5 Best Asian MMA Fighters
UFC’s relationship with the Asian market is an interesting one. Although they get a huge chunk of money from Asia through broadcasting deals, the number of Asian fighters that went on to make it big in the UFC is pretty low.
The exact reason for this lack of Asian impact in the UFC is something that is worth debating about. However, we will not be exploring the same today. Instead, we will be looking into the Asian fighters that actually made a mark in the promotion.
As mentioned, the number of Asian fighters that made an impact is not great, but we have enough to filter out five names. So without further ado, here are five of the best Asian MMA fighters that stepped into the octagon.
#5 ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung
The Korean Zombie is one of the most popular Asian fighters on the current UFC roster. He started his career back in 2007 and fought in promotions like Pancrase, Korea FC, Deep and WEC before stepping into the Octagon.
He was an immediate hit in the UFC and defeated Leonard Garcia and Mark Hominick in his first two fights in the promotion. Both fights ended in stoppage victories for Jung. His third fight in the UFC came against Dustin Poirier and it is still considered to be a classic. It won many Fights of the Year awards and also helped Jung to get a shot at Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title.
Although Jung failed to capture the belt, his performance was a memorable one. He fought two more times in the UFC after his defeat to Aldo and won two fight night bonuses as well.
He currently holds a professional record of 14-5 to his name and from the looks of it, we can expect a lot more from the Korean Zombie in the coming years.
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#4 Norifumi Yamamoto
Norifumi Yamamoto might not have an impressive record to showcase in the UFC as he did not win any fight in the promotion, but he was one of the best MMA fighters that came out of Japan. He started his career in 2001 and fought in multiple promotions to build up a professional record of 18-3 before entering the UFC. From this 18, 13 wins came via finishes as well.
During this run, he defeated some notable names like Bibiano Fernandes and Royler Gracie. In the UFC, however, Yamamoto struggled. His first fight came against Demetrious Johnson and it ended in favour of Johnson via a decision.
Yamamoto then fought three more times in the promotion. He lost twice and in his last fight in the UFC and in his career, Yamamoto had to settle for a no-contest after an accidental eye poke.
In 2018, Yamamoto revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer. On September 18, 2018, he passed away due to the illness.
#3 Kyoji Horiguchi
Hailing from Japan, Kyoji Horiguchi started his MMA career in 2010. He fought in Shooto in the early days of his career and won the Shooto Bantamweight championship in 2013 while having a professional record of 10-1 to his name.
One fight later, he got himself a spot in the UFC and Horiguchi went on to have a four-fight winning streak in the promotion by defeating Dustin Pague, Darrell Montague, Jon Delos Reyes and Louis Gaudinot. This impressive run earned him a shot at the UFC Flyweight championship in 2015 but he was outclassed by Demetrious Johnson.
Horiguchi, however, bounced back strongly from the defeat and has not lost a fight ever since. He fought 8 times in the UFC and is 7-1 in the promotion with his only loss coming against Demetrious Johnson.
Though he enjoyed some success in the UFC, Horiguchi decided to move to Rizin where he is still active. His current professional record stands at 25-2 and at the age of 28, there is still a lot more to come.
#2 Yushin Okami
Yushin Okami is a UFC veteran having fought more than 20 times in the promotion. Over the years, Okami fought some big names in the promotion like Chael Sonnen, Anderson Silva, and Rich Franklin among others.
His career started back in 2002 in a promotion called GCM. He then fought in PRIDE and Pancrase before moving to UFC in 2006.
Prior to his jump into the Octagon, he got a win over Anderson Silva although it came in a controversial manner. His performance against Jake Shields at Rumble on the Rock was another major achievement that probably hastened his entry into the UFC.
Still a member of the UFC roster, Okami holds a professional record of 35-12 to his name. He currently has 14 wins to his name in the UFC and the number could increase in the near future.
#1 Kazushi Sakuraba
Kazushi Sakuraba has only fought twice under the UFC banner but considering how influential and iconic he was, it will not be fair to leave him out of this list.
Sakuraba won the UFC Ultimate Japan Heavyweight tournament in the third fight of his career and then went on to become a historic figure in Pride.
He fought some memorable battles with members of the Gracie family and due to his impressive performances against them; he was nicknamed the ‘Gracie Killer’. He secured wins over Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Ryan Gracie and Royce Gracie. His first fight with Royce Gracie was an epic as it lasted 90 minutes and ended in favour of Sakuraba after Royce was unable to continue.
A member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Sakuraba holds a professional record of 26-17 to his name.
What are the other names that we missed out from the list? Let us know in the comments section below.