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The 5 Best Boxers In MMA

We all know who the greatest overall MMA fighters are, but here’s nothing quite like watching one of the best boxers in MMA – one who is particularly skilled when it comes to throwing down in those 4oz gloves.

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 our the very best boxer in UFC.

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.

Perhaps the most famous example of a boxing-to-MMA transition gone wrong came when the legendary middleweight world champion boxer James Toney decided to test the UFC’s waters back in 2010. Toney seemed adamant that his years within his own discipline would be enough to see him past some low-level MMA boxer and their comparatively poor technique. (1)

Unfortunately for him, his confidence in his own version of boxers MMA was misplaced, and that MMA fighter just so happened to be the five-time UFC champion Randy Couture. On the night his boxing skills mattered for nothing – as he was swiftly taken down and battered into submission in the first round.

Other well-known examples include Art Jimmerson’s infamous one-gloved attempt at winning gold at UFC 1 and more successfully, Ray Mercer’s one-punch knockout of the former UFC champion Tim Sylvia.

The 5 All-Time Best Boxers In MMA

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. That change-up left many of us in shock but now, Jorge can certainly count himself among the elite of the elite in the stacked welterweight division.

Undoubtedly one of the best boxers in MMA today, it’s his fluidity and shot selection that stands as Jorge’s greatest tools in 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. (2)

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. These include Andre Ward, Joe Schilling, and, of course, his brother Nate Diaz.

With a style that is built around overwhelming volume, Diaz is something more akin to a pressure cooker than a regular fighter. 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. (3)

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.

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.

When he was in his prime, many people placed the former heavyweight king Junior dos Santos as the single best boxing specialist in the sport. At the time, there were few who could deny that JDS possessed perhaps the cleanest boxing technique around. Every jab, straight, uppercut, and overhand was consistently thrown with perfect precision and efficiency.

And make no mistake, he could find that off-switch in one shot if it was available. He also had the skill-set needed to go to war with some of the greatest of his era. 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

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 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 saw the Irishman prove himself to be more than competent when left with just his hands to aid him. Though defeated by way of TKO, McGregor came out of that boxing match with his name now known to the masses around the world. Along with that, few would ever doubt his merits as a legitimate pugilist after he managed to make a good account of himself against perhaps the greatest pure boxer of all-time.

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.

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, Anderson 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. (4)

The fighting style of Anderson 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.

At his best, it was nearly impossible for Silva’s opponents to avoid catching a hard counter upon closing the distance during their fights. Sure, his chin (and later his leg) eventually gave out, but in terms of seeking out the finest approach to boxing within this one combat sport, 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 everyone. 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?

All of the fighters are undoubtedly great. The athlete that you yourself single out will likely boil down to your own preference and taste.

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.

Though the boxers vs. MMA fighters salary gap is quite sizeable at this moment in time, as the presence of MMA continues to grow, we will likely begin to see a more level playing field as time goes on.

On that note, be sure to check out our comprehensive breakdown of 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 who didn’t make the cut; Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Nate Diaz, Calvin Kattar, Israel Adesanya, TJ Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt, Jon Jones, Alistair Overeem, Eddie Alvarez, Georges St Pierre, Holly Holm, Sergei Kharitonov, Alexander Gustafsson, Amanda Nunes, Dominick Cruz.

FAQ’s

Is UFC harder than boxing?

It’s very unfair to call one sport more difficult than another, but with that said, MMA does require a strong knowledge of a wide variety of incredibly different skillsets. On top of that, there are far more ways one can lose an MMA bout than there are in the more rigidly contested competition found in 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.

Is UFC more popular than boxing?

Right now, the two sports are quite close in terms of their global viewership. Indeed, boxing is a far more lucrative career path at this point in time, but with the emergence of huge superstars such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Khabib Nurmagomedov in recent years, the gap – in terms of pay-per-view performance – has never been narrower.

Sources

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Spg2vn-XM
  2. https://www.boxingdaily.com/boxing-news/exclusive-att-owner-dan-lambert-gives-masvidal-better-chance-against-canelo-than-mcgregor-against-mayweather/
  3. https://lawrencekenshin.com/a-history-breakdown-for-nick-diaz-explains-boxing-for-mma/
  4. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1186325-anderson-silva-5-interesting-facts-about-the-ufc-champion

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