Most people have heard the sayings, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” and “It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”, but how important is size from a combatants point of view? Will a good 'big ‘un’, always beat a good 'little ‘un’? I’m not expecting exact answers for this question, which is why I have put it in IMHO.
Also, does anyone know what the biggest weight discrepancy is in any official fighting contest, and whether the small guy won?
I’ve also opened this thread to try and keep MMA conversation out of Frank’s boxing thread.
The biggest weight discrepancy in boxing that I am aware of (at least in title fights) is when Primo Carnera decisioned Tommy Loughran over fifteen rounds - eighty four pounds.
All other things equal, the bigger man is going to win. A large discrepancy in skill or will can make up for a disadvantage in size, but it has to be a large discrepancy. Royce Gracie cleaned up for a while in MMA because he was used to grappling and experienced in forcing his opponents to fight on the ground, where they had no experience. Once people caught on and began training to counter grappling, MMA switched to weight divisions.
In judo, much the same. There were no weight categories in judo competition until Anton Geesink won (he was 6’6" and about 114 kilos). Sport judo retained the Open category, which has no weight limit (this is different from the heavyweight division), but the Open division is nearly always won by a heavyweight. The closest I know of someone smaller winning the Open division is Shinobu Sekine, who was 1972 All Japan champion (the All Japan championship was a no-weight division tournament in 1972). Sekine won a bronze medal. He actually threw the silver medalist (a Russian named Kunetsov) for waza-ari with kouchigari, and was leading when he threw Kunetsov again. The referee called “waza-ari, awasete ippon” but the corner judges reversed it (they didn’t have yuko scores at the time). Kunetsov, who out weighed Sekine by over eighty pounds, then shoved Sekine down and pinned him for ippon. Masatoshi Shinomaki threw and pinned Kunetsov for ippon to retain the title in the finals.
IMO, bigger fighters have a natural advantage. They can be slow and clumsy, but as long as they remain strong and big (more surface area to cushion blows or something to that effect), then the smaller person will have to work that much harder to overcome it. Yes, the smaller person should have a speed advantage and technique should overcome the size, but the smaller person has less opportunity to make mistakes. A big person making a mistake, all things being equal, will suffer less than a smaller person making the same mistake.
Have you ever played basketball with tall people (at least 6’3")? In my league, we have some of the most unathletic big people I’ve ever seen. They’re only good for scoring when they’re directly underneath the basket. They can’t dribble, and they’re slow. However, standing in front of someone with arms flaying is a surprisingly great tactic. Passing to someone just under the basket is so much easier than trying to dribble-penetrate. They can’t jump, but by clodding around they end up with the most rebounds. In the fourth quarter, all the athleticism of the smaller guys is back in the locker room ready to hit the showers.
Although I don’t think it was a title fight, when Fedor Emilianenko beat Hong Man Choi, his opponent was possibly 132 pounds heavier than him! There might be even bigger discrepancies in early UFC fights.
And here is another example where the little guy won.
Still, I accept that most times the ‘big guy’ will tend to beat the ‘little guy’, skill and will being equal.
Clearly, between fighters of equal skill, the larger individual has a considerable advantage. Of course it is rare that opponents are truly of “equal” skill. Also, many smaller fighters tend to be quicker than their larger counterparts. But being 6’3", I gotta tell you range is nice.
Shodan has already covered very high level judo, but I can fill in with a personal experience in very low level judo.
I am a big, but not a tremendously big, guy - 6’, about 245 pounds. But when I took judo, I can tell you that even the low ranking black belts, unless they were at least close to my size, had real problems with me. Smaller, or weaker guys, forget it. In fact, that was one of the reasons I stopped playing. I was constantly afraid that one of those little guys was going to throw me awkwardly and I’d either dislocate a shoulder, break my collarbone, or blow out their knee.
Now, like Shodan says, size helps up to a point, until that large discrepancy in skill completely overwhelms the size advantage. My instructor, who was probably 5’8" and maybe 145 pounds, but was also a 5th or 6th dan and had been practicing judo at the national level for decades, tossed me around like I was nothing. It was actually a little scary to have so little control over what was happening to your body. Even scarier knowing that this guy was putting very little effort into what he was doing to me.
Sometimes the speed and quickness of the little guy can overcome tremendous disadvantages in height and weight. If the little guy can survive long enough and has the precision to strike where it does the most damage. As far as I know, no one can build up a tolerance to being poked in the eyes. I have seen guys take really hard strikes to the groin and throat and keep coming basically smothering a smaller guy with pure power.
