The two dilemmas of tall heavyweight combat athletes


In combat sports such as Judo, BJJ, Sambo, wrestling, mma etc. combat athletes come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are short and slim, some are short and stocky, some are tall and slim, some are tall and stocky and so on. Height and weight are two different measurements, height and weight do not always correlate with each other. Weight matters a lot more than height does, which is why there are weight classes but no height classes in combat sports. But even then, open weight divisions are a thing in many combat sports, which serve as a means for combat athletes to prove their true prowess. While size is a major factor in a fight, it doesn’t always guarantee the larger fighter a victory. With that being said, let’s talk about the tall heavyweights and the two dilemmas they face.

Dilemma 1, every Goliath eventually meets a David: The best tall heavyweight combat athletes will often find themselves dominating the competition, they’ll rack up consecutive wins and get a sense of “invulnerability”. But if these larger fighters stay in the sport long enough, they’ll eventually meet that one smaller fighter that will give them their first loss. It always happens to those large heavyweight fighters that go undefeated for a while but eventually fight a smaller and or shorter fighter that can hold their own against him or her and also topple the Goliath. During the early 2000s, a 6’6” nearly 200lb female undefeated boxer named Vonda Ward took on the 5’8” Ann Wolfe, which resulted in the shorter Ann Wolfe knocking out her taller opponent and thus breaking her undefeated streak.

5’9” Anne Wolfe knocks out 6’6” Vonda Ward
5’9” Anne Wolfe knocks out 6’6” Vonda Ward

And very recently, a Judoka by the name of Teddy Riner who is 6’8”, 280+ pounds and was undefeated for a decade had his had his undefeated streak broken by a smaller judoka named Kokoro Kageura who is 5’10 and 264 pounds.

Still of Kokoro Kageura vs Teddy Riner at Paris grand slam
Still of Kokoro Kageura vs Teddy Riner at Paris grand slam

Dilemma 2, there are always bigger and stronger opponents than you: One of the biggest mistakes a tall heavyweight can make is rely too much on his or her size. When you get too used to fighting smaller opponents, you’ll be caught off guard when you fight someone who is bigger and stronger than you. Even outside of combat sports, it can be major blow to this large individual’s ego to know there are bigger folks out there. It always happens to these 6’2” 245lb body builders who feel humbled when they encounter guys like Brian Shaw who is 6’8” and 400+ pounds of muscle. But in combat sports when you are so used to using your size to your advantage, you’ll get egg on your face when you fight that one opponent that looks at you like how you looked at your previous smaller opponents. It can be humbling and humiliating. This is one of the advantages of being a smaller combat athlete, you know you will usually if not always be the smaller fighter, so you learn to adapt and thrive in a environment where giants roam. A perfect example of a big fighter competing against an even bigger fighter was when when the 6’11” 290lb Semmy Schilt fought the 7’2” 350lb Choi Hong man and things didn’t go so well for Semmy Schilt.

For once in his career, Semmy Schilt(right) is the smaller fighter
For once in his career, Semmy Schilt(right) is the smaller fighter

Another example was when the 6’4” 254lb Rolles Gracie fought 6’1” 315lb Mariusz Pudzianowski and things didn’t go so well for Rolles who was knocked out with one punch only seconds into the first round by Pudzianowski.

I’m not trying to poke fun at tall heavyweights I’m just pointing out the obvious that simply being a big fighter in both height and weight doesn’t mean you are unstoppable for there are many smaller Davids who can topple you and much bigger and tougher competitors than yourself.

The two dilemmas of tall heavyweight combat athletes
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  • Bananaman177
    No matter what size or shape you are, there are people bigger than you that you can whip and people smaller than you who can whip you.

    Height and physique are just not good indicators of fighting skill, especially as you go higher and higher up the ranks in a combat sport. It makes more of a difference when two fighters are untrained, but even then, height and mass are no guarantee of victory.
    Like 2 People
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    • it does make a big difference in the higher levels of a sport. weight more so than height, although height does usually come with a reach advantage. But weight difference is the real deal as a person who weighs more will have a big power advantage. That's why all professional organizations nowadays have weight divisions and they weigh the fighters before a fight.

    • @startingfitness At the highest levels, fighters are well trained at fighting with different styles and different strategies for different opponents, and so they have more options for dealing with heavier opponents that come in with a power advantage, they are very comfortable keeping a guy at distance and peppering him from the outside, wearing him down in the early rounds and using footwork to avoid his counters and countering his counters.

      I mean yes, ostensibly more weight will give you a power advantage although not necessarily, but any advantage has the seeds of disadvantage within it if your opponent knows how to counter it.

      Whereas at the lower levels and among untrained fighters, most people can only fight in their own instinctual way and if that isn't a good stylistic match-up for going against a stronger fighter, then he will most likely smash them.

