Yet another iconic fighter in the sport, former Pride welterweight, middleweight, as well as the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. Outside of all of his great accolades in the sport, Dan Henderson was also the fourth man to beat the legendary Emelianenko Fedor.
During his time fighting in Pride, along with several other notable names, Hendo carried to US invasion in the Asian MMA promotion. Competing in their often open weight classes, Dan fought from middleweight up to heavyweight. Taking on some of the biggest names and emblazing his name in the early years of the sport’s development.
One of the most imposing characters, his calm and often funny demeanour contrasted starkly with his persona inside the ring. Where his wrestling and signature H-Bomb right-hand gave us some of the craziest knockouts the sport has known. With iconic matchups against Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua.
Dan became a fan favourite but fell short when it came to claiming a UFC championship. Losing in his first attempt to Anderson Silva, then later to Michael Bisping. But few can claim his presence and power inside the cage was not something to behold. Making him one of the most memorable and beloved fighters the sport has known.
For many fans and fighters the greatest fighter to have ever lived. And while the latter part of his career has not been anything like the earlier years. Fedor Emelianenko still remains one of the most feared and iconic fighters of the twenty-first century. With everyone from Anderson Silva, to BJ Penn, Georges St Pierre to Mike Tyson. Having Fedor as their number one pound for pound.
With just one disputed defeat, the Russian fighter dominated in Pride, beating all comers from 2000 to 2009. Taking the heavyweight championship from Antonio ‘Rodrigo’ Nogueira at Pride 25. Emelianenko would go undefeated until Pride finally closed its doors in 2007.
With his dynamic striking and elite level Russian Sambo. He was able to counteract some of the best American wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players in the sport. Dominating on the ground and forcing his opponents back to the feet. Where his fast and powerful striking simply proved too much for challengers.
It wouldn’t be until signing for Strikeforce that he would lose decisively with three straight losses. Without a doubt taking away from his legacy, but still being recognised as one of the best fighters the sport has known.
The top Cameroonian UFC heavyweight came out of nowhere like a sandstorm off the Sahara. Having made his way from the African continent to the European mainland, Francis NGannou had big plans to take up the sport of boxing. However, it was a chance meeting with future coach Fernand Lopez. Who advised him to try his hand at MMA, a sport that at that point he had never even heard of!
And it was a decision which would totally change the trajectory of his life. As after just six professional fights he would end up being signed by the UFC. Winning his first six fights and stopping two former champions in Andre Arlovski and Alistair Overeem in the process. NGannou had finally arrived to challenge for the UFC heavyweight crown.
But falling short in his quest against champion Stipe Miocic. Francis would lose yet another fight to journeyman Derrick Lewis. With many now questioning if he was nothing more than a fighter with serious KO power? He was eager to get back in the win column and put together a four-fight streak against Former champions Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. Reestablishing himself as a top contender in the division.
Without a doubt one of the most physical specimens ever to grace the octagon. Is it enough for him to at some point claim UFC gold? Time will tell if this fairy tale story has a happy ending.
Before Fedor, there was an equally destructive fighter who hailed from Ukraine by the name of Igor Vovchanchyn. With one of the longest win streaks in MMA history standing at 37! Vovchanchyn was a 5 8″ wrecking ball who competed at both light heavyweight and heavyweight. Taking on opponents who were sometimes almost a foot taller and over 100 lbs heavier!
He was a Vale Tudo no holds barred world champion who also competed in Pride FC. And while he did not win any major titles in the sport. He was still widely regarded as one of the toughest and hardest hitting competitors. Something which was all that more impressive due to his very small stature in the heavyweight division.
Another huge favourite amongst old school fans. His fights against Mark Kerr, Gary Goodridge and Paul Varelans are remembered fondly. While he was also on the end of some devastating losses against Mirk Cro Cop and Mark Coleman. But it was his Ice Cold demeanour, very much like his compatriot Fedor for which he will also be remembered.
When we talk about athletic fighters, we have to put Kevin ‘The Monster’ Randleman right up there near the top. The original bleached blonde, he held and defended the UFC heavyweight title before losing to Randy Couture at UFC 28. A true pioneer in the sport, his physical presence was something to behold.
Competing in Vale Tudo Brazil, before his time in the UFC, then later Pride FC. Randleman shocked the MMA world when he defeated Mirko Cro Cop at PRIDE Total Elimination 2004. Knocking out the Croatian superstar and setting himself up for a meeting against the champion Fedor Emelianenko.
With his unforgettable vertical leaps and chiselled physique. His nickname The Monster was an apt description for his bulging 5 10″ frame. And with classic fights against Bas Rutten and Fedor, which unfortunately he lost. His subsequent untimely death at just 44 years of age in 2016, came as a huge shock to the MMA community.
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