We can often hear pros saying that size does matter in MMA. According to them, a couple of inches can make a lot of difference in a fight. Although this is true, we just can’t say that size on its own is a decisive factor.
The thing is, some of the fighters simply have longer physical attributes than the other fighters in their division. And some like Jon Jones are absolute masters in using this advantage to win fights.
But there is an opposite side as well. Many great fighters have reached the highest heights of the sport despite being the smallest ones in the division.
These fighters had no fear of facing anyone no matter how big the rival was. In some way, they compensate for the lack of their size with a fearless mindset that pushes them forward.
We are bringing you the top 10 most Fearless Undersized fighters that proved that size doesn’t matter as long as you are fearless inside the cage.
10. Randy Couture
Fans always saw Randy as a small heavyweight fighter. But in reality, he was much smaller than most of the light heavyweight fighters as well. Even if he had the ability to cut down to 185lbs, he still would not have been the biggest guy in the division.
To make matters worse, Randy was close to his 40s when he fought at his best and he was often facing much younger and bigger fighters.
It may sound odd, but Randy never quite fit into any weight division. Yet he never cared about how younger or bigger the opponent was as he always fought like a champ. He never backed down from any challenges and was absolutely fearless inside the cage.
For instance, Randy fought much younger Tito Ortiz at the peak of Tito’s prime, and he had no trouble defeating Tito. Also, we can all recall him defeating much younger and much bigger Tim Slyvia to win the UFC heavyweight title at 43 years of age.
Randy had amazing wrestling skills and he was confident fighting against any rival back then. This fearless attitude and amazing fighting skills led him to become a true legend of MMA.
9. Henry Cejudo
Cejudo is one of the most inspirational athletes as he managed to crown himself with the Olympic gold in wrestling and become the UFC champ in two different weight classes.
In spite of being the smallest fighter in our list, Cejudo is truly one of the best. He is a true testament of a fearless fighter who’s ready to overcome every physical obstacle to become the great one.
Despite being just 5’3″ tall, Cejudo is perhaps the most competitive MMA fighter, and he fights like a bigger man inside the cage.
He always had that unique self-belief that only Olympic winners have. When he shifted to MMA, it became clear that Cejudo is there to achieve the same success. He is a very competitive athlete and has a very strong mindset as all elite wrestlers do.
Inside the octagon, Cejudo fought the UFC’s best of the best. He won the 125lbs title by defeating the most dominant UFC champ in history, Demetrious Johnson at UFC 227. He then went on to defend it against a much bigger TJ Dillashaw.
Say what you want about his cocky behavior and small physical attributes. But, Cejudo can fight and he backs up all his talking by defeating some of the best fighters bigger than him.
8. Fedor Emelianenko
Fans remember Fedor as perhaps the most dominant fighter ever. Yet, they tend to forget how small he was compared to other heavyweight fighters. Even Mike Tyson himself once said he liked Fedor because Fedor always fought against much bigger opponents.
Fedor didn’t have an athletic body or high reach. He always tipped the scales at around 235lbs and his rivals were often 30-40lbs heavier than Fedor was. During the glory days of Pride MMA in Japan, he also fought against some of the real monsters at the time. For instance, he defeated Semmy Schilt who weighed 285lbs and was 6’11.” Also, he beat 300lbs monsters in Zuluzinho and Giant Silva.
Despite the lack of big physical attributes, Fedor was by far the most intimidating man at the time. As a small heavyweight, he had amazing speed and agility. Also, he carried a lot of power as well, and he owns many KO’s on his record.
Also, Fedor had a quite puzzling mindset. He was a man of few words, and nobody could understand how he was able to be so fearless and maintain high focus.
But once the fight started, he would turn into the aggressive wrecking machine.
7. Wanderlei Silva
Silva is mainly known as one of the best and most aggressive standup fighters in MMA history. But his achievements go on another level when you think he was undersized in most of the fights. Silva had the body size of a middleweight fighter. Yet, most of his fights were against a light heavyweight and heavyweight fighters.
Silva was not afraid of anyone inside the cage and by far the most violent fighter at the time. In Japanese Pride promotion for example, Silva didn’t care who he faced or how much bigger the opponents were. While Silva weighed around 200lbs at the time, his rivals were often 250lbs+ in weight. He faced some of the biggest fighters at the time like Gilbert Yvel, Mirko Crocop, and Kazuyuki Fujita.
Sadly, fighting bigger rivals started catching up with him in the latter part of his fighting career. He suffered many setbacks and injuries. But that was a price he paid to become a true legend of MMA.
6. B.J. Penn
BJ was a fan favorite fighter simply because of his passion for fighting. He truly took pleasure in fighting against the best fighters no matter how big they were.
BJ started out as 155lbs fighter. But as many fans could remember, he was always moving between the divisions. In his career, he fought a lot at 170lbs and even went up to compete at 185lbs. But fighting against bigger rivals was something BJ enjoyed.
For instance, he beat the great Matt Hughes and also fought GSP twice at welterweight.
The craziest fact about BJ is he once put extra weight to fight Lyoto Machida at heavyweight. Although he was a much smaller fighter, BJ managed to stay competitive the entire fight. It was weird to see him going to the decision against much bigger Machida who would become a UFC champion just four years later.
While some top fighters carefully pick their opponents to increase their odds of winning, BJ simply didn’t care about any of that stuff. He had the mentality of a true warrior, and that’s why people loved him.
