MMA training tip – How to Spar With a Small Partner


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“Move your head!” a voice bellowed from someplace behind me.

Realizing quickly, after a punch nearly smashed into my nose, that I wasn’t doing it enough I started to rock my head gently from left to right.

“That’s it!” my coach continued as I started to grasp the idea of the drill. “Keep making her miss!” he instructed as my sparring partner, a female fighter from the gym who weighed at least 70 lbs lighter than me, let loose a combination of four punches directed at my head none of which hit their mark.

Two and a half minutes later the bell sounded to end the round. I approached the corner of the ring to get some instruction from my close friend and long time striking coach Vito Brancaccio.

“Start using the jab lightly and work her body a bit” he said pausing briefly to give me a shot of water from the bottle he carried. “But keep making her miss. Don’t stop moving” he continued as the next round was just about to start.

Three or four rounds later, when the sparring session was over, I was tired! Not because I had thrown a ton of punches, or had taken a huge amount of punishment, more because my coach wouldn’t let me stay still at any moment during any of the rounds we had just completed. Similar to a matador versus a bull I had slipped, rolled, stepped and angled myself away from the aggressive assault of my adversary. Her smaller stature didn’t make a difference; in fact it made things tougher because she was very fast and extremely aggressive. I wasn’t punching back much so I had no way of slowing down her attack except for making her miss.  I found it easy to stay relaxed because if she did catch me it would be with a shot that wasn’t powerful enough to do much damage to me.

I learned a valuable lesson that day both as a fighter and a coach. In a situation, with a partner drastically smaller, weaker and less experienced than me, my coach was able to put together a fun, challenging and skill improving workout. I would never have guessed that I would be able to benefit from sparring with a partner so much smaller than me, but I did that day.

What was really cool about it all was that I managed to take that matador type strategy into my next sparring sessions – which was against opponents who weighed the same or more than me– and I fought better than ever. I used a ton of head movement and footwork, which really messed up my partner’s timing, and this time I didn’t have to pull my punches. I had extra fun in the ring that day.

So next time you find yourself against a smaller or less experienced sparring partner, don’t worry, just let them attack you over and over again. Make them miss as much as you can to improve the defensive skills that you will surely need when you’re up against your most challenging training partners.  You’ll have fun, great a great workout and your sparring partner will too.  Everybody wins!

Categories : MMA Training Tips

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  1. Tim says:

    I love sparring with the smaller, faster guys. Like you said, it keeps you on your toes and tests your guard that much more.

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