T Nation

Tactics vs Shorter Guys


There's constantly threads about how to fight taller guys but I'm trying to improve my knowledge on fighting shorter guys. As a tall guy for my weight class I often am the taller guy,soon I will be dropping another weight class and will be facing even shorter opponents. Not really looking for much "combinations" or stuff like that but more concepts,positional knowledge,strategy etc etc.



Well, I'm a short guy, and I can tell you that when fighting taller guys, they'll remember to jab like they're supposed to but they forget their footwork, which is what I REALLY use to get inside.

I'm a lefty, so put this in terms you'll understand on your own, but I can get frustrated if I can't get the outer edge on a guy - i.e. keep my lead foot outside of his. On taller guys this is even more necessary because I'm trying to stay away from that big right hand, and eating jabs from your long ass monkey arms gets harder to do if I can't get position.

That being said, enough can't be said about boxing in reverse and doing it WELL. I want to get inside and off to your lead edge so I can bang away with hooks to the body and uppercuts, but I gotta get you to slow down or stop moving in order to do that. So if your footwork is good, and you can box in reverse well, it's going to frustrate the shit out of me because I can't corner you, and if I can't start banging to the body I'm not going to be able to slow you down much for the later rounds.

A guy who is tall, uses his jab, is very conditioned, and can box going backwards - that's a deadly combination for us short guys. Ask Joe Frazier.


Irish I think pretty much covered it well. I'm not the most versed boxer, and I don't train for it although I love to watch and I am around fighters on a very very regular basis. Consequently I rarely comment and would rather listen and soak things up.

However I think footwork needs to be reinforced. Slick. Constantly angled. Constantly prepped and balanced. If you want to be able to keep somebody at bay you have to keep from getting cornered or losing a step they can use to gain and close the distance. That requires constant angling and polished footwork so that you don't "lose time" with a mis-placed step. The jab is essential of course, but as Irish said--if a shorter guy can angle past your jab and put you on your heels he can get inside even if it's only for a moment. Hell, I've seen some durable fighter just EAT a few jabs to do it, athough really not a great way of working is it? :stuck_out_tongue:

Basically you just absolutely have to be able to turn angles while retreating. Which, essentially, comes down to boxing in reverse. Obviously the best case scenario is wearing the short guy down and/or intimidate him with jabs (assuming you can punish with your jab) and pressing him back, but guys who know they have to close the gap are going to work very hard to avoid that, and they'll try to cut your footwork off.


All of this. Excellent break down.

I will add you don't need to be Ali if you are not facing Frasier. Look at what Wlad or Vitale do in HW boxing right now. They are not particularly dynamic, but decent fundamentals plus reach accomplishes a lot. The extra reach means you can be less "perfect" and still get away with things. In Irish's example you wouldn't need to be on the outer edge completely to get advantage.

Another point is that if you have a serious reach advantage straight forward is an "angle". I would point to the way the Diaz brothers can land shots in MMA against "good" strikers by basically walking forward and keeping a high punch count. Their reach means a simple forward and back game still creates the hit and don't be hit result.

For actual high level striking I would point to Schilt in K-1. Straight punches, simple footwork, and decent pace lets him compete against the best in the world.


Robert A


Haha. I agree, I just hate the Diaz bros. Schlit is good. I should rephrase my post to "footwork doesn't need to be slick, it needs to be clean and efficient"


Also - let me just say that what I wrote is for the VERY generic matchup of a taller boxer against a shorter slugger or infighter. The fight will not necessarily follow that course, however, so those tactics may not work.

Look at a guy like Mayweather, for instance, who, when he's fought larger opponents (DLH and Ortiz come to mind), has literally played the cat and mouse game with them, and effectively used his jab and counterpunching while HE was boxing backwards.

If you run into a shorter guy who is faster than you, has an excellent concept of range, and wants to fight going backwards, he may bait you into coming after him and you, being the larger fighter (in height if not in build) will likely oblige if he lands a couple shots that piss you off. U don't need to tell you that everybody fights differently, and that just because you're taller than a guy doesn't mean that you're going to be able to play Sugar Ray Leonard to his Roberto Duran.

