Alistair Overeem practicing boxing

Best Boxers in MMA

Boxing is one of the main martial arts in MMA. Some MMA fighters were boxers before they transitioned to MMA, whereas, others started with a different martial art. Today, I will explain who the best boxers are in MMA.

Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Francis Ngannou, Connor McGregor, Anthony Hamilton, Josh Barnett (retired), and Jack Shore are the best boxers in MMA. These MMA fighters have a high significant strike accuracy and are predominantly boxers. 

In this article, I will explain who the best boxer is in MMA if a boxer can beat an MMA fighter and whether MMA is better than boxing. Let’s dive in.

Who Is the Best Boxer in MMA 

To identify who is the best boxer in MMA it’s necessary to disregard the success they have had in MMA due to other types of attacks such as grappling, and kicks. I’ve narrowed down the list of the best boxers to just one, here’s who the best boxer in MMA is.

Max Holloway is considered the best boxer in MMA, according to former light heavyweight and middleweight contender Chael Sonnen. Max Holloway very rarely throws kicks and has the most total significant strikes landed in the UFC.

Max Holloway starts every attack with a jab and then follows with a cross, and sometimes he will punch the body. Other fighters do have very good hands, but they predominantly use other strikes such as leg kicks, elbows, and knees. To understand this point further let’s look at the stats for significant strike accuracy:

Fighters nameSignificant Strike accuracy
Alistair Overeem74.30%
Tatiana Suarez65.80%
Anthony Hamilton65.60%
Sean O’Malley62.80%
Josh Barnett61.50%
Gunnar Nelson60.40%
Justin Gaethje60.10%
Jack Shore59.90%
Khamzat Chimaev59.80%
Montel Jackson59.40%

(source)

It’s important to note that with boxing it only takes on significant strike to end a fight. Therefore, accuracy is not the only determining factor. This is the reason that Francis Ngannou made the list. He may not necessarily have the best accuracy but his punches are so powerful that if he lands it’s almost guaranteed the fight will be over.

Of this list of the most accurate strikers, some of the fighters use a lot of kicks. Therefore, this list needs to be narrowed down.

Alistair Overeem is primarily a kickboxer. He has previously fought in many kickboxing tournaments. And although his boxing is good, he is not predominantly a boxer. On this list, the fighters who are predominantly boxers are:

  • Anthony Hamilton – has a wrestling background and rarely throws kicks
  • Josh Barnett – big heavyweight, rarely throws kicks
  • Jack Shore – excellent ground game

Jack Shore is a bit different, in almost all of his fights he wrestles and manages to get his opponents to the ground. There his ground game is incredibly good and he’s able to keep his opponents trapped and eventually submit them. Therefore, it can’t be said whether he’s predominantly a striker.

Therefore, a shortlist of the best boxers in MMA becomes:

  • Max Holloway
  • Frankie Edgar
  • Francis Ngannou
  • Connor McGregor
  • Anthony Hamilton
  • Josh Barnett
  • Jack Shore

To get a clear picture, another fight metric to look at is significant strike defense. This shows how good a fighter is at defensive boxing. Here’s a table that shows which fighters have the best significant strike defense:

Fighters nameSignificant Strike accuracy
Miles John73.40%
Georges St-Pierre73.10%
Phil Davis72.30%
Ryan Bader71.80%
Danielle Taylor71.70%
Mara Romero Borella71.20%
Amanda Ribas70.40%
Vaughan Lee70.20%
Luigi Fioravanti69.90%

None of these fighters are on the list of MMA fighters who also have a high significant strike accuracy. Therefore, this doesn’t move any of these fighters into the best boxers in MMA. It’s interesting to note that:

  • Miles John – throws a lot of kicks
  • Georges St Pierre – throws a lot of kicks
  • Phil Davis – throws a lot of kicks
  • Ryan Bader – doesn’t throw many kicks – predominantly a wrestler/boxer
  • Danielle Taylor – started with boxing – doesn’t throw many kicks
  • Mara Romero Borella – started with judo
  • Amanda Ribas – predominantly a grappler but also very good at Muay Thai
  • Vaughan Lee – Predominantly a kickboxer
  • Luigi Fiovaranti – well rounded, and throws various strikes – not just a boxer

Of these, two names stand out Ryan Bader, and Danielle Taylor. Both are boxing heavy fighters so could be considered the best defensive boxers in MMA.

Is MMA Better Than Boxing

Boxing has been around a lot longer than MMA. Each martial art has advantages and disadvantages. So, which is better MMA or boxing?

Overall MMA is not better than boxing. MMA is better for self-defense because it requires both striking, ground fighting, and clinch which cover all aspects of a fight. Whereas, boxing only covers striking. Boxing though has a significantly lower rate of injury than MMA.

I recently looked at two comprehensive scientific studies that analyzed the rate of injury in both sports and compiled it into some helpful tables. You can see them in this article about which sport is more dangerous MMA or boxing.

Can a Boxer Beat a UFC Fighter

A very interesting question in martial arts is which style would win against which style. As well as, how would a fighter who is predominantly good in martial arts fare against an MMA fighter who is well rounded. Here’s a summary of whether a boxer can beat a UFC fighter.

In general, a boxer can beat a UFC fighter. But, in general, a UFC will have superior skill in grappling and ground fighting. Therefore, if the fight goes to the ground or ends up in the clinch, and UFC fighter will generally win. If it’s a boxing-only match a boxer is favored.

The reason is a boxer is more specialized. A recent example is the fight between Connor McGregor (UFC) and Floyd Mayweather (Boxing). Floyd Mayweather is considered one of the best boxers of all time, has a very long record, and remains undefeated. 

It was a close fight, but it appeared Floyd started to take control in later rounds, and eventually won by TKO. If a boxer transitions to MMA, without any MMA experience generally they will lose very quickly. Provided the MMA fighter can get to the clinch without getting punched.

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