T Nation

Let's Talk About Closing the Distance


Most of my sparring partners are 2-4" taller than me (yes, we have a guy who's 6'3" and fights at 170). Since I have relatively long legs for my height, I tend to try and close the distance with kicks, but if I'm with someone decent (like 90% of the people I train with) they pretty quickly catch on, but I'm too far out of range to setup my kicks with hands.

When I talk to people about this I get general responses like timing and angles... well yes. But what I'd really like are either some principles, some foot work to think about or maybe some good video examples.

This end up being less of an issue in an actual fight (in my very limited experience with those) since they don't know, but it still feels like a real weakness in my stand-up. Most of the time I'm doing American Kickboxing rules, or Muay Thai rules, hopefully within the year I'll be doing MMA too, I just started specifically training to incorporate the stand up and ground, so we'll see how that goes.

By the way, my coach is great, but right now he's focused on the pros and more serious armatures who are within a month or two of their fights. I'm sure when it's over, since that's to most critical and obvious hole in my game, I'll get some more instruction on that, but in the meantime, I'd appreciate any suggestions.


Personally, I tend to use slips and feints to get in. As I'm short for a heavyweight or light-heavy, I almost always have to close the distance. Personally, having a strong background in wrestling helps, however, for those that are better on their feet, I typically have to work my angles more and set it up.

You also have to accept the fact that you will most likely eat a punch or two to get in there. But, I'm certain there are others who have better methods.


Different solutions for different rule sets really. I'm generally an outside fighter under MMA rules, so I'm the one trying to keep the distance. Put me in a boxing match though, and I very much prefer to work a tight aggressive inside game right in the other guy's face, because I don't have to worry about a takedown from the clinch.

Footwork and angles are important regardless, but the type of footwork will differ. Under MMA rules, shooting in can close the distance even if you get stuffed, but only if you have a good, low, quick shoot. Half-ass it and come in high, and you're just inviting a beating. Under kickboxing rules, you'll have to work on your footwork and stepping in on an angle. A jab or feint can make the other guy plant his feet, letting you get a step on him. Also work on not telegraphing your foot movement with your head and body movement, it's a lot harder to get out of the way of someone if you don't know they're about to step in. Really great fighters sometimes seem to have completely separate upper and lower bodies, keeping the feet moving while the upper body is still. Watch some of the footage of Mayweather for general footwork (as much as I don't like him personally, he has good footwork). Hatton also has a great quick-step into a body shot that's very hard to defend, watch some of his fight footage for examples.


Try doubling up on the 1 and moving in on the second one, or another option I always liked was moving in on them following their jab back in. Gotta have their timing down, but can be very useful, especially if you follow them in with a counter. I loved speedbagging off their jab and following that inside. Has some risks, but it's damned hard for them to pick up and often gives you an opportunity to angle off after you're done.


For further research look at some dog brothers or FMA martial arts and their whole triangle step system. They step in at an angle and back out at the opposite angle (draw a lambda (this: " ^ ") go in one side, out the other). Guro Crafty Dog explains this best...(Woof!)

Slips n Fients, Keep your hands up explode off your back leg, immediately step outwards. If you watch Zambidis it's almost a circle step. He's one of the best counter fighters in the world. He baits you (the taller opponent), forces you to move forward, strikes (crashes your range while you're moving/striking), then moves back out to your appreciable range unless he hurt you then he'll bring the thunder, but he goes back out usually to avoid the clinch/knees of taller opponents.

Watch this one around 5:44 or so... Used correctly you can set up cut kicks, superman punch, or just a nice solid round kick to the ribs. Something to play with...

For MMA purposes watch none other than the angle destroyer: Shogun

Watch the videos, note the differences in each technique set and also the similarities. Being the smaller fighter there will be times that you need to increase your movement to a frenetic pace. You NEED to be able to explode, so your conditioning will be very important as well. You either need to be more powerful or much much quicker. Either can be trained to the apex of your genetic potential but just be aware which you have a natural affinity towards (or a comparative advantage against your opponent).

Some more fights to watch:

BJ Penn v Frankie Edgar I & II

Tommy Hearns v Sugar Ray Leonard

Holmes v Tyson

Any Hatton fights

Any Jose Aldo Fight

Fights Miguel Torres has lost (he's usually taller than everyone in his division)

Melvin Mahoef is usually undersized (height) compared to his opponents

Albert Kraus has the same predicament

Michael McDonald is a master in this arena, at 5'10-5'11 most of his opponents are 6'2+

Ramon Dekkers is someone to watch for striking period. But he fought Duane Ludwig and ONLY could punch this his left arm (tore ligaments in right arm prior to the bout) and still knocked Ludwig down EVERY round.

Stefan Leko is another K-1'er that tends to fight taller guys (bonjasky, badr hari)



read this a few times and apply it. Very good shit.


Some great advice folks, thanks. Xen Nova, I'm going to have to spend some time with those videos.

Did boxing only tonight and really got my ass handed to me by the taller (and uh, professional) fighter in the group. It was pretty sad. It ended up being one of those "Am I really having fun, or is this just stupid?" sessions.

I can't help but feel a HUGE part of it is a mental game. After going three min with him, I felt dead, could barely keep my hands up, and wasn't even interested in trying to land anything; just avoid being hit. 30 seconds, and a new, less experience partner closer to my size, and suddenly it's like I knew how to box (a little) again...


Ah, but you have to push past that, or you're just going to be a target. Try exhausting yourself to that point, then doing some sparring and technique training. You should be able to throw a punch with some heat on it even when you're totally exhausted.

Remember, your hands just deliver the punch, the power is in your legs, hips, and back. Even when you can barely life your arms, you can still hurt someone.


I should. This was at the tail-end of four hours of training. But like I said, I really think a lot of it is a mental thing as well. I went two more rounds after that and was more or less fine, even dominant, other than being exhausted.