Incorporating Boxing into the MMA Stand-Up game

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Incorporating Boxing into the MMA Stand-Up game
Original Poster: The BadBoy
Forum: Mixed Martial Arts Forums
Posted On: 22-11-2006, 01:32

Orginal Post: The BadBoy: Introduction

As some of you know, I have been active in the boxing world for a number of years now but as of late have been investigating more how the sweet science translates to the MMA arena. I have accumulated a large resource of information and knowledge and as a result I have used this as a foundation to create the article that you see below. I have tried to take the key issues and expand on the presented ideas. and also to present my own.

The assumption is made that someone wants some tips on using boxing in his MMA game. This will be a very general article offering tips and tricks on techniques and strategies. Obviously, as with all things in combat, not every technique will work for every fighter or against every opponent. I hope you can use what is presented and take it back to the gym to see what works for you.

Being able to punch is an integral part of Mixed Martial Arts. It is skill required out of necessity, whether your game is to take the guy down, pummel him in the clinch or to annihilate him with your stand-up skills. There is a lot to read but I hope you enjoy this first draft of the article and promise to share the completed version with you if you ask.

I would greatly appreciate any comments or additions that you may like incorporated into this article, so please do not hesitate to post.

Let us now look at the some different aspects of the art of boxing and try to illustrate how to make them fit into the MMA game.

Stance & Base

There are different approaches to using boxing successfully in MMA just as there are different approaches to being successful in a boxing match. It is a good idea to stay basic, and be yourself when using your hands. Obviously, you must be aware of take downs and of kicks, but also don’t forget your opponent can box you as well. As a result of these additional fatcors, your stance and base as they they are in a boxing environment have to change.

In boxing, the shoulders are not squared, the body is turned making less of a target for another fighter to hit.
But, in a MMA environment it is a good idea for a boxer to turn his hips a little more square. This aids him in being able to sprawl, defend the takedown check kicks with much more ease.

The squaring of the shoulders also aids in the blocking of high kicks.When the stance is square you are less likely to take the high kick to the back of the head. A plus point as the side of the head is so much easier to cover with your forearm.

As with boxing, the arms stay inside close to the body and the fists rest close to the jaw. The feet stay shoulder width apart and the legs remain underneath the chest and torso. The knees are slightly bent.

The MMA athlete should try not to stand straight up and down when fighting. This makes him a bigger target and much easier to take down. Fighting out of a crouch makes his punches explosive and lends less of the body to punch or kick.

Also, the crouch position makes it easier to slip punches and kicks. If someone throws a high kick you can change levels to duck under and take your shot for the takedown.

Being heavy on your front leg is another aspect which although excusable in boxing can be dangerous in the MMA arena. It is a good idea for someone who is going to use boxing in MMA to learn to keep the weight on his front foot only as he steps, hooks or jabs. Weight on the front foot can be dangerous as it makes a single leg takedown easier to hit. Leg kicks and trips also become easier to pull of successfully against an opponent who keeps his weight on the front leg.

A good boxer can shift his weight foot to foot with ease. Become fluent at shifting your weight with your punches. But in a rest or defensive position rest your weight on your back leg. Many Muay Thai instructors will teach fighters to continually “tap” their front foot on the canvas. This is a merely a stylistic choice and not employed by a lot of fighters.

So as can be seen, the boxing stance although fundamentally the same does need to be tweaked slightly to be efficient when takedowns and leg kicks are thrown into the fray.

Movement

Another aspect of boxing that will aid the MMA athlete in improving his game is that of movement. Contrary to popular belief, the MMA athlete should not be afraid to practice a “bob and weave”. Many fighters feel this techniuqe will lead to bad things resulting from the allowance of knees in MMA, however, if you are careful about using it, the bob and weave technique will work in any arena. Remember to keep your back straight and bend at the knees and not the waist. If someone is punching, they can’t sell a fake and pummell before you pivot and land up top. The rule I personally use is to never let my shoulders be any further forward than my front knee. This allows me sufficient waist movement as personally, I find continuous bending at the knees hard and tiring.

