The 25 Most Powerful MMA Fighters Ever

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterFebruary 10, 2012

The 25 Most Powerful MMA Fighters Ever

0 of 25

    In MMA, power assumes many guises. Eight points of attack in the stand-up game, an explosive double-leg, a crippling heel hook, a rear-naked choke. All of these and more take power to do well, and they take prodigious power to do dominantly. 

    But you know what, having noted all that, who am I kidding? When it comes to power, it's the KO's world. Takedowns are just paying rent.

    So with an emphasis on striking, but with a nod toward grappling and sheer physical strength, presented herewith are the 25 most powerful fighters of ALLLLLL time.

25. Mariusz Pudzianowski

1 of 25

    All right, had to get the obvious one out of the way.

    In case you're interested, the Michael Jordan of those World's Strongest Man competitions is 3-2 (1 NC) in his MMA career. Distressingly, though, he is 0-1 (1 NC) against James Thompson.

24. David "Tank" Abbott

2 of 25

    OK, two obvious ones.

    Fun fact about David "Tank" Abbott: He's the only man to ever knock out the famously hard-headed Wesley "Cabbage" Correira.

23. Brett Rogers

3 of 25

    It's a good thing this isn't a non-spousal abuser list. Because if it was, Rogers wouldn't be ranked anywhere near this high.

    Depravities aside, the former Strikeforce heavyweight has a heavy set of hands. Rogers has nine wins by way of punches, and he had Fedor in trouble for a while there.

22. Georges St-Pierre

4 of 25

    GSP makes the list mainly for his irresistible takedowns. But I also understand he can do damage with his fists and even knock people out, though you'd think he was some kind of garden slug to hear his detractors tell it.

    (Photo credit: U of Combat)

21. Anthony Johnson

5 of 25

    Seven of Rumble's 10 pro wins have come by T/KO. Some of them were very nasty. His face-kick knockout of Charlie Brenneman comes to mind.

    Either way, if Johnson could ever figure out how to keep his career on track, he might be even higher. 

20. Marco Ruas

6 of 25

    The criminally overlooked Vale Tudo pioneer was the first fighter to use leg kicks as a weapon in the Octagon. His vicious chops single-handedly felled 300-pounder Paul Varlens at UFC 7.

    (Photo credit: Gracie Mag

19. Bob Sapp

7 of 25

    His MMA career was a punchline. And not even a good punchline. He was like a walking knock-knock joke.

    His power, though, was no laughing matter. The former K-1 kickboxer's capacity for one-punch KOs was never in question. He wasn't normal strong; he was Bob Sapp strong. 

18. Dan Severn

8 of 25

    The first fighter who could pretty much rag-doll his opponent at will.

17. Takanori Gomi

9 of 25

    Arguably history's most powerful lightweight, the Fireball Kid owns 11 wins by striking-related stoppage. He's also a very strong submission grappler; in his heyday, if he got ahold of you, it was extremely difficult to escape.

    (Photo credit:

16. Mirko Cro Cop

10 of 25

    I was talking to some co-workers the other day, just talking about my awesome kicks, right? And I was like, "Guys, it's like this: right leg hospital, left leg cemetery." And everyone just laaaaaaughed and laughed. Dammit! No one ever laughed at Cro Cop.

    Fans today forget he could do it with his hands, too. When he was at the top of his K-1 game, he could actually knock you out with his hair.

    (Photo credit: MMALinker)

15. Vitor Belfort

11 of 25

    His larger career may be a roller coaster, but his power meter is always riding sky high.

    Belfort has 12 wins by T/KO. That doesn't even include the fluke TKO on Randy Couture, though it does include seven "pure" knockouts.

    (Photo credit: Susumu's Gallery)

14. Tito Ortiz

12 of 25

    Tito was an early adopter of ground-and-pound, which combined his very powerful wrestling with his very powerful hands. It's my understanding he won a lot of fights using this method.

    (Photo credit: MMA Gospel)

13. Hector Lombard

13 of 25

    There's no other way to put it: Hector Lombard is a big, Cuban man-beast.

    The best MMA fighter in the world not currently competing in the UFC has 19 wins by striking-related stoppage. He also once knocked a man out with a headbutt, but apparently, he didn't get the win because headbutting is frowned upon in this establishment.

    In any event, please enjoy this video, which I'm actually allowed to post because it's from Bellator. 

12. Fedor Emelianenko

14 of 25

    It may not be overly attractive to watch, but when your power is this functional, you don't really need much form.

    One of my favorite striking exchanges of all time is still the one in this video, where Fedor, fighting for the defunct Affliction promotion, absolutely unloads on Tim Sylvia. Afterward, the 6'8" Sylvia looked like he had just been run over by a bread truck.

    The action starts at about the 4:40 mark.

11. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

15 of 25

    One of a very few fighters who used his wrestling as a knockout tool. And he could always finish with strikes, of course. He got two T/KO wins using the former and 11 using the latter.

