Southpaw Stance: History, Benefits & Negatives

Southpaw Stance

Fighters that stand in the southpaw stance present a wide array of problems for orthodox fighters. That’s why we’re going over what you need to know about the southpaw stance.

Everything from where the term southpaw came from, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of fighting left-handed. We’ll also list some of the best left handed fighters in the history of MMA.

The History of the Term Southpaw

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of the term southpaw. The origins of the term is said to have come from either baseball or boxing, which has been a debated topic.

Southpaw in Baseball

Some believe that the term southpaw didn’t come from boxing, but was actually coined in the sport of baseball. It possibly came from how a baseball field is arranged for afternoon games. 

Stadiums were constructed so that the batter faced east to avoid the bright afternoon sun. Therefore, a left-handed pitcher would be facing south when they’re on the mound.

Not every baseball historian believes this origin story with many believing that it’s too simplistic. Baseball hall of fame curator and historian Tom Schieber traced the term southpaw to the year 1858. 

It contradicts the original origin story as the term southpaw was connected to a first baseman and not the pitcher. This contradicts the original origin story as just referring to left-handed players and not the position of the sun during play.

Former player and Boston Globe columnist Tom Murnane said a writer friend St. Louis called in a southpaw in 1875.

When Murnane became a writer after retiring, he began referring to left-handed pitchers as southpaws.

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Southpaw in Boxing

Some other baseball historians pointed out that the term southpaw wasn’t even created within baseball. It was actually adopted from boxing and predates the creation of baseball.

There is a political cartoon from 1848 that may be one of the first times the term southpaw was used. The cartoon depicts Whig party candidate Millard Fillmore lying battered on the ground.

Democratic presidential candidate Lewis Cass is standing above Fillmore. Cass says in the caption “Curse the Old Hoss with a southpaw he has given me!”

In modern times, it really doesn’t matter what the true origin of southpaw came from. It’s just widely acknowledged when someone says an athlete is a southpaw, you know they’re left-handed.

Southpaw Stance

The Benefits of the Southpaw Stance 

Fighting in the southpaw stance provides a lot of benefits over fighters that stand in the orthodox stance. Here are some of the biggest benefits of fighting in the southpaw stance.

Southpaws Are Difficult to Fight

The majority of fighters are right-handed or stand in an orthodox stance. Most boxers when they’re learning the fundamentals of a striking art will stand in a right-handed stance. 

Their training partners will generally also stand in an orthodox stance to make it easier for them to learn their fundamentals. Whenever a right-handed fighter first encounters a left-handed opponent, they don’t know how to deal with them. 

Everything is reversed from what they were taught fighting other right-handed fighters from the movement, blocks, and punches. Even the timing of a left-handed fighter can be much different than a right-handed fighter.

This gives fighters that stand in the southpaw stance a great advantage over their orthodox opponents. Also since there aren’t as many left-handed fighters, southpaws have more experience fighting in an open stance against right-handed opponents.

More Experienced Against Orthodox Fighters

Southpaw fighters are in the minority in combat sports, which actually gives them a huge advantage over orthodox fighters. When left-handed fighters are developing their skills, they train more with right-handed fighters than fellow lefties.

This time practicing against right-handers gives southpaws a huge advantage when it comes to a fight. They have more experience fighting in an open stance where orthodox fighters mainly trained with other right-handed fighters.

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Whenever you see a really good left-handed fighter, it’s normal for them to leave their right-handed opponents confused.

Powerful Jabs/Hooks

For some reason, fighters that fight in a southpaw stance have really good jabs and hooks. Since a southpaw fighter jabs with their right hand, this gives them different angles against an orthodox opponent.

This advantage leads many left-handed fighters to develop a powerful lead hand. Allowing them to stick their opponent with a jab or catch them coming in with a tight hook.

Easier to Make Traps

It is far easier for a fighter in the southpaw stance to set up traps against an orthodox fighter. Most right-handed fighters are generally more aware of traps in the orthodox stance than in the left-handed stance.

The angles and timing of left-handed fighters is reversed from what right-handed fighters practice.

Defending the Jab

Defending a jab is far easier for left-handed fighters than it is for right-handed fighters. Southpaws are more accustomed to parrying and blocking the jabs of right-handed opponents with their lead hand.

This ability to stuff an opponent’s jab allows a left-handed fighter to disrupt their opponent’s combos. If their opponent can’t set up their combos or get in range, the southpaw will have an easy night.

Liver Shots

When fighting in an open stance against right-handed opponents, a lefty has an easier path to land liver shots. Right-handed fighters usually like to keep their right hand up to protect themselves against power shots.

This gives southpaws an easy pathway to set up a liver shot. Lefties that like attacking the liver will generally set up their liver strike by going to their opponent’s head.

Once their opponent keeps their right hand high, they can then land a fight ending punch/kick to the liver.

The Negatives of Southpaw Stance 

There are many advantages to fighting in the southpaw stance, but there are also some disadvantages. Here are some of the negatives of fighting in the southpaw stance.

Neutralize Jab

An orthodox fighter can just as easily neutralize a southpaw fighter’s jab as the left-handed fighter can. If a right-handed fighter is good at defending a left-handed jab, the southpaw fighter will have a difficult night.

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Open to the Power Hand

If you ask most top striking coaches the best way to beat a lefty is to land the right hand. The power right is kryptonite for left-handed fighters.

In an open stance, it is easier for orthodox fighters to land a power straight, uppercut, or overhand. Especially if they’re countering a southpaw opponent’s left hand, which means their head is wide open.

Famous Fighters That Use the Southpaw Stance

There have been numerous southpaw fighters that have been successful in MMA. Here is a short list of some of the best southpaw MMA fighters in the history of the sport.

Valentina Shevchenko 

Before losing her title in a shocking upset, Valentina Shevchenko was the most feared female fighter in the world. For years, Valentina was able to outclass her opponents in striking and presented a myriad of problems being a southpaw.

After training hard to develop her ground game, Shevchenko would retain the flyweight title a division record 7 times.

Holly Holm

Holly Holm came into MMA as one of the most decorated pro boxers of all-time. She would later become one of the best left-handed fighters of all time.

Most notably when she shocked the world by knocking out Ronda Rousey. Hitting her with one of the most iconic left head kicks of all time.

Conor McGregor 

If we’re going to mention the best southpaw MMA fighters of all time, we can’t leave out Conor McGregor. On his path to becoming the biggest star in the sport, Conor laid out a path of destruction.

Primarily by continually showcasing his powerful left hand, which he used to win many of his fights. McGregor’s one touch power enabled him to win titles in two different divisions.

Dustin Poirier

Dustin Poirier has been a long-time fan favorite in the UFC. He always had good striking, but developed into an elite striker. 

The left-handed fighter has consistently showcased his high-level boxing ability. Using it to become an interim champion and beat Conor McGregor on two occasions.