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15 UFC Fighters Who Have More Heart Than Muscle

Athletes competing in the UFC are well-conditioned and well-versed in multiple martial arts disciplines, ensuring that they are ready to wage war for 3 to 5 rounds on any given night. Many UFC fighters have spent a lifetime focusing on one discipline while sharpening others over the course of their career. The new breed of talent entering the promotion are young, hungry, and have spent countless years training in multiple disciplines, and they are paramount to the development of the young sport. Because they are at the top of the athletic pyramid, many fighters who make their way into the fabled Octagon look like something straight from an action movie. Their muscles and physique make them all the more imposing, and watching these jacked athletes throw haymakers makes for some entertaining fights in the UFC.

Not every athlete is of this kind of caliber, and the 15 fighters on our list (while talented) look like they are better suited working for a tire shop in Indiana as opposed to competing against some of the world’s toughest and most durable competitors. What these fighters lack in physique, they make up for in sheer will and determination. The eye can be deceived when looking at these competitors, but rest assured that foes who have competed against them have learned that perception doesn’t always equal reality. Picking on the Heavyweight Division would have been too easy, so we went ahead and scoured the UFC roster for the tubby and talented fighters that compete in the UFC.

16 Bryan Barberena

Brad Penner - USA TODAY SPORTS

From the outside looking in, UFC lightweight Bryan Barberena wouldn’t strike you as a dangerous foe inside the Octagon. He may not be a household name like Conor McGregor, but the man called “Bam Bam” is a talented fighter who sports a 13-5 career record. Moreover, 9 of Barberena’s wins have come by KO or TKO, meaning that opponents who take him lightly will be put to sleep on a moment’s notice.

In January of 2016, Barberena squared off against UFC poster boy Sage Northcutt who boasts one of the most impressive physiques in the promotion. Northcutt was in the process if receiving a huge push from the UFC, and he was touting an unbeaten professional record heading into the match. Despite storming out of the gate and pushing the action, Northcutt would have his hands full with Barberena. “Bam Bam” would weather the storm, and he would hand Northcutt his first professional loss.

15 Roy "Big Country" Nelson

via bloodyelbow.com

Roy Nelson definitely lives up to his nickname, especially the "Big" part. Known for being able to take some serious blows the head without falling unconcious, this is one fighter you definitely to not want to rub the wrong way. His career record of 23-14 is respectable, especially considering that he has 14 KO victories under his belt. Looking like a cross between a coal-miner and a grizzly bear, it's hard to imagine Nelson taking karate and Jiu-Jitsu lessons, especially when you start to think who would want to go toe-to-toe with the big man. Roy Nelson is perhaps the greatest example of how it takes pure will and determination to win, no matter what shape you might be in.

14 Johny Hendricks

via sherdog.com

There was once a point in time when fans considered Johny Hendricks to be nearly unbeatable. After running roughshod through the Welterweight Division, Hendricks would drop a highly controversial decision to Georges St-Pierre in their title clash at UFC 167. Despite winning the title 4 months later, Jonny’s career would be flipped upside down due to issues with his weight. Hendricks has missed weight in 3 of his last 4 bouts, making fans question his dedication to the sport. Despite his struggles with weight, Johny Hendricks remains a dangerous opponent when the mental aspect of his game is intact. Hendricks has secured 8 of his 18 career wins by KO or TKO, and his left hand became as recognized and feared as a Ronda Rousey arm-bar for a short period of time.

13 Derrick Lewis

via mmajunkie.com

When your nickname is “The Black Beast”, you have one heck of a reputation to live up to, and Derrick Lewis has been turning heads since making his UFC debut back in 2014. Because the UFC Heavyweight Division has a 265-lb. weight limit, it is not uncommon to see fighters who look round as opposed to chiseled. Lewis may not be a beacon of physical perfection, but those who have seen him compete know that he is among the most feared fighters in the promotion today. Of his 9 wins inside the Octagon, Lewis has finished 8 of those fights by either KO or TKO, with his lone decision victory coming against former UFC fighter Roy Nelson. Normally, a fighter who possesses this type of KO power wouldn’t be inclined to win a fight by submission, but Lewis has pulled off an armbar victory in his career.

