Iron Head: Top 15 Fighters Who Have Never Been Knocked Out
Before getting into the sport, every MMA fighter would have imagined the feeling of getting knocked out cold or TKO'd under a barrage of strikes, just to overcome the fear of getting knocked out and to develop the sort of gladiator mentality that this sport requires. However, there are certain fighters who have been able to avoid that "scary feel" in their long, illustrious career.
I have accumulated a list of the top 15 fighters who have never been actually* KO'd or TKO'd. Which means these fighter are either the best technical strikers in the sport, or they just have a granite chin.
Here's the criterion for this list:
a) The fighter must have 20 or more professional MMA fights.
b) The rankings are based on the total number of professional fights without getting actually* KO'd or TKO'd.
(Note: "actually*" here means, that the official record of some of the fighters in this list, may have a TKO loss against their name, but it was either due to an injury during the fight or the judges rendered it a TKO under specific circumstances what would otherwise had been declared a no-contest or a disqualification for the opponent.)
As a norm, let's start with honorable mentions.
These are the fighters, who barely missed the criteria or the top-15 spot, but deserve an honorable mention.
Chris Lytle: Total 52 (30-17-5)
He has never been knocked out or submitted to defeat, though he has two TKO losses by way of cut stoppage. It can be argued that he deserves to be on the list, but TKO by cut is a TKO after all. But he certainly deserves an honorable mention for never letting his "lights out" in 52 professional fights.
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira: Total 40 (32-6-1-1NC)
"Minotauro" had one of the best chins in MMA when he was in his prime. Before getting KO'd by Frank Mir and Cain Valesquez, he was thought of as seemingly from another planet when it came to knocking him out. If Mirko Cro Cop could not do it with his cemetery head kick, who could have (in his prime)?
Chael Sonnen: Total 37 (25-11-1)
Apart from having a solid mouth, Sonnen also possesses a solid chin. Two of his losses are by way of TKO due to corner stoppage, one by decision and eight by...you guessed it right.
Dan Hardy: Total 32 (23-8-1NC)
Dan Hardy was all set to make this list of top 15 fighters before his last fight where he was knocked out by Carlos Condit for the first time in 32 fights.
Jake Shields: Total 31 (26-4-1)
Shields is on a 15-fight win streak and is undefeated since 2005. He has one TKO loss due to strikes, but it was in his third professional fight. Therefore, after that fight he has fought 28 times without getting finished and hence deserves an honorable mention.
Diego Sanchez: Total 26 (22-4)
He has only one TKO loss, and it was due to a cut stoppage in round five of his title fight against B.J. Penn at UFC 107. Sanchez definitely has a granite chin.
Paulo Filho: Total 24 (21-2-1)
Filho has never been knocked out in 24 professional fights, but he falls outside of the top 15 due to the level of competition he has faced recently.
Thiago Alves: Total 24 (18-6)
The first of his two losses to Jon Fitch was a TKO due an upkick followed by punches (his only TKO loss). Of course, the other was a decision loss. Can anybody convince me that upkick was not lucky? Of course, you need to think twice when you are trying to prove Fitch can knock out guys to finish, especially guys of Alves' caliber.
Jamie Varner: Total 24 (16-5-1-1NC)
He is the former WEC Lightweight Champion of the world. Varner was recently released from WEC/UFC after not being able to win any of his last four bouts. But he was never knocked out in 24 professional fights (1 No Contest).
Gilbert Melendez: Total 20 (18-2)
He is the current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and has avenged both his career losses. He is ranked number 2 lightweight in the world in most of the rankings. Both of his losses are by decision, which means he has never been finished even. That is quite impressive to say the least.
Patrick Cote 20 (13-7)
Cote actually fulfills the criteria, since his lone TKO loss was due to a knee injury sustained during his title fight with Anderson Silva. But since this is a top-15 list, he gets a spot in the honorable mentions.
Jose Aldo: 19 (18-1)
He can surely meet that criterion after his UFC debut. His lone loss was due to RNC.
Marlon Sandro: 19 (17-2)
Same goes for Marlon Sandro. In fact, he has never been finished.
15. Sam Stout 16-6-1 (Total 23)
With Sam Stout, you can always expect a war. He has been in some grueling battles and has won the Fight of the Night honours five times in his UFC career. He is primarily known as a striker and holds a 16–4 Kickboxing record and his striking accolades include IKF North American Welterweight Kickboxing champion, Canadian lightweight Muay Thai champion and North American Muay Thai Champion.
Out of his 6 losses, he has been submitted twice and has lost via decision four times.
14. Mauricio Rua 19-4 (Total 23)
He is the current UFC light heavyweight champion. Rua has one TKO loss in his record, but it was due to an injury (broken arm) suffered during his fight against Mark Coleman at Pride 31: Unbreakable. He later avenged that loss via KO in round three at UFC 93.