    • I disagree. Do you honestly think McGregor, tony ferguson or khabib would stand a chance against francis ngannou?
      All are pretty amazing fighters with different styles, but I don't think any of them stand a chance. No way they can keep him at a distance, maybe with a heavier slower guy, but not with a guy like him.

      I think what you are describing would go more like Israel vs joel romero and I think that was honestly a bad, unreliable strategy.

  • SuccessfulHornDog
    I fight to my advantages. If someone is taller or has longer reach then I take them down to the ground as quickly as possible, thereby eliminating their advantages. I try not to underestimate anyone either because you can't tell how good a fighter is by looking at them
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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Jamie1865
    I'm not sure what the question is?
    However, in terms of physics, that's easy. Force (or in this case 'Impact') = Mass x Velocity, so the old 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall' should read 'The bigger (heavier) they are, the harder they hit. Assuming you're fighting someone who's been training as well. Height is another advantage as well, due to reach. If you can keep your foe out of range by giving him/her a bloody nose or a black eye every time they try and close in on you, and they can't reach you without being close, it's not going to end well for the shorty. Of course both of these assumptions are based on the fact that the combatants are of approximately the same skill level. I used to do the Shot Put, Discus and Hammer for my local athletics club and was taught from day one that "Technique wins every time over brute force and ignorance" This was further reinforced playing rugby, which I've done on and off since I was a kid, and have been folded up like a deckchair and unceremoniously dumped on my arse, by someone not far off half my weight and 2/3'rds my height (I'm 6'3"). Overconfidence can be a problem, but any good coach, and any fighter/sportsperson worth their salt who listens to their coach will know this. Smaller may mean more agile and faster/fitter, but you may only need to land one good punch and then they're down or stunned/jelly legs. A lot more variables than just size, but sounds like you've got a bit of a chip on your shoulder about height!
    Disagree 1 Person
    • @jamie1865 More heightist cherry picking. I never said size doesn’t matter, what I said was that being the bigger fighter isn’t a guarantee you’ll be victorious. Height and body mass are two different things and body mass matters a lot more than height does. Height and reach aren’t always synonymous with each other, there’s short fighters who have longer reach than their taller opponents; that’s one of the reasons why there aren’t “height classes”. Height by itself doesn’t offer much advantage especially when both fighters are of the same weight class.

      And there’s a point where being too big is actually a disadvantage. Just ask Hong man Choi. I’ve heard the “it’s impossible to beat someone that’s bigger than you when they are just as skilled as you” nonsense so many times from egocentric heightists. Even when the skill is even, there’s been plenty occasions where the smaller fighter comes out on top.

      Look in the mirror before telling other people they have “chips on their shoulders”. Reality isn’t a Hollywood movie where the big brutes are depicted as being nearly indestructible. In many cases, all it takes is one well placed punch to drop a bigger opponent.

      How body proportions, strength and other factors determine the outcome of a fight ↗

    • Jamie1865

      Jeez you really are touchy about height. And you're calling me heightist! Sorry to keep spoiling your statements with empirical facts, but Height and reach aren't always synonymous?
      I also didn't say that you'll be victorious if you're bigger than your opponent, I said it's bases on skill - or rather the assumption of skill and even gave the formula for WHY there are weight classes, not height classes? You're distorting what I say and interpreting facts to support your own conclusions.
      You're just going to have to accept the fact that you're short, and get over it. These angry rants you're going off on at people who are taller than you are just confirm it. I didn't bring up David and Goliath, you did. And sorry to pour cold water on your fantasy, but it's in the bible - more specifically the old testament - it's a story, it's not real...
      There are a lot of good fighters who are short, normally due to their inadequacies about their height, namely a condition called SMS, or Short Man Syndrome, as documented here by a study in the New Scientist. Sorry pal, but it's just fact. Try counselling? I don't think denial is doing it for you. Nor is heightism. And who's cherry picking (albeit with low hanging fruit). Pat on the head for effort. Never mind boy, I'm sure you'll find some shorter people to hang around with, make you look bigger and you can finally RELAX!

    • @jamie1865
      That’s quite the paragraph for a strawman fallacy. It’s not my fault you can’t understand simple logic.

      The two dilemmas of tall heavyweight combat athletes

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  • WadeDanielSmith2
    Royce Gracie had a wicked front snap kick when he won the 8 man tournaments in the UFC.