12 Mark Hunt

via ufc.com

Fighters who reach great heights in other combat sports often make the transition to competing in Mixed Martial Arts full-time. After all, these individuals are so proficient in their respective discipline that making the transition into MMA can be an easier process than it would be for most others. Before he began competing in MMA, Mark Hunt was long-considered a dangerous world-class level kickboxer. Despite his lack of physique and a relatively short stature for his weight class, Mark Hunt’s KO power was, and still is, something to be feared by all who sign on the dotted line to compete against him.

Even though he had a rather poor MMA record at the time of his UFC debut (5-7 overall), Mark Hunt was a fan favorite who seemed poised to turn the corner. After dropping his debut, Hunt would rattle off 4 consecutive wins, firmly putting himself into the title picture. To give you an idea of how powerful Hunt is, 10 of his 13 career MMA wins have come by KO or TKO.

11 Daniel Cormier

via cagepotato.com

Recent controversy with Jon Jones aside, Daniel Cormier is the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion for a reason. Cormier is a former Olympic competitor whose iron-clad will and heavy hands have helped him turn into a bonafide MMA star. Prior to dropping down to light heavyweight, Cormier was a heavyweight competitor who came from out of nowhere to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix back in 2012. Once he began competing in the UFC, Cormier continued his dominance, rattling off 2 wins at heavyweight before dropping down to the division that he currently rules. Wrestlers are renowned for possessing an impressive amount of strength, and Cormier is no stranger to putting people on the canvas. Though he only has 6 career victories by KO or TKO, Cormier has heavy hands that have rattled some of the world’s toughest competitors.

10 Siyar Bahadurzada

via mmajunkie.com

Making your UFC debut is a huge moment for professional fighters, and making a stellar debut can do wonder for your career. Despite having an unimpressive physique, Siyar went on to eliminate Paulo Thiago in a mere 42 seconds during a match. Fans in the arena went nuts when the fight was stopped, and Siyar would take home a $50,000 bonus for his efforts that evening in Sweden. Fighters competing at 170 lbs. typically have chiseled frames, but Siyar is not your average welterweight. He began his career fighting at 205 lbs., and he has since dropped down 35 lbs. in order to compete in the Welterweight Division. Siyar last competed in September of 2017 when he dispatched of Rob Wilkinson by second-round TKO.

9 Tim Boetsch

via bloodyelbow.com

Much like Siyar Bahadurzada, UFC middleweight Tim Boetsch has cut a significant amount of weight to compete in the Middleweight Division. Boetsch began his career as a light heavyweight fighter, earning a 6-1 professional record before receiving the call to compete in the UFC. Boetsch made a statement in his first UFC bout, wiping out David Heath in the first round of their bout at UFC 81. Boetsch is now a 9-year UFC veteran who poses a mountainous challenge for any fighter in his division. Because of the 25-lb. weight cut, Tim Boetsch has a relatively unimpressive physique. It is evident that he has plenty of muscle on his frame, but years of being a heavier fighter has had an impact on his body. Despite this, over half of Boetsch’s 21 wins have come by KO or TKO, and his punching power has been a problem for each of his opponents.

8 Ben Rothwell

via bjpenn.com

With 46 professional fights under his belt, Ben Rothwell has seen and done it all in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Rothwell has competed for organizations such as M-1, IFL, and Affliction, and his long-awaited UFC debut came in 2009 at UFC 104. After trading wins and losses through his first 5 UFC fights, Rothwell would rattle off 4 straight wins, planting himself into the title picture. At a towering 6’4”, Rothwell’s unimpressive body isn’t indicative of the talent that he possesses, and there are over 30 fighters that can attest to this. He may have 10 career losses, but Rothwell is one of the best heavyweight fighters in the world, and he has been for quite some time.

7 Justin Willis

via mmajunkie.com

Competing in the UFC Heavyweight Division, American Kickboxing Academy standout Justin Willis is still incredibly young in his MMA career. Despite dropping his first professional fight back in 2012, Willis has since racked up 5 straight wins, including a victory in his UFC debut against James Mulheron. At the time of their contest, Mulheron, who was also making his UFC debut, was sporting an 11-1 record. After 3 rounds, Willis would walk away with a decision win. With his next bout against heavyweight Allen Crowder set to take place at UFC 218 in Detroit, fans are hoping to see Willis return to knocking his opponents out as opposed to winning by decision. Willis looks every bit of 265 lbs., and his heavy frame has helped his punching power. 3 of Willis’ 5 victories have come by KO or TKO, including a 43-second beatdown of fighter Yusuke Kawaguchi back in 2014.

