As the protagonists of two of the most popular manga/anime franchises around, Dragon Ball‘s Goku and One-Punch Man‘s Saitama are often compared to one another, especially in regards to which of the characters would win in a knockdown, drag-out fight. While Goku is one of the most powerful fighters in the entire Dragon Ball franchise, he is by no means unbeatable and has endured crushing defeats on multiple occasions. And, true to the series’ name, Saitama is comedically overpowered, able to withstand the most devastating attacks without flinching, and dispatch each and every opponent with a single blow.
Despite this difference in win-loss record, Goku may have discovered a new technique that could give him the edge over Saitama in a hypothetical showdown between the two: Ultra Instinct.
Introduced at the end of Dragon Ball Super, Goku absorbed the energy from a failed Super Spirit Bomb when fighting against the alternate universe champion Jiren during the Tournament of Power. The power surge in energy and sheer physical exertion from Goku throughout the martial arts competition caused him to break past his normal limitations and tap into the raw combat power of the gods themselves. While Goku had difficulty in initially mastering the form and maintaining more than several minutes, the Saiyan appeared to gain control of it by the end of the Tournament — so long as he did not maintain the transformation for a prolonged period of time.
While it is unclear if even this divine power boost will give Goku enough strength to even damage Saitama, it does possess one noticeable advantage — even before Goku was able to fully master it: Goku’s defensive reflexes are heightened to a virtually supernatural level as he is able to dodge any incoming attack with significant ease. With this augmented ability, Goku was able to eliminate the powerful, fused Super Saiyan Kefla from the tournament, while wearing down Jiren considerably, setting up his own elimination at the contest’s end by Goku, Frieza and Android 17. And while Goku would still have trouble returning to the transformation in the anime, the fan-favorite character took a much different path in the manga continuation series.
After being beaten by the magical villain Moro, Goku began training under the angel Merus to defeat the new enemy and the insidious prisoners he had freed with the Namekian Dragon Balls. Goku was now able to transform into the unmastered Ultra Instinct at will, though he could still not maintain it for more than several minutes at a time due to the immense physical exertion his body is subjected to. However, with its exponential power boost, several minutes may be all he needs to get the job done and completely outmatch his opponent with a well-placed Kamehameha Wave.
Saitama has utterly obliterated any opponent he has ever faced through his surprisingly simplistic workout routine. But the trick in being successful as a One-Punch Man is that one has to be able to land that single punch. With Ultra Instinct, master or not, Goku could evade all of Saitama’s attacks leaving his prodigious, signature ability completely useless. Combine that with the already vast array of abilities that Goku has at his disposal after a life (or three) of martial arts training, and Saitama could quickly find himself in over his head.
A battle between Goku and Saitama would truly be a clash of the titans as the two anime heroes bring forth their supreme combat prowess in a crossover confrontation. While Goku may be vulnerable to the unassuming superhero’s mighty blow, this vulnerability might become a moot point as he continues to become a defensive powerhouse that even Saitama can’t touch in a hypothetical showdown.
Goku has one particular trick up his sleeve that would allow him to completely dominate One-Punch Man's Saitama in a fight.