5. Dan Henderson
We can’t recall a fight in which Hendo wasn’t undersized. People don’t realize how small he was compared with other fighters he fought. Hendo has a body size of the welterweight and he did have a couple of fights at 170lbs early into his career and in Pride FC. But after just a couple of fights, Hendo decided to move up in weight and face much bigger opponents.
Even the Henderson himself once confirmed he always felt undersized in all his fights regardless of the division. But small physical attributes never stopped him from becoming one of the true greats.
For instance, people often remember Hendo for defeating the great Fedor Emelianenko. But a little known fact is that Hendo barely weighed 200lbs for that fight without cutting any weight.
Hendo didn’t fear Fedor or any other fighter in his career. His wrestling skills were very good, and he could handle much bigger grapplers. But as most of us remember, Hendo was one of the most feared fighters because of the insane power in his right hand. He knew that regardless of how big the opponent was, he possessed the punching power to knock out any bigger opponents out cold.
4. Kelvin Gastelum
Kelvin’s body frame fits the best at 170lbs division and he did start his UFC career fighting as a welterweight. But he always had a problem with excessive weight and cutting down to 170lbs. After missing the scale a couple of times, the UFC forced him to move up and join the 185lbs division in which he’s clearly undersized.
Kelvin has perhaps the smallest body frame in 185lbs division. With the height of 5’9”, he is much shorter than most of the fighters there and he also has a much shorter reach of 71”. But he is not afraid of facing much bigger fighters. He is very aggressive inside the cage and never backs down from a fight. This could not have been more evident than in the fight against Israel Adesanya.
Few fighters are willing to stand in front of Israel. But Gastelum showed his courage by walking Israel down and trading shots with him. It was crazy to see Gastelum going toe-to-toe with Israel on the feet.
What helps Kelvin is that he carries a lot of speed and power for his size. Plus, his boxing skills are very good and he KO’d many great fighters like Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort. Combined with the great footwork and self-belief, Gastelum is a problem for any 185lbs fighter out there.
3. Daniel Cormier
Throughout his entire martial arts career, Cormier has been one of the smallest fighters both in MMA and wrestling. He is in fact too small for both heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. He would have to cut all the way down to 170lbs to meet a fighter similar size. He’s listed as 5’11” but in reality, the man seems closer to 5’9” when standing next to some of his rivals like Jon Jones.
However, this didn’t stop DC from becoming one of the greatest MMA fighters. Fighting against much bigger rivals in both MMA and wrestling has only helped DC to develop a very strong and aggressive mindset.
In his MMA career, he defeated some of the best fighters and legends of the sport. But fans remember him the best for his great win over Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. Stipe was a much bigger fighter and nobody gave DC any chances. But DC was very aggressive right from the start and he KO’d Miocic in the first round to win the Heavyweight title.
To prove how fearless DC is, look no further from the way he fights. He is always pressing forward and standing in front of his rivals. It’s even weird to see him chasing much bigger rivals like Gustafsson and Jones. Except for Jon Jones, Cormier managed to KO most of his rivals or destroy them by using his amazing wrestling skills.
2. Mark Hunt
Hunt was perhaps one of the shortest UFC heavyweight fighters in history. Standing 5’10”, Hunt had to deal with huge height and reach disadvantage in all his fights. But the mix of huge punching power and fearless mindset allowed him to deal with any man standing in front of him.
In his kickboxing and MMA careers, Hunt fought only the best of the best fighters. And we never heard him complaining or making excuses fighting against some of the biggest heavyweight fighters. For instance, he fought against UFC champs like Stipe Miocic and Brock Lesnar. With the height of 6’3” and weighing 286lbs all with solid muscle, Lesnar was twice as big standing next to Hunt. But Hunt wasn’t intimidated by Lesnar’s size at all and he went on to put on a good fight.
Hunt’s most famous win was the one against the Dutch kickboxer, Stefan Struve. The difference in size was enormous as Struve had 34-inch height and 12-inch reach advantage. But like in many of his fights, this didn’t stop Hunt from landing a huge right hand and scoring a walk-off KO.
1. Royce Gracie
Royce Gracie is perhaps the most undersized MMA fighter in history. He’s best known for winning the very first UFC tournament in which he defeated fighters much bigger than he was.
Royce wasn’t an intimidating fighter by any means. When he stepped inside the cage for the first time, he’s had the body of the average person, and nobody expected him to win a tournament. Yet, few people knew what BJJ was at the time and how tough and durable Royce was.
He fought like a zombie from horror movies that kept coming at you. At the time, nobody could stop him from scoring a takedown and wrapping a submission around the opponent’s neck.
To truly appreciate his fearless attitude, one must understand a time in which Royce was competing. Back then, there were no rules, time limits or weight classes. To make matters worse, Royce weighed around 175lbs at the time. Yet, he fought against much bigger fighters like Dan Severn and Kimo Leopoldo who weighed around 250lbs.
Further, Royce didn’t just dominate his opponents. Some of them had him in all sorts of troubles, but they never managed to put him out no matter how much they tried. Royce was a man on a mission to prove that BJJ was the best style and nothing could stop him from achieving his goal.
He fought through blood, sweat, and tears to fulfill the Gracie mission. And he went to the history books as one of the greats and the biggest undersized underdog ever.
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