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The 7 Best Boxers In MMA History

The question of ‘who are the best boxers in MMA today?’ is not one that should be approached with the aim of finding out who would make the best transition to professional boxing. Instead, we’re looking at those MMA fighters who have found the most consistently effective use of the sweet science inside the octagon – adapting it to suit the numerous demands of a cage-fight.

With that in mind, we’ve spent hours upon hours deep in research, debate, and discussion in order to single out five of the finest practitioners to single out the very best boxers MMA has ever seen.

The 7 All-Time Best Boxers In MMA

Cody Garbrandt

Reach: 65″

Stance: Orthodox

Signature Punch: Counter hook

Standout Boxing Moment: His ducking counter of Raphael Assuncao to re-establish himself at 135lbs.

Cody Garbrandt may have enjoyed a mixed bag of success in the UFC in recent years, but even with his losses to TJ Dillashaw and Pedro Muhnoz in mind, he remains in possession of some of the best boxing skills in the game.

As far as MMA fighters go, Garbrandt may have the slickest head movement and hand speed of them all. A clinical striker that can always threaten his opponent with legitimate one-punch knockout power, time is still very much on his side given his age.

Though we may never see him put on a pair of boxing gloves and compete in the ring, there’s no doubt No Love would be favored to do quite well.

Related: Who are the best young fighters in MMA today?

Junior dos Santos

Reach: 77″

Stance: Orthodox

Signature Punch: Overhand Right

Standout Boxing Moment: Flattening Cain Velasquez within the opening minute to win the UFC heavyweight title back in 2011.

In his prime, there were few who could deny that JDS possessed perhaps the cleanest MMA boxing technique around. Every jab, straight, uppercut, and overhand was consistently thrown with perfect precision and efficiency.

While everyone remembers his knockouts of Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum, drawn-out battles with the likes of Stipe Miocic and Mark Hunt displayed Junior’s timing and distance control to their fullest.

For us, it’s dos Santos’ ability to make reads, set traps, and lead the opposing fighter onto his best punches that stick out as his standout skills. It’s all well and good having power and crisp technique, but Junior dos Santos augments his toolbox with an excellent understanding of striking. An elite-talent in every sense of the word.

Junior dos Santos has been cited as one of best boxers in MMA.
The former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos is known for his textbook boxing technique.
Photo credit: WikiMediaCommons

Israel Adesanya

Reach: 80″

Stance: Orthodox

Signature Punch: Jab

Standout Boxing Moment: Countering Robert Whittaker with a right-hook TKO to take home the UFC middleweight title.

Though a pure kickboxer at his core, Israel Adesanya is without a doubt one of the 10 best boxers in the sport of mixed martial arts right now – mixing perfect technique with a genius-level understanding of the intricacies of movement and pacing.

A master of several fighting arts, no matter which discipline it is that he decides to dip into, Adesanya combines fluid martial arts technique with devastating results. Now learning the arts of both wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at an astonishing rate, Israel is looking more and more like the complete package with each passing bout.

A world champion at middleweight, The Last Stylebender is at a point where he must be considered among the sport’s pound-for-pound best. And while his kicks are no doubt a bit part of his success, his prowess with his hands should not be underestimated.

Jorge Masvidal

Reach: 74″

Stance: Orthodox

Signature Punch: Short Left-Hook

Standout Boxing Moment: Stunning the home-crowd by viciously knocking Darren Till unconscious after a lengthy hiatus from the sport.

As well rounded as any fighter to ever lace up gloves, Jorge Masvidal’s boxing skills have been undeniably elite for years now. His ‘resurrection’, as he calls it, has indeed seen him adopt a more heavy-handed style, as a result of his growing suitability for the 170lb weight-class.

Undoubtedly one of the best boxers in MMA today, it’s his fluidity and shot selection that stands as Jorge’s greatest tools in both the martial arts and the boxing department. Lethal with short shots upon exiting the clinch, Masvidal boxes like a man who has seen and done it all.

A product of his experience and uncoachable killer instincts, Dan Lambert has slowly sculpted Gamebred into not just one of the best MMA boxers in the sport, but into one of the most well-rounded fighters alive (1).

Nick Diaz

Reach: 76″

Stance: Southpaw

Signature Punch: Lead Body-Hook

Standout Boxing Moment: Beating down and dominating the former champion BJ Penn on points through volume, pressure, and constant variation.

As the owner of perhaps the most distinctive style of MMA boxing on this list, the older of the two Diaz brothers, in many ways, owes his great boxing to his wide range of world-class training partners – including Andre Ward, Joe Schilling, and, of course, his brother Nate Diaz.

Playing the stamina game as few others can, Nick will gradually up his tempo and the power behind his punches as the fight goes on.

