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In the context of two opponents facing off each other. Does it mean reducing or increasing the distance between the two? Something else?

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It would mean "to increase the distance" to use your own words.

「[間合]{まあ}いを[外]{はず}す」 means "to sidestep", "to dodge", etc. in the one-on-one type of sports and martial arts.

Your exact context is unknown, but the phrase could not possibly mean the opposite.

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  • As an aside, the opposite is 間合いを詰【つ】める.
    – naruto
    May 25, 2015 at 11:16

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