens can be potentially useful when differentiating training regiments for fighters, strategically preparing for specific opponents, or simply predicting the outcome of a fight!  Stay tuned for the next article where I will provide case examples of each style.