Knockout and Technical Knockout: What Are the Differences?

The differences between KO and TKO in boxing and mixed martial arts


If you have ever watched combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), boxing, and kickboxing, chances are that you have heard terms like technical knockout and knockout.

However, it might be challenging to grasp what the fans are referring to when such terminologies are used, especially if you’re new to the MMA world. You will learn about some significant distinctions between a technical knockout and a knockout in this post as it applies to boxing and MMA.

While most fighters would claim they don’t care how they win a fight, it is undeniable that most of them enter the cage to finish their opponent and remove the match outcome from the judges’ control.

A knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO) are two ways to win an MMA fight. Fighters aim for a highlight-reel moment that instantly ends a fight and gets the crowd cheering, or they beat and punch their opponent until they cannot continue the fight.

Nowadays, MMA and boxing are sports practiced by enthusiasts everywhere. A boxing or MMA match is won in one of four ways:

  • After the predetermined number of rounds, if the fight is not ended, the referee’s judgment or the judges’ scorecards will determine the victor.
  • The other boxer or fighter wins by knockout if the opponent is knocked out and cannot rise before the referee counts ten seconds.
  • The other boxer or fighter wins by technical knockout if the opponent sustains an injury during the bout and cannot continue.
  • The other boxer or fighter wins the fight if their opponent is disqualified for breaking a rule.

The Distinctions between Knockouts and Technical knockouts in Boxing and MMA

One of the most well-liked combat sports in the world are boxing and MMA. Even so, many features of MMA and boxing make them distinct in their own right despite their similarities. These details relate to both the fighting and the game’s rules.

Knockouts (KO)

Generally, a knockout (KO) is a fight-ending, winning criterion in several full-contact combat sports and martial arts, including boxing, kickboxing, MMA, karate, some styles of taekwondo, and other contact sports.

Any legal attack or combination of strikes that prevents an opponent from continuing the fight, typically due to loss of consciousness, is deemed a full knockout.

That legal attack is usually a blow to the head typically around the mandible or temple. A rapid, spectacular knockout that ends the fight can result from a single, hard hit to the head, especially to the jawline and temple, which can trigger a brain concussion or a carotid sinus reflex with syncope. Body punches, especially the liver punch, can result in crippling, escalating pain that can also knock someone out.

Knockout in Boxing

Boxing is a very well-liked combat sport. Two individuals compete against one another in a boxing match using their fists. The fights are in an area called a boxing ring and occur over a series of timed rounds. The competitors are under the referee’s control.

When a boxer falls to the ground and is unable to get back up within a certain amount of time, usually 10 seconds, it is called a knockout. This is usually due to exhaustion, pain, confusion, or, more commonly, when the fighter loses consciousness.

Paul Boxing
(via @jakepaul – Instagram)

Knockout in MMA

Unlike boxing, fights in MMA are stopped and declared a knockout if a fighter passes out from legal strikes (or “falls limp,” as martial artists like to say); even if the competitor passes out briefly and then wakes up to resume the fight, the battle is stopped and declared a knockout. In MMA, ground and pound tactics, a typical method of winning for grapplers, can also be regarded as a knockout.

Therefore, if you assumed that being knocked unconscious was the only factor in a KO in MMA, you would be mistaken. A body shot can also result in a fighter losing their balance and being unable to block blows, resulting in a knockout.

Another significant distinction is that MMA fights do not use counting like boxing. It is so because ground-pounding is permitted in MMA. If a fighter is knocked down, the battle can continue on the ground until one fighter is knocked out or beaten into submission, forcing the referee’s involvement, and the referee determines what happens next.

Technical Knockouts (TKO)

In boxing, a technical knockout (also known as a TKO or T.K.O.) occurs when the referee determines that a boxer cannot continue the fight safely for any reason within a round. However, this rule is not ubiquitous and is only allowed by a few sanctioning bodies.

However, in some countries, the T.K.O. can be called when a fighter is knocked to the ground three times in a single round. When a competitor is repeatedly struck and unable to defend himself, the referee has the authority to declare a T.K.O. in MMA fights.

Technical Knockout in Boxing

A TKO occurs when a combatant is repeatedly hit without responding, at which point the referee enters to finish the contest. In this instance, the boxer being beaten in the fight is fully conscious and is not knocked out in the true sense of it. They are however, too overwhelmed and unable to fight back.

Boxing officials or a ringside physician may deem a fighter unable to continue if their health is at risk due to body blows. As a result, their adversary is awarded a TKO victory.

Technical Knockout in MMA

In mixed martial arts, a TKO happens when the downed fighter is repeatedly hit and cannot defend himself from the assault; as a result, the referee decides and steps in to end the fight. Typically, this occurs close to the fence or when one fighter has the upper hand on the ground.

