Yes, this is a website dedicated to boxing, but it would be remiss to not take notice when a man clocking in at 6’4” 250 starts clocking people out with punches that make you feel genuinely concerned for the receivers health and wellbeing—this man is MMA’s one and only, Francis “The Predator” Ngannou. In a video released of Ngannou at UFC’s official training facility, his punch was registered at 129,161 units—allegedly the hardest punch measured within the UFC. Dana White, UFC’s president, claims that this force is equivalent to a 12lb sledgehammer hitting you at full speed, dubbing Ngannou with the title of UFC’s hardest puncher.
Let’s disregard the fact that these “units” are a bit ambiguous in measurement, and that it is in the UFC’s self-serving interest to promote someone that looks like Ngannou as a monster puncher. Let’s instead talk about the punching in both boxing and MMA, starting with the whole reason we’re punching in the first place—knockouts. A quick Google search will tell you that Archie Moore has the most boxing knockouts in the sport’s history, with 131; to date, the most knockouts by a single fighter in MMA history is 12—tied between Vito Belfort and Derrick Lewis. These numbers may spark debate, as there is a myriad of factors that contribute to the amount of knockouts a fighter gets in their career, so for the sake of simplicity, we’ll look at an obvious difference between the sports—the gloves.
10 years ago, a video was uploaded to YouTube of a National Geographic segment analyzing the difference in force produced from three different punches: one with a boxing glove, one with an MMA glove, and one with a bare hand. The video does a good job of illustrating and debunking the assumption that more padding means more protection, the bottom line being: the difference between the force generated from a boxing glove punch and a MMA glove punch is negligible—only 4kg of force. So if the gloves aren’t to blame, how can the knockout record be so lopsided in numbers between the two sports?
The most obvious answer is that MMA allows for match conclusions by way of submission, resulting in a lower knockout rate than that of boxing. But a more exciting proposition is that, because boxers are trained exclusively to attack with a punch, they punch harder than their MMA counterparts. Admittedly, this data does not support the claim entirely, but there have been several studies – one by Johns Hopkins in 2006 and one by the University of Alberta in 2015 – that evidence boxers as more likely to sustain a concussion that involves a loss of consciousness. The 2006 study found that 11.6% of professional boxing matches ended in knockouts, compared to 6.4% of MMA matches.
The intention here is not to rehash the over exhausted debate of “Boxing vs. MMA”. The intent is to pose a more specific question, to leave you with some food for thought: who really packs the hardest punch, MMA’s Francis Ngannou or [insert your hardest hitting boxing heavyweight of choice here]?