What exactly makes an intimidating fighter? If it all came down to looks or street cred then perhaps Kimbo Slice would be on this list, and if it all came down to wins then perhaps George St. Pierre would make the list as well(no disrespect to George, I still think he is one of the all time greats).
However, when it comes down to what truly makes an intimidating fighter, there is no one factor that makes a fighter intimidating. It comes from a combination of attitude, fighting style, brutality, what they say outside the ring, what they say inside the ring, and of course, the sheer strength and size of the fighter. Other factors may contribute as well, which I will be pointing out in each description.
11. Cris Cyborg
Cris Cyborg is a knockout artist. Fast, agile, and powerful, her diverse array of striking led her to dominate the entire fight against Tonya Evinger, employing accurate kicks and a powerful right overhand before putting her to the ground with her devastating knees. She is one of the largest and strongest women in her division, which is evident not only in the cage but simply when you see her at weigh ins.
She is a constant aggressor in the cage, and demonstrates flawless kickboxing combos and cardio late into the fights. Both well rounded in her ground game and striking, she has very few exploitable weaknesses, while her constant aggression quickly helps her locate any holes in her opponents’ defense. Her first fight in Bellator ended with her knocking out Julia Budd in the fourth round, reminding the world of how dangerous she still was following her loss against Amanda Nunes.
10. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou is terrifying in reputation and on paper, and he officially has the strongest punching power in the world according to Dana White. His punch is equivalent to 96 horsepower, which is equal to getting hit with a Ford Escort going as fast as it can, if you want a visual.
Unsurprisingly, he is known for his knockout power and some of the best striking in his weight division, but the level of his power was also demonstrated through his submission of Anthony Hamilton. When Ngannou was pinned up against the cage, he manipulated Hamiltons arm to twist him around and throw him on the ground, all with an impressive level of power and ease.
He continued to pursue the Kimura armlock while Hamilton was on his back, and ended up succeeding in submitting him, all while being in a position awkward enough to discourage most people from even attempting that style of submission. Francis Ngannou’s intimidation factor is clear to see when you look at how many of his opponents are afraid to engage him; Derrick Lewis being a good example.
Derrick Lewis has amazing knockout power himself, but the entire fight he did not engage in anything more than a few low kicks and a couple of punches near the end of the fight. Ngannou displays amazing knockout power even when he appears to hardly be exerting himself, making any form of his striking terrifying.
9. Nate Diaz
The Diaz brothers have always had a cult following, and for good reason. Nate’s name became a staple among viewers after fighting and defeating Connor Mcrgregor through a submission victory. Though Connor came back to defeat him in a rematch, Nate’s intimidation factor was highly evident as shown by Connor fighting to win by points, as opposed to his more commonly aggressive style.
While he may not have the greatest fighting record, many MMA fans and even casual viewers will tell you that he would win a lot more of their fights if the fights were not limited to the 3 round, or more often in his case, 5 round events. This is partially due to the fact that he has outstanding cardio and a concrete chin.
” If he(Nate Diaz) was a Marvel character, his special power is that he just has a concrete head.”John Kavanagh: Connor McGregor’s MMA Coach
That being said, his head is anything but concrete. In nearly every fight, the scar tissue around his eye will open up, causing blood to drip down and bleed into his eye. Normally, if the opposing fighter sees this happen, he is given a boost in confidence and become more aggressive. In Nate’s case, it means that it’s time to push forward and start trash talking.
Nate fought Jorge Masvidal for the special “BMF” title in UFC 244 and lost due to the doctor stopping the fight when his eye was severely torn. However, Nate was still wanting to continue the fight: which is another example of how tough this guy really is.
8. Jorge Masvidal
Jorge Masvidal has a history of street fighting similar to Kimbo Slice. However, with his continuously improving record in the UFC, it’s safe to say that he is a lot more than a street fighter. Following his KO against Darren Till in the second round, he went on to knock out Ben Askren with a flying knee in record time, putting him on everyone’s radar: including Nate Diaz’.
He went on to defeat Nate Diaz, brutally tearing open his eye and causing the doctor to stop the fight. Jorge Masvidal made this list due to his reputation in street fighting as well as his reputation in the UFC. He is a brutal and powerful striker, and possibly one of the hardest hitters in the Welterweight division.
His appearance is also menacing, and he shows absolutely no fear at all when talking in press conferences. He knows how to trash-talk and create hype around a fight, and you only have to look at some of his old street fighting videos to see his ability to back it up.
7. Anderson Silva
Only the greatest fighters in the UFC have an era named after them; Anderson Silva being one of those fighters. With the most consecutive wins in UFC history, his record alone is enough to intimidate many fighters. His immaculate defense and counter striking ability have made for some of the greatest fights in UFC history.
