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5 UFC fighters that could be the real life Rocky

American actor Sylvester Stallone, London, 12th January 1979. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Rocky, though a fictional character, could take a hard shot

Fight fans, when you think of the movie ‘Rocky’, you think of the iconic performances, the characters and the over-the-top fight scenes. Many viewers find the boxing matches in the movie franchise to be an unrealistic portrayal of how a real life fight would go.

However, what if I tell you that people like the character, “Rocky’, actually exist, in real life. Well, they do! And why search far and wide, when we have our own versions of Rocky, right here, in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Real-life versions of the iconic movie character compete on a regular basis inside the world famous Octagon. Now, the finest attribute of Rocky, being his durability and granite chin, the fighters resembling the character also ought to have these similar, much sought about attributes.

UFC fighters with an iron chin and an unbreakable will. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

The UFC has served as a witness to several tough, iconic fighters, over the years, who can take an ungodly amount of punishment; and still keep going. Since it’s, obviously, not possible to include all those, said fighters into one article, what we have below, is a list of the five most durable ones.


#5 Roy Nelson

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 29:  Roy Nelson white trunks of Lion's Den celebrates his victory over Fabiano Scherner red trunks of Team Quest during their Heavyweight title bout at The Orleans Arena on February 29, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson (22-13, 2 losses by KO/TKO)

Roy Nelson, the Heavyweight (HW) division’s favorite punching bag, co-incidentally, also happens to be one of the most durable HWs of all time. Nelson also has mind-numbing power in his strikes, well, at least, in his right hand.

Nelson started off as a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) wizard. However, eventually, he moved away from his vaunted ground game, and drifted toward becoming over-reliant on his missile of a right hand. Nelson started knocking people out, right around his time in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) house.

Nelson’s newfound KO power helped him put several notable opponents to sleep, namely Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub, among many others. Nelson is always introduced as a Kung-Fu fighter, owing to him having a Kung-Fu background. However, Nelson, at his very core, is a BJJ savant with a huge overhand right.

Now, let us understand Nelson’s durability and a few reasons behind it. Words cannot do justice to Nelson’s iron chin. Nelson has fought the best of the best in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for a long time; beaten a few and got beaten up by a few. Nelson isn’t your conventional athlete or MMA fighter.

In fact, at first glance, a stranger might mistake him for an over-weight, couch potato, on a diet of fried foods galore. However, Nelson’s athleticism is innate. He is, truly, a good athlete, as proven by the multiple fights he has been in, where he took his opponents the distance.

His 5 round war with Josh Barnett. His 3 round appearance against Fabricio Werdum, where Werdum used Nelson as a human Muay Thai bag. His fight against a prime Junior Dos Santos, in which, ‘Cigano’ used Nelson’s belly as a boxing heavy bag and his head as a boxing maize bag.

These fights are just a few examples of Nelson, being able to endure ungodly amounts of damage, and still keep trucking on.

An important characteristic of Nelson, is that, as an MMA fighter, he has always had his BJJ game to fall back on. That, in turn, allows him to strike, without the fear of being taken down. In fact, he times the opponents who try to take him to the mat, and catches them with his feared, overhand right. Nelson, may be a bit one-dimensional, as of late, not using his BJJ to threaten opponents and simply spamming the overhand right, time and again.

However, till date, his durability has never changed. He has an excellent defensive boxing game. His timing and distance management is also excellent. Inspite of being a bit short for modern HW standards at 6’0”, Nelson more than makes up for it against bigger opponents by his decent parrying and ability to cover up, when under-fire.

‘Big Country’s’ toughness, is something to behold.

#4 Robbie Lawler

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 06:  Robbie Lawler celebrates after defeating Johny Hendricks by a split decision in their welterweight title fight during the UFC 181 event at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on December 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler (27-11-1, 2 losses by KO/TKO)

Robbie Lawler has been fighting for over a better part of two decades now. Lawler’s late resurgence in the UFC has been one of the more feel-good stories, in the unforgiving fight game. After getting knocked out by Nick Diaz early in his career, Lawler moved from one organization to another, eventually, ending up in the Middleweight division in Strikeforce.

He had a so-so run there, but then dropped down to Welterweight, to test himself, once again, at 170 pounds. He went on to win UFC 170 pound gold and successfully defended it twice, before getting flash-KOd, in his most recent fight against current UFC 170 pound champion, Tyron Woodley.

Nevertheless, Lawler remains one of the toughest fighters to have ever step foot, inside the Octagon. Lawler is mainly a stand-up fighter, who uses his wrestling, mainly, in reverse. He still employs the Chuck Lidell-style sprawl-and-brawl approach to MMA.

He has decent BJJ defence, however, most of all, Lawler is a guy who just wants to get in the cage and beat you up. He is an ardent boxing fan and has based his stance around that of the Cuban boxing legends.

