Best Taekwondo Fighters in MMA/UFC History! (Top 11)

Best Taekwondo Fighters in MMA/UFC History! (Top 11)

A young Taekwondo student wearing a gi

Hands down, Taekwondo is one of the most useful martial arts in the world. It?s always amazing to see pros executing various kicks from impossible angles. Also, if one of those kicks ends up as a knockout blow, it will instantly go viral in minutes. I guess we don?t have to mention we?re speaking about the taekwondo knockouts inside the MMA cage, right?

During the beginnings of MMA, nobody knew what to expect out of traditional martial arts styles. Over the years, many of them proved useless in MMA but some like Karate and Taekwondo have mistakenly fallen into that category. In fact, taekwondo is actually a great base for MMA.

But some people still doubt the effectiveness of Taekwondo in MMA. Instead of explaining it, let the careers of the top 11 best taekwondo fighters in MMA speak about it.

11. Akop Stepanyan

Stepanyan is an outstanding standup fighter. He is a black belt in Taekwondo and a Master of Sports in Boxing and Kickboxing. His standup style is very powerful and explosive. But the lack of ground game clearly cost him a greater MMA career.

Despite having an average MMA career, people remember Akop for his exciting style. Like a true Taekwondo fighter, he is always pressing forward and landing vicious kicks. In his martial arts career, he became a Russian National champion in Taekwondo (2002) and kickboxing.

10. Nina Ansarrof

Nina Ansarrof is a talented upcoming UFC 115lbs fighter who has a strong background in traditional martial arts.

She got involved in Taekwondo at the age of 6 and is a proud owner of the 3rd-degree black belt. From movement to vicious kicks, everything she utilizes on the feet is a pure representation of Taekwondo.

9. Daron Cruickshank

W must say that Daron was predestined to be a great Taekwondo fighter. Both of his parents are 4th-degree black belts in Taekwondo and have their own schools. His father is also a former MMA fighter and his mother took part in Kickboxing and Boxing matches.

Following his parents footsteps, Daron became a 2nd-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and he was also competing as an NCAA Division III wrestler.

He came to the UFC as a promising young prospect. But, he had a tough time dealing with the elite level competition in Jorge Masvidal, Paul Felder, and Beneil Dariush.

To his credit, Daron did score a couple of great KOs. After going 13?6 inside the UFC Octagon, he left the UFC to join the Asian RIZIN promotion. To be honest, it?s a shame that we haven?t seen more of him. He had all the tools to reach the highest levels of the sport.

8. Bas Rutten

Rutten is a true MMA legend and one of the early pioneers of the sport. Bas is a master in many martial arts styles and he also holds a spot in our list of ?Top 7 Best Karate Fighters in the History of UFC?

Against the will of his conservative parents, Rutten started his martial arts career as a taekwondo student. After completely dedicating himself to the sport, Bas would receive a 2nd-degree black belt and make a transition to Kyokushin Karate where he holds the 5th-degree black belt as well.

Rutten was also competing in Japanese Wrestling and Kickboxing (14?2) tournaments. Also, he is one of the first-ever ?rounded? mixed martial artists. This rounded style helped him to win the Pancrase Openweight Championship (three times), King of Pancrase Championship (two title defenses), and UFC Heavyweight Championship.

7. Edson Barboza

What Barboza brings to the table is the variety of brutal Taekwondo and Muay Thai kicking techniques. To be honest, some of his finest performances are even painful to watch. Hands down he is one of the most exciting fighters ever.

Barboza started his martial arts journey in Muay Thai and Taekwondo. Unlike the others, he never changed his fighting styles. He has remained loyal to his elite standup skills.

Though the lack of grappling techniques cost him a couple of important wins, most of the fans are ok with that. I mean, just look at his ?straight out of Taekwondo? spinning wheel kick knockout over Terry Etim at UFC 142. Further, he received a ?knockout of the year? award for this piece of art.

