The 5 Scariest Fighters in the UFC
The octagon is a scary place.
The chain link fence, the screaming fans, the canvas probably smeared with the blood of those who entered before you, the anything-can-happen-at-any-moment chaos of the whole endeavor going on in a professional fistfight.
Needless to say, such a scary place is likely to be inhabited by some pretty scary individuals at a given time. Mixed martial artists are totally different than the average person almost by definition, living in a constant state of facing their fears in the name of a reach towards excellence.
There’s something uniquely unsettling about a human being who has tuned themselves so finely and made themselves so comfortable in violence and tumult that what horrifies most folks is another day at the office for the mixed martial artist. They only reach the top of the mountain by being better at inflicting harm than everyone around them.
And even with such a unique collection of people leathering up and throwing down in the cage on a Saturday night, there are some who rise above even their own ranks to become known for working on a whole other level.
They’re downright scary.
Considering the time of year and the spirit of the season, it seems as good a time as any to compile a list of some of the scariest of the scary individuals who comprise the UFC roster.
Never be too quick to dismiss the quiet ones. Robbie Lawler is proof of that.
The former welterweight champion is one of the true quiet storms of the UFC, a man of few words who will absolutely revel in the carnage he creates inside the cage. There may not be a more purely violent athlete in MMA, as seemingly every time Lawler shows up someone ends up unconscious.
Blessed with great genetics and athleticism and uncovering the virtues of hard work later in his career, Lawler’s UFC resurgence is the stuff of legend. He went from a welterweight afterthought to the most exciting champion in the sport since returning to the promotion in 2013, and he has unleashed unparalleled savagery along the way. Every time he shows up for work, it’s a blood-and-guts affair that brings fans out of their seats and offers an adrenaline rush like no other.
And he genuinely seems to love that. Covered in gore, screaming and swinging for the fences, there’s something terrifying about the level of comfort Lawler finds in the chaos of the game. He takes on the best of the best and the toughest of the toughest and brings out the best in them, never once producing a boring fight.
In terms of scary fighters in the UFC, Lawler is about as scary as they come. More than one welterweight is happy he’s no longer champion, because it means they may have a shot to win gold without ever having to see him across the cage.
Scariest Fight: Win over Rory MacDonald, UFC 189
Who in their right mind, male or female, would want anything to do with a fight with Cris Cyborg? She is genuinely terrifying, a Brazilian buzzsaw who’s spent a decade obliterating talent across the globe. Now she’s in the UFC and the ladies there are going to have to deal with her for the foreseeable future.
Her power is among the greatest in the sport and her finishing instinct is second to none. She’s a perfect blend of having the ability to hurt someone and knowing how to get them out of the fight for good once she does. Her recent TKO win over Lina Lansberg took a round-and-a-half to come to completion, and it was hailed as a warrior’s showing for Lansberg based solely on the fact she was the first woman to survive a round against Cyborg in three years.
And that nickname? It’s chilling. It’s chilling because her efficiency and forcefulness in the cage almost makes one think she could be a cyborg. She simply marches forward, impervious to the pain and danger that most face down in MMA competition, and finishes her opponent. There’s nothing else like it in the sport.
The only thing that remains for Cyborg now is to settle the score with Ronda Rousey, the other main face of women’s MMA. The two have been jousting for years and both have been accused of avoiding the other at certain points, but the fight appears to be closer than ever with Rousey fixing to return to competition at UFC 207.
Still, given what Cyborg has left in her wake, no one would blame Rousey for avoiding a bout with one of the sport’s scariest athletes.
Scariest Fight: Win over Jan Finney, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum
Is there anyone more dangerous with a single strike than Anthony Johnson? Since returning to the UFC in 2013, he’s stopped four fights in under half a round, and five of his six wins have come by way of a seismic knockout.
All this from a former welterweight afterthought who reinvented himself as a hulking light heavyweight and who’s been in the title picture ever since. In fact, he’ll make his second bid at the 205-pound title in December against the only man to survive him in recent years, Daniel Cormier.
A bear of a man, there isn’t any real need for a vast collection of superlatives to describe him. He’s just scary. There’s a unique anticipation to watching him fight, where you just know that the minute he connects with an opponent he’s going to send them flying across the cage with a force usually reserved for a superhero. Even Cormier was badly hurt in their first fight but managed to hold on long enough to score a submission, perhaps akin to the final survivor in a slasher film.
Sixteen of his 22 career wins have come by knockout to this point, and almost all of them are highlight-reel wins. Even as a young welterweight, he produced blistering stoppages of Tommy Speer, Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Charlie Brenneman, and that terrifying power has been upwardly mobile based on the light heavyweight wins noted.
Oh, he also beat former UFC heavyweight champion and current contender Andrei Arlovski in a heavyweight bout once too.
Pretty scary dude.
Scariest Fight: Win over Yoshiyuki Yoshida, UFC 104
Nobody in the game revels in his or her own fearlessness the way Diego Sanchez does, and that makes him a truly terrifying slice of violence for anyone who crosses his path. There have been too many nights to count where Sanchez has stolen a show with his willingness to enter the fire and see how much it really burns.
He doesn’t win every time out; in fact he’s been winning increasingly infrequently since a 2009 lightweight title shot against BJ Penn, but there is a universal truth every time he takes to the octagon: There will be blood.
At this point, Sanchez is probably more scar tissue than man, having absorbed as much punishment over the past decade as anyone in the sport. He won the original Ultimate Fighter and parlayed that success into memorable fights with Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, Clay Guida, Penn and a laundry list of others. At this point it’s probably easier to list his forgettable fights, as he’s become a legend for his ability to take the inherent anarchy of a cage fight to the next level.
He may not ever be a Hall of Famer for the UFC, but no one will ever deny that he is a scary individual. The enduring image of the New Mexico native will surely be his bloody visage contorted into a scowl, hands swinging wildly either in punching combos or in hopes of getting the crowd going.
He is and always has been a uniquely unsettling animal in a sport that’s full of them.
Scariest Fight: Loss to Gilbert Melendez, UFC 188
The story of Cain Velasquez is well told at this point: He more or less had to go to the UFC as a green, 2-0 heavyweight competitor because his opponents in regional shows would show up, see him and then flee in terror.
Think about that.
The biggest, toughest, scariest guys on the planet would show up for work and then turn tail and run just by seeing Velasquez. They wouldn’t even try their luck inside the cage.
If that’s not the embodiment of scary, what is?
In the time since those days, Velasquez has beaten the tar out of almost every relevant heavyweight in the UFC—some a few times. He battered Ben Rothwell, stopped Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, took Brock Lesnar’s world title like he was taking candy from a proverbial baby, and he’s responsible for half of the losses on the record of Junior dos Santos.
That’s a murderer’s row of heavyweights, and Velasquez has stomped them all into the dirt, most without even the slightest resistance.
Though he’s been slowed by injury at times, he returned to form at UFC 200 with a vintage performance. Punctuated by a new wrinkle in the form of a wheel kick, he dropped Travis Browne and finished him with what many consider to be the scariest ground-and-pound in the sport. He’ll now look to avenge a loss to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207.
Velasquez is the singular heavyweight who loves to do harm, has a high workrate and never gets tired. In the spirit of the season, one might compare him to the imitable Jason Voorhees in terms of his commitment to his work and the volume of damage he does when he’s on point.
No one should look forward to opposing him.
Scariest Fight: Win over Junior dos Santos, UFC 166