Also don’t be afraid to move forward with boxing. Many fighters are not prepared for an onward assault. But you have to be careful, if you close distance for them in a split second a lot of of fighters can easily shoot and take you down. A good wrestler can shoot from way farther than someone could punch or even kick and land the shot. A bad idea is running in and loading up on a punch. This will almost certainly lead to a takedown. I have found a good way to move forward is behind a stiff jab which can be doubled or tripled. Confuse and frustrate your opponent with varying your jabs. Let him believe a single jab may be coming and then double it up etc. Don’t be afraid to punch in angles and always remember to not close off your body too much because it will make the person shooting have an easier time at a single leg takedown.

Move in and out as you strike. Moving in, throwing your strikes and then moving out quickly is a good idea, extend your arms to the shoulders, move your back foot back and then the lead foot follows. If you can get your opponent to follow you, you may be able to trick them into walking into a solid right hand lead you plant on. Running in wildly and throwing punches may mow some people down but it?s also very risky. If you are going to attempt a “straight blast” be weary of someone who is good at pummelling inside.

A Muay Thai fighter can and will clinch inside and knee you in the face and a good wrestler will clinch and use “dirty boxing?. A good ju jitsu player will look to pull guard or clinch, put a foot inside of your solar plexus, inside leg and fall backward, causing you to fall into his guard.

Running across the ring or cage is not clever. Here you will get taken down or front kicked. Straight rushes can also wear you out.

It?s better to close to a reasonable distance and then begin working. If someone is attempting to tie you up remember, it is much more difficult in boxing, or in mma if you keep your hands moving! If someone is worried about defending against punches it makes it much harder to worry about getting a good offensive movement.

If you are clinched behind the head, block the knees with your hand straight Push straight with both hands on the chest of the person clinching you and get out of there. It?s best not to try to work that position to your advantage. Don?t play your opponents game unless your better than him at it. I would rather escape and try again.

Never move straight back. Running backward as an opponent is punching, kicking or chasing is a bad idea, circle but don’t run backward. If you do move backward, for a few steps, make sure your defence is strong. A prime example of this is the Wanderlie Silva Vs Vito Belfort fight. I very much doubt that Wanderlie will ever move straight back in that situation again.

Keep actively moving, stationary targets are easy to hit while active opponents who move a lot lend to deception. One thing you can affect is your hustle. If you move actively and smartly without wasting excess energy, you can confuse almost any opponent. Because in MMA, there are so many weapons to hurt you, a constantly moving opponent gives your adversary pause. A weaker fighter can neutralise stronger fighters stand up by being constantly on the move making him think constantly about defence rather than attack.

Remain relaxed. A fighter who is relaxed has an enormous advantage. Their movements are more fluid, their timing is more in sync. And they are able to move away from shots more easily and incur less damage from shots because they aren’t so tensed up.

Striking

Jabbing works use your jab. Make sure you work on getting it stiff an pumping. If you can close the distance well you can take away leg kicks inside of the pocket. Jabbing once while standing still is not an effective technique, you have to use your jab to set up combinations or movement. Throwing one jab at a time is dumb. You will not pull it off against a skilled opponent. You can’t expect to jab, and move your head, jab and move your head because clinching is allowed.

However, I am a big advocate of a still jab to measure distance and make someone bring defense up. This can set up a clean leg shot and make someone stand up high or it can really keep them at bay if used with a solid leg kick.

Jab to keep your opponent blocking and stationary and then back out and throw a hard leg kick and begin the sequence again. This is a tactic to use to set up leg kicks and eventually break guys down. If you are going to kick at the legs, step out with your back foot or shuffle forward with your front and kick. Always punch before you kick. Use your punches to measure distance. A good tactic is to throw punches to the opposite side of the body that you are going to kick. Your opponent concentrating on covering one side of the body can open up numerous shots on the other side for you.

If you are afraid of kicks being caught the jab is a good technique that will keep a man at bay and keep them from advancing further; use the jab to set up your power shots.

If you move inside and double or triple the jab, this is an excellent tactic for keeping your adversary off balance. This is especially useful against good aggressive strikers. Use a stiff jabs that open up room to hit with your power hand.

