UFC127 FightCard: BJ Penn, Rampage Jackson and the 10 Most Technical MMA Boxers
The site of a thunderous right hand on the jaw or the replay of a head spinning hook to the temple brings fans erupting from their seats creating a deafening sound of cheers and adoration for the victor.
The winner parades around the Octagon with their iron fist raised in the air proclaiming victory as their opponent is attended to by the ring side physician. This moment of domination draws praise from the fight fans and Knockout of the Night honors from the UFC.
Boxing, the "sweet science," dates back to ancient Greece when warriors included boxing to honor their fallen in battle. Accepted as an Olympic sport as early as 688 BC, boxing has been a staple of society for thousands of generations.
Fast forward to present day and boxing has become one tool in a mixed martial artist's arsenal of weapons.
Many fighters wish to become as elusive as Manny Pacquiao or deliver power punches like Mike Tyson.
Some use their skills as a boxer to open up their more dominant abilities as an all-around fighter inside the cage.
Skills developed as a boxer transfer to a fighter's performance inside the Octagon. These skills include proper defense, punching at various angles, enhancing hand speed, counter striking, changing planes, advanced foot work and keeping an opponent off balance through various combinations.
Monumental KO victories have graced ultimate fighting including Scott Smith's last-ditch knockout of Pete Sell after suffering a debilitating liver shot himself.
Or, Houston Alexander's barrage of uppercuts and hooks from the clinch which crumbled Keith Jardine and left "The Dean of Mean" lifeless in the corner of the cage.
And, most recently, BJ Penn's one-punch knockout of the Hall Of Fame fighter, Matt Hughes, in their rubber match.
There is no doubt that to be successful as an ultimate fighter, each competitor needs to work their "hands." Some MMA practitioners have excelled at the "sweet science" leaving their opponents dazed and confused inside the Octagon.
To be a technical boxer, one must not only execute precise punches but also be able to have a solid defense, strike at various angles and use their hands to gain advantages over their opponent in the stand-up exchanges.
The following is my list of the 10 most technical boxers in mixed martial arts today.
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Notable Exclusion: "Suga" Rashad Evans
"Suga" Rashad Evans has evolved from a Junior College wrestling champion into a well-balanced mixed martial artist.
Introducing himself to America on Season two of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Evans developed solid stand-up skills to complement his superior wrestling abilities.
An undersized heavyweight on TUF, Rashad's boxing skills included lots of movement creating tactical angles excelling in the stand-up exchanges to win three unanimous decision victories.
In the finale, "Suga" continued to be elusive and pounce at any openings provided by his opponent, Brad Imes, en route to a split decision victory and the Season Nine championship.
Following The Ultimate Fighter, Evans refined his abilities inside the Octagon with the assistance of Greg Jackson and his team.
Dropping a weight class to light heavyweight, not only did Rashad continue to utilize his elusiveness on his feet, but he also integrated a more prolific boxing prowess to his overall fight game.
Shocking the world at UFC 88, Rashad Evans knocked out former UFC light heavyweight champion and the face of the franchise, "The Ice Man" Chuck Liddell. Countering an uppercut by Liddell, Evans sent the Hall of Fame fighter to the canvas with a destructive overhand right.
Continuing to showcase his boxing talents, "Suga" has earned victories over some of the UFC's elite including Forrest Griffin, Thiago Silva and Quinton Jackson.
Recently pulling out of a championship fight due to injury with current UFC light heavyweight title holder, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Evans will be looking to regain his championship title in 2011.
Notable Exclusion: Clay "The Carpenter" Guida
My choice of Clay Guida may come as a surprise to many readers.
With only five knockouts to his credit in 39 total MMA fights, Guida's limited power does not support my pick as one of the 10 most technical boxers in mixed martial arts.
With that said, however, power is only one aspect of a good boxer. Head movement, defensive abilities, changing levels, striking with various combinations and winning the small battles during the stand-up exchanges are equally important in determining a fighter's boxing prowess.
Clay Guida possesses all the intangibles as a boxer. He has an unlimited cardiovascular conditioning tank which provides him with non-stop head movement. His hands are always in a solid defensive position protecting him against punches as well as being in the proper place to throw counter strikes. Guida also is extremely unconventional with his punching combinations keeping his opponent off balance.
His boxing abilities have kept him in fights against very good strikers including Diego Sanchez, Roger Huerta, Nate Diaz and Takanori Gomi.
"The Carpenter" will need to excel in his boxing abilities when he faces the very dangerous Anthony Pettis at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale on June 4.
No. 10: "The All-American" Brian Stann
As a former fighter and someone who has squared off against "The All-American" Brian Stann, I have personally felt his power and hand speed.
Earning six straight victories by TKO due to punches in his first six professional fights, Brian Stann's boxing abilities are excellent.
This former WEC light heavyweight champion has recently made the move to the middleweight division within the UFC.
