It’s hardly a secret that mixed martial arts (MMA) fans watch the UFC for the heart-pumping knockouts its most revered stars produce in high pressure situations.
True, some may watch for its combination of power and skill, and others still may tune in for their own appreciation of wrestling and/or grappling, but if you were to poll every fight fan out there, you’d most likely receive an overwhelming response that most fans love MMA for the exhilarating knockouts.
That makes the fighters who often knock their opponents out obvious fan favorites, and indeed many have died by the sword attempting to become one of these crowd-pleasing stars. The ones who actually made it through and achieved greatness thanks to their fists sit as some of the shining lights of the sport, with spoils, adoration, and fear all coming in droves.
It takes a special kind of fighter to sit among the heaviest hitters in the Octagon. Here are the 12 most powerful punchers in the UFC right now.
12.) John Dodson:
No. 8-ranked bantamweight Dodson kicks off the list after recently returning to bantamweight with a shockingly quick knockout of Manny Gamburyan at April’s UFC on FOX 19.
The lightning-fast “Magician” blends perhaps the most potent mix of power and speed in all of MMA, evident by his knockouts over former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and top-ranked flyweight Jussier Formiga, among others. All told, he has nine knockouts in 18 total wins.
He even rocked pound-for-pound great Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in their first match-up at UFC on FOX 6, a true testament to Dodson’s game-changing power at the lighter weights.
11.) Vitor Belfort:
It wouldn’t be a list of knockout strikers without “The Phenom,” who owns the overall record for most T/KO finishes in the UFC. Belfort is forever entrenched on UFC highlight reels for his 44-second flurry on Wanderlei Silva back in the UFC’s “Dark Ages,” where he debuted as a hulking 19-year-old tournament champion in 1996.
Belfort has obviously gone through a ton of turmoil and controversy ever since, but he’s also picked up a ton of knockouts along the way.
He’s fading a bit at 38 years old, and he was thoroughly throttled by Brazilian countryman Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 198, so “The Phenom” doesn’t rank as high on this list of current UFC heavy hitters as he would have in recent years. But with 18 KOs in 25 wins, there’s always a place for Belfort on this list, and you need look back no further than his head kick knockouts of another fighter higher on this list, legendary power slugger Dan Henderson.
10.) John Lineker:
The aptly named “Hands of Stone” fully lives up to his billing in the Octagon, delivering hard-hitting slugfests nearly each and every time out to the cage.
The Brazilian power slugger recently moved to bantamweight after repeatedly struggling to make the flyweight limit of 125 pounds, but his power doesn’t appear to have been sapped as a result. He put on one of the most exciting slugfests of 2015 when he threw down in an epic war with Francisco Rivera at UFC 191 before submitting “Cisco” with a guillotine.
With 12 knockouts in 27 total wins, the exciting Lineker is poised for even bigger things in the rest of 2016 and beyond.
9.) Junior dos Santos:
Once feared as the most powerful boxer in all of MMA during his reign as UFC heavyweight champion from 2011-2012, Brazilian fan favorite “Cigano” still maintains his position as one of the finest pugilists and most powerful punchers in the sport.
His rank may have dropped a bit after his knockout loss to Alistair Overeem, his two brutal losses to Cain Velasquez, and the fact that his last two wins have come by decision, but “Cigano’s” 12 knockouts in 18 total wins show that he’s a heavy hitter on par with the best.
His epic knockout wins over Velasquez, Mark Hunt, and Fabricio Werdum are the resume of a true knockout puncher, and dos Santos still has the power to put out any fighter’s lights on any given night. He owns a hard-fought decision win over current champion Stipe Miocic, and after his thoroughly impressive win over Ben Rothwell earlier this year, you can bet he’ll be looking to make sure it won’t be as controversial if the two ever lock horns again.
8.) Cody Garbrandt:
The brash, tattooed “No Love” has absolutely taken the UFC 135-pound arena by storm in short order, bolstered mainly by his recent upset knockout of the previously undefeated (and heavily hyped) prospect Thomas Almeida.
But Garbrandt brings much more to the table than just that one single impressive win, as he’s won an alarming eight of his total nine wins by knockouts. He brings some legitimately scary power in his hands for a lighter weight fighter, and many believe he’s already the future of the division – and the one to possibly dethrone decorated champ Dominick Cruz.
The future is bright for the Team Alpha Male standout, and with a boxing background boosting his success, he could quickly be ranked as one, if not the, most powerful punchers in MMA quite soon.