6. Benson Henderson

MMA game is unforgiving and it?s sad that many people have forgotten how good ?The Smooth? was. To this day, Henderson is one of the best 170lbs fighters ever. He is the former UFC and WEC champ, and an MMA fighter of the year (2012).

At the age of nine, his Korean mother insisted he and his brother must take Taekwondo classes. As said by Henderson:

?She?s Korean, I?m half-Korean, and it?s the traditional Korean martial art, so she wanted us to do that to get a little bit of the culture and tradition? ? source

Henderson fulfilled his mother?s wishes and he went on to earn a black belt in Taekwondo. But, he then shifted to wrestling during the high school days and would go on to become a black belt in jiu-jitsu as well.

5. Valentina Shevchenko

Under the influence of her mother, Shevchenko began training Taekwondo at the age of five. After becoming a black belt and a master of sports, she went on to master more standup styles like Kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Valentina is perhaps the most intimidating woman in the world. Her nickname ?The Bullet? perfectly illustrates her fighting style: Fast and devastating.

What?s more, Shevchenko is one of the most accomplished female athletes. She is the multiple kickboxing and Muay Thai world champion (56?3). And of course, she is the UFC champion and one of the true greats.

4. Rose Namajunas

Hands down, Rose Namajunas is the most rounded female athlete on the planet earth. She is the former UFC 115lbs champ and she stands for a perfect combination of beautiful and badass.

Namajunas had a rough childhood (her father suffered from schizophrenia). While trying to escape from the harsh reality at home, Namajunas discovered her happiness in Martial Arts.

She began practicing Taekwondo at the age of five and went on to become a black belt just four years later. She then shifted to BJJ and Karate. So Rose is actually a black belt in Taekwondo, Karate, and Jiu jitsu.

The best display of her Taekwondo skills could be seen in her fight at Invicta FC 6 against Tecia Torres. Although Namajunas lost the fight, she directed many front kicks, axe kicks, and roundhouse head kicks.

3. Yair Rodriguez

Yair is one of those talented fighters who have the potential to change the face of the game. We can?t recall anybody in MMA history demonstrating that kind of fluidity, dynamic striking and movement.

Yair is a taekwondo black belt and one of the purest representations of this martial arts style in modern MMA. His kicking techniques are out of this world and he simply doesn?t care what kicks or when he is throwing them. We are unsure if some of his wild kicking techniques have a name at all.

His performance against BJ Penn is a perfect example of a new generation fighter facing an old school legend. The fight resulted in arguably the most brutal one-sided beatdown in MMA history!

2. Anderson Silva

Many fans see Silva as the greatest MMA fighter of all time, and it?s very hard to argue against that. I mean, all he does on the feet is simply perfect. From movement, timing, accuracy, and speed, Anderson Silva was a true game-changer. Just take a look at his fighting resume:

  • Undefeated in 16 UFC fights (2006?2013)
  • Most finishes in UFC title fights (9)
  • Most knockdowns in UFC history (18)
  • Knockout of the night bonuses (7)
  • Most finishes in UFC middleweight history (11)

Like many on this list, Silva began practicing Taekwondo, Capoeira and Muay Thai at a young age. To this day, Silva stayed loyal to his martial arts base. With the 5th dan black belt around his waist, he is perhaps the highest-ranking taekwondo practitioner on this list.

1. Anthony Pettis

Pettis began practicing Taekwondo at the age of five and he was a rare talent. At the age of 18, Pettis already had a 3rd-degree black belt in taekwondo around his waist. He would then go on to achieve the same in BJJ as well and have a very good MMA career.

He is the former UFC and WEC champ and one of the best 155lbs fighters ever. In his prime, Pettis was a force to be reckoned with and we couldn?t imagine anybody beating him down. But after losing the UFC title, his career took a dive for some reason and he never recovered from it.

Do you remember that video/GIF of an MMA fighter bouncing off the cage with one foot and landing a devastating kick to the head of the opponent? Yes, the man behind the greatest kick in MMA history is Anthony Pettis!

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