In his first 185-pound contest, Stann displayed his awesome power and pin-point punching accuracy as he knocked out the durable Chris Leben at UFC 125 on New Year's Day of this year.
Ever evolving in his overall fight game, "The All-American" continues to develop his boxing abilities through the tutelage and brilliant minds at Jackson's Submission Fighting camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Stann's biggest test of his young career will come on May 28 when he steps foot inside the Octagon against the hard-hitting and equally skilled Jorge Santiago at UFC 130.
No. 9: Former UFC Lightweight Champion, Sean "The Muscle" Sherk
The No. 9 lightweight fighter in the world, Sean "The Muscle" Sherk has amassed a 36-4-1 record with 10 victories by knockout.
The quintessential hybrid fighter of boxer and grappler, Sherk's tremendous defense and relentless pace inside the Octagon are the foundation for his excellent boxing skills.
With only two knockout losses in 41 professional MMA fights, Sherk keeps his chin down and his hands high when exchanging with his opponents.
Possessing tremendous power and very fast hands, what "The Muscle" lacks in body size and length he makes up for in precision punches and hand speed.
Moving in and out of the pocket with ease, Sean possesses the innate ability to maximize his movement and throw punches from all levels and angles.
Holding victories over high level strikers in Nick Diaz, Tyson Griffin and Evan Dunham, Sherk will continue to climb the UFC lightweight ladder waiting for his opportunity to once again challenge for the championship.
No. 8: "The Prodigy" BJ Penn
BJ Penn is not your traditional boxer. Relying on his confidence in his granite chin, Penn has a tendency of dropping his hands to deliver more powerful punches and stuff any take-down attempts.
What Penn lacks in conventional defense, he makes up for in head movement and elusiveness. His fight versus Diego Sanchez typified these tremendous skills.
Negating virtually all of Sanchez's offense with excellent footwork and constant head movement, BJ was able to capitalize on his use of punching angles landing cleanly and finding his mark on Diego's head repeatedly.
A world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu authority, "The Prodigy" opens up many submission attempts with his excellent boxing skills.
Most recently, BJ Penn knocked out his nemesis Matt Hughes in just 0:21 seconds at UFC 123 earning Knockout of the Night honors.
He will be looking to advance to the welterweight championship title contention if he is successful in delivering Jon Fitch to the same fate as Matt Hughes in their upcoming fight on February 27th from Sydney, Australia.
No. 7: Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
If ultimate fighting entailed only wrestling and boxing, then Quinton "Rampage" Jackson would be a definite Hall of Fame fighter.
Possessing excellent hands with dynamite power, tremendous counter striking, very effective range, the ability to throw any punch from any level and the innate elusiveness to stay out of trouble, Jackson is an all-around phenomenal boxer.
With knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva and decision victories over world class strikers Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, "Rampage" has evolved from a pedigree rooted in wrestling to a foundation built on boxing.
Where Quinton lacks as an all-around fighter is in his ability to defend against kicks and knees as well as a questionable take-down defense and the ability to get up off his back when he is on the mat.
These areas of weakness limit his ability to keep the fight on the feet and utilize his boxing skills to dominate his opponents.
Challenging virtually a mirror image of himself in Matt Hamill at UFC 130 on May 28th, "Rampage" will look to keep his matchup with Hamill on the feet and earn a knockout victory so that he can once again contend for the UFC light heavyweight title.
No. 6: Bellator Lightweight Champion, Eddie "The Silent Assassin" Alvarez
This Philadelphia native has an overall MMA record of 21-2 with 12 knockouts and is the current Bellator lightweight champion.
Without the ability to fight on MMA's grandest stage inside the famed Octagon of the UFC, some may slight Alvarez's skills due to the perception that his opponents are not UFC caliber.
But please make no mistake, Eddie "The Silent Assassin" Alvarez is the real deal inside the cage.
Tallying victories over Andre Amade, Josh Neer and Roger Huerta, Alvarez continues to dominate any man who threatens to take his coveted championship belt.
His lightening fast hands and superior power have provided fans worldwide with magical moments of unequaled boxing prowess.
Landing knee buckling hooks and explosive right hands are trademarks of Eddie Alvarez.
"The Silent Assassin" will look to defend his Bellator lightweight championship title against Pat Curran at Bellator 39 in April of this year.
No. 5: Strikeforce Heavyweight Contender: Sergei Kharitonov
An amateur boxer in Russia, Sergei Kharitonov has transitioned his boxing skills into the Octagon flawlessly.
Fighting outside of the United States for the majority of his career in Pride Fighting Championships and the DREAM promotion, Kharitonov introduced himself to the American fight fans with a brutal knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski.
Attacking Arlovski with a vicious onslaught of straight punches and hooks, Sergei backed Andrei into the corner where he delivered the final punch that left Arlovski unconscious.
A traditional boxing style serves Kharitonov well in MMA where he typically lands his punches first and keeps his form tight and compact. Additionally, Sergei's strikes are very quick and extremely powerful and land with precise accuracy.
