Is The Jab As Important In MMA As It Is In Boxing? Part 1

During my early days of learning to become a “Thaiboxer” I heard the boxing Intelligencia in the dominant media of yesteryear (limited internet ubiquity at that time) proclaim in unison that the jab was the most important punch in boxing.  I all but summarily dismissed the claim, as thaiboxers had higher order problems. For starters, round low kicks.  My preliminary analysis of the jab when utilized by a thaiboxer was that it was, at best, a measuring device and a distraction to set up round kicks. 

At the time I thought myself exhaustive in my logic around this.  I reasoned that stepping in with a left jab against another orthodox fighter was an invitation for a debilitating low, round kick counter from my opponent.  At best it served as an entry into the basic kickboxing combinations that I had been learning, and while I continued to find it useful to brandish, I could not cosign it as an important weapon in my kickboxing repertoire, and by extension as a weapon indispensable to an MMA arsenal.

As I progressed in my Thaiboxing development, I found myself wanting of a more elegant solution to dealing with the brute force of round middle and low kicks. I began to watch more boxing in my spare time.  Enter the Micky Ward Vs. Arturo Gatti bout, which banished my apathy for pure boxing.  Admitting as much is further revelation of my veritable lack of understanding of the “Sweet Science,” as neither fighter is known for technical wizardry.   No, it wasn’t so much that Gatti’s “Philly Shell” style jab was a revelation in contrast to Ward’s clunky, high-guard jab.  It was the visceral commitment with which they prosecuted one another.  It was a gateway drug, and it altered my technical trajectory, made me more susceptible to the purer stuff of boxing.   If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and watch it.  Now.  

I can rate it as one of the seminal pugilistic events in my life.  I redoubled my efforts to learn the “Sweet Science” and to retool it as a foil for the problems of the pedestrian Dutch-Thaiboxer.  Given all that I had witnessed in that fight, I was impressed enough to know that playing with scientific instruments that are not routinely calibrated can yield wildly erratic, even dangerous results.  And so to the best of my ability, I gave it an earnest look.  

Mobility became a mantra, and the heavier handed punches began to feature more consistently in my offensive displays.  My stance narrowed up and began to look less like a square and more like a rectangle. The ranges that I operated in became more stratified.  It was no longer just “punching range” or “kicking range,” and that once elusive concept of “angles” began to manifest itself in pleasantly unexpected, if inconsistent ways.  And yet, the higher order utility of the jab was still elusive, perhaps more so even as the onrush of technical revelation that comes with inspiration and a deep dive into a new technical subject will gloss over some of the more nuanced concepts that ripple beneath.  Call it a limit of human apprehension I suppose.  A person can only contemplate and integrate so much information at a given time. Or maybe I’m just a slow learner…

Eventually I arrived at an airy vantage of sorts. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and I witnessed some glints of this weapon of heretofore elusive understanding. 

Which begs the question first and foremost?

Is the jab, the supposed cornerstone of the Sweet Scientist’s arsenal, a quintessential weapon for a Mixed Martial Artist, and if so, what do master boxers use the jab for besides punching someone?  We’ll do a survey of a few different uses that I have deduced, been shown, or stumbled upon.  But the first order of business is to watch the first Ward V. Gatti contest if you haven’t as of yet.  No way to avoid the spoiler in the previous sentence, apologies.  Can anyone say rubber match?!

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