Taekwondo has shaped some of MMA’s greatest champions and truly iconic moments.
Every fan loves a head-kick KO, but few realise how many of them have been delivered by fighters with a black belt in the Korean Martial Art.
This isn’t surprising given that MMA analysts continue to underrate, and even ignore the discipline, fixating on the skills of Wrestling, Kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Few, if any broadcasters, have highlighted the advantages that Taekwondo’s dynamic footwork and aerial kicks can provide inside the octagon.
Nevertheless, some of the sharpest and deadliest strikers in MMA history were forged in Taekwondo classes.
Below is a list of The Jaded Newsman’s five greatest MMA fighters who fit this description.
5. Benson Henderson
A highly decorated UFC and WEC champion, Henderson’s mother kick-started his fighting career at the age of 9, when she took him to Taekwondo classes. He obtained a black belt, before adding further skills to his game and defeating the likes of Frankie Edgar, Glibert Melendez, Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz.
4. Rose Namajunas
Former UFC Strawweight Champion, Rose Namajunas, started Taekwondo at the age of five, gaining her black belt by the age of nine. Her stunning head-kick KO of then-champion, Weili Zhang, was a brilliant demonstration of her traditional martial arts background.
3. Valentina Shevchenko
Arguably on her way to becoming the greatest women’s fighter of all time, Shevchenko’s combat sports journey also began in a Taekwondo school at the age of five. She became a black belt, before perfecting her skills in Muay Thai and Kickboxing – disciplines in which she obtained multiple world titles. “The Bullet” is the reigning UFC Flyweight champion and looks set to dominate the division for years to come. If this KO doesn’t scream Taekwondo to you – nothing will!
2. Anthony Pettis
Another fighter who started Taekwondo at – you guessed it – the age of five. Pettis held a 3rd-degree black belt by time he was 18, before adding a BJJ black belt to his arsenal. One of the Great Lightweights of his era and a UFC and WEC Champion, Pettis is perhaps best known for his “Showtime Kick” on Benson Henderson. Grab your popcorn and check it out below.
1. Anderson Silva
Widely considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest fighter of all time, Mr Silva needs no introduction. He holds the record for the most finishes in UFC title fights and in the history of the UFC Middlweight division. His 16-fight winning streak is one of the most dominant runs in MMA history.
Rodriguez’s flashy style and ability to spring unique kicking attacks from almost any angle, have made him a huge fan favourite. The Taekwondo black belt recently came agonisingly close to defeating former UFC champion, Max Holloway, in a “fight of the year” contender. Many believe “El Pantera” has the potential to become champion himself one day.
In January 2012, Edson Barboza sent Terry Etim into orbit with perhaps the most vicious head-kick UFC fans had ever seen. Many believe that thunderous wheel kick remains unmatched. Although Barboza never quite reached the pinnacle of the sport, he has been a top contender for years, and people know they’re in for a kicking masterclass whenever he fights.