Dirty Boxing – Everything You need To Know

Dirty boxing

Dirty boxing, as the name states, is considered a dark striking art with tactics that’s considered “dirty.” Although, the techniques in dirty boxing are proven effective and become a must know facet of MMA.

Here is everything you need to know about dirty boxing as we go over its unique history. We’ll also cover the legality of dirty boxing in different combat sports and detail some dirty boxing techniques.

The History of Dirty Boxing

There is no one person that can be credited for coming up with the term “dirty boxing.” The history of this style of fighting actually has surprising origins.

Dirty boxing’s origins actually come from a martial art from the Philippines called “Suntukan.” The Filipino art of Suntukan is not a formal sport and is used more as a form of self defense.

Within Suntukan, students are taught various techniques that are considered dirty in more formal martial arts. Everything from headbutts, elbows, forearms, shoulder strikes, and back fists. Usually all coming from a clinch to stay close to an opponent and keep control of them.

While these fighting tactics are considered dirty in formal fighting sports like boxing, they’re perfect for self defense.

Dirty Boxing

The Legality of Dirty Boxing in Different Combat Sports

The legality of dirty boxing really depends on the combat sport. Some of the techniques are considered illegal in one, while being legal and highly encouraged in others.


As where the term most likely originated, most dirty boxing techniques are considered illegal in boxing. That is not to say most boxers won’t try to get away with dirty boxing tactics.

In boxing, clinching is not supposed to be allowed and no strikes are allowed within the formal rules. But it doesn’t stop boxers getting in a quick punch on their opponent before the ref breaks them up. Maybe even land a short forearm or headbutt where the ref can’t see.

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Muay Thai

Aside from headbutts, dirty boxing techniques are commonly used within Muay Thai. The majority of a fight within a Muay Thai bout takes place within the clinch.

Thai boxers are taught many of the same striking techniques that are used within dirty boxing. Gaining control of an opponent’s arms and head to land devastating punches and elbows.

Within the Myanmar art of Lethwei, all dirty boxing techniques are used and are legal, which also includes the headbutt. 


Dirty boxing is an important facet of MMA and something all MMA fighters must know how to use and defend. The use of dirty boxing tactics are used for various purposes within MMA. Fighters will either use dirty boxing to set up takedowns or to land a hard strike to finish the bout. 

Former UFC heavyweight champions Randy Couture and Josh Barnett are considered two of the best at dirty boxing techniques. Both love fighting from the clinch using dirty boxing to beat up their opponents and land takedowns.

Dirty Boxing Techniques

There are a wide variety of dirty boxing techniques that you can use if you train/compete in MMA. Here are breakdowns of some of the more popular dirty boxing techniques.

The Shoulder Strike

If you saw the fight between Donald Cerrone and Conor McGregor, then you saw Conor throw perfect shoulder strikes. Here is how he set them up.

In MMA, when a fighter is locked in a clinch with their opponent, they’re usually worried about four things. Punches, elbows, knees, and takedown. 

They will commonly forget that shoulder strikes are open and legal. Much like how Cerrone forgot in his fight and the critical error cost him the fight.

When Conor set his shoulder strike up, he had an over/under hook control of Cerrone’s arms. He faked a takedown, which Cerrone instinctively dropped down to defend.

When Donald dropped down, this created space between him and Conor. Allowing McGregor to drive up with power to drive his shoulder blade into Cerrone’s face. 

Cowboy’s nose exploded and opened the opportunity for Conor to finish the fight. 

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Dirty Boxing Basics

Now, let’s step back for a second from Conor’s shoulder strike and go over some basic dirty boxing techniques. Here are some dirty boxing techniques that are more for self defense. The dirty boxing techniques detailed below are not allowed in any of the major combat sports.

The first dirty boxing technique that we’ll cover is the eye gouge. Often when someone tries to attack you, they’ll come forward with their hands out to throw a wild shot.

As they come in, you can perry their hand away and step in to jam your thumb or in their eye. If you do this correctly, it will no doubt stop your attacker or give you the opening to keep hitting them.

Clinches are also easy to take when an attacker is throwing wild strikes at you. When they come in, take inside ties on their biceps to establish control over them.

From there, you can throw anything from headbutts, shoulder strikes, elbows, or dirty boxing punches.

Tyson Fury’s Dirty Boxing Techniques

Tyson Fury is currently the best boxer in the world and expert at dirty boxing techniques. He’ll use various dirty boxing techniques to jam his opponents and knock them off their rhythm and land punches. Let’s cover three specific dirty boxing tactics that the Gypsy King uses.

The first is hooking his opponent’s lead hand/arm with a jab or hook. Fury likes to use a swift prodding jab to find and keep the range on his opponents.

Once Tyson finds the range, he’ll often double up his jab or throw a jab-hook with his lead hand. When Fury does this, he’ll often push his opponents guard down to open the path for his right hand. 

Another dirty boxing tactic that Fury is famous for using is purposely overshooting a punch to clench his opponent. When he has his opponent hurt, he’ll overthrow a straight or hook to grab a clinch.

This sets him up perfectly to throw powerful shots from close distance while defending his opponent’s punches.

Fury will also use dirty boxing tactics merely to tire out his opponents. He used this tactic quite successfully in his second fight with Deontay Wilder.

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Tyson bullied Wilder into the clinch every round and forced him to carry his weight. This tactic exhausted Wilder, which helped set up the stoppage.

Randy Couture’s Dirty Boxing Tactics

Randy Couture is an MMA legend that was known for being an expert in dirty boxing. His background in Greco Roman wrestling that consists of upper body clinching was a perfect match for dirty boxing techniques. Let’s cover some Randy Couture style dirty boxing.

One of the dirty boxing techniques that Randy loved to use was off a lead left hook. He would jump right into his opponent with a fake lead left hook to grab a collar tie on his opponent.

As soon as he gained control of his opponent’s head, Randy would fire off multiple right uppercuts and hooks. Usually following them up with knees and a takedown attempt.

Randy even gets into positions for dirty boxing tactics off of defensive moves. He loved to slip an opponent’s punch, then step in to grab an underhook and collar tie. Once in the clinch, Couture would throw various strikes from punches, elbows, and shoulder strikes.

Captain America also had a special way to set up his dirty boxing by keeping his opponents off balance. When he would go in for the clinch and land strikes, he wouldn’t stand in the same position.

Instead, Randy would keep his opponent off balance by shifting his weight, stance, and turn his opponent’s head. Doing this from the clinch would open up various strikes for Randy to keep attacking his opponent.

Just a few of the many ways that Randy Couture would set up his dirty boxing techniques.

Should I Learn Dirty Boxing Techniques

If you practice any combat sport or just want to know basic self defense, then you should really consider dirty boxing. The techniques are easy, effective, and don’t take a lot of strength to do. 

There’s no rules on the street so you should really learn dirty boxing techniques for self defense purposes. They will help keep you safe along with grappling and striking techniques from BJJ and boxing.