A TKO may also happen in the event of an injury, just like in boxing. Because fractures, especially to one’s knee and other comparable injuries, occur more frequently in the octagon than in a boxing ring, the latter case scenario occurs more frequently in MMA.

In MMA, there are various TKO types which include the following.

  • When a fighter is not protecting themselves from an opponent’s blows and is hit repeatedly, the referee intervenes and pauses the fight to stop additional injury.
  • A fighter’s corner man ends the contest for the benefit of the fighter, sometimes known as “throwing in the towel.” In contrast, a fighter can pull out in the middle of a round.
  • The ringside physician can decide to discontinue the fight owing to severe bleeding from a cut or other physical damage to a fighter. This halt is to prevent the fighter from losing consciousness.
  • Strikes resulting in submission (UFC only): This occurs when a UFC fighter gives up after taking too many blows. While most MMA organizations classify this as a submission, the UFC classifies it as a TKO.

Which is better – Knockout (KO) or Technical Knockout (TKO)?

The fight will end, whether it be by TKO or KO. A fighter is deemed the victor after receiving a TKO or KO. The record significantly impacts both fighters and will raise their standing in the sport. To build a solid MMA reputation, you’ve got to get a lot of solid KOs or TKOs. Those with a lot of them get more title fights and grow professionally.

However, some sportspeople favor KO. The clearest example is this. They easily defeated the opposition. At the same time, a TKO result might occasionally be untidy because it depends on the referee’s discretion. As a result, there have been many contentious situations where fans disagree with the officials’ judgment.

Also, in boxing and MMA, a KO is occasionally considered preferable to a TKO since it is more thrilling for the crowd. Gaining a KO is valuable because it frequently leads to greater success; subsequently, fighters tend to increase their cash out as this encourages them to continue fighting. If a fighter’s record is filled with a larger percentage of knockouts, people will pay close attention to such fighters.

Read also: UFC Weight Classes Explained

What occurs when boxers or fighters momentarily lose consciousness?

A powerful punch or kick can knock an opponent out for a short period, leading them to fall. The phrase “flash knockdown” indicates a momentary loss of consciousness.

A quick knockout won’t result in much brain damage, unlike certain TKOs that lead the victim to lose consciousness for a considerable period. That’s because the brain receives less energy (force).

The fight continues when a boxer immediately regains the lost consciousness and can stand up before the referee begins their count. The role of a ringside doctor also comes into play here. A legal strike of TKO can also be referred to as a flash knockout.

Is that a submission or a TKO if one fighter taps to strikes?

In MMA, competitors have the option to submit during a bout. To submit in a martial arts duel, you have to tap out. The referee ends the bout as soon as someone has tapped out.

The circumstances surrounding the tap-out will determine how this is handled. Take the scenario where the battle moves to the mat, and a chokehold is used. The fighter then submits. Because they were placed on hold, it counts as a submission in this instance.


Other Finishing Styles

Although TKO and KO are the most typical methods to conclude, there are other possible outcomes. The following additional results are possible:

  • Submission: When a fighter loses the ability to withstand more injury, frequently after being placed in a hold by an opponent.
  • Disqualification: A fighter who makes an illegal move is eliminated from the tournament. The fighter also receives sanctions from governing bodies.
  • Forfeit: One of the combatants surrenders their chance to win by ending the fight even before it begins. The opponent is then deemed the victor. Typically, it takes place before a fight.
  • Null and Void: Only when competitors have disregarded the fight’s rules may there be a no-contest outcome.
  • Decision: The judges give each of them a grade based on their performance, and a majority vote decides the winner.

Other Types of Knockouts

Most knockouts do not occur when a fighter takes strikes and goes to the canvas. Here are other additional knockouts:

  • A double knockdown
  • A double knockout
  • A flash knockdown and
  • A flash knockout.

Main differences: TKO vs. KO

In conclusion, the following are the key differences between knockout and technical knockout:

  1. Technical knockout is referred to as TKO, and knockout is called KO.
  2. On the other hand, a knockout can occur as a result of a hard punch or being knocked down by the opponent. A technical knockout, or TKO, can result from an injury or pain from repeatedly being hit by the opponent.
  3. In a technical knockout, a fighter is proclaimed the winner if the opponent is not defending or resisting; alternatively, a player is declared the winner once the referee has completed his ten counts.
  4. When a player is knocked out technically, or TKO, he does not lose consciousness, but because he cannot defend himself, he is considered truly unconscious. In contrast, when a player is knocked out, or KO, one of the players loses consciousness.
  5. Technical knockout (TKO) refers to a fighter who cannot continue the fight even though he is still conscious. Most knockout occurs when a fighter is left unconscious and unable to continue fighting.
  6. Technical knockouts, or TKOs, only result in the referee intervening if the player is not defending or fighting back. By contrast, knockouts result in the referee intervening to end the fight if the fighter does not respond after ten counts.
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