Before you old school folks think this is a robbery or a scene from the Lone Ranger, let me clarify that I am talking about professional fighters. I am a HUGE fight fan–I love football too, but in the past few years (does 16 years count as a few years?) since the Cowboys have been sucking it up (the Romo years especially) and my life has gotten very busy with many other things, fighting is the only sport I have been able to follow. I used to be a big fan of boxing, circa the Mike Tyson to Roy Jones, JR era, but with the reinvention of MMA by Dana White and with TUF I found myself unable to watch boxing.
Nonetheless, I was at a party in December 2012 where the host ordered the boxing pay-per-view Pacquiao VS Marquez IV. I decided to watch with true interest since it was the first boxing match I had watched in years. Boxing is an incredibly effective and good style of fighting, I might add, but only if it is part of an overall style that includes kicking, ground fighting, clinching, throws, take-downs, knees, elbows and defense against all of the above. So, anyway, if memory serves it was the 6th round of the main event when the two fighters exchanged punches that put Pac on the mat, and hard.
It was a nasty and great KO for sure, but I have to admit that up to that point I was mezmorized by how many openings these great boxers have in their defense. In addition to the obvious complete lack of defense against MMA techniques, as fast as both of these pro fighters are with hands and footwork, they both share a common problem; they drop their hands when they punch. These pros are not alone. Another prime example is UFC 155 (also in December) and the main event fight between Dos Santos and Velasquez.
I watched Dos Santos demonstrate a great deal of toughness and heart as he took a major beating for 5 rounds and lost his belt. At several points in the fight, even in the beginning when his mind was fresh, his hands were down around his waist as if he were at a business meeting and not in a cage against a heavy striker. As a fight fan and a martial artist this perplexes me. So, we have the question, why do these professional fighters (there are many, many other examples) not keep their guard up when they punch, kick or in general?
The short answer lies in their training. I will be the first to say that 99% of the world can’t handle the amount of training and endurance required to be a great fighter in the UFC. But this is not a good excuse. In the Army we used to say, “Do in training what you intend to do in war.” We said this because when it hits the fan (as it does in combat but also in a cage fight) you will revert to what you know, what you train and what you are most comfortable doing. This is also why it is likely no one will ever beat Anderson Silva because he is so comfortable and no one can put enough pressure on him to shake his nerves (or, when they do briefly, he just beats them anyway).
Back to training. Double check your training habits. If you are dropping your guard when you punch or kick you should make some changes–now. I suggest you start thinking about keeping your guard up on every possible drill and exercise and stretch you do. A few examples are standing hamstring stretches, sit-ups and every fighting technique drill, but I am sure you can get creative and come up with many other ways to add this to your game. I don’t think you will find this is bad advice, but please get back to me if you disagree. Thanks.