A few weeks back, mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor said he would like to see a boxer get into the octagon, which made me start to think of possible names from boxing who can excel in MMA.
From what I have observed since its infancy years, the best MMA fighters are usually stocky in built, and should have powerful upper bodies so they can mount effective defense against take downs or be effective when fighting on the ground. Lanky MMA fighters who attained superstar status are in fact rare, with Jon Jones being one of them.
So the boxers who want to excel in the Octagon should also have a powerful built and good upper body strength; so fighters who are more of the “finesse” type like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward, among others, may not make it big in MMA. Mayweather and Ward also happen to be counterpunches.
So let me list down three boxers who have a chance to excel in MMA, starting with fighters from the lower weight divisions. Please note that the fighters I have on the list are the ones that I have followed closely because I have written much about them in my columns.
Canelo Alvarez—at 5’9” and now fighting at middleweight (160 pounds), Alvarez almost looks like an MMA fighter. Besides possessing fearsome punching power, Alvarez has a well-built upper body that can serve him right in the octagon provided he be trained well in the other facets of mixed martial arts like grappling and wrestling. He can also add another 11 pounds so he can excel in MMA’s welterweight division, which has a limit of 171 pounds.
Looking at how Alvarez punches, he sometimes does it like an MMA fighter: with a wide stance and stepping forward to close the distance. His boxing record is 49-1-2 with 34 KOs.
Sergei Kovalev—like Alvarez, Kovalev is also strong that can make him excel in the octagon. And he has frightening knockout power delivered usually from a wide stance, which is essential in MMA to defend against takedowns. And Russians are known to be one of the best-conditioned combat athletes in the world.
Kovalev’s last fight was at super middleweight (168 pounds) that is only three pounds short of the 171-pound limit for MMA’s welterweight division. His boxing record is 30-2-1 with 26 KOs.
Anthony Joshua—at 6’6” and weighing almost 260 pounds in his last fight, Joshua’s entry into MMA could be scary, provided he equips himself with the other skills necessary to excel in the octagon. Joshua’s huge frame, along with MMA skills besides striking, would be enough to make him competitive in the heavyweight division.
Joshua’s boxing record is 20-0 with 20 KOs, which will make him a feared hand striker in MMA. And he can take a punch! Just look at how he took the best shots of Wladimir Klitschko from whom he took the IBF and WBA world heavyweight belts.
My thesis is only boxers who have good punching power and strong built can excel in MMA. That means boxers who lack punching power and rely more on skills to win fights may fare badly in the octagon. Among these boxers besides Mayweather and Ward are super welterweight (154 pounds) Erislandy Lara and welterweight (147 pounds) Timothy Bradley, who are all counter punchers.
I agree with the view that MMA is closer to street fighting than boxing and boxers who are punchers can finish a street fight more quickly compared to a boxer (or one who relies largely on skills).
For boxers relying more in skills to win in MMA, they must invest hundreds of hours to acquire a high level of grappling and maybe jiu-jitsu skills. That’s another matter worth discussing.