13. Jeremy Stephens 19-6 (Total 25)
The hard hitting Jeremy Stephens has never been knocked out in 25 professional MMA fights. Though in his last fight he was rocked by Marcus Davis but then came out more aggressive in the third round and caught Davis with a counter punch that knocked Davis out cold. The knockout was later named the "Knockout of the Night", Stephens' third KO bonus.
Off his 6 losses, he has been submitted 3 times and has lost via decision 3 times.
12. Jake Ellenberger 23-5 (Total 28)
Jake Ellenberger is a good addition to the UFC's welterweight division. He is tough as nails and is a threat to most of the guys in the division. Out of his five losses, four are by decision and one is by submission, but he has never been knocked out.
11. Carlos Condit 26-5 (Total 31)
He is the former and last WEC welterweight champion. He is slowly, but surely rising the ranks in the UFC's welterweight division.
In 31 professional fights, Condit has never been KO'd or TKO'd.
10. Hector Lombard 27-2-1-1NC (Total 31)
He is the current middleweight champion of Bellator Fighting Championship. In 31 professional fights, he has never been finished and is undefeated in his last 21 fights.
9. Anderson Silva 27-4 (Total 31)
He is the current middleweight champion of Ultimate Fighting Championship. Silva is known for being one of the most technically-sound strikers in the world of MMA and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
He also holds the honor for being the longest reigning champion of UFC with the most number of title defenses. His next title defense is against a fellow Brazilian knockout artist, Vitor Belfort. Who knows if Silva will be able to hold his spot in this list after UFC 126?
8. Bas Rutten 28-4-1 (Total 33)
Bas Rutten is the only retired fighter on this list, therefore, he will keep that honor of never getting KO'd. He finished his career on a 22- fight unbeaten streak (21 wins, one draw).
He is the former UFC heavyweight champion and was known for his devasting striking skills. Out of his four losses, two were against Ken Shamrock, one against Frank Shamrock and one against Masakatsu Funaki.
He avenged the losses against Frank Shamrock and Masakutsu Funaki, but had to retire, due to injuries, without getting an opportunity to avenge losses against Ken Shamrock.
7. Gegard Mousasi 30-3-1 (Total 34)
He is the current Dream light heavyweight champion, former Dream middleweight champion, Cage Warriors middleweight champion and the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. He was on a 15-fight win streak before losing the Strikeforce title to Muhammad Lawal.
Of his three losses, two are by submission and one by decision.
6. Dan Henderson 26-8 (Total 34)
He was the last welterweight (185 lb.) and middleweight (205 lb.) champion of the Pride Fighting Championship, currently fighting in the light heavyweight (205 lb.) division in Strikeforce. He was the only MMA fighter to concurrently hold two titles in two different weight classes in a major MMA promotion and has never been knocked out.
5. Melvin Guillard 25-8-2 (Total 35)
Guillard is one of the best strikers in the lightweight division of the UFC, which is evident from his record, since he has never been out- struck in 35 professional fights. Though, due to lack of submission defense, he has been submitted seven times out his eight career losses.
4. Fedor Emelianenko 32-2-1NC (Total 35)
Emelianenko was the last holder of the Pride Fighting Championship and is currently ranked No. 4 heavyweight in most of the rankings. Until tapping out to Fabricio Werdum on June 26, 2010, Emelianenko was largely considered undefeated.
The only previous loss of his career was declared a TKO which occurred due to an illegal strike and subsequently eliminated from a tournament, since he was declared unable to continue by the doctors. The difference in his TKO loss and of those fighters in the honorable mentions is that his TKO loss was due to an illegal strike, which, otherwise would have been ruled a NC or disqualification for the opponent.
3. Paul Daley 26-9-2 (Total 37)
Paul Daley is, without a doubt, one of the best strikers in the welterweight division. Though, due to lack of takedown and submission defense, he is highly vulnerable to top-level grapplers. One of his nine losses was declared a TKO, but it was due to an injury (dislocated thumb), therefore, he meets the criteria to be on this list.
2. Clay Guida 28-11 (Total 39)
Guida was the first Strikeforce lightweight champion and held the title until being defeated by Gilbert Melendez at Strikeforce: Revenge. He is one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport and always brings enormous energy along with a bottomless gas tank. He does have a granite chin. Just ask Diego Sanchez.
1. Takanori Gomi 32-7-1NC (Total 40)
Gomi was the last and only Pride lightweight champion. He tops the list with the most number of professional fights without getting knocked out. He may or may not have the best chin in MMA, due to the fact that he fights in a much lighter weight class, where the fighters are not supposed to have much KO power.
Still, being able to compete at the highest level and maintain such a record, the "Fireball Kid" deserves the appreciation.