Having a longer reach is considered to be an advantage for a fighter. In the UFC, reach is measured from the fingertips of the middle finger of one outstretched arm to the other. While calculating the reach, fighters are supposed to lift their arms to the side, parallel to the ground at shoulder level. Also, a fighter's leg reach is measured from their hip bone to their heel.
Another common method to judge a UFC fighter's reach is by calculating their Ape Index.
To calculate the Ape Index, the height of a fighter is subtracted from his/her wingspan. Generally, this sums up to a ratio of 1:1. However, in the case of some gifted athletes, like Jon Jones (AI: 111.2%) and Kevin Lee (AI: 111.6%), the variance between arm span and height is quite significant.
Is the reach measurement in UFC accurate?
Many schools of thought claim that calculating reach in the way that UFC does can be ineffective in assessing a fighter's true reach advantage. For instance, former UFC featherweight champion, Max Holloway, has a reach of 69 inches. This is less by almost 2.5 inches when compared with the reach of his former opponent Alexander Volkanovski.
It was apparent when the two fighters faced each other in the octagon that Volkanovski had the reach advantage merely on paper. This discrepancy can be attributed to the incorporation of shoulder-width while calculating the reach of a fighter.
Also, outstretching the hands can result in inaccurate measurements. UFC fighters punch with their fists closed, and so, rather than measuring from fingertip to fingertip, reach should be measured from fist to fist.
The body proportions and height are metrics that need to be carefully considered while calculating reach. Leg reach of a fighter also depends on these metrics and so to only consider the length of the legs of a fighter would lead to imprecise results.
The 'Tale of the Tape' for any bout contains 'reach' as one of the traits for comparing two fighters. This signifies the importance of reach and how it plays a crucial role in the way a fight plays out. Hence, boxing and MMA need to devise a method which enables the assessment of reach advantage in an efficacious manner.