7.) Roy Nelson:
Another veteran who simply could not be excluded from this list, “Big Country” brings some of the most earth-shattering knockout power in all of the sport. True, he hasn’t exactly been on fire as of late, with no knockouts since April 2014, but his streak of four knockout wins in five fights from late 2011 to early 2013 earned him notoriety as a kooky fan favorite who looked for the knockout and the knockout alone.
Nelson owns a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but you wouldn’t know it, as he appears focused solely on landing his thunderous right hand in most of his fights. Yes, it may end in his demise when he ends up being a bit one-dimensional, but there’s no doubt that Nelson’s knockouts are some of the most exciting the heavyweight division has ever seen.
With 14 knockouts in 21 wins, two-thirds of “Big Country’s” total victories have come by KO.
6.) Alistair Overeem:
Now we’re getting into rarified air in the top half of this list of the hardest hitters in the UFC, as former Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1 World Grand Prix champion Overeem is finally living up to his potential with a long-awaited UFC title shot set for September’s UFC 203 from Cleveland.
Overeem boasts a truly jaw-dropping resume with 18 knockouts in 41 wins, and he actually has more submission wins with 19. But we’re not here to talk about his grappling, and it’s plain to see that “The Reem” has some of the most powerful hands and feet in all of MMA today.
That’s been on full display lately, with Overeem knocking out dos Santos with a picture-perfect left hook before finishing another former champion in Andrei Arlovski with a jumping front kick in early May. He also owns a vicious body kick TKO win over returning former champion Brock Lesnar, and grossly out-struck Frank Mir at 2014’s UFC 169, giving him wins over an alarming six former UFC champs when you add in his wins over Fabricio Werdum and Vitor Belfort outside the UFC.
“The Reem” has certainly absorbed a ton of punishment himself, as his early UFC days of winning early only to gas and be knocked out by Travis Browne, “Bigfoot” Silva, and Ben Rothwell are seemingly a thing of the past. No longer a hulking behemoth of a heavyweight that requires an insane amount of oxygen to keep fighting, Overeem has refined his fighting style and strategy with the help of Albuquerque’s Greg Jackson, and it’s clearly paid dividends in the cage.
Overeem can knock out any professional fighter in a variety of ways, and at 36 years old, he’s at the height of his abilities heading into the biggest fight of his career.
5.) Conor McGregor:
Next up on our list is none other than UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor, the brash, outspoken Irishman who skyrocketed to the top of the 145-pound division with a trajectory that had simply never been witnessed before.
A huge part of his rise was obviously his ability to back up his never-ending trash talk with a comparable streak of knockouts in the Octagon when McGregor polished off six of his first seven UFC opponents via T/KO to win the title.
He ran into a massive roadblock when he faced the iron-chinned Nate Diaz up two weight classes at UFC 196, but there’s no arguing that McGregor posses absolutely otherworldly power when fighting at his original home of featherweight. Following his recent spat with the UFC over promotional obligations and his subsequent ‘retirement,’ McGregor’s star power may have taken a bit of a hit, but he stills brings legions of fans and some of the explosive knockout power in fighting nonetheless.
His absolutely insane knockout percentage based on his 17 KOs in 19 wins s pure proof of that, and his 13-second KO of the greatest featherweight of all-time in Jose Aldo only serves to further his legend as one of the hardest hitters in MMA.
Whether he can become a truly well rounded martial artist and defend his belt is an entirely different matter, however.
4.) Robbie Lawler:
The current UFC welterweight champion is also one of the Octagon’s most revered and longtime veterans – and he’s also undoubtedly one of its heaviest hitters.
Since returning to the world’s foremost MMA promotion in early 2013, Lawler has been nothing but spectacular fighting back at 170 pounds. It all started with his vicious first-round finish of former title contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 157, and his resurgence only built momentum as he knocked out Bobby Voelker before outlasting Rory MacDonald to earn a title shot at Georges St-Pierre’s vacated belt against top contender Johny Hendricks.
Although he would lose a close, hard-fought war to “Bigg Rigg,” it was how Lawler responded that would cement his position as one of the best fighters and hardest hitters in the UFC. As Hendricks healed from elbow surgery, Lawler simply went on a rampage, knocking out Jake Ellenberger hardly two months later and engaging in an absolute slugfest with Matt Brown to earn another crack at Hendricks in his return bout at UFC 181.
Lawler survived Hendricks’ wrestling-focused gameplan to finish the bout with his now-famous fifth-round flurry, burning an image in the judges’ heads to win a decision and start his reign as champion. He made his first defense in one of the greatest UFC bouts of all-time, where he went to war with MacDonald once again, bloodying the stalwart contender and breaking his nose despite nearly getting knocked out by a head kick himself.