Yes, I speak from experience, the fastest I have ever “gone down” in the ring was from an accidential (i think) jab to my eye.
The bigger guys are certainly going to have an advantage. In boxing this advantage will come in the form of reach, power, and strength and those are also some of the advantages bigger guys have in wrestling. When I wrestled the most skilled wrestler on the team weighed all of 103 pounds and I weighed about 170. Skill wise this kid could wrestle rings around me but the few times we stepped onto the mat together I would dominate the entire time*. One time he knocked me down because
I was goofing off and he wasn’t.
That Strength + reach = advantage is undisputed, at least by anyone who knows what they are talking about.
But this does necessarily means that the stronger guy with more reach will always win. Skill and luck play a part. Still, the safe bet with 2 people of similar skill level, is on the stronger guy with the bigger reach.
I would add that Strength becomes the more important of the two when it comes to grappling, except that in most cases more reach usually = more strength.
Really only works against big guys with no ground game. When I started fighting NHB I was 185, which was the bottom range of heavies for most competitions I was in. Believe me, a 300-pounder posed all kinds of problems - at least given my rudimentary skills. Adding 25# helped me considerably.
Most of us are saying that size matters among fighters of reasonably equal skill. Megaton Diaz - the best I’ve ever rolled with - is far from huge. But you’d better have a heck of a lot more than just a size advantage to have any chance against a grappler of that caliber.
I realized this might give an inaccurate and inflated impression of my experience and ability. I fought many more BJJ matches than NHB, all on a local level, and generally got pretty well schooled in anything other than novice competitions.
Didn’t intend to suggest I’m anything other than a decrepit old fart - prior to which I was a decrepit slightly younger fart.
Can I reverse-**Frank **this thread and talk about boxing?
Nicolai Valuev, or bigfoot as he is affectionately termed, has outweighed guys by a ridiculous amount in some recent bouts. According to boxrec, he had 86 lbs on John Ruiz in their world title fight in 2005 (It looks like it, too ).
What’s sort of interesting is that Valuev is not rated as being particularly heavy-handed. There’s obviously more to being a big puncher than simply being big as far as boxing goes. Ruiz, who is not an exciting fighter but has good skills, actually lost that bout on a contentious points decision - many thought he won.
James Toney, who started his career at middleweight (160), takes on legitimate heavyweights. This is in large part due to the parlous state of heavyweight boxing at the moment, but it’s still deeply impressive to see the guy taking on naturally huge specimens like Sam Peter or Hasim Rahman. Superb defensive skills and an all-time great chin have seen him through a number of size mis-matches without ever really being in trouble.
You see some small guys with freakish power in boxing, but right at the minimum weight it always surprises me just how little power the boxers have. A guy like Ivan ‘the iron boy’ Calderon, who fights at 105 or 108 lbs IIRC, has blinding speed and skill, but is just so small that it’s like watching a kid fight. Admittedly a kid who could tatoo you with 20 punches in about 1 second if you spilled his pint.
In boxing, skill and rules can really help the undersized fighter by focusing on his skills. The boxer is limited to what type of strikes he can apply and where he can apply them. The MMA fighter has much more room to work with.
In MMA, the big slow, clodding fighter really all he has to do is fall on you. Ok, it’s not that simple, but he really has to work a lot less harder, especially if he knows how to throw his weight around. If you see a much smaller opponent beat a much larger one, particularly one who can move around a bit, doesn’t have concrete shoes on, then that smaller guy is one skilled fighter.
Also, being on the ground doesn’t mean it’s all over for a non-experienced ground fighter. If his size and strength are great enough, his natural instinct to get on top and pound the shit out his opponent is probably more than enough to overcome someone trying to put on a armbar or a triangle or kimura. To have some heavy dude on top of you with his knee in your neck or a fist in your face makes it much easier to make a mistake, particularly when already on the bottom. These mistakes are much more costly to the undersized MMA fighter than to the undersized boxer who can better take it on the chin, clinch, or run away.
Exactly, it comes down to skill again. If the gap is large, say the small guy KNOWS how to manupilate the body well, while the other doesn’t then my bet is on the small guy. If both know how to deal with opponents in close quarters, then again, the safe bet lies with the bigger guy.