As two of the oldest spectator sports, Boxing and MMA are steeped in tradition that dates back to the ancient gladiators of lore. There will always be something intoxicating about watching two individuals fighting each other, trading blow for blow. Maybe it's our carnal instincts, maybe it's how we get a thrill and an adrenaline rush when we watch, not knowing what’s coming next. Whatever the reason may be, when we watch Boxing and MMA fights, we want a slug fest. We want to witness the big knockout. And because both boxers and MMA fighters have inflicted devastating punches, it begs to ask the question, who punches harder?
To try to establish a winner, we will look at three (3) different comparisons:
Top boxers and MMA fighters based on knockout percentage
Power output and punching power
Top fighters today
For each comparison, we will identify a "winner" before deciding the ultimate outcome.
Top Knockout Fighters
First, let's take a look at some of the most notable knockout artists of all-time in MMA and Boxing, respectively, based on their knockout percentage.
Honorary Heavy Hitters
Tyrone Sprong (K-1), Francis Ngannou (UFC), Badr Hari (K-1), Chuck Liddell (UFC), Wanderlei Silva (UFC), Alistair Overeem (K-1 & UFC)
George Foreman, Shannon Briggs, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier, Joe Lewis
Outcome (Based on Knockout Percentage): Boxing
Looking at knockout percentage alone, of the fighters listed above, boxers are able to knock out their opponents more frequently than MMA fighters. Does this translate to throwing the harder punches? Not necessarily. Boxers win via KO/TKO or a referee decision. In MMA fights, there is a third component to qualify a win: decisions via submissions. For this reason, MMA fighters have to spend a majority of their time learning and developing a ground game, which can take away time for strike training.
Power Output & Punching Power
Image Credit: ScrapDigest
Another way to analyze the hardest punching fighters, would be to look at the fighters in the top echelon of each sport today. For Boxing, that would be Deontay Wilder and for MMA, Francis Ngannou of the UFC.
While there may be plenty of debate amongst the fight community about who throws the hardest punch, currently the nod would go to Francis Ngannou.
Back in 2018, while still on the climb to the top of the UFC heavyweight division, Ngannou visited the UFC Performance Institute where he put his legendary punching power to the test to see how much force his overhand right and off-balance uppercut punches produced. The results were staggering. His overhand right registered an astonishing 129,161 Franklin (f) units while his off-balance uppercut registered 122,000 Franklin units (The Franklin is a measurement of human force taking into account both the power and energy within an impact). His speed power was measured to be 51.064 ft. lbs/sec which is equivalent to 92.84 HP, or the same as a compact-sized car. Both are still current World Records.
Note: He shattered the previous record of 114,000 units held by Tyron Sprong (K-1).
So how does Deontay Wilder’s punch fare in comparison? It's hard to say. While he has been recorded punching a bar room punching machine (left-handed), this is usually an inaccurate measure of true punching power. There are a lot of people who would love to know exactly how much power he brings in his devastating right hand, but we may never know as there is no recorded event of him striking a PowerKube.
Other fighters who, in their prime, could have been contenders for the hardest puncher of all-time are “Iron” Mike Tyson and Earnie Shavers.
Outcome (Based on Power Output and Punching Power): MMA
Looking at just pure punching power, the top two overall, highest-ever recorded punches were both thrown by mixed martial artists. Does this mean that MMA fighters are the harder punchers overall? We still can't make that claim.
Top Boxers Today: Mayweather, Jr. vs. McGregor
Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas | USA Today Sports
Some people like to debate who is the harder puncher between the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and one of the best KO artists from the UFC, Conor McGregor.
If we look at the overall outcome of the match-up, Boxing and Mayweather win. Mayweather was able to get a TKO over McGregor in the 10th round of the bout. The only question is, does this settle the debate? Not quite.
Most people would argue that the only way McGregor would have won the bout would have been if he tagged Mayweather with one of his devastating lefts and dropped Mayweather early on in the fight. However, there is a reason Mayweather has a perfect 50-0 record during his career: his ability to avoid the big hit from his opponents, demonstrating the true goal of Boxing: hit and not get hit.
Outcome (Based on Top Performers): Inconclusive
In this scenario, Mayweather is the better boxer. Had both of these men tested their punches on a PowerKube, the results would more than likely sway in favor of McGregor for the most powerful punch. McGregor has an impressive 81% of his fights coming via KO, while Mayweather, who has never really been known for his striking power, holds a 54% KO rate (including TKOs). Once again, looking solely at the top performers in each specialty, no clear winner can be established.
As far as who punches harder between boxers or MMA fighters, this is still left open to interpretation. Ultimately, it comes down to the fighters as individuals. More than likely the overall nod would have to go with boxers for overall pound-for-pound power. Punching is what they train, and punching is what they do. Many of the best MMA fighters of all-time were grapplers. In order to be the best all-around, too much of their fight has to focus on the ground game to be able to take on challengers from all martial arts disciplines. Boxers box and boxers punch, ultimately taking the crown of hardest punching fighters. But still, MMA fighters pack a powerful punch!
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts as to which combat fighters have the hardest throwing punches? Do you wish you had a devastating overhand like “Iron Mike”?
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