Moving forward toward understanding Lawler’s toughness, one thing that stands out, is Lawler’s sheer tenacity, in the pocket. Now, MMA is a game of distance. In other forms of combat, such as Muay Thai, fighters exchange with each other in the pocket, resembling a phone-booth fight.

However, in MMA every fight varies, and most MMA fighters refrain from phone-booth fighting. They either prefer the clinch or trading at long range. However, Lawler is an anomaly. His head movement and bobbing and weaving abilities are something to behold. This is one of the main reasons behind his ability to endure insane amounts of strikes.

When he is struck on the head, he’ll roll; strike him on the body, he’ll angle away and let the shots roll off the body. Target his legs, and he’ll catch you on the chin like he did Melvin Manhoef.

Lawler doesn’t have much of a ground game to threaten opponents off of his back, however, his ability to gauge distance and time his opponents, even when he is badly hurt; is other-worldly. The biggest example of this is Lawler’s rematch against Rory Macdonald. Lawler was outworking Macdonald, however, Macdonald caught him with a well-timed head kick. He went on to throw a multitude of strikes on Lawler, including knees , elbows, punches and more kicks.

However, Lawler moved in the pocket, on pure instinct, smiled, and then, came back to TKO Macdonald. That, my friends, is the ‘Ruthless’ one. Lawler has a bad habit of staying too long in the pocket, at times.

However, his durability is enhanced by his excellent hand-fighting abilities and technical parrying game, that diverts his opponents intended strikes.

Regardless, of people criticizing his high-risk style of fighting, Lawler, time and again, silences his critics, with his iron chin and iron will.

#3 Nick Diaz

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 31:  Nick Diaz  stands in the Octagon after five rounds against Anderson Silva in a middleweight bout during UFC 183 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 31, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Silva won by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Nick Diaz (26-9-2, 2 losses by KO/TKO)

The elder brother of Nate Diaz, and the original Stockton bad boy, Nate Diaz is considered to be one of the best boxing technicians in the sport of MMA. His BJJ game is fearsome as well. Although, Nick’s wrestling game, leaves a lot to be desired, he more than makes up for it, by constantly threatening submission attempts off of his back.

Diaz started off as a grappler, with a BJJ base. However, he, eventually, fell in love with the art of boxing. His fight with KJ Noons that was stopped due to Nick suffering a dangerous amount of facial cuts, some threatening his eyes, propelled him to further improve his boxing.

Nick has been in several dogfights and back-and-forth brawls with the best MMA had to offer. His fight with British striking specialist Paul Daley, is, to this date, considered to be one of the wildest fights in MMA history.

Nick has been through several ups and downs in his long and illustrious career. However, his beard hasn’t betrayed him in the vast majority of them. Nick and his brother Nate, both have the bad habit of leaving leg kicks and low kicks, unchecked. This, in turn, has led to several fighters using this blueprint, in order to hurt them.

This is where Nick’s chin plays a huge part in his fights. The constant dosage of leg kicks that most opponents feed Nick with, soften up his legs, and take the spring out of his movements. When the opponent tries to move in, eventually, looking to capitalize on this, Nick stands his ground. He eats a few strikes to land a few, and in a firefight with a Diaz brother, the last man standing, is usually a Diaz.

Diaz, for all his shortcomings, deserves the credit for having excellent boxing defense. He may not check leg kicks, but try to jab him, and he’ll deliver death by a thousand cuts. He has a high volume style of technical punching.

Furthermore, his amazing, seemingly never-ending cardio, also serves to significantly increase Nick’s durability. His incredible stamina and fearless approach to every fight raises his durability to an incredibly high level, above and beyond that of his opponents.

Stand toe-to-toe with Nick and no matter how much his opponent lands, the last thing the opponent will see is Nick dropping him with a crisp 1-2 and then flipping him the bird.

#2 Daniel Cormier

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08:  Mixed martial artist Daniel Cormier poses on the scale during his weigh-in for UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena on July 8, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cormier will meet Anderson Silva in a non-title light heavyweight bout on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena. Silva replaces Jon Jones who was pulled from a light heavyweight title fight against Cormier due to a potential violation of the UFC's anti-doping policy.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier (18-1, No losses by KO/TKO, Never been submitted)

Daniel Cormier is an exception to the general rule of the fight game. In his case, the timeless theory about Father Time waiting for no one, seems to be disproven. He has been a wrestler all his life. An Olympian, at that.

He got into MMA fairly late in his life and reached the pinnacle of the sport, when he submitted Anthony Johnson, in a fight that he was almost knocked out in. ‘Rumble’ caught DC with a missile of a right hand and sent DC flying across the Octagon.

