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Monday, 27 August 2012 04:00

Junior dos Santos and MMA's Top Boxers

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In its early days, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was primitive and little more then barbaric, bare-knuckle tough guy competitions. However, MMA has evolved into a well-respected combat sport.

Boxing fans have been endeared to hand-to-hand, toe-to-toe combat and are accustomed to seeing pugilism at the highest levels. Consequently, they have difficulty appreciating MMA because the sport's combatants woefully lack the level of pugilistic prowess showcased by elite professional boxers.

MMA involves kicks, grappling and forms of wrestling in addition to their own unpolished, poor man's version of boxing.

But unlike boxers, MMA fighters have to prepare for many disciplines as their sport is a combination of various combat sports including Sambo, Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Wrestling. Pugilists, on the other hand, only have to prepare for only one discipline - boxing.

Essentially, a top boxer is a "grand master" at stand-up fighting while his peer in mixed martial arts must attempt to be a "jack of all trades."

But during the past five years, even some of MMA's most ardent critics have come to accept MMA as a legitimate combat sport that requires a core skill set across several disciplines.

Boxing great Bernard Hopkins, who once considered MMA "Gay Porn," has seemingly changed his mind about the sport as well . He not only attended a UFC event in his hometown of Philadelphia last summer, he also helps fellow Philadelphian fighter and lightweight mixed martial artist Eddie Alvarez fine-tune his stand-up game on occasion.

Video: Hall of Fame Boxing Trainer Freddie Roach and lineal super middleweight champion Andre Ward discuss the differences between the stand-up game in boxing and mixed martial arts with MMA lengend Bas Rutten

Although MMA is still sometimes ridiculed by those in boxing, its fighters have made great strides in the stand-up department. And while their fighters' stand-up punching, defense, footwork and punching power pale in comparison to top boxers, several mixed martial artists are 'head and shoulders' above their MMA peers in their pugilistic proficiencies.

That stated, here's a list of today's top 5 boxers in MMA:

5: Nate Diaz (16-7, 3 KO, 11 Submissions/ 2 Decisions)
Nate and his brother Nick are two of the most popular MMA fighters on the planet. Both have very similar skill sets and are known for their crazy attitudes. Nate is a black belt in Jiu Jitsu under Cesar Gracie but is one of the rare breeds in the sport in that he prefers the stand-up game versus the ground game even with his specialty being in the ground game.  

  • Next Fight: Benson Henderson for the Lightweight Championship on FOX,
    December 8
Pictured: Nate Diaz
Courtesy Sherdog 


4: Nick Diaz (26-8, 13 KO, 8 Submissions/ 5 Decisions)
Nick is known as one of the "bad boys" of MMA. Like his brother Nate, he fights out of Cesar Gracie MMA, where he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Even though he is considered a ground specialist, he rarely uses it in combat. Diaz is most known for some of the craziest moments in MMA including an incident where he fought Joe Riggs twice in one night, once at UFC 57, and the other later that night in the hospital.

Pictured: Nick Diaz
Courtesy of Dave Mandel, Sherdog 


Aside from the antics, he has some of the best stand-up skills in the sport. Even though he is considered a ground specialist with his black belt in Jiu Jitsu, he rarely uses it in combat. He has great combinations and seems to be one of the only fighters who takes advantage of body punches.

The knock on his stand-up game is his head movement or lack thereof. He could obviously use some improvement in that area but Diaz and his brother's boxing skills are good enough to be considered some of the best in MMA.

Nick, who won his only pro boxing match to date in 2005, was allegedly very close to fighting boxers Fernando Vargas and Jeff Lacy but both deals fell through.

  • When will you next see him in action again?  Who knows? He is currently suspended until 2013 after a failed drug test for Marijuana earlier this year.

3: Eddie Alvarez: (23-3, 13 KO, 7 Submissions/ 3 Decisions)
Alvarez, a native of Philadelphia, fights out of the Bellator Fighting promotion. He made his name in Japan and dominated the MMA scene outside the UFC.

Pictured: Eddie Alvarez
Courtesy of Dave Mandel, Sherdog 


Alvarez is known for his explosive fast paced fighting style and has had 3 fights nominated for Fight of the Year honors (in 2008 against Tatsuya Kawajirri and Jochiem Hansen plus his 2011 title fight against Michael Chandler.) He is always improving his stand-up game and is one of the biggest reasons Bernard Hopkins has had such a change of heart on MMA.

  • Next Fight: Patricky Freire on October 12.

2: Anderson Silva (32-4; 19 KO/ 6 Submissions /7 Decisions)
Silva, like Nick Diaz, has fought as a pro boxer and sports a 1-1 record.

UFC's Middleweight Champion has the best head movement in the sport and fights in a very unpredictable style that nobody can seem to crack. Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort among others have all fallen victim to Silva's striking.

Pictured: Anderson Silva
Courtesy of Dave Mandel, Sherdog


Arguably the best showcase of boxing in the history of the sport was Silva's stand-up against Forrest Griffin. Silva dropped his hands and toyed with the former 205 champ knocking him out with a backwards stepping jab.

In 2009, Silva attempted to get a fight with boxing legend Roy Jones Jr, much to the dismay of Dana White.

  • Next Fight: TBD

1: Junior dos Santos (15-1, 11 KO/ 2 Submissions/ 2 Decisions)
Dos Santos, also Known as "Cigano," is UFC's Heavyweight Champion.

Dos Santos trains with world renowned boxing trainer Luiz Dorea who is one of the top trainers in all of Brazil. Junior has unbelievably quick hands for a man his size and puches with power. 

Pictured: Junior dos Santos
Courtesy of Dave Mandel, Sherdog


He captured the UFC heavyweight crown against Cain Velasquez live on Fox in one of the most viewed MMA fights of all time. He is greatly improving his stand-up game and recently stated if he could train full time in boxing, he could dethrone the Klitschko brothers and capture boxing's heavyweight crown.

  • Next Fight: UFC 155 in a rematch against Velasquez on December 29.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Georges St Pierre: Possesses an excellent jab
  • Frankie Edgar: Utilizes great footwork and has very fast hands

Video: Junior Dos Santos' Boxing, Jiu Jitsu and how he got the nickname

Main Photo Courtesy of Dave Mandel, Sherdog

Mark Weber

Born and raised in Philadelphia, I currently reside in South Jersey which is about 20 minutes away from Philly.

I'm a Communications major at Gloucester County College and lifelong fan of several sports, including Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing.

I fell in love with Boxing during the era of the little giants... Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, and Juan Manuel Marquez.