He will need to showcase his boxing talents once again as he continues in the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament against the winner of the April fight between Josh Barnett and Brett Rogers.
Kharitonov has a good chance of beating either Rogers or Barnett and advancing to the tournament finals.
No. 4: UFC Lightweight Champion: Frankie "The Answer" Edgar
Working with boxing trainer, Mark Henry, Frankie Edgar has developed into a dominant threat with his hands.
Lacking the one-punch knockout power, Edgar's approach to boxing is to utilize relentless head movement, optimizing striking angles with amazing footwork, out-pointing his opponent with crisp, technical punches and maintaining a solid defense.
A fighter with a foundation in wrestling, Edgar also utilizes his strikes on his feet to open up the opportunity for take-downs and control on the ground.
Coming off a draw against Gray Maynard at UFC 125, Edgar will look to once again defend his title against Maynard at UFC 130 in their rubber match.
With victories over fellow, top mixed martial arts' boxers BJ Penn, Sean Sherk and Spencer Fisher, "The Answer" has solidified his second place ranking on this list.
No. 3: UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges "Rush" St-Pierre
The epitome of the title, ultimate fighter, Georges St-Pierre's development in his overall fight game is unrivaled within all of mixed martial arts.
The No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet by Sherdog.com, GSP is also the UFC welterweight champion with an overall MMA record of 21-2 with five successful title defenses.
Praised by many media outlets for his well-rounded skills, St-Pierre typifies a fighter's evolution inside the Octagon.
More of a classic kick-boxer during his advent, Georges has developed an unmatched boxing game to balance out his impressive list of talents inside the cage.
In his most recent title defense against Josh Koscheck, St-Pierre landed 55 total jabs to Koscheck's head ultimately breaking Josh's orbital bone with the repeated onslaught of jabs.
A brilliant strategist, GSP incorporates the use of his hands to open up other aspects of his fight game including take-downs and submission attempts.
On the defensive side, "Rush" is constantly moving, changing angles and levels and keeping his opponents at bay minimizing any potential damage.
Truly an artist inside the Octagon and the most technical boxer in MMA, St-Pierre will look to defend his title for a sixth time against the No.1 contender, Jake Shields, in Toronto, Canada on April 30th.
No. 2: UFC Heavyweight Title Contender: Junior Dos Santos
At 6'4" 240 pounds of powerful muscle, Junior dos Santos is a wrecking machine inside the Octagon.
With an overall MMA record of 12-1 with eight knockout victories, dos Santos utilizes his tremendous power and overwhelming boxing ability to pick apart the competition.
In his debut for the UFC, Junior landed a lethal uppercut knocking out the top contender, Fabricio Werdum.
Following his KO victory over the fellow Brazilian, JDS obliterated Stefan Struve by TKO at UFC 95.
Stepping up in competition, his next match-up was against the Croatian kick-boxer, Mirko Cro Cop. dos Santos repeatedly damaged Filipovic from the clinch with a barrage of knees and punches forcing a verbal submission victory by Cro Cop due to the damage endured to his eye.
Continuing his avalanche of destruction, Junior dos Santos did not slow down amassing two more dominant victories in his following two fights inside the Octagon.
One of the two coaches on The Ultimate Fighter Season 13, dos Santos is next scheduled to compete against the former UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar, on June 11th at UFC 131.
Continuing his blitzkrieg of destruction, I foresee a knockout victory over Lesnar by dos Santos and an eventual match-up versus the current UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez.
No. 1: Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort
Belfort stormed onto the UFC scene at the ripe age of 19. Competing then in a heavyweight tournament at UFC 12, “The Phenom’s” hand speed was on display as he unloaded on UFC veteran Tank Abbott earning a technical knockout victory and placing Vitor Belfort on the mixed martial arts map for the world to witness.
Following up his brutal beating of Abbott at UFC 12, Belfort would continue to make a name for himself with a TKO victory over “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva in October of 1998.
Catching Silva with a left cross, Vitor followed Wanderlei across the cage with a relentless barrage of punches to “The Axe Murderer’s” face forcing the referee stoppage.
Following his explosive entrance into the UFC, Belfort was subsequently marred in steroid controversy. Bouncing between various MMA promotions including Pride Fighting Championships, Affliction and Cage Rage, Vitor would not return to the UFC until four years later.
Refocused, Dana White resigned “The Phenom” in 2009. Knocking out the one time UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin, at a catch weight of 195 pounds at UFC 103, Belfort was once again welcomed into the middleweight championship contender talk against Anderson Silva.
Recently losing to the UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, by knockout, Belfort will continue to rely on his exceptional hands to bounce back and climb up the UFC middleweight ladder for a rematch possibility against "The Spider."
Still with the most explosive, precise punches inside the Octagon, Belfort's abilities as a boxer are second to none and he is deserving of this honor as the most technical boxer in MMA.