When his opponent is suitably fatigued, that’s when the combos begin flying. Mixing in devastating body punches as he grows in confidence, there’s an understated beauty to Diaz’s game in the striking range once he gets going. A great boxer for MMA by any measurement. (2)

Conor McGregor

Reach: 74″

Stance: Southpaw

Signature Punch: Left Straight

Standout Boxing Moment: Knocking out José Aldo with a picture-perfect counter left to earn the UFC featherweight title and the fastest championship finish in promotional history.

Conor McGregor is without a doubt one of the finest UFC boxers we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Though his MMA game is rounded out with a number of feints and flashy kicks, his primary concern is getting you within reach of that left-hand shot.

Stepping into the ring to fight the legendary Floyd Mayweather in 2017 saw the Irishman prove himself to be more than competent when left with just his hands to aid him.

Constant movement, feints, and misdirection is the name of the game with it comes to fights that Notorious ends up winning. As far as a straight striking matchup is concerned, when Conor’s gas-tank is full, he has been able to enjoy a huge level of success – finding his mark with that left hand on virtually all of his opponents.

Related: More about Conor McGregor here.

Anderson Silva

Reach: 77.5″

Stance: Southpaw

Signature Punch: Stepback Counter

Standout Boxing Moment: Making Forest Griffin punch air before shutting his lights out with a short, exceptionally-timed counter straight.

Though well-versed as both a muay thai fighter and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt, Silva’s hands have been responsible for some of his best fight moments inside the octagon. Coupled with his masterful head movement and distance management, it’s the counters of The Spider that have caused many to call him the most lethal finisher in MMA history. (3)

The fighting style of Silva was so heavily predicated on the idea of not leading the dance that indeed, some of his title-defenses boiled down to hugely uneventful staring contests. But it was the fear of his masterful countering that caused that to be so.

Sure, his chin (and later his leg) eventually gave out, but for a list like this, it’s hard to look past the long-time UFC middleweight king.

Anderson Silva measures up against Thales Leites at UFC 97.
Anderson Silva’s middleweight title-reign was among the most dominant runs in UFC history.
Photo credit: WikiMediaCommons

Who Is The Best Boxer In MMA?

There isn’t ever going to be one single answer that will please people on both sides. Deciding upon the finest boxer within the sport of mixed martial arts will often come down to personal preference. Do you prefer the slick countering-skills of an Anderson Silva or a Conor McGregor? Or are you more attracted to the textbook techniques and fluidity displayed in fights by the likes of Nick Diaz or Junior dos Santos?

Though several regulars within the ‘boxers vs. MMA’ debate have often scoffed at the very notion that an MMA fighter could possess strong pugilistic skills, the seven fighters listed above do a good job at proving that the gap between the two sports has never been closer.

On that note, be sure to check out our comprehensive report on the earnings of fighters within professional boxing for a better idea of how things are, at present.

Honorable Mentions

Narrowing a list like this down to five names was an incredibly tough task. With that being the case, here are a number of excellent MMA boxers around the world who didn’t make the cut; Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Nate Diaz, Calvin Kattar, TJ Dillashaw, Jon Jones, Alistair Overeem, Eddie Alvarez, Georges St Pierre, Holly Holm, Sergei Kharitonov, Alexander Gustafsson, Amanda Nunes, Dominick Cruz.

FAQ’s

Do boxers do well in MMA?

Historically speaking, pro boxers in MMA haven’t enjoyed a lot of success without adequate preparation beforehand. The differences between the two sports have been made clear as day thanks to some standout instances of overly-confident boxers that did not fully respect the multi-faceted world they were entering.

Do boxers earn more than MMA fighters?

Given that MMA is still one of the world’s younger combat sports, boxing, on average, still stands as a more lucrative pathway towards financial stability. Mid-tier fighters in boxing generally do a lot better than any other fighting form, whereas, in MMA, chances are you’ll have to be among the best in the world to demand a salary that is comparative to a fighter at the pinnacle of boxing.

Who has the fastest hands in UFC?

Though certainly a topic worthy of deep debate and discussion, in terms of sheer speed and efficiency of movement, the former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt likely has the fastest hands in the UFC today. His clean technique has seen him score huge wins over the likes of Dominick Cruz, Raphael Assuncao, and Takeya Mizugaki, leaving his name right in the mix as far as the best boxer in UFC is concerned.

Sources

  1. https://www.boxingdaily.com/boxing-news/exclusive-att-owner-dan-lambert-gives-masvidal-better-chance-against-canelo-than-mcgregor-against-mayweather/
  2. https://lawrencekenshin.com/a-history-breakdown-for-nick-diaz-explains-boxing-for-mma/
  3. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1186325-anderson-silva-5-interesting-facts-about-the-ufc-champion

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