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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