A lot of fighters, especially in MMA are not used to being backed up. The one thing you have to be careful of is over committing to the jab. Its a good idea to jab-jab-jab in a consistent solid rhythm and then shift, and move or shift and throw a right hand or even leg kick. You can’t jab and then stop or even double or triple and stop because that is the transition point your opponent will cease. Because an opponent can take a long step back and counter with a solid leg kick or wait for a pause between your last jab and shoot an easy single. Its good to practice a whizzer out of the weight on the front leg stance. This will help maintain a standing position and is a good counter to the leg attack of wrestlers. You can also combine it with a rear knee. Jabbing is a good weapon if you when you jab you commit and make sure you keep a good solid and varied rythm. One jab is predictable, two jabs will break your opponents balance, three may make him move back unnaturally. Its unrealistic to expect to jab and move your way like a boxer to a victory. A jab in boxing is a set up blow, just like a smart outside leg kick. It slows your adversaries attack and helps you set up your big blows. When someone is rushing in, unlike in boxing you don’t have to throw a jab, many times you can sucker a guy to run face first into a lead right hand because the guy is going for a body lock or a thai lock up.

A lot of people wonder about elbows vs. punches. Here is my personal take on elbows vs. punches. A solid uppercut will do more actual damage to an opponent than an upward elbow. Its also safer. An elbow across will do a lot of structural damage but probably will not hurt an opponent the way a left hook will. Forearms are a different story. If you can add in a strong forearm between your punches, it can be devastating, however, I feel like this technique is better reserved for ground fighting.

A good tactic to try is when an opponent shoots in, if you are able to drop down for the sprawl, but try to angle your hips to one side as best as you can. Then from here with the arm that is closest to your hips throw some hard shots to their exposed body while your other hand is locked around your opponent or applying pressure on their head. Have a play with it and see how you do in training. This can also be practised from the clinch with the single neck tie or underhook ala Randy Couture.

Bas Rutten said that you should throw everything hard so you opponent has to contantly think about defence. I like this approach but must emphasise that you do not throw all out with every punch. This is not efficient and will only tire you out.

Close range punch combinations are extremely beneficial to a MMAer, if you train to throw them immediately after the clinch has been broken. But do it so your punches are tight and your chin is tucked.

Powers is not the do all and end all of punching. Accuracy, speed and timing are essential constituents to a knockout punch. Although these attributes are harder to train than raw power, I think that they will get you much further than just being a hard hitter.

To effectively use boxing in MMA it is better to keep the combos short and straight. 2-3 punch combinations using jabs and crosses are probably the best way to attack. Constantly change your level and circle while picking your punches.

A good tip is to end combinations with an uppercut. For example 1-2 then uppercut. That way if your opponent changes levels for a takedown the uppercut is there to stop it. You can also throw an uppercut as the guy shoots in.

Hit the body. Liver shots hurt and can really slow your opponent down. But you have to time them right. Throwing without a set up will allow your opponent sufficient time to see it coming. Attack the head until the arns go up to defend and then bang, somebody puking up infront of you. A good wrestler may tie you up if you are going to the body but if you turn a man and use straight hard punches to the body this can easily transition into other techniques for you. For example, hitting the rear cross to the body followed by a shot for the single or double leg.

Mid kicks are fantastic techniques because when they land they can really take a lot out of even the most well conditioned fighter. But there is adherant risk involved. If the leg is hooked it can lead to a single, or the leg can be hooked, you can be spun around and hit with an inside trip or any number of other techniques.

Defence

Defensive techniques of boxing will also benefit youin an MMA game. If someone jabs at you, practice a parry with a dip to the right. Work on your counter punching but also try dipping to the right and stepping with your back foot clinching around the backside of your opponents left shoulder and taking his back from here, takedowns are easy. You can execute a choke, a neck crank or a takedown from this position. To avoid this, be aware of the technique, drill it and most importantly, bring your punches back quickly and keep actively moving. This technique can be executed from either side. The parry is the key. If you make someone respect your power early they will be weary of trying this type of technique.

Obviously its good and essential to have a proficient sprawl. However, there are other counters to leg take downs. A proper shot should evade a knee. A proper double leg is about hip control not leg control. A polished wrestler will not shoot directly into your knees but rather beside them gaining a turning control of your hips forcing you down.
A sloppy penetration step and a level change that is ill advised can spell disaster. If you see that they are plodding and overselling their shot, give them your front leg, put your weight on the back leg and feint a jab. At this point they will undoubtedly shoot for the single. Here, their head will be moving to the inside as opposed to the outside of your legs. Slide out with stepping with your back foot and lauch a hard uppercut using your rear hand. Just as we are taught in boxing, if you are close enough to throw an uppercut with the rear hand once the head pops up, follow with a short left hook. This motion must be almost simultaneous. The pop up of the head should be exaggerated by his force downward. After you throw your left hook you have a perfect opportunity for you to grab the back of his head and throw a hard knee off of your back foot. If he somehow maintains his hold on your leg, do not knee, but rather push on his face directly backward and push your hips out and your legs back, making it difficult for him to maintain a grip on your legs. The beauty of uppercuts is that they are a relatively good set up for a knee from the opposing side.

