Mixed martial arts (MMA) is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports today. Despite each bout consisting of at least three rounds, most do not go the distance.
There are two ways to win in MMA, either by submission or by knockout. While there are a handful of fans who can appreciate the technical fluidity of a slick submission, almost everyone is impressed by knockouts.
There’s just something about a knockout that is so pure, so unadulterated. The way strikes connect flush and without hindrance, and in an instant can produce earth-shattering force to knock a fighter down or even out — it’s just absolutely mesmerizing.
But not all fighters can score knockouts. Only the truly gifted, bestowed with unbelievable power, can bring fans up to their feet with their thunderous strikes.
Some fighters, however, hit a lot harder than others. And while we can’t test for ourselves just how hard they hit, we can listen to their peers. Join us as we delve into the personal accounts of some of the biggest names in MMA, in determining just who are the biggest and baddest knockout strikers in the sport today.
Let’s take a look at some of MMA’s meanest striking machines. Today, Evolve Daily shares five of the hardest strikers in all of mixed martial arts, according to the fighters themselves.
1) Francis Ngannou
“The Predator” Francis Ngannou of Paris, France is a relatively new name in MMA, and if you have never heard of him before, you will soon start hearing about him much more. At just 31 years of age, Ngannou has recently emerged as a fixture in the UFC’s budding heavyweight division.
He’s made headlines with his freakish knockout power which has felled many opponents, leaving a trail of knockout victims in his wake. All 11 of his victories have not gone the distance, which includes 7 knockouts and 4 submissions. He joined the UFC in 2015, blitzing through the competition to win 6 straight bouts, 5 of which were knockouts.
Former light heavyweight contender Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson sang praises of Ngannou’s power, even before he came to prominence.
“It might not be the best technique, but it’s so much power and so much speed behind it,” said Johnson.
Another fighter who can attest to the Frenchman’s forceful hands is Curtis Blaydes, who fell by second-round TKO when he faced Ngannou in 2016.
“He is the heaviest hitter I’ve ever faced,” said Blaydes. “He hits harder than Mark Hunt. No disrespect to Mark Hunt, they both hit hard, we are splitting hairs here, but Ngannou hits harder.”
2) Dan Henderson
Retired former UFC middleweight champion Dan Henderson’s lethal right hand was so powerful, it had its own nickname. Fondly called “The H-Bomb”, Henderson’s thudding right hand has been responsible for the destruction of many big stars throughout his career which spanned nearly two decades.
Some of MMA’s biggest names have fallen prey to Henderson’s power, including guys such as Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Shogun Rua, and Hector Lombard. The most notable of all is Michael Bisping, whom Henderson stopped via second-round KO at UFC 100. “The Count” admitted then that he had never been hit harder.
The legendary Randy Couture said that the only time he was ever knocked out was when Henderson turned his lights out in a mere sparring session. That’s some pretty scary stuff if you think about it.
To put Henderson’s power into perspective, even opponents whom he lost to really gave him props for the dynamite he packed in that big right hand.
“Dan Henderson, even when you’re close and he hits you from very very close, you can feel how heavy his hands are,” said Daniel Cormier, who defeated Henderson at UFC 173 in 2014.
Jake Shields, who fought and beat Hendo in 2010 revealed that Henderson was the hardest puncher he had ever competed against. Retired UFC fighter and now broadcast analyst Kenny Florian also once ranked Henderson at the top of his list of hardest punchers of all time.
3) Mark Hunt
When you talk about the hardest punchers of all time, there’s one name that unanimously pops up in nearly every discussion, and that’s “The Super Samoan” Mark Hunt. The 265 lb behemoth from Auckland, New Zealand is a veteran of the cage, and his 13 career wins, 10 of which came by knockout, is certainly a testament to his uncanny power.
Hunt practically invented walk-off KO’s, terrorizing heavyweights with his dynamite fists and natural strength. After sending his opponents crashing into unconsciousness, Hunt would famously walk back to his corner like he was expecting the finish. Few fighters have had this sort of impact on the opposition.
“I’ve now been hit by Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos, you name it,” said former foe Frank Mir. “I’ve been hit by some of the most powerful guys in the division and I was never really able to answer that question when someone asked me, ‘Who hits the hardest?’ And now, I’ll tell people, I’ve never been hit like I was hit by Mark Hunt.”
UFC heavyweight fighter Tai Tuvasa, one of Hunt’s sparring partners, also attests to the Kiwi’s awesome fists.
“He’s the hardest person I’ve ever been hit by,” Tuvasa told media. “It’s like running into a wall or letting someone hit you over the head with a bat.”
UFC broadcast analyst and fight connoisseur Joe Rogan likened Hunt’s power to that of an asteroid impact.
4) Chuck Liddell
UFC pioneer and light heavyweight great Chuck Liddell had the rare, natural-born ability to knock people out. If you ask him, he would probably refer to it as his calling. Very few people are born with as powerful of hands as Liddell has, and luckily for fans, Liddell chose to showcase his wares in MMA.
His most impressive run as a professional came in a winning streak that saw him scoring highlight-reel stoppages of Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Renato Sobral, Jeremy Horn, and Vernon White.
“In terms of who hit the hardest, it had to be Chuck Liddell,” Couture once said. “I’ve been knocked on my can a few times in my career, but he was the only guy to knock me completely unconscious, to the point where you’re fighting one second and the next you’re looking up going, “Who the hell are you guys?”
They don’t call him “The Iceman” for nothing.
5) Anthony Johnson
With 22 wins, 16 of which have come by way of knockout, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is one of the most devastating knockout punchers to ever step foot inside the cage. Beginning his career at lightweight, Johnson experienced his best form as a light heavyweight in recent years. His most notable victories came over guys like Alexander Gustafsson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ryan Bader, Jimi Manuwa, and Glover Teixeira.
Johnson’s regular sparring partner, former light heavyweight titleholder “Sugar” Rashad Evans can vouch for Rumble’s unbridled power.
“He’s the hardest puncher I’ve ever experienced, for sure. No doubt about it,” said Evans. “I’ve watched him knock out countless people in the gym.”
One of the hardest opponents Johnson had ever faced, a man who had defeated him twice, had nothing but nice words to say about his punching power. Daniel Cormier, who finished Johnson with a pair of rear naked chokes at UFC 187 and UFC 210 respectively, said Johnson possessed a unique sort of KO power.
“Anthony Johnson hits harder than any other person, no doubt,” said Cormier. “Every time he hit me, it made me kind of like fly all over the place. He was trying to take my head off. Even when he’d miss, you can hear it.”
Johnson is now retired, and fans surely miss his unique brand of action inside the Octagon.
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