Boxing has been the premier western striking martial art for centuries and is one of the four foundational pillars of mixed martial arts. While pure boxing skills are not enough to succeed in the cage, combined with the necessary elements from other disciplines, boxing skills are deadly.
The best boxers in MMA manage to translate their skills from the ring into the octagon with great efficiency.
MMA is a very different sport from boxing, but all the fighters on this list have been chosen as the best who box under MMA rules. More fighters have great punching in MMA, but the ones included here have the most recognizable pugilist fighting style. However, all of them are complete mixed martial artists.
Here are my top 10 best boxers in MMA, listed in no particular order.
The former UFC bantamweight champion, Peter Yan, started his martial arts career as a boxer. For the 8 years he trained and competed in the ring, the Russian became a master of the sport and won many tournaments.
In MMA, he utilizes a simplistic boxing style with a high and tight guard. He uses many slick head movements and short but powerful punching combinations. The Russian has excellent wrestling and dangerous kicks, but it’s his hands that set up all the rest of
Yan won the bantamweight title with a flawless performance against the legend Jose Aldo. Still, he lost it to Aljamain Sterling due to a controversial disqualification.
Nate Diaz may have held the record for most submissions in the UFC at one point, but he often relies on his boxing to win. The Diaz brothers have worked with boxing coach Richard Perez for his entire career.
They have developed a very recognizable fighting style. Nate’s technique may appear sloppy at first. Still, he is a master at using his long hands to keep opponents at the end of his patented one-two combos while staying just outside of danger.
Nate’s good boxing-style jab puts a lot of weight on the front leg, which many fighters took advantage of by low-kicking
Nate had one of the windiest roads to stardom in the UFC, but his in-fight middle fingers and true gangster attitude would have never shined if not for his high-level boxing and BJJ skills.
The older Diaz brother also showcased very proficient boxing in the octagon, but with a different flavor. Where Nate preferred to use his lanky stature and keep opponents at range, Nick overwhelmed them with unrelenting pressure and volume.
He doesn’t throw strikes with much power, but his otherworldly cardio lets him punch at a pace that no one can match. Alternating head and body punches at mid-range, Nick Diaz punches until the opponent is hurt. He only picks the pace and intensity until the job is done.
Despite his lackluster UFC tenure, a prime Nick Diaz in Strikeforce was one of the best fighters on the planet.
Moving on to another pair of teammates, we will first look at New England Cartel’s Rob Font. A pure boxer’s best weapon is his jab, and few, if any, in MMA can match Rob Font in that department.
The UFC bantamweight contender is one of the most proficient boxers in the UFC despite not having a boxing background. If anything, Font started martial arts relatively late in life but found massive success with his slick boxing combos set up by his jab.
The other representative of the New England Cartel team is Calvin Kattar. Despite starting as a wrestler in his youth, Kattar now possesses some of the best hands in MMA. His dynamic striking style highlights his perfect straight shots, especially the rear cross.
Like Font, Kattar works behind his jab and builds on it as the fight progresses. He uses his length and has some of the prettiest striking in MMA, but he is no one-trick pony and has a well-rounded skillset.
Calvin is currently a top 5 featherweight in the UFC and is working his way into the title picture. But regardless of if he wins or loses, he is always a delight to watch for striking fans, and his last 3 fights all received Fight of the Night honors.
Junior Dos Santos was as lethal a heavyweight as there has been in his prime. Cigano also started training in martial arts late, and he hadn’t touched boxing before the age of 22. But it turned out he had an affinity for it, and in just a few short years, he was one of the fiercest boxers in MMA.
He had extremely fast and fluid hands for a heavyweight, coupled with vicious power. Once his opponents hurt, Dos Santos started throwing combinations that any world-class boxer would appreciate.
Junior Dos Santos is still fighting but has been steeply declining in his last fights. But he did become a UFC champion and defended the strap once. He also holds the record for the longest heavyweight winning streak in the UFC with 9.
No one in MMA comes even close to the boxing accolades that Holy Holm has. The Preachers’ daughter is regarded as one of the greatest female welterweight boxers of all time and was named Fighter of the Year in 2005 and 2006 by the Ring Magazine.
She won every available boxing title, and that was before she even stepped into MMA.
Her 2015 knockout of Ronda Rousey is considered one of the greatest MMA moments. Holm is the only male or female fighter to hold major titles in boxing and MMA, and it’s unlikely that we will see another fighter double this feat any time soon.
Holm does not rely solely on her hands in the cage, and her kicks have brought her a lot more success. But as the only accomplished boxer to reach the heights of MMA, we couldn’t leave her off this list.
A guy that must be on every list mentioning boxers in MMA but rarely makes the cut is Frankie Edgar. Frankie uses a modified peek-a-boo stance that is perfect for his shorter stature, just like the classic peek-a-boo stance was tailor-made for Mike Tyson.
Edgar relies on fast footwork to get in and out of range and to create angles. His economic head movement to slip incoming punches while throwing his own is also something many high-level boxers do.
The former UFC lightweight champion is also an expert on the ground, both as a wrestler and as a submission artist, so his boxing does not always get the credit it deserves.
The Answer has had a truly legendary career in the UFC and is a certain hall of famer. He holds significant records, like the longest fight time in the UFC, and is tied for the most Fight of the Night awards with 8.
Max Holloways’ complete shutout of Kalvin Kattar in 2021 was declared the beatdown of the year. As Max was effortlessly dodging the punches of Kattar, he shouted, “I’m the best boxer in the UFC,” instantly forcing the creation of a dozen articles just like this one.
There is undoubtedly some truth to his claim. As Max set most of the UFC’s single-fight records in this fight alone, including total strikes landed and attempted and significant strikes landed and attempted.
Max is a lanky precision and volume puncher who overwhelms the opposition with sheer volume and accuracy. He is a master at keeping his preferred range and striking from advantageous angles.
His fights against Kattar, Brian Ortega, and Jose Aldo are prime examples of how to use solid boxing in MMA. You cannot dislike Max Hollway as a true legend of the sport and an overall great guy.
Dustin Poirier entered the UFC as a sloppy and emotional fighter but has evolved into one of the finest strikers in the sport. Dustin is a southpaw with vicious power in both hands and a killer instinct.
Once in a firefight, Dustin sometimes decreases the technical aspect in favor of a more brawling style. Still, his ability to duck under strikes in the pocket and his odd high elbow guard combined with shoulder rolls let him get out on top of most exchanges he is in.
Another staple of his striking style is his switch-hitting and relentless pressure once his opponents show vulnerability.
It’s hard to determine who the best boxer in the UFC is, and we’ve undoubtedly left out some deserving entries. Still, the 10 fighters on the list are the best pugilists in an MMA contest. And they may also be the guys with the best chances in a switch under the Queensbury rules of combat used in boxing.