David Allen takes on Samir Nebo. David Allen won by 1st round TKO.

Difference Between KO And TKO In Boxing And MMA

An MMA or boxing fight can end with a points decision, a KO, a TKO, or submission. A KO and TKO are quite similar but are distinctly different. Today, I will explain the difference between a TKO and a KO.

A TKO is where the referee stops the fight because they deem the fighter can’t defend themselves intelligently. Winning by submission such as a rear-naked choke is also a TKO. A KO is where the referee stops the fight because the fighter is unconscious.

The official rules of MMA state in very clear language, the different types of stoppages in MMA. But, in practice, the wording is a little bit vague without looking at examples of how fights are stopped, and the different ways that a fight can come to an end. Below, I will explain the different scenarios where a fight will be ruled a TKO or KO.

What Is a KO in MMA and Boxing

The human body will shut down if it receives a certain stimulus. This can occur if the brain is vibrated in a certain way. This generally occurs if a person is struck on the chin. 

The design of the human body is such that a strike to the chin vibrates the brain which shuts down the human body. When this happens a person will be unconscious.

When a person is unconscious they generally won’t move for about 10 to 20 seconds, and then they will be back to normal again. 

When a person is knocked out, they will not be able to defend themselves, because their body is temporarily completely paralyzed. In boxing and MMA this is ruled as a win for the other person.

How a TKO differs from a KO in MMA and boxing

A TKO in boxing is very different from a TKO in MMA because in boxing only punches can be thrown. Whereas, in MMA submissions can be performed which are also treated by the rules as a TKO. First, let’s look at a technical knockout (TKO) in boxing.

The idea of a fight is to keep a fighter safe, and for them not to take unnecessary damage. The reason is that if a person receives a lot of strikes to the head it can lead to permanent brain damage. 

The more strikes a person receives to the head and body the worse it is for their overall health. Boxing and MMA though are sports where a person can’t help receiving strikes to the head and body.

A TKO in boxing occurs when:

  • A fighter’s corner ‘throws in the towel’
  • The judge deems the fighter is taking too much damage
  • A fighter is obviously outclassed (the fight is very one-sided)

During a fight, however, the corner of a fighter can ‘throw in the towel’, which means they give up and say tell the referee to stop the fight. Or, the referee can stop a fight before a fighter gets knocked out if they deem the fighter is sustaining too much damage.

Fighters by their nature are very tough and will continue fighting even if they suffer very strong strikes. But, in some cases their corner (their coaches and trainers), or the referee will stop the fight because they can tell a person is not going to win, and they are suffering too many strikes but aren’t getting knocked out.

In MMA, however, a TKO occurs is ruled in the same way. But, can also occur due to a submission. As you may know, a submission is a hold such as a:

  • Rear naked choke
  • Kneebar
  • Ankle lock
  • Armbar
  • Other types of chokes such as guillotines, and d’arce chokes

Fighters are generally very knowledgeable about these submissions and will ‘tap’ when they’re applied, and they feel they can’t get out. It’s possible to escape these submissions, or if due to the scramble the submission isn’t ideally applied a fighter can survive. But, if the tap the judge will stop the fight, and it will be ruled a TKO. 

Are a TKO and KO the Same Thing

There are two main stoppages in MMA and boxing, a TKO, and KO. They both have KO in the name, but are a TKO and a KO the same thing? Here’s a summary of whether they are or not.

A TKO and a KO are not the same thing. A TKO is where the referee stops the fight but the other fighter is still conscious. A KO is where the referee stops the fight because one fighter is unconscious. 

If a chokehold is applied a fighter can decide not to tap or can get choked out accidentally. This will render them unconscious. According to the official UFC stats website, this is recorded as a submission win/loss.

a boxer has been ko and referee is counting to 10

Is a TKO or a KO Better

A TKO and a KO are two ways that a boing or MMA fight can end. A KO is a very clear victory because one fighter is unconscious for 10 seconds or more and is unable to fight back. But, is a TKO or a KO better overall.

A TKO is better because in general, a fighter receives less damage. If a fighter is knocked out it causes more damage to the brain and has the potential for a fighter to also hit their head on the mat. Whereas, if a fight is stopped because of a TKO the fighter generally receives less damage.

For a fighter to have a long career ideally they would take very few strikes to the head and body. There is a finite amount of strikes a person can take to the head and body. 

For example, it’s common at the later part of a fighter’s career for them to get knocked out due to a less significant strike, than early in their career. 

Meaning, that they can take very hard strikes to the head without getting knocked out early on in their career. But, as the number of total strikes they have taken to the head or body over their career adds up, they will get knocked out with weaker strikes. 

Therefore, it’s in a fighter’s best interest to take the least amount of strikes to the head and body as possible.

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