I fight like that at times, and I actually prefer to use my jab and box as compared with brawling - and I can tell you right now that I'm more than happy to let a come forward fighter, regardless of size come in and open up some counterpunching opportunities for me.


no grappling?

just boxing?

being a short guy- and an even shorter guy when I competed, at 5' and eventually at 5'2
you would be surprised at how many gangly long limbed kids you come across

typically the kids who where tall and beat me or at least frustrated me - and believe me
its frustrating as hell.
learned to use their length- kept me away from them where I could not get under their hands
prevented me from clinching and eventually could not - get good postions ( read their hips where alway too far away)
more often then not - these same lanky ass bastards seemed to have infinite flexibility
and wiry strength
these guys figured out - how to keep their hips away - and use their limbs- to control you
to pummel get some good positioning and mangle you at arms length so to speak

the rest- or make that most of the taller guys even using their limbs
had bad timing- and relied on very predictable things.
they found it hard to take me down and had a hard time with hand fighting set ups etc
most of the time - I had bigger wrists and bigger or as big hands for a small guy.
little things like tick the dial over

in your case use your length
certainly dont turn it into a brawl- use mobility to your advantage.


Good stuff so far.

Dealing with a shorter pressure fighter/brawler basically come down to controlling distance (keeping them at a distance where you can reach them but they can't reach, or at least can't hurt, you) and trying to keep them mentally and physically off balance (from getting set). All of Irish's examples (other than the Mayweather one) and even kmc's grappling example are just specific applications of these tactics.

Shorter pressure fighters tend to like to push the pace as well (since they actually want to get in close and slug it out and know that once you get tired of running from them they can more easily corner you) and so IME it's better to use your timing and be able to mess with theirs rather than to try to match them physically. This includes the use of fluctuations in range and angle and utilizing broken rhythm to keep them guessing on when and where you are going to hit them.

You also would be well served to have really worked on your explosive striking mechanics so that when you do connect with something they actually feel it (if they don't it'll only build their confidence in coming forwards).


Are you serious? Flat out bully them. Non stop jab in the face and upper cuts all day. They tend to bob and weave a lot more and when they open up, open in a big way trying to overpower the larger guy. They do like to get in the pocket but it's not like they stay really tight. My experience is they open up when they do... a little too much.


Humble while I agree with your basic idea, I'm kinda curious if this is a more Muay Thai kind of approach... in boxing, they do like to stay really tight. Or at least some do - not the Joe Frazier type, but the Ricky Hatton-swarming style does.


Keep in mind humble gets knees, elbows, and trips to throw at the guy too.

I imagine "staying tight" while worrying about getting kicked in the legs or kneed in the liver is a different trick. Hell, just wrap your head around the idea that pushing and push kicks are encouraged instead of banned. Someone who tries to cover and swarm has different things to contend with.

I want humble's take on this.


Also how is your leg and your brother's hand? I am hoping you are both well.


Robert A


Hey Irish. I will qualify by saying yes my experiences are more orientated for Muay Thai so whether I know it or not, I am probably subconsciously answering from this mindset. Even when I strictly boxed and I trained in the same gym as likes of Sakio Bika and a whole lot of straight up hard nuts, when I am peppering a smaller guy with long and stiff jabs, power jabs, and doing it at will, when I am constantly sticking to absolute rudimentary fundamentals, Jab and making angles away from their power hand, smaller guys really get the shits. Hell I know I get the shits from a constant jab so I learned to be the one that does it more lol.

It's the frustration that eventually makes them slip and open up in a struggle to hit you with a bomb.

Granted I fought and sparred with a lot of Kiwi's who use their head to block lol.

You're right Robert, last place you want to be if you're a smaller guy is closed up and tight against a taller guy, especially if they have good hips. Rag dolling is s cinch and kneeing is flat out drill practise.

Thank you for asking Robert, that's very thoughtful of you. My knee has somewhat reduced in inflammation I think and the pain is reducing significantly enough for me to be able to kneel down and place pressure on it with full body weight.

I had the MRI a few days ago and have to hook up with the specialist.

I was able to deadlift about 550 the other day with a bit of strapping. Still not my pb but some promise. I actually just came back from training too. Not able to squat but could leg press 790 deep for 12 reps with heavy strapping. I'm walking a fair bit to try and keep the blood flow through it so here's hoping it's just serious inflammation. If it heals up, even with the torn ACL, I will just switch to boxing. Being on my toes is much easier on it than having to twist around so much with turning kicks.


Humble you perhaps have a better insight into this than most anyone on this forum, so I'll ask it here

Is the lack of defensive movement in the majority of MT fighters actually because of the risk of catching a kick or knee to the face, or is it just yet another case of "these guys didnt do , and they won, so I shouldn't try to do "? If you know what I mean.

I mean I've seen plenty of people assert that you can't slip and weave effectively in kickboxing because of that risk, but then we also have plenty of examples like anderson silva who has more than once slipped or rolled under a high kick. Samart too, who if I'm not mistaken is regarded as one of the best nak muays of all time. Samart also fought out of a bladed stance iirc, another supposed no no when leg kicks are allowed.

