The appeal of fighting sports is its capacity to feed our primal need for destruction. Fighters approach fights differently: there are fighters that prefer to bulldoze the competition with brute power and strength, and in contrast, other fighters are methodical assassins. Whatever the approach, spectators love to see someone “hurt” or get knocked out. It is in our drive, it is what Freud refers to as man’s “Death Instinct”.
But this article is not about the Freudian theory. This is about individuals who had made reputations of themselves as fearsome fighters. These 25 fighters of last 25 years are not inside the ring or cage to win on points. They are not in there to sting you with punches or kicks, instead, they are there with the full intention to hurt you or knock you out cold. Win or lose, going against them always guarantees pain.
This list is in no particular order.
- Mike Tyson – During his boxing heydays, Iron Mike is considered to be the baddest man in the world. He had already knocked out 25 out of 27 opponents (mostly on the first round) before knocking out Trevor Berbick for his first heavyweight title.
Tyson is a power-punching machine with unprecedented speed and explosiveness. Due to his reputation as a KO puncher, his opponents were already mentally defeated even before the bell rings. His hooks and uppercuts are quick and powerful; he did not want to punch your body, he want to put holes on you and crush your insides.
- Chuck Liddell – Perhaps the very first notable knockout artist of modern UFC. The Iceman relies primarily on his takedown defense and powerful counter punching to defeat his opponents. When he fought, people expected fireworks.
- Vitor Belfort – Nicknamed, “The Phenom”, Belfort took the MMA world by storm by knocking out his opponents with tremendous handspeed and athleticsm. It is advisable not to blink when watching the Brazilian fight much more if you are the one fighting him.
- Manny Pacquiao – Combine lightning-fast combinations with punching power, you get a good boxer. Now add fast footwork, an awkward southpaw style, an iron chin, killer instincts, and bottomless stamina... You get the Pacman. When Pacquiao’s not taking opponents out with a single punch (like what he did to Hatton), he’d settle for reconfiguring faces and breaking orbital bones (Margarito).
- Jose Aldo – This Brazilian has a Muay Thai style that is feared by many fighters in his division. His leg kicks and knees are lethal. His hooks are just as great. Against Aldo, fighters can’t help but strike with him because it’s hard to take him down and keep him on the ground.
- George Foreman – Big George was the most feared boxer during the seventies. He was tall, highly skilled, powerful, and durable. He retired in 1977 only to comeback 10 years later and eventually won his the title back in 1994. He was 45 years old that time. Like the vintage Foreman, he’s knocking younger fighters silly left and right on his way regaining lost glory.
- Ray Sefo – The New Zealander is a professional boxer, an MMA fighter, and still active as a kickboxer. His vicious right hand had carried him through the ranks and even the likes of K1 greats—such as Hoost, Aerts, LeBanner, and Hug—respected the power of Ray.
- Kostya Tszyu – When it comes to one punch power, Tszyu is a monster at 140 lbs. His timing with his right hand was divine. And he was so heavy-handed that blocking his punches would still send opponents to hurtville. Out of his 31 wins, 25 were KOed. His victims includes Chavez Sr., Mitchell, and Judah.
- Quinton Jackson – During his Pride and early UFC days, “Rampage” Jackson comes to end fights. He’s a very strong wrestler. He body slammed (powerbomb) Ricardo Arona and put him to sleep. His punching power is also highly regarded by his peers. There are only few light heavyweights who would dare trading punches with Rampage in the pocket. And those who did paid a heavy price, just ask Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.
- Edwin Valero – The Venezuelan has never lost a bout and all opponents were beaten convincingly by KO. Before winning the WBA Super Featherweight Title, he had become a sensation because of the fact that his first 18 opponents did not survive the first round. As a southpaw, Valero home in with his left like sniper and hits opponents’ jaws like a cannon. It’s a shame that he died before realizing true boxing greatness.
- Buakaw Banchamek (Por. Pramuk) – This welterweight Muay Thai fighter is one of the best Thailand has ever produced. His kicks and knees were quick and crippling. As a true Muay Thai practictioner, he fights head-on, slowly breaking opponents’ bodies down with lethal roundhouse kicks and punches.