A good alternate to a full sprawl is dropping the knee of the lead leg to the floor when a guy shoots and meet him in a position similar to a shot yourself. If you have seen the Ken Shamrock Fujita fight you will know exactly what I?m talking about.

Often rather than sprawling you end up in an upper body clinch with the guy, though this has risks itself, you can dirty box some and knee to keep the guy on the defensive. The full sprawl is good, but a good wrestler who chains takedowns can remove the effectiveness of sprawling in a hurry, and the main thing is to be truly ready to sprawl you have to be on the defensive rather than pressuring the guy; and this will only serve to strengthen your opponents confidence. The longer he is able to stand around without getting hit, the more his courage will grow.

Feinting & Conning

Another great technique is to try fake a shot and throw a right hand from a conventional stance ala Kevin Randleman vs Crocop 1. This is devastating if you can sell it because the fighter defending the takedown will often drop his hands to push your head down and lean his head into the punch, making it more effective. Many wrestlers also conversely throw a jab and fake a second, making the opponent cover or slip and then get a clear and easy shot.

Use deception. I like to sometimes throw a left hand out to my side and make someone’s periferial vision move to their right and quickly change it to a left bolo uppercut or fire a long right hook/cross.

Another way to open spots up is to move up and down. You see this used on the ground a lot. He’ll throw 2 punches to the body in mount and one to the head. If you throw 2 punches to the body the hands are likely to move downward that will open up space upstairs.

Dirty Boxing

Holding the head and hitting is devistating. If you want to hold the head and hit, make sure your left hand is fully extended and that your shoulder covers your chin. Don’t try to hold on too long or you’ll get taken down or tied up easily.

Many times an inexperienced fighter will try to grab your head and knee from way too far out. If this happens you can execute a number of techniques including punching over or upper cutting under the arms.

The most important thing about clinch fighting is head control. Usually this is done by grabbing the head. One common mistake people make is that they grab the neck of their opponents. Don’t grab the neck, cup your hand high over the back of your opponents head. This will naturally cause his head to drop and his ass to stick out. This not only neutralizes his ability to throw a solid punch, but it also takes explosiveness away from his shoot.

And just don’t reach up with your elbow out to grab the head. Keep your elbow in tight to your body (this will help give you a little bit of defence) and plant your forearm against his collarbone. This does two things: 1) it acts as a fulcrum against which you can exert pressure on the head, and 2) it puts your arm between him and a shot. Now fire away with upper-cuts and hooks.

Another way to control your opponents head is by using your own head. This means crouching, getting down low, underneath and inside of your opponent. Now place the top of your head under your opponents chin, bringing his head up and standing him upright. Slug away at the body, and when he tries to come down (because you are jacking him up), step back, let him come down and unload a shot to his head.

You can also place your head on the outside of his chin. Work inside, get an angle and place your head on the side of his chin. This will turn his head away from you. Again, fire shots to the body and when he tries to turn back toward you let him turn right into a right cross.

The whole concept behind head control is to twist your opponent’s head into an uncomfortable, unnatural position. You also have to be dynamic with head control and dirty boxing. Don’t just try to latch on to the top of the head and slug away. It is actually a lot more of an art than that. You will need to alternate hands and switch sides as your opponent moves against your head holding. If he tries to stand straight up because you are pulling him down, let him stand into a clean shot, and then work inside and underneath him. Ultimately the body follows where the head goes. Use your wrestling to put his head in weird positions, twist up his body, and fire away.

Remember, this is MMA, not boxing. Grab, hold, step on his toes, and do all those things that you are not supposed to in boxing. This will only make you a better MMAist.

Shoulder punching is old school dirty boxing. When you are tied up in underhooks, or an under over, create some space between your opponent and your shoulder and really slam that shoulder into their face, shoulder, chest, etc.

