In an interview with Dan Patrick, Dana White talked about the prospects for the world's hottest boxers in MMA:
Patrick: "If I put Pacquiao and Mayweather in the Octagon, could you tell -- from their boxing skills -- how they would be in the Octagon?"
White: "I'm a huge Pacquiao fan. Pacquiao is a more aggressive fighter and his fights are more fun to watch, but either one of those guys would get beaten in mixed martial arts."
Michael David Smith begs to differ:
Obviously, White isn't going to say that Mayweather or Pacquiao could just waltz into MMA and beat the best fighters, but it is worth noting that it's far from unprecedented for an accomplished athlete in one combat sport toget into MMA and find success quickly. Brock Lesnar, after all, was an NCAA champion wrestler who won the UFC heavyweight title in just his fourth professional MMA fight.
Ultimately, I think White is underestimating how Mayweather or Pacquiao would do in MMA -- and in fact, I think Pacquiao would have an excellentchance of winning a championship in MMA if he ever wanted to try it.
But Pacquiao is a different fighter altogether. For starters, it's important to remember that Pacquiao is boxing above his natural weight class because after he dominated all the guys his own size he didn't have anyone else to fight. If Pacquiao were ever going to try MMA, he'd do it at 135 pounds. And the top 135-pounder in MMA, WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, would have his hands full in a fight with Pacquiao.
Cruz would try to use his superior reach to land some kicks against Pacquiao and then try to take him down, but Pacquiao is such a fast and powerful puncher that I would give him a real chance of knocking Cruz out in an MMA fight.
Now I have a great deal of respect for the acumen MDS, but I think he was off when he wrote this one.
Yes, Brock Lesnar did come directly into the UFC from wrestling and won the title in his fourth fight. But here's the thing: wrestling is the best foundation upon which to build an MMA career. Wrestling allows a fighter to determine where the fight takes place -- on the feet or on the ground. This means that a good wrestler can immediately nullify the offensive skill sets of both strikers (by taking them down) and grapplers (by keeping the fight standing).
Obviously, it takes more than wrestling to be a top MMA fighter, but it's a great starting point. Also, as the host of ESPN's "Sport Science" John Brenkus told Luke last night on MMA Nation it is much easier to learn good boxing technique later in life than it is to learn wrestling.
That's not all, boxing isn't even a complete striking art. Historically pro boxers have fared dismally when they've tried their hand at kick boxing. Leg kicks are a world of hurt for boxers who haven't trained to check them. It doesn't help that boxers have to get inside kicking range to land punches either.
There have been fighters from pure striking arts that have done fairly well in MMA -- Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic most notably -- but no one coming from a pure boxing background has excelled in MMA.
Some of this has to do with the dramatically greater earning opportunities in boxing which keeps boxers in their prime out of MMA competition. But nevertheless, I stand with Dana White in saying that pure boxers will never excel at MMA.
An as for Manny Pacquaio vs Dominic Cruz? Please, Cruz was a D-1 wrestler and would put Manny flat on his back in no time. From there it wouldn't be pretty.