6 Tonya Evinger

via mmafighting.com

Female competitors are still relatively new to the UFC, and their divisions are considered among the shallowest in the promotion. The Women’s Featherweight Division, according to the official UFC roster, only has 3 fighters including Tonya Evinger. The division is currently ruled by 145 lb. Queen Cris Cyborg; a woman who is renowned for her rock-solid body and heavy hands. Though Evinger ultimately fell short, her heart and punching power proved to be up to task when competing against Cyborg.

Prior to making her debut in the UFC, Evinger was the reigning Invicta FC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Physique aside, Evinger is an immensely talented fighter, and despite women not being known for the knockout power, Evinger has 8 career wins by either KO or TKO, making her one of the most lethal women competing in the UFC today.

5 Justin Ledet

via sherdog.com

It isn’t often that we see former college basketball players make the jump into MMA. Before he was handing out beatings in the Octagon, heavyweight competitor Justin Ledet was grabbing rebounds and putting up shots on the hardwood while attending Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Ledet was 6-0 (1) when he was signed by the UFC promotion, and expectations were high for the young heavyweight. Since entering the UFC, Ledet has continued his unbeaten streak, and he is currently riding a 3-fight winning streak in the promotion. Despite the conditioning required for both basketball and MMA, Ledet, at first glance, would appear out of shape to most people. Nevertheless, the talented fighter has picked up 2 wins by KO or TKO.

4 Josh Barnett

via f4wonline.com

Much like the aforementioned Ben Rothwell, heavyweight Josh Barnett has had a long and storied Mixed Martial Arts career that has taken him all over the planet. With his finals appearances in the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix and the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix (which was won by Daniel Cormier), you have yourself of the most decorated Mixed Martial Arts competitors of all-time. Though his bouts with PEDs have tainted his career, Barnett is still highly regarded in the MMA community. Despite not having competed in over a year, Barnett could waltz back into the Octagon and prove to be a worth adversary for any fighter on the roster. He sports a 35-8 record overall, and he has ended 8 of those bouts by either KO or TKO.

3 Jeremy Kimball

via sherdog.com

After fighting professionally for 7 years, including 2 bouts in rival promotion Bellator, Jeremy Kimball would make his way into the UFC in 2017, dropping his first bout. Not unlike the early part of his career, Kimball has since rebounded, winning his most recent fight by TKO in June of 2017. Kimball has competed in several different divisions in his career, even competing at heavyweight. The UFC light heavyweight contender has dispatched 11 of his 15 victories by KO or TKO, and he has even picked up a submission victory as well. He is expected to compete at UFC 218 in Detroit on December 2, 2017.

2 Christian Columbo

via ufc.com

Breaking into the UFC is no easy feat, and the talent pool in smaller promotions is rapidly growing as the sport continues to evolve. In order to get the call, a fighter needs to be a force on the local scene, dominating every opponent that is brave enough to compete against them. The Danish heavyweight tore through his opponents, and 7 of his first 9 career bouts ended before the final bell sounded. With that type of hype behind you, competing in the UFC is all but guaranteed. Since entering the UFC in 2016, Colombo has a had a rather disappointing go of things, especially considering the way the early part of his career had gone. In two fights inside the Octagon, Colombo has yet to taste victory. Nevertheless, the heavyweight has ended 6 of his 8 career wins by KO or TKO.

1 Timothy Johnson

via lokwing.pl

Sporting perhaps the best moustache in UFC history, heavyweight Timothy Johnson is an absolute beast once the bell sounds. Prior to entering the UFC, the mustachioed Johnson began his career with an 8-1 record in smaller promotions. After competing professionally for 5 years, Johnson made his UFC debut in 2015, winning his inaugural bout by first-round TKO. Though his tenure in the UFC got off to a red-hot start, Johnson has since split wins and losses throughout his last 5 contests. His most recent bout came in July of 2017 when he was finished by Junior Albini. Despite his setbacks, Johnson always looks for the finish whenever he competes in the Octagon, and this type of attitude has helped him greatly in his career. In 11 career wins, Johnson has 5 wins by KO or TKO, and 4 wins by submission. With only 2 wins coming by decision, Johnson is always a fighter to keep an eye on in the Octagon.

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15 UFC Fighters Who Have More Heart Than Muscle