Some useful terms and definitions:

“Heavy on the head”
This means putting a lot of weight on your opponents head in the clinch, getting his hips to move down and his ass out. “Heavy on the head” doesn’t mean pulling down with your arms; you’ll actually “sag” your hips downwards while locked up. This will help apply pressure.

“Popping, and pulling”
This is an in-fighting technique used by wrestlers. They may not throw punches, but a good freestyle or greco-roman wrestler is physical and aggressive on the inside. They are constantly jacking, snapping, pulling, shucking, and popping their opponents to disrupt their balance and put them into awkward positions.

In-fighting is all about putting your opponent in these awkward positions in order to: 1) Establish control and 2)Neutralize his offence. Now let?s go over some simple movements that will help disrupt your opponents balance, put him or her in awkward positions, and neutralize their offence. A key point to all of these movements is to keep your elbows tight to your body.

Popping
A good short “pop” can really put your opponent on their heels. It is not a punch. It is a short, explosive movement with your heel palm (you can also pop with the top of your elbow or your shoulder). The majority of the power in this movement comes from the snap in your wrist (or elbow or shoulder).
Pop your opponent on his or her shoulder or chest in order to turn them. Here is a sequence I like: slip inside, put your forehead on your opponent?s collarbone (the back of your head should be pressing into their jaw.) Position your arms inside of theirs. Pop ‘em with your right hand (this will turn them square to you) and follow up with a left hook and right hand.

Punch off a popup out of the front headlock. Pop them up with the forearm and thow an overhand with the opposite hand…works a charm.

You tie up for an upper body clinch, drive your elbow into their shoulder to create some space and wham, with your other hand you slam a palm or fist into their jaw-temple. It is a nice little set up for a level change or to help break the clinch.

Sapping
This movement is exactly the opposite of popping. Cup your hand and use the entire thing as a hook. Power is not generated by a long pull of the arms, but by an explosive snap of the wrist. Good places to latch onto are behind an opponent’s tricep or the top of their head. Use this technique in conjunction with a pop for a greater twisting effect. It is also good to snap someone in a direction that they want to go. If you are “heavy on the head,” an opponent will sometimes try to back straight out of it, or go under your hand. Snap them downwards in order to stretch them out or extend them. If they don’t have to break their fall by catching themselves with their hands, they’ll react by standing straight up. Fire away at will.

You might ask “why would I want to snap or pop when I can just punch?” There are two reasons for this: The snapping and popping are meant to be used when you run out of space to punch. It will open up space for you to punch. Secondly, these movements will help you set the trap. It will put your opponent in optimum position to eat punches.

This principle of popping can not only be used for the hands, but also for elbow shucks or even a shoulder punch. Put your opponent on their heels, get them moving backwards, and pour on the pressure. These tactics will distract, frustrate, and harry your opponent. Too many MMAist have separate modes: “grappling mode” and “striking mode.” By using your grappling to set up strikes, you can confuse your opponent and keep them guessing.

Post: zefff:

Who wrote that article? :lol:

Good read!>

Post: The BadBoy:

Who the hell do you think wrote it?>

Post: bamboo:

Well done Badboy.

You should submit this to a few hard copy publications for consideration.>

Post: The BadBoy:

Nah because there are bits in there that aren’t strictly mine, mainly the definitions at the end about popping and sapping etc. They were taken from a post made on the underground forum maybe some 4/5 years ago.

When I finish the full thing I’ll see how it goes. I’ve got some more ideas about what to include but just thought i would post this up for comment so far.>

Post: Ninja Kl0wn:

You make me glad I took the time to stop by Badboy.>

Post: The BadBoy:

No problem bro. Hope your well and still training hard.>

Post: zefff:

I have a question,

Ive only just started wrestling once a week so am useless at it but I find that in combined free sparring (MMA) the weight on the backfoot does not lend itself well to a good sprawl as it brings the hips forward to sit over the centre of gravity and I feel a small chamber of the legs is needed to push them backwards as I sprawl. This small chamber makes the sprawl postion fractionally longer to reach. I train with a load of Thai Boxers who naturally favour the backfoot, have hips forward and they also want to thrust the hips forward on any clinch. This is understandable for standup but I notice some guys suffering and being taken down easily – I think – because of the initial hip postion and weight distribution.

