As society has progressed over many years, women’s equal rights mean they have most of the same privileges as men.
Within the MMA sport world, like UFC live events, women have most of the same opportunities and female fighters are encouraged to compete. Most live events have several female fights on the card.
But in an equal-weighted MMA fight between a man and a woman, who would actually win?
A man typically has a greater degree of muscle mass and more responsive twitch muscles ability than that of a woman in the same weight. Because of this, a man is often more likely to win in an equal weight MMA fight.
But there is more to this debate than pure genetical differences between the sexes, so let’s get deeper on the topic of an MMA man vs woman fighter below.
Key differences between men and women in MMA
The first thing to note is that men and women have different body types. Men are typically taller, heavier with more muscle mass than a woman of the same weight class.
Men are able to carry around more weight and muscle on their frame without it being an issue for them in terms of mobility because they’re so heavy-bodied compared from the head down (neck) to a woman. The physiology changes between sexes.
Women also don’t produce as much testosterone which means less aggression but can make some great fighters if motivated enough by other factors like having trained to protect themselves in a difficult culture.
Some great female fighters show a high level of motivation because of factors like having trained themselves over time due to their difficult cultural conditions.
Females have had to develop a lot of resiliency and confidence to deter any threats.
The sport of MMA is also still predominantly male in fighters and fanbase, probably because men are just more naturally violent and engaged.
But that’s not to say that women don’t have a natural urge for watching and participating in the fight, too.
But what if a woman went up against a man? That’s a trickier question.
Could a woman beat a man in an MMA fight?
For a woman to beat a man in a fight, she would need to exceed a man’s natural strength and speed with a higher level of skill and technique. Most women don’t have the same physicality as a man which clearly puts them at a disadvantage.
Usually, it’s easier for the man because he has greater physiological advantages in body type over his female opponent who doesn’t produce testosterone as men do.
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The testosterone that men produce doesn’t just give them a deep voice.
It is a primary part of activating the greater muscle fiber growth and twitch responses. Essentially meaning that men get bigger stronger muscles easier and they’re also naturally faster.
All that said, a woman could absolutely beat a man in a mixed martial arts fight.
Fighting is more than just about physical ability. There is a high level of technique and skills to be learned across the various martial arts and it allows for advantages from skill alone.
For example, a proficient female grappler could take a man down to the ground and use wrapping control from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu disabling a lot of their strength or striking gains they had.
Can women compete with males when they’re at equal weight?
Weight is always a factor in fight, whether between men or women. The extra weight someone has, the more power and force they can put through their punches and leg kicks whilst on the feet.
On the ground and in grappling, the more weight you have the more energy your opponent has to put out to move you and take advantage.
Techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo or Aikido teach a lot about using the weight of the opponent against them or nullifying it entirely.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a lot of tactics for moving around your opponents position and using your full body to wrap them up which, after a certain degree of endurance built up, makes your energy required much lower.
You’re not trying to move your enemy with BJJ, just move around where they go while maintaining control.
In Judo and Aikido, a lot of practice goes on using the weight of your opponent to throw them. It’s a bit like countering advances from them.
When they shift their weigh too heavily in their upper body, they lose their base and with one flick across your hips (usually combined with a leg trip) their whole body can be thrown over to the floor where you then immediately have the upper hand.
The moral of the story is that weight does and does not have an influence and it can depend entirely on the level of skill of the fighter.
As a man, I’ve experienced being out-boxed and out-grappled by women in MMA training.
They simply had a much better skill level than me and it’s humbling for any testosterone fuelled fellow.
There are some fight promotions out there that even allow men and women to fight in “intergender” events.
Examples include a handicap match of two men (one of which was a 75 year old man) vs one heavy woman in Russia’s Epic Fighting Championship which seemed to be purely for entertainment value than anything.
There’s also a sanctioned MMA fight between a man and woman in Poland that raised a lot of eyebrows.
How can a woman beat a man in a fight?
In a fight, a woman will need to be able use her skill in using a man’s weight against them using smarts and patience that some men can often lack.
Here are some of the techniques a woman could use:
- Use your opponent’s momentum against them by throwing or tripping their legs out from under him when he tries for an advance on you.
- You can also practice getting good at “sprawling” whereby if the opponent tries to take you down through your hips/legs, you immediately extend your hips backwards as the attack comes in and allow the weight of the opponent to let them fall in front of themselves as you wrap around the neck and upper back of them.
- Don’t get stuck in a fist fight with most men, particularly if they are much heavier and taller. The weight transfer advantage men have from their wider shoulders allows them to output dangerous knockout power with their punches, so don’t get caught by this.
- Whilst men are usually top heavy, women are typically bottom-heavy. Your legs are probably your greatest tool, so use lots of powerful leg kicks to deter your opponent. Then when on the ground, wrap them up with your strong legs and tire them out.
Ultimately it’s important for women to learn self defense so they can use these techniques alongside their chosen defensive martial art.
Then they stand a chance at overcoming the physicality of a man.
Common questions about man vs women in MMA
Here’s some answers to some of the most common questions about this topic, you’re probably already thinking them:
Can men fight women in UFC?
Mens and womens weight classes are completely separated in the UFC. Only men can fight men, and only women can fight other women. And for good reason, males typically have a much more dense bone structure and higher muscle-to-weight ratio.
Do men and women train together in MMA?
The only caveat is that men are more likely to spar with other men if they are in a fight camp and training for an upcoming fight. This is because they need the most similar experience to their actual fight.
Interestingly, women often spar with male coaches and teammates because it adds extra pressure to help them get even better at fighting.
Can women compete in MMA?
Women have almost as many opportunities as men to compete in MMA. Gyms around the world allow both men and women to come in and train. Being good enough to compete takes dedication but both sexes are able to compete if they desire.
What percentage of UFC fans are women?
The sport of MMA is still a predominantly male-dominated sport, like many major sports are. Female fans of promotions like the UFC make up only around 10-20% with males taking up 80-90% of viewership statistics.
Final thoughts on men vs women in MMA
Women can beat men in MMA if they take the right approach. Like with any MMA fight it is always smartest to look for your opponent’s weaknesses, and patterns and use this against them.
A female fighter can take advantage of this further if a man decides to underestimate them.
For women, it’s important to train themselves in a safe way. Grab a pair of women’s boxing gloves and start training in a martial art that allows you to defend yourself.
I hope some of these tips have helped any female fighters who want better self defense against men as well.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.