Just in case you didn’t know, Mixed Martial Arts is a dangerous sport. The goal of the entire sport is to incapacitate your opponent through a combination of punches, kicks, knees, elbows and submission holds. Now while every fight doesn’t end in a crushing knockout or a suffocating submission, nearly every fighter takes some form of damage to his or her head. The more we learn about concussions and brain damage, the more insane it seems that some fighters have stayed so long in this deadly game while rarely or even never staring back into a doctor’s flashlight. MMA may be a tough guy sport, but there are some who stand head and shoulders above their peers with their ability to take punishment and keep going.
This list will honour those who have taken nuclear warheads of strikes to the dome and have somehow kept going without slowing down. This list will focus specifically on how these fighters are able to deal with head strikes. Their overall ability to take damage (which would include leg and body strikes) will not be taken into account. That will explain how some fighters with (T)KO losses by non-head strikes can still be eligible for the list.
These rankings also only include fighters who have fought in the UFC, which excludes the legendary Fedor Emelianenko from the list. Emelianenko fought his best fights in the defunct PRIDE organization, where he won their Heavyweight championship in 2003 and bested knockout artists like Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt along the way. His chin certainly was worthy of his legend status, but ultimately is knocked off the list.
A final note on the list is the competition faced by the fighters. It is one to survive strikes from scrubs on the regional scene, but its quite another to walk through shots from UFC champions.
10 Brian Ebersole
9 Patrick Cote
8 Frankie Edgar
7 Carlos Condit
6 Junior Dos Santos
5 Chris Lytle
4 Roy Nelson
3 Dan Henderson
2 Diego Sanchez
1 B.J. Penn
A legend in every sense of the word, “The Prodigy” B.J. Penn has a legacy that none can touch. One of two men to hold a UFC championship in two different weight classes, Penn retired this year as one of the most naturally gifted athletes in MMA history. But if you were to strip away all of his skill, you would still be left with the greatest chin of all time. Penn has taken beatings from some of the best names across five weight classes without ever being truly knocked out. His TKO loss to Matt Hughes seemed like he was more tired than hurt and his loss to Georges St-Pierre came out of a corner stoppage, not because of Penn’s lack of willpower. With his only TKO losses coming from the best in the world, it’s hard to argue that Penn has ever been truly knocked out. Penn may have exited MMA on a sour note, but his status as the toughest man in UFC history will never be questioned.
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