    Fighters a lot of times don't have a good front snap kick. The Front Snap kick is to full contact what the Jab is to boxing. If your front snap kick is bad, you're not using your longest ranged weapon. You want to front snap kick to belt knot level or solar plexus level, and it's used as a range finder for your roundhouse and your front thrust kick, which the front heel thrust kick off the back leg is the most powerful front facing kick. Taller fighters have a longer front snap kick, and so if they learn to use their length of legs correctly they can be almost unbeatable, because they can keep the shorter fighter out of range for the entire fight. Also a LOT of full contact fighters rarely use a front thrust kick, even though it's the best weapon for CONTROLLING your opponent's distance. The Snap Kick finds the opponents distance, and the thrust kick keeps them from closing distance, and if you connect with a good thrust kick you can literally kick the other guy's guts out.
    • I'm a 3rd degree brown belt, but I fight at 3rd degree black belt skill level and cna effortlessly tap out 2nd degree black belt professional jiu jitsu fighters, even without practice. I just kept failing the black belt test because I couldn't memorize Kata, and Kata was 1/4th of our belt tests.

    • WowwGirl

      I'm ranked in the top five females of my state in judo

    • WowwGirl

      @WadeDanielSmith2 and you sound like you have practiced the arts.. this MyTake is hilarious

  • Wade8888
    the smaller fighter still has some advantages over the larger fighter: Speed and maneuverability/mobility. Also if you get inside on the big guy, you can get a leverage advantage and use his size against him. Also big guys are vulnerable to joint locks, the simple front wrist lock with some combined striking, or full lock or reverse wrist lock will make a big guy tap like a baby.
    Like 1 Person
  • front2back
    Good information. I am 6'2" and wrestled 195lb and 220lb classes in high school, not heavyweight, but I did that too on unlucky occasion.
    With my height, I was a strong guy but at a major disadvantage vs smaller, stocky men.
    However, my technique and endurance is what brought me victories.
    Like 1 Person
  • Smashingdoozy
    I did Judo as a kid, was pretty good in class but when it came to competitions I sucked because I was a tubby kid so I was put up against people that were way taller than me or way stronger. I found it incredibly unfair and never did competitions again 😹
  • WowwGirl
    How long have you taken MMA? All I see is mediatized entertainment here. Not actually what happens at all
    LikeDisagree 3 People
    • WowwGirl

      Becaues I teach it part time at a advance level and you are way off my friend.

    • WowwGirl

      Never got it

    • u don't teach shit. sit down.

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  • American_Centurion
    Being tall and heavier is an advantage certainly. David may be good but if Goliath is just as skillful, tough, fast and conditioned the advantage of strength, weight and height begins to show.
    Literally David vs Goliath
    • Height by itself isn’t much of an advantage when both fighters are of the same weight class.

      It’s the reach that matters slightly more. But even height isn’t always synonymous with reach. There’s plenty of shorter fighters that have longer reach than their taller opponents. Connor Mcgregor is shorter than khabib but he still had about a 4 inch reach advantage. Jon Jones is shorter than Alexander Gustafson but Jon Jones still had a 5 inch reach advantage.

      When you put two individuals who have no martial arts training, the fight can go either way.

    • Height can certainly be an advantage even in the same weight class just look at Middleweight Thomas Hearns.
      Khabib had McGregor's way of fighting sussed out and dominated him.
      I dont know how much martial arts training that black guy had but he clearly knows how to handle himself in the street. He put his hands behind his back and got into a shit talking to lure the bigger guy in closer to hit him (risky but effective on the street), the big guy with no skills allowed this because usually people back down when he's up in their face. It takes the same amount of power to knock a heavyweight out as it does a lightweight. Right from the start the big guy was going down he just didn't know it, his height was unrelated to that.

    • Thomas Hearns is a very skilled boxer. But even then, he still got beat by two shorter guys Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler.

      In UFC, James Vick is very tall for his weight class yet he still finds himself getting knocked out by shorter fighters.

      And yup, that big dude in the video got too cocky because of his height. He thought it was going to be like a Hollywood movie where the big brutes can brush off multiple punches to the face like pillows. Unfortunately for him, real physics said otherwise.

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  • Soremain
    Like 2 People
  • On_cloud_wine
    Didn’t David kill Goliath with the quick draw of a simple slingshot? I think that story was more miraculous than what really happens in reality.
    • There’s plenty of occasions where David beats Goliath in a fight
      It’s not like in Hollywood where the big bad villain can take a flurry of punches without flinching.

    • That’s because God was in his favor.

    • WowwGirl

      Yes by luck and God

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  • startingfitness
    I'm not saying you are wrong, but I don't know what the point is lol.
    This kind of sounds like a small man complex tbh.
    No hate though, I like small fighters as much as bigger ones.
    • @startingfitness
      The idea of a “Small man complex” is nothing more than a heightist ad hominem whenever their pseudoscientific reasoning regarding height is refuted.

    • it is true though, I have known a number of otherwise good guys who did have a " small man complex".

    • @startingfitness There’s plenty of guys with a big man complex as well.

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  • monkeynutts
    It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
  • NYCQuestions1976
  • dogbody
    Depends on the efforts of the combatants