The UFC is home to fighters with a vast array of skills and backgrounds, from BJJ black belts, to former Olympic Champions, the talent pool of the UFC is incredibly large.
Today though, we’re going to be paying special attention to fighters that have, and continue to display a boxing skill set that’s a cut above the rest.
Let’s get to it.
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Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor has displayed artistry inside the cage, on more than one occasion. Take for example, his Featherweight title fight against former king-pin José Aldo, who at the time hadn’t been defeated for close to 10 years.
Although the fight was short (13 seconds), McGregor displayed great technique and power that ultimately won him his first of two titles. During the first (and only) exchange, both men threw a loaded left hook that landed. The key difference here was movement.
Aldo, being the aggressor rushed McGregor, who, displaying a keen eye for distance, slid back. This in turn resulted in Aldo’s momentum falling into the path of a well-placed left hand, while his own hook grazed McGregor’s face.
Although this was a short-lived exchange, it was a clear demonstration of McGregor’s accuracy, ability to keep the distance, and sheer power in his left hand.
While many accuse McGregor of being a ‘one trick pony’, his boxing skills were again on display against the then UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez. This fight though, lasted until the second round, where again, McGregor’s’ striking ability overwhelmed Alvarez.
Throughout the two rounds, McGregor showed an incredible ability to slip Alvarez’s strikes and answer them with a combination of his own. This in turn is what handed him the victory, knocking Alvarez down with a stunning combination and finishing him on the ground.
Although McGregor utilizes a somewhat unorthodox karate-like stance, his boxing knowledge and capabilities have seen him through many victories, even going 10-rounds with one of the greatest ever – Floyd Mayweather.
Although Diaz hasn’t fought since his decision loss (which has since been overturned) to Anderson Silva in 2015, he is still a part of the UFC roster and a fan favourite around the globe.
Unlike most of the other fighters to feature in our list, Nick Diaz has dabbled in professional boxing and possesses a record of 1-0. For a while, Diaz’s striking coach was former WBC Featherweight and WBA Bantamweight Champion Luisito Espinosa, which most likely heavily contributed to Diaz’s success in the striking department.
One of Diaz’s main assets’ is his gas tank. He competes in up to 10 triathlons a year and is known to run staggering distances on a daily basis. This in turn has allowed his style to be based on high output, often dropping both hands to entice his opponent in, then letting flow a barrage of strikes. This incredible level of cardiovascular endurance allows him to maintain this pace through the fight, whether it is 3 or 5 rounds.
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Admittedly, Garbrandt is coming off back-to-back losses against the current UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw. Despite this, there’s no denying he has some of the deadliest hands in the UFC. Plus, we’ll soon get to see how he recovers from back-to-back defeats in March, when he faces Pedro Munhoz.
One of Garbrandt’s most notable performances was his title fight against the UFC Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz. Cruz is known to be elusive inside the cage, with very few people able to land anything clean on him. This persona of elusiveness was shattered when he faced Garbrandt, whose hand-speed and accuracy overwhelmed the ‘then’ champion.
In this fight, not only did Garbrandt show incredible technique with his hands, he demonstrated impeccable head movement that is rarely seen in the UFC, ducking and slipping a ton of combinations thrown by Cruz.
Throughout the fight, Garbrandt dropped Cruz a number of times, but unfortunately never got the finish. Still though, the decision was unanimous and the fight remains one of the best displays of technique and boxing in the UFC almost 2 years later.
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While Gustafsson has not yet wrapped a championship belt around his waist, it’s surely a matter of time. Gustasson first started boxing when he was 10-years old and became junior national champion of Sweden when he was a teenager. His boxing career looked to have promise, however he soon signed with the UFC, at just 22 years old.
Since then, his career has had some highs and lows, but his boxing pedigree has helped him through a number of battles, one of which against the infamous Jon Jones.
Although losing that fight (somewhat controversially), Gustafsson displayed far superior boxing knowledge and capabilities, quickly finding a home for his jab in the first round. He continued to have success with his hands throughout the fight, landing a few flush uppercuts, however ended up losing via decision.
