Having the right gloves on your hands can make all the difference when you’re throwing hard punches, but which gloves are the right gloves? The short answer is pretty simple; the ones that protect your hands the best. I know already that the different sports of Boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA have their own sets and styles of hand protection, and that they were designed with their different styles in mind. Boxing, a sport entirely focused on punches, has a much thicker set of padding on it than MMA gloves, which have to focus on grappling as well. But how does that translate into hand protection? Well, there are arguments for each style of glove and, on paper, both of them make sense. As for which is better… well, you’ll just have to weigh in on that down in the comments section; all I can do is give you the info.
For this comparison, I’m working on only one principle, Newton’s Third Law, which says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, IE, the more force you put out, the more force comes right back on your hand. If we just look at punching tests, it seems that the glove that puts out the most force is also the most damaging to your hand, and thus the least protected.
The Case for Boxing Gloves:
Pros: More Pads and Bigger Area.
Just looking at boxing gloves, you can tell that they’re much bulkier than their MMA counterparts, and for good reason. In a sport where you’re doing nothing but punching, your knuckles are going to take a lot of repeated abuse. As such, having more padding just makes more sense; you don’t need to grapple in boxing, so you can pad your punches a bit more and not suffer for it. Compared to the 2 centimeters worth of padding in a standard MMA fight glove, the standard boxing glove has nearly three times that amount. You’ll also notice that boxing gloves have a bigger striking area on the knuckle. In addition to giving the gloves more room for padding, this also spreads out the force of punches over a larger area. If that doesn’t make sense, think about it like this; you’d have a bit of trouble lifting a hundred pound dumbbell in one hand, because all that weight (or downward force) is concentrated in one place. Put that same hundred pounds across your back, and it’s suddenly much more manageable.
On the other hand, it takes a lot more energy to get a boxing glove going than it does an MMA glove. Here, we’ve got Newton’s Second Law to help us out (And you didn’t think you’d learn anything today, did you?). Simply put, it says that the force equals the weight of an object multiplied by how fast it’s going. So, in theory, it makes sense that a heavier glove, like a boxing glove, would put out more force than a lighter MMA glove.
The Case for MMA Gloves:
Pros: Denser, more stable padding.
Cons: Smaller area of protection, less use of wraps.
With MMA gloves, you get less padding, but the padding you do get does a great job of staying in place and staying tough. The combination of a Velcro strap on the wrists and individual fingers means that your padding will move with you, instead of being distributed over a large area. In addition, most MMA gloves use a stiffer padding, so ideally you’d get the same level of protection behind each strike. Here, oddly enough, the MMA glove’s smaller size is almost a benefit; if the padding is only on the knuckles, it can’t get squished out of the way of your strikes.
Of course, less padding does seem to be an issue, as does the fact that hand wraps are less common in MMA than in boxing. Even though the padding is denser, you can’t escape the fact that you’ve got so much less of it; combined with the lack of extra wrist support from hand wraps, it seems like the extra force would mangle your hands just as bad as the target you’re striking.
The Verdict? Inconclusive.
According to this video obove from Fight Science, the results are pretty much inconclusive; it seems that, despite the boxing glove’s excessive padding, both gloves deliver the same amount of force to a target. Based on my criteria, we can assume that the same amount of force went back into Bas Rutten’s hand with both gloves, and thus conclude that more padding isn’t always better.
However, this test is hardly the end-all of hand protection debates; unfortunately, to accurately gauge what kind of force is actually going into Bas’s hand would require different measurements. Bottom line? We’d need a new test that accurately showed how the force of these punches is deflected with each set of gloves. Until then, all we can say is that whether you use MMA or boxing gloves, your fists are going to remain about as protected.
If you have comments, please leave them below.