- BJ Penn – When “The Prodigy” entered octagon, he was considered as a true talent with a tremendous warrior’s heart. Penn is an accomplished grappler but his boxing is superb and powerful. Freddie Roach considered him as one of the best boxers in the UFC. Expect to get busted up when you want to scrap with BJ. No one can forget what he did to the faces of Sanchez and Stevenson, and how knocked Hughes and Sherk out.
- Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović – Known for the phrase "right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery.", Cro Cop is primarily a kickboxer with deadly kicks—particularly his left head kick. Before becoming an MMA fighter, he was an accomplished K1 fighter that fought against the best kickboxers of the world.
- David Tua – Arguably the best prototype of Samoan power and toughness, Tua punches like he wants to takes your head off and put holes to your body. He’s an in-your-face pressure fighter with powerful left hooks and overhand rights. As a professional, he was never knocked out or rarely knocked down. His iron chin and devastating KO power made him a dangerous opponent. If you cannot put him at bay, you’re in big trouble.
- Anderson Silva – One of the best pound-for-pound fighters, the Brazilian is a virtuoso striker with amazing accuracy, agility, and creativity. His reflexes are almost superhuman and his striking tools are varied---from Jeet Kune Do’s knee sidekicks to Tae Kwon Do’s spinning attacks. His clinch game is painful because of his well-timed knees and elbows.
- Melvin Manhoef – This Dutch kickboxer is known for his aggressive fighting style, speed, and knockout power. Manhoef is a fast-twitch fighter and the only fighter to have knocked out the durable Mark Hunt. He now fights MMA matches.
- Felix Trinidad – This Puerto Rican boxing icon had an uncanny left hook that seemed to hit accurately with power. Even when opponents had prepared themselves for that punch, they still found themselves lying on the canvas because Trinidad would setup the hook beautifully that opponents would not know what hit them.
- Junior Dos Santos – Dos Santos is soft-spoken outside the octagon but inside, he is a ruthless killer. He is currently considered to have the best hands in UFC’s heavyweight division. He habitually knocks people out with one punch. Unfortunately, taking the fight to the ground is a tall order because the Brazilian has great takedown defense and capable of scrambling back up with ease.
- Ernesto Hoost – This Dutch kickboxer and K1 Hall of Famer is a methodical assassin. He has all the tools a striker should have and he used them with ultimate grace and refinement. The way Hoost brought destruction upon his opponents was beautiful to watch. He setup leg kicks like no one could and delivered body hooks with wicked deception.
- Wanderlei Silva – He is called “The Axe Murderer” and for good reason. He’s well-known for his aggression with the majority of his fights ending in knockout or referee stoppage due to strikes. He punches in reckless abandon and had dangerous knees on the clinch.
- Nonito Donaire – A gifted pound-for-pound boxer with amazing reflexes, power, and accuracy. When he knocks people out with one punch, he fractures jaw and cheek bones (Darchinyan and Montiel). Filipino Flash’s bread and butter is the quick straight and counter left hook.
- Mike Zambidis – This Greek’s relentless and dynamic attacking style has endeared him to all K1 fans. When he punches, he throws bombs such as overhand right and short left hooks. Iron Mike also like to execute flying knees and superman punches just to make opponents feel that they are nothing.
- Badr Hari – Considered as one of the best kickboxers of all time, this Moroccan-Dutch fighter is a striking genius and a knockout artist. Often involved in controversies, Badr Hari is a popular personality inside and outside the ring but it has not diminished his reputation as a deadly kickboxer. His techniques are flawlessly painful and when he’s able to channel his aggression effectively, his opponents will likely suffer.
- Julio César Chávez Sr. – This hall-of-famer is a hero in his native land of Mexico. With an incredible record of 107 wins (89 by KO), 6 losses, and 2 draws, Chávez Sr. has fought wars and won most of them via knockout. This durable Mexican is willing to take two or three just to give one solid shot. He’s skillful, tough, and powerful—the perfect emissary of Mexican boxing.
- Julian Jackson – Nicknamed "The Hawk", Jackson is considered to as one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers of all time. His one-punch power is devastating as he fully commits to his punches. Ninetey percent of his wins were won his matches via KO. On the other hand, he's so offensive minded that when he lost, it's also always via KO.