His fight against Forest Griffin was one of the more notable ones, which stirred up lots of controversies. Many criticized him putting his hands down as being a sign of disrespect, although in reality, this was simply a part of his unorthodox and unpredictable fighting style. This fight helped showcase his amazing head movement and ability to strike while moving backwards. Opponents struggled to figure out his style, which led to him beating many notable opponents including Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson.
6. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov
When “The Eagle” was a young boy, his father decided it would be wise to use a bear to help him train in wrestling. For those who were unaware of where exactly Khabib gets his uniquely effective fighting style from, this probably makes a lot of sense. Khabib’s wrestling is a different form than the UFC has ever witnessed.
He is swift, brutal, and able to maneuver his body in a way that makes it impossible for his opponents to gain the advantage, in an almost bear-like fashion. He uses his body to constantly apply pressure to his opponent and put a drain on their cardio, while maintaining his own, and waits for you to make a mistake from there. He is able to achieve a takedown from almost any angle, and has made it impossible for any fighter to keep it standing.
“The Eagle” nickname, was coined after his fight with Connor Mcgregor where he launched out of the octagon to go after one of Connor’s teammates, showing that he would not limit himself to the octagon to solve problems if you cause problems outside the octagon. He continues to remain calm and collected during interviews, although he continues using his ruthless approach while in the cage.
5. Chuck “Iceman” Liddell
No list would be complete without the Iceman on it. His fearless attitude inside and outside the cage, his ability to take hits in order to set up counters, and just a general aggressive appearance make him a staple on any list of intimidating fighters. Look no further than the list of his victims including: Randy Couture, Alistair Overeem, and Tito Ortiz, and you can see that he is not all bark.
His attitude before, after, and during a fight proved that he truly loved fighting, as opposed to many who felt the all too common anxiety most feel before a fight. Overall, an amazing finisher who kept referees on their toes ready to jump in, as most fighters who faced Liddell and suffered a fight ending strike combination were done before they even hit the ground.
The amount of power that Chuck possessed truly shined when he was able to create devastating blows from strange angles, the overhand strike made famous by him.
4. Brock Lesnar
Lesnar is huge; I do not mean that solely by his size, but by his status inside and outside the UFC. In the short time that he was in the UFC he made an impression that nobody saw coming, and did so starting while starting his career in the UFC a lot later than most would.
The intimidation factor with Lesnar comes not only with his size, but with his inexplicable speed. Using his high level of amateur wrestling skills to trap his opponent in the corner of the cage before swarming them with hammer punches proved to be Lesnar’s tried, true, and indefensible key to fame.
Nobody expected someone that large and bulky to be able to move so swiftly and efficiently, and this led to him having only one loss in his first 6 fights. Brock Lesnar is one of the largest, strongest fighters in the UFC history, and once he gets on top of you, there is little chance that you will get out.
3. Fedor “Last Emperor” Emelianenko
The “Last Emperor” shows no restraint nor emotion during his fights. The way that he manages to beat down his opponents without missing a step and without overexerting himself appears both ruthless and calculated. He is not a household name outside of the fighting community, as he is very humble outside the ring and does not act like a Mcgregor in order to sell fights.
His striking and takedown accuracy are among the best in MMA, and his ability to lunge through an opponent’s defense from odd angles made him a nightmare for anyone he put on the ground. He also holds one of the best streaks in MMA worldwide. Brutal, unrelenting, and flaw exposing striking mark his style as one of the ones that many who was unlucky enough to face him in the cage fear.
2. Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson
Perhaps similar to Diaz in many ways, Tony has the face of a seasoned fighter. His fluid-filled ears are the first sign that this guy is no stranger to fighting. But you would be very wrong to assume that you will be fighting “El Cucuy” on the ground. Not to say that he has no skill on the ground, actually nothing could be further from the truth.
But what Tony is famous for in his diverse striking combinations are his hell-bows. His hell-bows are what tend to cut people open and expose their weakness during the later rounds, which he handles with ease as he has one of the best cardios in the game. Tony has yet to show any fear inside or outside the cage, and will say anything to anyone if he feels the need, including fighters or reporters that ask questions he feels are stupid or inappropriate.
1. Cain Velasquez
Cain was known for outlasting his opponents with his unusually strong cardio(he was even called “Cardio Cain”). While he could be swift and brutal, he was also a patient fighter, and would wear you down until the right opportunity arose to take you down. His ability to keep a constant pressure was outstanding for being a heavyweight fighter, and his swarming style gave him constant control over the fight.
One intimidation factor with Cain is that he never goes for submissions; if you are his opponent and he gets on top of you, he’s going to keep hitting you until you are knocked out or the referee stops it. For a while he was ranked number 1 in most strikes per minute in the UFC, a feat not easily accomplished by a heavyweight fighter. Cain knocked out Brock Lesnar in the first round, showing how much power he had and how well rounded of a fighter he truly was.