DC survived, outwrestled Johnson, and then, submitted him. DC won the title against Johnson, and then, successfully defended it against Swedish kickboxer, Alexander Gustaffson. This was yet another fight in which DC was rocked and almost finished.

But weathering the storm, he came back to beat the ‘Mauler’ on the judges’ scorecards. DC is, primarily, an excellent wrestler, with a technical boxing game. He also possesses a few decent roundhouse kicks, that he mainly uses to reach retreating opponents, looking to chop their legs down.

Now, it’s essential to note that DC’s iron chin, is further enhanced by his excellent grappling instincts. He has spent years and years, on the wrestling mats, drilling techniques with Olympic caliber wrestlers. That level of grappling gets ingrained into one’s mind and even after all these years, DC still, extensively, trains his wrestling alongside Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold, Khabib Nurmagomedov as well as other high level MMA grapplers.

DC has been hurt in several fights, right from his decision loss to Jones, to his decision victory over Anderson Silva. He is, in particular, vulnerable to body shots. However, he deserves all the credit in the world for his insane toughness.

He has proved that he has the ability to truck on and smash his opponents, even after being hurt to the body. The biggest examples of this are his fights against Frank Mir at Heavyweight and Silva at Light Heavyweight.

Mir hurt DC with a few good knees to the body, however, DC went on to control Mir and outpoint him. In the Silva fight, DC was winning on the scorecards, however, Silva caught DC with a liver kick in the waning moments of the fight. DC winced but that was it.

He stood his ground, initiated the clinch and survived.

That brings us to DC’s striking. Now, DC may not be a Semmy Schilt or a Rico Verhoeven, but for a lifelong grappler, DC has a pretty decent striking game. His understanding of defensive techniques, on the feet, is particularly, impressive.

He has a good understanding of timing and distance management. Inspite of, usually, being the smaller fighter in the cage, DC emerges as the victor, owing to his unbreakable will and insane work-ethic.

#1 Mark Hunt

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08:  UFC President Dana White (C) looks on as mixed martial artists Brock Lesnar (L) and Mark Hunt (R) face off during their weigh-in for UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena on July 8, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fighters will meet in a heavyweight bout on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt (12-10-1-1, 4 losses by KO/TKO; MMA) (30-13, kickboxing)

Now, moving on to the top of the heap. We have the ’Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt. The fearsome Kiwi Heavyweight has KO power in both hands and comes at his opponents form weird angles. His speed and movement are extremely deceptive, as is his ability to carry his power deep in fights, inspite of being overweight.

Hunt isn’t the best athlete in the UFC, however, what he does have is a fearless approach to the game and an instinctive usage of his traditional striking techniques. Hunt has competed, extensively in kickboxing, however, he uses his hands, more often than not, to finish fights.

He had terrible grappling during his run in PRIDE FC, however, as of now, in the UFC, he has successfully developed a decent grappling game. His takedown defense is not the best but he does have the ability to time his strikes on the incoming wrestler and also has a decent sprawl.

Let’s take a brief look at a few illustrations of Hunt’s durability. Hunt’s fight with Ray Sefo in kickboxing is a glaring example of his ability to absorb punishment and still keep moving forward. Besides, his back-and-forth brawl with the indestructible Ben Rothwell, is yet another example of Hunt’s durability.

In his fight against current UFC HW champion, Stipe Miocic, Hunt was repeatedly taken down throughout the 5 round fight, and ate an insane amount of ground strikes from Miocic. Inspite of taking punishment over the course of 25 minutes, Hunt never went out. He never gave up.

In the 5th round of the Miocic fight, the referee intervened and stopped the fight resulting in a TKO loss for Hunt, however, had Miocic struck any other human being with that number of strikes, they wouldn’t be alive to tell the tale.

Hunt’s iron chin is further enhanced by his excellent basics. Hunt has excellent footwork and impeccable timing. For a guy his size, Hunt moves around like a wizard. His trademark walk-off KOs are a result of technique as much as his natural punching power.

As far as hand-fighting is concerned, Hunt is an expert at it. His parries are excellent. Whether he is struck by a punch or a kick, his deflections of his opponent’ strikes are like watching a master-class in the art of striking. His head movement is good and his fleet-footedness can give lightweights, a run for their money. Hunt has suffered several ups and downs in his career, both in kickboxing and MMA.

However, his iron chin and warrior spirit has enabled him to keep moving forward, and keep breaking barriers in the art of striking as well as the sport of MMA. The amount of damage that Hunt can take exceeds that of what most other Heavyweights can, including the current UFC champ, Stipe Miocic.

Regardless of weight class, regardless of their martial arts base, the aforementioned fighters are great examples of the insane toughness and otherworldly abilities of the fighters that dare to step foot inside the Octagon. Be it a BJJ fighter like Nelson or a kickboxer like Hunt, one thing connects these fighters- An iron chin and an unbreakable will.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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