Brazil has been a hotbed of MMA talent for as long as guys have been stepping into the octagon. Longer really, when you consider the years that vale tudo was basically the national sport down that way.
Now, MMA is living in a golden age of Brazilian talent. Three of seven UFC champions are Brazilian, and Saturday night will see a former beltholder headline UFC 139 when Shogun Rua battles Dan Henderson.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the baddest Brazilians ever to enter the octagon.
The early days of the UFC were dominated by Royce Gracie, the representative of the first family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, who was selected to display the art to the world.
Gracie, accompanied to the ring by his legendary family, mowed down the competition on the way to winning UFC 1, 2 and 4, and showed exactly how effective a grappler can be as a martial artist.
Also known for one of the best game faces in the history of the sport, Gracie was the first Brazilian to be the baddest man in the UFC, and he has to be on a list like this.
Bursting onto the scene at UFC 7, The King of the Streets was the first Brazilian to show well-rounded skills in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
A vale tudo legend in his homeland, he outgrappled, outstruck, and out-thought men of all shapes and sizes on his way to a convincing tournament win.
His signature performance came against Paul Varelans, where he displayed lethal leg kicks to chop down his opponent before pouncing on him and finishing with ground and pound (back when it was just called “strikes on the ground”).
Truly a bad dude; if you’ve never seen his work, it’s worth finding, because he was ahead of his time.
In the dark ages of the UFC, the Brazilian who had the attention of the world was a young Vitor Belfort. At 19 years old as of his debut at UFC 12, he won the heavyweight tournament and quickly became a guy the MMA world was fascinated with.
He went 5-1 in his first UFC run, buzzsawing guys left and right, and has looked good in his most recent trips to the octagon after a forgettable stretch that separated the two runs.
Currently 20-8 with a fight coming up at UFC 142, he’s still insanely popular in his home country and one of the most explosive strikers in the business.
The man they called The Rock, Pedro Rizzo was the first true great Brazilian heavyweight the UFC ever rostered. His legkicks were unholy, his hands were brutal, and he holds wins over an absolute laundry list of MMA legends.
He’s best known for his bouts with Randy Couture, both of which were classics, but he also fought the likes of Vladdy Matyushenko, Dan Severn, Andrei Arlovski, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Gilbert Yvel, Sergei Kharitonov, Tank Abbott and Josh Barnett (twice).
Considering that murderer’s row of opponents, it’s insane to think he lived to see 35 years old, much less that he holds a 19-9 record and is still competing.
Sobral was a monster in the UFC, perhaps the best light heavyweight of his time in terms of grappling ability. While he's mostly remembered for having his head smashed in by Chuck Liddell a couple of times, there weren't many men in the world who could handle The Iceman at that stage in the game.
Outside of the Liddell losses, Babalu was 6-2 in the UFC and beat guys like Chael Sonnen and Maurice Smith along the way.
While most of his biggest wins actually happened outside of the promotion, there's also the fact that he was released from the company on a win for refusing to release a choke as a manner of teaching his trash-talking opponent a "lesson."
That's about as bad as it gets right there.
If you don’t know who Anderson Silva is, or don’t know how bad of a dude he is, you must have stumbled on this article by accident. You certainly shouldn’t be on an MMA site intentionally.
At 14-0 in the UFC, and not even close to being in trouble in 13 of those fights, he’s the best martial artist the sport has ever seen, while also being the most effective fighter.
He’s fast, slick, and efficient, and no one seems to have an answer for him. Chael Sonnen sort of did, but then he got choked out, and the legend grew a little more.
He’s not only the baddest Brazilian in the UFC, he’s the baddest man on the planet.
He is legitimately a real-life Karate Kid, a guy who has made a prizefighting career out of a traditional martial arts foundation and done it with remarkable effectiveness.
Machida started his career with 16 straight wins, and before losing to fellow Brazilian Mauricio Rua, he looked to be completely untouchable. He was rarely hit, rarely taken down, rarely in any trouble at all.
That obviously changed when he lost his belt, and then lost a questionable decision to Rampage Jackson, but he got back on track by crushing Randy Couture and will now look to reclaim his title at UFC 140 against Jon Jones.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was the first man to defeat Lyoto Machida, and he also holds wins in the UFC over former champions Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin.
He’s staring down the barrel of a battle with Dan Henderson at UFC 139, but he’s already proven to be one of the baddest Brazilians ever to enter the octagon.
Health concerns have hounded the product of Curitiba, mostly knee problems, and many will suggest that those troubles have limited his performances on occasion.
Regardless, when he’s on, he’s been utterly violent in dispatching of foes with efficiency and brutality. It just always seems to come down to one prefight question: which Shogun will show up?
The first man to claim titles in PRIDE and the UFC, Minotauro is the ultimate heavyweight legend. He beat Heath Herring in his debut, then beat Tim Sylvia for the gold before Sylvia was an MMA afterthought.
He went on to defeat the likes of Randy Couture and Brendan Schaub over the years. His only losses in the promotion are to men who have held the UFC title.
How has he done it? With sound boxing, unheard of durability and heart, and perhaps the best fundamental jiu-jitsu in the sport.
He may well have been more dominant in PRIDE, but he’s still one of the baddest Brazilians ever to compete in the UFC.
After three years of steady, violent ascension, Junior dos Santos is the UFC heavyweight champion of the world. If that doesn’t make you one of the baddest Brazilians in the history of the UFC, nothing does.
In his recent destruction of Cain Velasquez, dos Santos reminded the world exactly what he brings to the table: excellent technical boxing and otherworldly power.
While the heavyweight strap often comes with the title of ‘baddest man on the planet,’ the affable dos Santos has made fans with his friendly demeanour and constant ear-to-ear grin as much as he has with his oft-thunderous nine-fight win streak
He’s an interesting mix of pleasantness and carnage, but undeniably one of the baddest ever to come from his country.