MMA's All-Tough-Guy Team
The sport of mixed martial arts has a plethora of tough guys. Very few participants in MMA are viewed as anything other than tough. Some fighters stick out as being especially tough and can give and take what seems like immeasurable amounts of punishment. Other fighters may not be the very best but are willing to fight anyone, anytime.
If we were to assemble a team of the toughest fighters in MMA today, what would it look like?
The definition of a tough guy is “a menacing man.” One of the criteria for our All-Tough-Guy Team will be that fighters need to be active. So Kazushi Sakuraba, Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture and Rickson Gracie won’t be on the team.
A certain amount of the toughness requisite to making the team needs to be exhibited outside of the cage. Mean-muggin’, ice-grillin’ and keeping it real 24/7 are all things that might earn a fighter a spot on the team.
But not shoving.
Most of what makes someone tough enough for the All-Tough-Guy Team happens in the cage. Epic comebacks, ability to take punishment and finishing instinct will carry the most weight in deciding who makes the top of the list, but everyone on the All-Tough-Guy-Team could make at least a serviceable Avenger or Expendable.
Special consideration will be given to guys who are generally pretty nice when they aren’t fighting but are just that tough when they get in the cage.
Here is MMA’s All-Tough-Guy Team.
The undefeated (22-0) Dagestani fighter has dominated all six of his UFC opponents with his mastery of sambo and dominant grappling. He even set a record for takedowns (21) in his unanimous-decision victory over Abel Trujillo at UFC 160.
He’s overpowered much bigger fighters in the lightweight division with ease, and The Eagle has been saying he’s ready for a title shot for a while now. We might be looking at the first Russian UFC champion in Nurmagomedov. And he wrestled bears as a child.
He’s only ever won in the UFC by KO or TKO, and he’s only ever lost in the UFC by decision. He has yet to be put away inside the Octagon, and he’s fought guys like Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum.
Roy Nelson is the punishment absorber. He can take a punch like few men on this rock, and he has some of the most powerful one-punch knockout power in the UFC. He has a huge gut, and his gray beard and gray mullet are actually not separate things. He walks out to “We Will Rock You” by Queen, and he really will.
He’s happy to eat a lot of punches throughout the fight and never lose sight of the end goal, which for him is to land one big shot.
Nelson is here for whatever kind of party you want to throw and would be a great addition to MMA’s All-Tough-Guy Team. He didn’t make the actual list because outside of the cage, he’s just not that menacing.
No. 6: Diego Sanchez
Diego Sanchez marches to the cage as though he has an army behind him and they are taking the city. The level of aggression he fights with is nearly unmatched, and everyone who agrees to fight him knows the intensity they need to prepare for.
His fight with Gilbert Melendez was one of the all-time greats. He lost a technical striking battle and was unrelenting in trying to draw Melendez into a dogfight. He knocked Melendez down in the third round with a huge uppercut that nearly won him the fight.
He took a tremendous beating against BJ Penn, and in his post-fight speeches the only thing he asks for are more rounds.
Diego Sanchez makes the All-Tough-Guy Team because he is always ready for battle and fights with an unrelenting level of rage.
No. 5: Matt Brown
Everything about Matt Brown is tough. His nickname is “The Immortal” because he survived a drug overdose. He came back from a three-fight losing streak in the UFC with a seven-fight winning streak with six finishes. He went five rounds with Robbie Lawler in a very close fight and is one of the scariest fighters in the division.
He fought on after taking a vicious body shot from Erick Silva and knocked out Mike Pyle in 29 seconds. Brown can always be counted on to show up and fight, and that’s why he’s on the All-Tough-Guy Team.
No. 4: Gilbert Melendez
Gilbert Melendez has been in the top three of the lightweight division for the last six years. His only loss in his last nine fights was by split decision to Benson Henderson in a fight that a lot of people thought he won.
He was a part of the infamous Strikeforce brawl in Nashville, Tennessee, when “Mayhem” Miller ran into the cage after Jake Shield won a decision over Dan Henderson. Melendez shoved Miller, and a huge melee ensued on television.
Melendez is a tough human being, and his war with Diego Sanchez was an extremely grueling fight, but he bested Diego in nearly every striking exchange they engaged in. He’s always ready to fight, and there tends to be extra security every time someone from his camp fights.
He negotiated a better deal with the UFC by signing with Bellator after Dana White told him publicly to “look elsewhere”, according to MMAFighting.com, and he’s getting the first shot at Anthony Pettis’ lightweight title. His training crew is called the “Skrap Pack,” and they are all true to their word.
No. 3: Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz is immensely tough. He dealt with the world-class striking and KO power of Paul Daley by sticking his face out and saying “Throw that sh*t, homie.” He fought Joe Riggs at the hospital after their fight in 2006 and has something not nice to say about pretty much everyone he’s ever fought. But he doesn’t sell wolf tickets.
His hard-nosed approach to fighting matches up great with his world-class cardio and conditioning. Diaz pushes the pace in every fight and takes his opponent into very deep water with his 10-punch combos and mix of punches to the body and head.
Of the many "Diazisms," or words or phrases that have taken on a new life when used by Diaz, the most famous is probably “Don’t be scared, homie.”
He has told several opponents to stop being afraid of him throughout his career. He always wants to compete in the biggest fights possible, earning two UFC title shots in his last three fights.
He has the biggest chip on his shoulder in all of MMA, from being upset about not being photoshopped enough on a UFC graphic to being upset about having to fight so much.
Despite saying that he doesn’t enjoy fighting, he’s very good at it and has also provided a highlight reel of unmatched in-cage trash talk. He’s a first-round draft pick for the All-Tough-Guy Team.
No. 2: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar is as tough as they come. He rallied back in his UFC lightweight title defenses against Gray Maynard after nearly being knocked out in the first round both times.
He has no quit in him and is now ranked No. 3 in the featherweight division. He’s more mild-mannered than some of the rest of the tough-guy team, but he’s just as tough as anyone.
No. 1: Dan Henderson
The toughest. He put on one of the greatest fights of all time against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139, and the list of legendary fighters that he’s fought and beaten seems to go on forever.
He’s taken fights with the very best in the world consistently in all weight class for the last 15 years. Henderson has his own signature move, the H-bomb. How many guys have their own finisher?
Time has caught up with Hendo, though. At 44 years old he’s showing some signs of aging, as he's gone 1-4 in the UFC since February 2013.
He’s a legend in the sport and in a league of toughness all his own.