You should be surprised if I told you that the average MMA heavyweight can punch 5 to 6 times harder than an untrained person. And that’s not even considering the peak punching powers of legendary champions like Francis Ngannou or Alistair Overeem. What makes MMA fighters special is the fact that they can generate such tremendous forces instantaneously, even when their body isn’t in the ideal striking position.
How hard do MMA fighters punch? Because of how mixed martial arts are structured, fighters rarely test out their raw punching force on machines. Francis Ngannou is claimed to have the strongest punching force ever recorded by the UFC Performance Institute; his overhand right generated over 129,000 units of force.
To put that in context, the average person generates about 15,000 units of strike force on the PowerKube device. Even the featherweight 145lb Connor McGregor can strike with 39,940 units of force, which is well over twice that of a normal person. Suppose you want the absolute top-end striking force. Nobody can match UFC heavyweights in that case, and Francis Ngannou can generate over 122K units even while throwing an off-balance uppercut.
How Do MMA Fighters Punch So Hard?
We already know that MMA incorporates many different fighting styles; it’s in the name- mixed martial arts. Boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu form a solid base for any MMA fighter. Some add kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai into the mix.
The fundamentals of throwing a good punch do not change, no matter which disciplines you choose to learn. It’s all about force linkage, carrying power from your toes to your hips and then to your shoulders, from where it flows into your fist. Throwing your entire body weight behind that fist multiplies the amount of force it can generate.
What’s the Punching Speed of MMA Fighters?
Based on strike force data from the UFC Performance Institute, MMA heavyweights can hit 4 to 5 times harder than normal people. And it’s all down to technique + speed. Despite their height and muscular build, these heavyweights do not weigh four times as much as a normal person.
Untrained people can throw their fists at around 15mph, while MMA fighters and boxers can approach 20 to 30 mph speeds. Top-tier boxers often exceed 30mph with their fists. Welterweight British boxer Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton has been recorded throwing a left hook at 32mph.
Punching Power of MMA Fighters vs. Boxers
There has been a discussion within the fighting community ever since MMA became mainstream in the 1990s. And that discussion is about whether MMA fighters punch harder than boxers. Yes, it will depend on the fighter’s rank and weight class, but this is a good thought experiment.
There is no hard data to back this up. Still, it’s generally assumed that top-tier boxers hit harder than MMA fighters of equivalent skill due to their focus on a singular discipline. MMA fighters are more well-rounded, incorporating grappling and takedowns. But those who are from a boxing or kickboxing background will obviously be comparable to pro boxers in their punching power.
Do MMA Fighters Hit as Hard as They Can?
MMA fighters will often go for the choice that makes the most sense based on what their opponent is doing. Overhand and straight punches can deliver some devastating results, but these also have longer “wind-ups.” Interestingly, Connor McGregor’s spinning backkick generated 63% more force than his punch (62K units vs. 38k), and it only took an extra 0.2 seconds to pull off.
Sometimes, a fighter will go for an off-balance shot to their opponent’s body when they see an opening. They will sometimes try to slip their opponent’s jab and deliver an uppercut. The toolkit of an MMA fighter is quite diverse, and they can generate some insane punching force even when they’re not in an optimal position.
A nice example is Francis Ngannou’s off-balance uppercut, which generated 122,000 force units on the PowerKube. It wasn’t far off his record punch (the overhand right). Still, he was throwing this uppercut from a disadvantageous position. A truly good fighter doesn’t just throw hard punches but does so within the blink of an eye from any position.
Who Has the Hardest Punch in History?
There have been some truly amazing heavy hitters in the history of fighting, coming from various disciplines like MMA, boxing, kickboxing, etc. For example, before Francis Ngannou, the record for the hardest punch ever on a PowerKube was held by kickboxer Tyrone Spong (114,000 units). Even welterweight boxers like the legendary Manny Pacquiao (147 lbs) can generate 806 lbs of force on a punching bag.
Generally, lighter-weight classes have slightly faster punches with shorter reaction times. That’s because they don’t have to deal with the inertia of an extra 50 to 100 lbs of body weight. For example, Manny Pacquiao threw one of his most powerful punches in just 0.12 seconds. But if we’re talking about raw punching power, the heavyweight division cannot be beaten.
It’s hard to reliably claim that “X” has the strongest punch in history because nobody walks into the ring in the middle of a fight with a punching bag and speed camera. We can only rely on the testimonies of other fighters, the professional record (how many KOs they have), and visual intensity.
Even visually, you can’t “feel” the strength of a punch. Because professional fighters deliver massive force instantaneously, and a lot of the destructive action is going on under the skin of whoever they’re hitting. Many of these punches that don’t look very impressive might be strong enough to break ribs and damage internal organs.
Alistair Overeem, Frank Mir, Mark Hunt, Shane Carwin, and many others have devasting punches beyond the reach of lower weight classes. But few have measured their striking force in a standardized format, like Francis when he visited the UFC performance center. So it’s hard to conclude who’s the hardest hitter.
Does Muscle Help You Punch Harder?
Most of the energy for a punch comes from the core of your body and legs. This is why MMA fighters, boxers, kickboxers, etc., do many core workouts. Some of the hardest punchers have muscular arms. Still, these aren’t massive, like the arms of a bodybuilder or professional strongman.
A lot of muscle can help, but not in the way you think. It adds mass to your arms; when you use your hips and shoulders to whip that mass around, the punch becomes stronger. Punching is about the impulse rather than the raw amount of energy in it.
And impulse is a function of force over time. If you deliver the same amount of force over a shorter period, your impact on the target will be higher. Think about a car hitting a reinforced concrete wall vs. a car hitting some bushes.
In both cases, assuming the engine isn’t sending power to the wheels, the car carries a fixed amount of kinetic energy based on its initial speed and mass. But when it hits a brick wall, all that energy is dumped instantaneously, and it stops dead in its tracks. When it hits a row of bushes, that energy is spread out over 80 or 100 feet, and the impact isn’t nearly as strong.
You need to train your hips and legs along with the core to get a strong punch. I recommend the single-leg hip thrust, kettlebell swing, med ball shot put, dumbbell sit-ups, hollow body hold, and hanging leg raises. You also need to train your arms, so do both regular and explosive push-ups (explosive push-ups increase instantaneous force output)
Is It Better To Punch Harder or Faster?
The best punch combines speed with strength. Focusing entirely on strength will result in a slow and stiff punch that will never land because everyone can see it coming. Focusing entirely on speed isn’t good either, especially if you don’t have the endurance, because you’ll tire yourself out and do little damage with each strike.
Was Muhammad Ali A Hard Puncher?
Muhammad Ali wasn’t known for his raw power but for his in-ring tactics and speed. Both when it came to throwing a punch and defending against one. He could dance around in the ring till his opponent ran out of steam and then go in for a knockout strike.
Ali’s era was filled with excellent heavyweights known for their raw punching power. Chief among them is George Foreman, who is ranked by many boxing enthusiasts as the hardest hitter of all time, alongside the likes of Earnie Shavers and Mike Tyson. It is rumored that after his fight against Foreman (which he won after taking several shots to the body), Ali was urinating blood for a week.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand how hard an MMA fighter can punch. Generally speaking, a heavyweight MMA fighter can hit about 4 to 5 times harder than the average person. Boxers can hit slightly harder, but knowing which boxers are on the level of UFC greats like Francis Ngannou is hard.