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UFC’s Inconsistent Octagon is a Sizable Issue

UFC’s Inconsistent Octagon is a Sizable Issue

“Location, location, location.”

It’s a familiar slogan in the world of real estate — where a property’s value is determined, in part, by where it’s located. Are you in the “right” neighborhood? Near the beach? It’s all vital to a successful sale.

In his unique commentary style for ESPN Friday Night Fights, broadcaster Teddy Atlas likes to use that expression a bit differently as he analyzes two boxers and their tactics. Who is dictating the style of the match? Are the bout’s scoring blows landing as the two are at a distance, with one fighter circling away from the other to land straight punches? Or is one fighter successfully pressing the action, forcing the other into corners, and keeping close for short upper-cuts and hooks?

Location, location, location.

The matter is sometimes made more complicated by the size of the ring (or cage). Last weekend’s Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Marcos Maidana welterweight title bout was held, at Mayweather Jr’s request, in a massive ring — said to be a 26 foot square. Compare that to the 16 foot square used in heavyweight championship bouts of the past. Jack Slack, in his breakdown of the fight for Fightland, describes the champion Mayweather as looking like a “parody of himself” in the bout, “running around the over-sized ring, throwing occasional right hands…”

Slack sums up the performance: “There was enough of vintage Mayweather to win the fight easily, but at the end of the fight one didn’t feel so much like Maidana had been schooled, as much as he had been denied a boxing match.”

The UFC has encountered a similar issue with their Octagon, which has varied in size in recent bouts. According to Ben Fowlkes of MMA Junkie, UFC uses a large cage which is 30 feet long for their big events at MGM Grand, and another which is 25 feet in diameter for smaller venues.

Author Reed Kuhn ( studied the statistics surrounding fighting in the two “locations” and found the differences to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, striking. Bouts are more likely to end in knockout or submission in the smaller cage.

Tim Kennedy is quoted by Fowlkes as appreciating the smaller cage, and actually requesting it for his bout against Michael Bisping earlier this year (pictured above). But, “that didn’t happen,” Kennedy says, “and I had to chase him (Bisping) around a lot more.”

Other MMA fighters prefer the larger cage, probably for similar reasons as Mayweather does in boxing: to utilize advantages in quickness and mobility.

It’s easy to see both perspectives — fighters will want what’s advantageous to their styles. It’s strange from a fan’s perspective, though. Can you imagine a similar difference between the playing surfaces of any other sport being ignored?

What’s strange is that the size of a venue often seems to decide the size of the cage (?), as Fowlkes describes.

Why can’t this become consistent and be done with, so MMA bouts don’t become tarnished by controversies about the size of the cage?

As Slack describes, that’s definitely happening in the boxing world. It’s one trend that we don’t want to see the MMA world emulate.

Or, it’s one location which we don’t want to find ourselves.

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