The former street brawler turned K-1 kickboxing legend Mark Hunt was never supposed to be an MMA fighter. Hunt had made the switch from kickboxing to compete in Pride fighting championships. But when the defunct promotion folded and some of its roster of fighters were offered contracts or a way out.
Hunt who was coming off five straight losses, yet decided to stay the course and try his hand inside the UFC octagon. And it was here where the now legendary Super Samoan showed his one-punch knockout power at heavyweight. As while certain elements of his ground game left a little to be desired. It’s was Hunt’s ability to separate and opponent from their senses that won him much of his fanbase.
And while at one point Mark did fight his way into contention for the interim title. He would fall at the final hurdle, losing via flying knee to future division champion Fabricio Werdum. None the less, Hunto son will forever be remembered as the walk-off king. Where his sheer punching power was enough to have a fighter out before they even hit the ground. As he nonchalantly strolled away as though just finishing a coffee.
Yet another one of the sports icons whose name has once again risen to prominence. Mark Kerr aka The Smashing Machine, The Specimen, was a heavyweight fighter who competed from 1997 – 2009. Born in Toledo Ohio, Kerr was a Division I All-American in 1992 and a USA Senior Freestyle Champion in wrestling. Before finally being introduced to the sport of Vale Tudo and later mixed martial arts.
And while Mark competed in the UFC winning a heavyweight tournament. It was his time in Pride which cemented his legacy as one of the most imposing fighters in the sport at that time. Weighing in at over 250 lbs of pure steroid-enhanced muscle. His quiet, almost placid personality outside the ring completely contrasted that of it inside.
Where using his sheer size and ability to take extreme damage due to his documented pain killer addiction. Meant that he was able to quite literally crush his opponents. Often making them quit as a result of being totally overwhelmed. And while he may not have won a title Pride, his place in the early history of the sport won’t be forgotten. Being documented in one of the most riveting sports documentaries The Smashing Machine.
“Right kick hospital, left kick cemetery,” the tagline of infamous striker Mirko Cro Cop. Who originally began his career in combat sports as a kickboxer. A former member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit, Croatia’s elite Police Special Forces tactical unit. Mirko began his journey fighting under the K-1 promotion. Where he would face some of the greatest standup fighters on the planet.
In 2001 he would take up the sport of MMA, adding grappling to his already elite level striking. But it would be his devastating kicks which would become his signature technique. As time after time, he would stop his opponents either with kicks to the body or head, but the end result always being the same.
Reaching the ranking of number one contender, at Pride Conflict 2005 he would face the reigning heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. In what for many was the greatest heavyweight fight of all time. As he came within a whisker of taking the title, only to be outstruck by the Russian phenom. Still many regard the Croatian Sensation as one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in the sport.
A formidable force at light heavyweight, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson was yet another American fighter who made his name outside the country. Having fought as high as super heavyweight, Rampage would go on to make the journey to Japan to compete for Pride FC.
And this is where the Memphis native would make a name for himself, as one of the most destructive fighters in the promotion. Taking the skills from collegiate wrestling and years of street fighting. Jackson would use his signature slams to great effect when taking out several of his opponents.
This coupled with his distinctive walkouts where he would howl like a wolf. All of which made it very intimidating for his opponents. But he also had the skills to back up, defeating some of the most dangerous fighters including Kevin Randleman and Igor Vovchanchyn. However, it would be his fights against Wanderlei Silva, which he lost. Which for many years would drive the narrative of his career.
Once he made the move from Pride to the UFC, he would win the light heavyweight title. Knocking out the reigning champion Chuck Liddell with one of his signature looping hooks. And some years later once again face Wanderlei Silva in a grudge match. This time with a very different outcome as he knocked the Brazilian out cold, exorcising the demons of Pride FC.
At one time, the former Pride middleweight champion was without a doubt the most intimidating fighter on the planet. With his legendary staredowns and ferocious attitude inside the ring. Silva established himself as one of the most dangerous champions in all MMA.
A product of the bare-knuckle Brazilian Vale Tudo scene. Wanderlei built his reputation on pure unbridled aggression combined with knockout power and a solid base in Muay Thai. And it was through this style of fighting that he would go on to dominate the Pride middleweight division, holding the title from 2001 – 2007.
With his signature hand warm-up exercises, head tattoo and bulging physique from all manner of supplements. He was an unstoppable force for much of his career and would only start to see consistent losses following the loss of his title. With epic fights against Chuck Liddell and Quinton Jackson. Few can dispute his position as one of the most influential MMA fighters of the last two decades.
So I hope you enjoyed this little run through who we believe to be the most intimidating MMA fighter in the sports relatively short history. And as it’s a subjective choice, there is little doubt people will have their own opinions on who they believe should be on the list. With new fighters constantly popping up on the landscape, things over time will of course change.
But right now as we look back on the past two decades and the development of the sport. Few can dispute the effect these fighters we have chosen have had on its direction. Giving us some of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history. We look forward to those who will come after, setting new records and establishing themselves as the very best MMA has known.
Part-time surfer, full-time dog fanatic, Martial Arts practitioner. I’m trying to save the world, one fight at a time. Catch me blogging at FightNomads.com.