Weight on the backfoot might make the single leg harder to achieve but why promote this as the general postion over an equal bias? I use a fairly even distribution which allows me to rock forwards and backwards slightly for various strikes or defences and allows better, faster sprawls as well as a good overall base.

I understand why you think weight back generally is better than weight forward but why might it be better than an even base?

peace

P.S. Of course I know you were only speaking generally because as you said, when you are constantly on the move your base is always changing depending on what you and your opponent is doing.>

Post: The BadBoy:

Good question. I know I have said that in a defensive or at rest position to keep your weight on the back leg and your right if all your weight is on your back leg then you do need to chamber to sprawl. When I sprawl I first do a quick level change before I thurst my hips down and legs back. This level change gives me the chamber I require. Wether or not this is the correct way to sprawl I don’t know. I’m not a wrestling expert. I do find that this level change gives me a much more powerful sprawl.

That said, maybe I phrased it wrong. I should have stated that the Majority of the weight should be on the back leg not all as the script implies. But, as I also stated that a good boxer should be able to shift his weight from leg to leg and as you said you never know where your base will be. All fighters are individuals who try and adopt there own way of doing things. That is the beauty of combat. Everyone is slightly different. I am merely making suggestions for people to try.

One other point that I think I forgot to cover in the article. Thrusting your hips into a shot does smother it and I have used that many time to smother a double/single leg. When your oponent shoots in, intercept his shot with your hips (color bone area) before slipping down into your sprawl position. Just remember to control your opponents head as you slide down. Force his face into the mat as you sprawl.

Hope this helps>

Post: zefff:

Thanks, thats a good idea, changing levels for the sprawl to press the hips right onto them. I never thought about different mechanics for the sprawl TBH as I have done as Ive always done since my stickfighting days were people would regularly shoot in sometimes quite high. I actually try to kick my legs and hips back high as possible of the ground to keep above the opponent and I guess it has stayed with me. I will give it a go tonight.

Body shots,

these are extremely effective in standup rules and as fightstoppers in streetfights but I seem to feel a huge risk outweighs the benefits of throwing one in an MMA scenario. At the moment I will almost never be able to throw a bodyshot in sparring when I know my partner is willing to close and a better wrestler than me. Are there any strategies (beyond just throwing them in combinations) you might have that can help me deploy them safely?

thanks again!>

Post: The BadBoy:

I like to use my bodyshots in combinations regardless of it being MMA or boxing. I like to attack really powerful to the head with jabs, crosses, hooks etc. Your opponent will bring up his hands to protect his head. If he doesn’t he is gonna get hurt. When he does this, LIVER SHOT.

Also throwing hooks to the body maybe 2/3 times will subconsiosly make your opponent think about them. Then when you switch to the head, BAM, he doesn’t see it coming. Watch Karnitov (sp) vs Ninja Rua for an example of this.

I also like trowing a normal 1,2 combination but throw the cross to the opponents chest, sternum or heart area instead of the head. This really saps the life out of your opponent. Hit him hard enough in the heart and watch his face as his heart feels like it just skipped a beat (or maybe it just did :twisted: ).

That said that is not what you asked for and i’ve kinda just repeated what I said earlier. Outside of combinations i personally haven’t been able to pull off many body shots without getting tied up in a clinch so guess I can’t help you there sorry. If I think of something I’ll let you know. Like yourself, i’m only a student of the game and keep trying to progress.

The key with body shots is to throw them when your opponent can’t see them, unfortunately this can only be done when hidden in combinations or when your opponent is hurt.

Oh yeah if your sparring and your opponent is the stronger wrestler why don’t you want to clinch up and wrestle with him. It will only improve your clinch/ground game. Get your ass kicked now and again. It’s good for you in a training environment.>

Post: zefff:

Thanks man!

I hear what you are saying about sparring but I would rather wait to build some sort of half decent skill base in wrestling alone before trying to mix it all together in free sparring. Of course I end up wrestling a lot in sparring cos I get caught and clinched a lot, I just dont aim to go there. Anyway let me go find this vid you mentioned.>

Post: Ninja Kl0wn:

ttt, because this is definately one of the best posts on this forum ever.>

Post: jaggmoe:

i like hitting ppl with bats rather then boxing :wink:>

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