Wining the epic bout by fifth-round TKO after “Ares” could simply take no more, Lawler proved why he is one of the hardest hitters in fighting. With 20 knockouts in 27 wins, his stats prove it, but his all-out fighting style and ferocious finishing ability are why he sits high up on the list of the UFC’s hardest hitters.
3.) Dan Henderson:
What hasn’t been said about the time-honored veteran Dan Henderson, who possesses quite possibly the most feared single weapon in MMA with his vaunted “H-Bomb?”
Like a more famous version of Roy Nelson’s overhand right, Henderson has grown perhaps too fond of stalking down his opponent to look for the fight-ending strike after he knocked out current UFC champion Michael Bisping with the feared punch at UFC 100.
Although he had endured a streak of six losses in eight bouts, the 45-year-old “Hendo” has seemingly found a way to adapt his game at an advanced age, using a head kick (of all moves) and a rarely-seen back elbow to knock out fellow heavy hitter Hector Lombard at June 4’s UFC 199. The win has Henderson calling for a title shot after Bisping somehow shocked the world by knocking out Luke Rockhold at the very same event, and he just may get it with “The Count” acknowledging he “owes” “Hendo” one.
Whether it’s fully justified or not doesn’t really matter, because Henderson has put on some of the most exciting fights in MMA history, including what many consider the best UFC fight ever in his first bout versus Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. His run of destruction from 2009-2011 where he knocked out Bisping, Renato Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante, and finally, all-time heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko, was simply the stuff of legends, and with his retirement admittedly coming sometime soon, Henderson is just that.
He’s won half of his 32 total wins by knockout, and he’s consistently fought the best of the best at whatever weight class he fought in. Each and every one of those opponents was in danger in no small part due to the dangerous “H-Bomb.”
2.) Anthony “Rumble” Johnson:
This scary light heavyweight knockout artist could undoubtedly make a case for being the hardest hitter in the UFC. Heading into his pivotal UFC on FOX 20 match-up against fellow knockout slugger Glover Teixeira on July 23, no light heavyweight instills fear into their opponents’ hearts because of their power like “Rumble” does.
He infamously spent years toiling at welterweight, where he would reportedly cut in excess of 55 pounds to make the division’s 170-pound weight limit. But when his weight-cutting issues eventually caught up to him and he was released from the UFC, “Rumble” reinvented himself at a much more healthy weight of 205 pounds, and the results have been nothing but spectacular – and devastating – ever since.
“Rumble” picked apart former top contender Phil Davis in his UFC re-debut, and he followed that up with a highlight reel knockout of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC on FOX 12 in 2014. The win earned him a bout with recent title contender Alexander Gustafsson, and he capitalized in a big way by demolishing “The Mauler” in his native Sweden to earn his own title shot.
“Rumble” would nearly knock off Daniel Cormier’s head with a huge punch after Jon Jones was arrested and removed from their scheduled title match, and even though he would eventually lose to the smothering wrestling and top game of “DC,” Johnson rebounded well by knocking out Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader in spectacular fashion.
With 15 knockouts in 21 wins, “Rumble” is simply one of the most powerful knockout artists to ever fight in MMA, and would be the most powerful if not for the next man on our list.
1.) Mark Hunt:
There’s simply not another man that could grace the top of this list of hard hitters other than “The Super Samoan.”
The fan favorite Australian has become the king of the walk-off knockout, shutting out the lights of Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva, Stefan Struve, and more with absolutely the most devastating one-punch power in the UFC today, and arguably ever. Hunt’s record isn’t exactly glaring, currently sitting at 12-10-1, and he’s definitely not the most well rounded fighter out there.
But no one can even consider arguing against his sheer knockout power, power that had former champions Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum in big trouble before they rallied to knock out the normally iron-chinned Aussie themselves. He also threw down in one of the best heavyweight brawls of all-time in his first match-up with Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva at UFC Fight Night 33 in late 2013.
True, Hunt has faltered a bit when faced with the challenges of the top-level heavyweights in the UFC, but with nine of his wins coming some of the most memorable striking stoppages you’ve ever seen in MMA, Hunt’s electric drawing power and earth-shaking power make him one of the most exciting characters in the UFC. That should only grow this summer when he faces Brock Lesnar in the co-main event of UFC 200.
If “The Super Samoan” adds Lesnar to his list of walk-off knockouts, you can be sure he’ll be one of the most popular fighters in MMA, as well. For now, he’ll just have to settle for the title of the hardest hitter.