His fight against UFC veteran Glover Texeira in 2017 was another beautiful display of boxing technique, where again, he found a home for his jab early in the fight. He continued to back up his jab with combinations, knocking Texeira down multiple times and ultimately finishing him in the 5th round via TKO.
One of Gustafsson’s primary assets is his build. He’s tall, somewhat lanky and is able to keep out of his opponents’ range with relative ease. He rarely fights in the pocket, however when he does, he’s able to utilize his boxing technique to gain the upper hand.
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For many people, Anderson Silva is deemed one of, if not the greatest, of all time. At the ripe old age of 43, he’s still competing against top tier fighters, relying on his insanely high fight IQ and skill-set to see him through.
What’s more, Silva was one of the first fighters in the UFC to try and cross over into boxing. During his reign as champion he was hoping for a professional match against Roy Jones Jr. Although unsuccessful in his attempt, it’s a clear demonstration of his belief in his boxing capabilities.
His professional boxing record stands at 1-1. While that may not sound impressive, for an MMA practitioner to box with only a handful of their techniques, and win, is nothing less than incredible.
In terms of style, Silva is an enigma. There’s no denying that he has a well rounded skill set, but when he lets his hands fly, his opponents tend to fall. What’s even more impressive is his ability to incorporate knee strikes alongside his boxing. He often follows up a right hand with a knee as his opponent drops their head.
This has resulted in numerous wins for Silva, all of which stem from his profound understanding of boxing.
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Max Holloway is the current UFC Featherweight Champion and is running a 13-fight winning streak, having not lost since facing Conor McGregor in 2013. What makes Holloway’s UFC performances more impressive is his age. He was the youngest fighter to ever sign with the UFC, stepping in as an injury replacement at the age of 20-years old and by the time he was 25, had claimed the interim belt.
Throughout Holloway’s career, his work rate and high volume style has seen him defeat some of the greatest in the Featherweight division. One such victory was against Jose Aldo, where Holloway claims to have been influenced by Lomachenko’s high work rate style and completely overwhelmed the former champ.
Holloway’s most recent fight against Brian Ortega in December 2018 was another clear display of his striking capabilities, forcing the fight to stop in the 4th round by doctor’s decision. Ortega himself was coming off an impressive win over veteran Frankie Edgar, being the first person to ever finish Edgar, and with an incredibly uppercut at that.
That being said, throughout the Holloway v Ortega fight, it was easy to see that Holloway’s striking game is a cut above the rest. Throughout the fight, Holloway broke the UFC record for the most significant strikes ever landed in both a single round, and an entire fight. His technical abilities paired with his relentless work rate easily make Max one of the best boxers in the UFC.
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Amanda Nunes is the first woman in the UFC to hold two belts simultaneously in different divisions, and only the 3rd person ever to do it. Her most recent appearance at UFC 232 saw her defeat Cris Cyborg, one of the most dominant fighters ever in women’s MMA.
Since winning, she has been dubbed the greatest ever women’s MMA fighter and is currently ranked number 8 in the official UFC pound-for-pound ranking (should be higher in my opinion).
Her first taste of martial arts and combat sports was at the age of 4, when she took up Karate. By the age of 16, she had a taste for combat and started her journey in boxing. At the age of 22, she made her professional MMA debut for Strikeforce, where she won by knockout after just 14-seconds.
Fast-forward 8 years, Nunes already holds one UFC belt and faced the current UFC 145-pound champion – Cyborg. Coming into the fight, Nunes was the massive underdog, with very few people believing she could handle the pace and power associated with Cyborg.
This perception was shattered within 51-seconds.
During this 51-second period, Nunes displayed relentless power, accuracy and pressure. Her hands were like bombs, dropping on Cyborg like no one had ever done before. She worked combinations beautifully, dropping Cyborg once, and then again for the finish with an overhand right. If you haven’t watched the fight, I highly recommend you do so as it’s a fantastic demonstration of a world-class champion.
Thanks for taking the time to read this list of the best boxers in the UFC.
Who do you think has the deadliest hands in the UFC?
James is a martial arts fanatic who became National Judo Champion at the age of 12 and a member of the Great British Judo Team, competing at an international level. Since then, James has studied various different disciplines such as BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing and MMA. He spends his time blogging about different martial arts on his website MMAStation.com and obsessing over the UFC