Fighters are used to getting punched in the face, but not all jaws are created equally.
They are every puncher’s nightmare—the steel-headed beasts of MMA that refuse to go down or stay down no matter what fist, shin, knee, elbow, or baseball bat you hit them with. Here are the best chins in MMA, and they demand your respect. This list is for active fighters who are—in the here and now—the toughest to knock out in the game. Sorry Antonio Nogueira, Mark Hunt and Kazuyuki Fujita, your time in the land of punch immunity has expired.
8. JOE WARREN
The self-professed “baddest man on the planet” has relied solely on a world-class wrestling base, conditioning, toughness, and a stout chin in his green MMA career that spans only eight fights. Should recent import Marlon Sandro face reigning Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Warren in the finals this season, it will be some of the heaviest hands against one of the best chins in Bellator’s short history.
Few chin checks have a happy ending, but this one is all sunshine and rainbows for Warren. Joe Soto had the Greco-Roman wrestling specialist dead to rights with his boxing in the first round of their Bellator Featherweight Championship fight. Warren bounced back in the next round, dropping Soto with a right hand and finishing him off with a brutal knee once Soto got back to his feet.
7. FRANKIE EDGAR
Catch him if you can, and if you do, good luck doing any damage. The UFC Lightweight Champion has faced the bombs of BJ Penn and Gray Maynard—not once but twice—and lived to tell the tale. To this day, one of Penn’s greatest regrets is the fact that he does not know what the blood of a Toms River, NJ, native mixed with glove leather tastes like.
No question here. The previously labeled “one-dimensional” wrestler Gray Maynard surprised the champion at UFC 125 by dropping him repeatedly in the first round with crisp striking. Edgar’s chin got him through the round, and he managed to win three of the next four rounds to come back and score the dubious draw. That first round is still the closest thing to a 10-7 round in recent memory. They are every puncher’s nightmare—the steel-headed beasts of MMA that refuse to go down or stay down no matter what fist, shin, knee, elbow, or baseball bat you hit them with. Here are the best chins in MMA, and they demand your respect. This list is for active fighters who are—in the here and now—the toughest to knock out in the game. Sorry Antonio Nogueira, Mark Hunt and Kazuyuki Fujita, your time in the land of punch immunity has expired.
6. DIEGO SANCHEZ
Odder than a three-dollar bill? Yes. Tougher than a three-dollar steak? Hell yes. The original TUF winner has only been stopped once, and he never slows down, seemingly coasting through punches and kicks, hell-bent on proving the theory that blocking or avoiding strikes is for sissies.
His most recent bout against Danish striker Martin Kampmann showed just what the BJJ brown belt was all about. Kampmann landed punch after punch on the Albuquerque native, disfiguring Sanchez’s face with blood and bruises to the point where he looked like he went face-first out of a car windshield. Oh yes, Sanchez still took the decision win.
5. CLAY GUIDA
The Energizer Bunny of fighting has been dropped, slammed, kicked, elbowed, punched, kneed, gut checked, and cup checked, and he still keeps going and going and going. In 40 professional fights, he has never been knocked out, despite facing powerhouses Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez, Tyson Griffin, Roger Huerta, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, and Takanori Gomi. The closest he gets to getting knocked out is the pre-fight slaps to his face by his brother Jason.
The aforementioned Diego Sanchez nearly met his mirror image when he faced Guida at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale. For 15 minutes, the two lightweights (random fact, Guida is only 28 days older than Sanchez) punched, wrestled, and lambasted each other, despite the fact that Sanchez landed a crushing head kick in the first round that would have felled a telephone pole.
4. FEDOR EMELIANENKO
He gets cut, he gets wobbled, and he gets slammed, but he always finds a way to win…up until June 26, 2010, of course. The Sambo World Champion has faced giant strikers Hong-Man Choi and Semmy Schilt, K-1 products Mirko Cro-Cop and Mark Hunt, and former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, and he rarely comes out the worse for wear.
Of all the fighters in the world, only Kazuyuki Fujita at Pride 26 has performed the arcane task of making Fedor look human (yeah, yeah, I know, up until Fabricio Werdum). Just minutes after announcer Stephan Quadros uttered the phrase, “Touching gloves may be the only punch Fujita lands,” Fujita landed a right hand that had Fedor sliding around like Disney on Ice. Fedor recovered and won via choke, but that exchange left analysts scratching their heads until…well, you know when.
3. NICK DIAZ
Knocking people out is an art easier executed when you are not handicapped by the possibility of someone knocking you out. Nick Diaz has that luxury. Throwing as many punches per round at professional bantamweight boxers, Diaz has developed a boxing style that parlays mass punches with the confidence that he can stand and trade. Seriously, he is like the Incredible Hulk—hitting him only makes him angry.
His opponents routinely find the elder Diaz brother’s chin, but no one hurt it more recently than Paul Daley. The British bomber dropped the Stockton native twice in the first round, only to become yet another victimized memory in the trophy case of the Caesar Gracie protégé. Can he do the same against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137? Possibly, bitches.
2. BJ PENN
Nearly every fighter on this list maximizes their chin with top-notch conditioning to get the most out of their recovery. Penn—not exactly the Lance Armstrong of MMA—can withstand shots to the dome with nothing but his apparently structurally enforced facial bones and cajones. He’s the only fighter who can take the Rocky III approach by absorbing punches to the face on purpose to wear out his opponent. If only Paulie was in Penn’s corner.
At UFC 63, BJ Penn found himself in an unenviable position, stuck on the bottom of a Matt Hughes crucifix. After repeated shots to his unprotected head, the referee called the bout with only 1:07 left in the fight. If Penn had his way, he would have taken the blows for the remaining 67 seconds and made it to his after-party looking 100%, needing only a quick wipe down and mild exfoliation.
1. DAN HENDERSON
Henderson’s performances have unequivocally issued a proclamation: YOU try having a 35-fight career in three different weight classes against Gilbert Yvel, Wanderlei Silva (twice), Murilo Rua, Vitor Belfort, Quinton Jackson, Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, and Rafael Cavalcante without getting knocked out once. That is exactly what he has done. Hendo has taken some of the best shots from the best in the business, without any separation from his senses. Not bad for a wrestler from Downey, CA.
Wanderlei Silva was just starting to become “The Axe Murderer” that we all know and love when he faced Hendo at Pride 12. The first punch that Wand threw dropped the two-time Olympian to his back. Henderson and Wand spent the duration of the fight dropping each other, with the American getting the worst of it, including soccer kicks, foot stomps, ground-and-pound, and even illegal knees to the head. Despite the damage he took, Henderson hung in till the bitter end, losing a decision. Revenge was his, however, at Pride 33, when he knocked out Wand to become a two-division champion—a consolation prize that you cannot put a price on.