Why Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Not Finishing an Opponent is Different Than GSP Grinding Out Another Decision

Article by Dave Walsh

So there has been a talking point that I’ve seen from a lot of MMA fans who dipped their toe into the Boxing waters like they tend to do when a big fight pops up, that talking point is that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. not finishing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was a sign of weakness or inability. It comes from a few different angles, in part from the MMA community looking to prove that the sport of MMA is indeed “better” than Boxing, or to defend Georges St. Pierre, who has been known to be the best but unable to finish his competition.

The first thing to keep in mind here is that Boxing and MMA are entirely different sports. Go figure, right? They are vastly different in so many ways, from the way that the fighters move, to how they strike to the gloves they wear. There is this whole talking point that MMA is a “complete” combat sport because it encompasses techniques from all combat sports into it and makes for a complete package. The truth is that while there are many techniques utilized in MMA, they are modified and executed differently. While I’m not going to say that MMA “dumbs down” other combat sports, it does shave parts of the ones that it utilizes down and transforms them into something that fits for MMA.

If I were to make an analogy, I’d say that Boxing is like Chess, Kickboxing or Muay Thai are like Checkers and that MMA is like Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that they all have different strategies and force a different mindset. Since Boxing is based entirely around punches, the way that you punch and the strategy used to actually connect and defend makes it entirely difficult and different from how a MMA fighter thinks or moves.

For example, if you were a high level boxer transitioning to MMA, you’d lose the gloves, which changes how you’d defend and throw those punches. Your stance would also be entirely different, as you’d be worried about grappling. In MMA you have to be concerned with a broader spectrum of attacks coming your way. So what does this have to do with finishing and how Floyd Mayweather tends not to finish opponents? Let me explain.

In Boxing you aren’t trying to defend a leg kick, middle kick, spin kick, head kick, uppercut, hook, jab, knee, takedown, clinch or everything else under the sun. Instead, your opponent has two fists and you have two fists. You know what your opponent is going to attack you with, you understand how to defend against it, how to counter it and at a high level, Boxing matches turn into chess matches. Floyd Mayweather is a master at Boxing because he can fight legitimately tough guys and find a way to minimize how often he gets hit while still landing strikes of his own. Actually landing a punch against a high level opponent becomes a matter of using proper misdirection, movement and speed, all while avoiding being hit.

A fighter like GSP has a strong wrestling base, is proficient at defending submissions and has good general striking skills, which means that in MMA he is perfectly suited to do well. Part of what makes GSP such a frustrating fighter to watch is that GSP tends to hold back so he won’t put himself in any danger. We all know that his striking game is good, but rarely does he use it outside of defensive or counter striking. It is a tool just used to set up his takedown, where he then tends to smother his opponents. While watching GSP it feels more like he’s holding back to ensure that he doesn’t lose.

When it comes to Mayweather and the type of fighter that he is, he is playing chess, not looking to throw heavy leather. He is playing chess in a chess match, which makes it entirely different, in a way. Mayweather is looking for the right angles, the right openings and to play the game the right way. In the case of Floyd it is not his inability to finish as it is that he is simply playing the game better than anyone else and doing so with the control and display of that of a virtuoso. Floyd’s game is to not get hit, to slip strikes and to look just that good.

The fact that he’s been undefeated for as long as he has been and been in such little peril in most of his fights tends to point that he’s doing exactly what he should be doing and doing it extremely well. Also, he still has over a 50% KO ratio. Floyd can make the best fighters in the world look lost in the ring, which is something that you can’t always say for Georges St. Pierre. It’s also, you know, different. I also have a hard time believing that someone can watch a fight like Floyd vs. Canelo and be bored.

To use the old adage that we hear about fans being ignorant about MMA; if you just learn the sport and the intricacies it isn’t boring at all.