Is it just a case of people who haven't been able to do something telling others it can't be done?


100 % Dave.
There's a bit too much bullshit with Aussie MT. Too much wanting to be a Thai like their way is the only way. Guys flat out atheists or not religious at all suddenly acting like they're holy Buddhist, getting sacred inscriptions, performing their ritual movements, ram muay before fights (which look absolutely horrible compared to the real thing) and then just straight up trying to act like a Thai in the ring too.

Like the MMA world, MT has it's fair share of the equivalent of Tap Out T shirt wearers, except they are all sak yant covered fags who buckle when the take a lick or two.

I trained at a MT gym after my trainer shut shop. My original trainer taught it all, proper boxing movement and proper kicking and punching that worked. I would say he was more Euro styled but still respected the Thai styles. Towards the end, I was privy enough for the aforementioned Sakio Bika camp and trainer to become a part of our gym.

Something that always bothered me was I felt I was sloppy with hands compared to a boxer. So this was my chance. Boy did I get my ass handed to me. So when I went to another gym and these guys are meant to be great MT fighters, I was shocked at how easy it was for me to rag doll a lot of their blokes around. Even in sparring I would get fed up and just cover up and tell them to load the fuck up and hit hard.

Their balance is all fucked up, someone like hopkin-esque understanding of fundamentals and footwork could cut short angles and tip tap these guys off balance. Their weight was all fucked up as they stood their in an attempt to prance their front feet around like a thai. Guards were way too wide, all over the place and easy to penetrate. There was no such thing as angles and basics like back and forth or short step off to the side alluded them. It was a fake display of authority but it was easily overcome.

Something I was thankful I learned before gym shut shop. As I get older although I still love to kick the fuck out of peoples legs, I really thoroughly enjoy the technicality and sweet science of Boxing that Muay Thai needs 100 years to catch up to and only if they are humble enough to admit that they suck at.
The Dutch understand this and have been practising it for 3-4 decades and burying thais. They're the only ones to embarrass them.

It's a bunch of bullshit. The MT crowds have got their heads up their asses as much as MMA crowds do and think they are invincible. Without a boxing base your MT is always gonna be second grade. Even our best here in OZ, the likes of JWP have solid boxing backgrounds. Nathan Carnage, guy who floored Spong has an excellent boxing trainer (well he is a kick boxing trainer with sound knowledge of boxing). His hands and elbows are lethal and foot work good for a kick boxer/thai stylist.

Everyone else is just a kicker who punches. The Melbourne scene is a little different, they do focus a lot more on k1 styles, they've adapted knees and a little grappling to be able to mingle within the fight circles but they have better hand work than the rest of the states. Unfortunately they're also a little more scared to fight full thai rules and remain in their k1 style circles mostly.

Qld is famous for having better Thai style but they can be a little fart assed about it sometimes. Then like I mentioned you have the likes of JWP, Nathan Corbett. Shaggy King etc who do have much better hands than most but yeah, generally they're just lazy fucks who pretend to practise some sacred form of martial art that can't be fucked with.

Much like sticky hands Kung Fu dumb fucks who get knocked the fuck out when their opponent doesn't stand knee knocking and hips collapsed in front of them giving them their hands and instead throws a quick overhand right and left rip to floor them. Then they have stick face from the blood trickling down their face from hitting the pavement.

There is some risk associated with too much bobbing and weaving mayweather style as it does allow an easier latch on but a simple slip under, or tyson-esque short bob under punches is never going to put you in too much danger and besides it's not like you'd be bobbing from 1.5 meters out where a step up knee or a kick is easier to be caught by. It's usually when the range is cut off and should be at angles as we do in boxing. MT fighters have a stupid habit of circling towards the power hand which as we know in boxing is rule number 1 no no.....


Thanks humble, great post and very illuminating.

It always struck me as weird people telling others not to do because its "too risky". It seems obvious to me that everything you do in fighting is risky. Even in pure boxing rules ducking and weaving leaves you open for uppercuts, slipping at the wrong time will land you in the path of a hook and good head movement doesn't guarantee the other guy wont land a stiff jab on you all night long.


obviously, throw a lot of jabs. but even more so, observe carefully how they defend and counter your jab. for example, often the shorter fighter will try to slip the jab and take an outside angle to move into range against the taller fighter, which sets you up for a nice overhand right if you time it knowing they are going to slip the first jab to the outside.