    (Photo credit: MMA Fix)

10. Dan Henderson

16 of 25

    Come for the H-bomb, stay for the peerless and powerful wrestling that set it all up. 

9. Mark Kerr

17 of 25

    There's a reason he starred in a movie called The Smashing Machine. This guy was The Incredible Hulk come to life in the early days of his career.

    He basically entered his first vale tudo tournament on a lark and won. His submission wrestling was so dominant he kimura'd Josh Barnett. He won the UFC 14 heavyweight tournament by grinding his chin into Dan Bobish's eyeball. I mean, when you're tapping guys out with your freaking chin, you might be a powerful fighter.

    (Photo credit: Susumu's Gallery)

8. Brock Lesnar

18 of 25

    Another gifted wrestler with bowling balls on the ends of his wrists. Not much more to say here that hasn't already been said a time or two million. But here's an interesting fact: Did you know he used to be a professional wrestler? No, yeah, it's true. Look it up, bro!

7. Chuck Liddell

19 of 25

    Sometimes lost in The Liddell Mystique is the sheer quality of the flesh and blood against whom he wrought his inimitable spell of violence.

    The Iceman knocked out Tito Ortiz twice. Babalu Sobral twice. Guy Mezger and Kevin Randleman once each. Randy Couture twice; no one else ever got even one pure KO on Couture until the Lyoto Machida front kick in Couture's final fight. He was the first man to TKO Jeremy Horn in Horn's 95th professional contest.

    It never hurts to remember what made this guy the Babe Ruth of MMA in America. 

6. Melvin Manhoef

20 of 25

    Yeah, yeah...weak chin, no wrestling, no cardio, yadda yadda. Good thing for Manhoef, then, that this list isn't measuring any of those things.

    No, this list is measuring power, and Manhoef has warheads in his gloves. For now, forget his 27 T/KO wins in the kickboxing world; in 35 professional MMA fights, 22 of his 24 wins came by TKO or KO. According to my calculator, that's 92 percent. And of those 22 victims, nine of them went nighty-night.

    If you add back in his kickboxing record, Manhoef has knocked another professional fighter unconscious 15 times inside a fighting ring. That's, uh, that's pretty good.

    (Photo credit: Susumu's Gallery...I like this dude's work)

5. Alistair Overeem

21 of 25

    Good rule of thumb: When your opponent compares your kicks to the kicks of a horse, you belong on a list like this.

4. Shane Carwin

22 of 25

    Carwin has fallen on hard times, and subsequently, out of the limelight. But as long as those two giant sequoias remain grafted to his body, he'll be a force to reckon with if he can drag himself into a cage.

    Here's hoping Carwin can return to action and add to his eight striking-related stoppage wins. (Also, don't forget—he was the last man to defeat Frank Mir, and he did so by straight knockout.) 

3. Cain Velasquez

23 of 25

    Some might object to Velasquez landing this high. But hey guess what I don't care.

    The former heavyweight champ is 9-1. Eight of those nine wins came by T/KO. No one else has done that in their first 10 fights—nothing close. He crushed Brock Lesnar. He savaged Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He doesn't have the best technical stand-up, but as with Fedor before him, who cares when it works like that? If he had been able to get hands on Junior dos Santos, that fight could have been very different.

    And for those stubborn heads who refuse to let the Cain-is-not-powerful myth get busted, I submit his performance on ESPN's Sports Science program, in which one of his punches registered 2,230 pounds of force. That's 423 more than Rampage Jackson, who hardcores worship for his power.

    Not enough? Cain's takedowns are pretty strong, too. In fact, his bullrush generated 2,700 pounds of force, comparable to that of NFL all-pro defensive end Dwight Freeney. What else can you say? Cain Velasquez is one of the most powerful men to ever step in a cage, and that's it. 

2. Igor Vovchanchyn

24 of 25

    In the mid-to-late '90s, the Russian kickboxing champ brought striking back to an MMA world obsessed with grappling. Royce Gracie swung the pendulum in favor of jiu-jitsu; Igor Vovchancyn swung it back.

    But enough with the history lesson. This dude is on here because of his power. He once won six consecutive fights by straight knockout. Though he mainly fought at heavyweight, he was only 5'8", 235 pounds. So for him to dominate the way he did, his power had to be simply immense.

    And it was. Look at the photo; he has Fedor's top half and Cro Cop's bottom half. His thighs could feed a family of cannibals all winter.

    But he mixed the power with incomparable skill. He could do it with punches, kicks or knees. All in all, Ice Cold notched 38 victories by some kind of striking-related stoppage (including KOs, TKOs and taps from strikes). That's far and away the most of any major-league MMA fighter.

    (Photo credit: Susumu's Gallery

1. Junior Dos Santos

25 of 25

    I suppose he has to be No. 1 until someone can stand up to his full assault. So far, no one—not Carwin, not Velasquez, not anyone else—has even come close.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.