I’ve been learning about the karate tournament circuit and wondered who the best karate fighter in the world is. I did some research and here’s what I found.
There is a Karate World Championship held every year, and according to the most recent standings provided on their official website the best karate fighter in the world is Jonathan Horne from Germany, who has the most points in the heaviest weight division, 84 kg +.
It’s generally accepted that a heavier fighter will win against a lighter opponent of equal skills level because their strikes are more powerful. And is a reason why weight classes are made.
So, below I’ll discuss other ways that you could define the best karate fighter in the world, including performance in mixed martial arts competition.
Who is the greatest karate fighter of all time?
As you may be aware there is a term in combat sports known as ‘pound for pound’. Which attempts to describe who’s the best overall, in terms of skill level, and who would likely win if everyone was the same weight.
But, fighters who are a different weight, and don’t change their weight – by putting on more weight, or losing weight never compete in the same weight class.
They do from time to time fight at a ‘catch weight’ which is where they meet somewhere in the middle. Or, one fighter goes up or down in weight.
Therefore, it can’t be said for sure. And fighters from different eras have never fought.
But, notable mentions in no particular order are:
- Guy Mezger
- Raymond Daniels
- Michael Page
- Robert Whittaker
- Lyoto Machida
- Stephen Thompson
Due to the changing nature of martial arts, and the rise of MMA, most of the top karate fighters have extensive experience in other martial arts such as Taekwondo, Judo, Wrestling, Kickboxing, Boxing and Brazilian Jiu jitsu.
However, you can definitely see elements of karate in their fighting style. Such as rushing forward punching blitzs, a wide sideways karate stance, and fast in and out evasive movements.
Due to the fact that there are virtually no rules in MMA, and that a fight only ends when a person either gives up, they are KO’d, or the referee stops the fight (TKO).
In my opinion the most objective measure of a karate fighter’s skill is their performance in MMA, or an MMA style bout such as Vale Tudo, or full contact karate.
In kumite karate, points are awarded even though a strike doesn’t land with my force. However, the skill of a kumite karate fighter is easily seen when they transition to other competitions such as full contact karate, and MMA.
Here’s a rundown of the some karate fighters who could be considered the best karate fighters in the world.
Guy “the Sandman” Mezger
Guy Mezger is from Houston, Texas and retired from professional competition in 2015. He competed in full contact karate, kickboxing, and boxing before fighting in MMA.
And fought in 46 professional fights.
He won many fights with strikes however he also won a few by submission. Guy Mezger won many championships such as the Pancrase Openweight Championship in 1998.
Raymond “the Real Deal” Daniels
Raymond Daniels has an incredibly unorthodox style, and his fighting style resembles something out of a movie. He currently fights in Bellator, in both Kickboxing and MMA.
According to Wikipedia he began training in American Kenpo Karate in 1985 at the age of 5 years old, under his father. And competed in many junior karate sports competitions.
His style is incredibly entertaining to watch. And he’s won many fights with crazy spinning strikes.
Michael “Venom” Page
Michael Page currently fights in MMA. And his most recent bout was a win in Bellator.
His style involves a lot of showboating, where he taunts his opponents, and then lands unorthodox strikes.
He describes his style as hands down kickboxing, which incorporates a range of strikes from various striking disciplines including Karate, according to Wikipedia.
He doesn’t have a traditional karate background, but you can definitely see elements of karate in his fighting style.
Robert “the Reaper” Whittaker
Robert Whittaker is a Mixed Martial Artist from New Zealand. But, lives and trains in Australia.
He held the UFC title in the middleweight division up until recently where he lost to the current champion Israel Adesanya.
He has notable wins over some of the top ranked UFC fighters including Yoel Romero.
He trained in Goju-ryu karate for 8 years, from the age of 7 years old. But, later fell in love with MMA. He won a UFC contract after winning the Ultimate Fighter TV series and competition, in 2012.
He is still one of the top competitors in the UFC middleweight division.
Lyoto “the Dragon’ Machida
Lyoto Machida who fought in the UFC, is thought to be one of the best karate fighters in the world. He had a shocking victory over Randy Couture using the ‘crane kick’ that was made famous by the movie the Karate Kid, at UFC 129, in 2011.
Here’s a video of it (it contains a knockout which can be disturbing to some people):
Before that he won the UFC light heavyweight title in 2009, defeating Rashad Evans.
He trained karate from an early age under his father Yoshizo Machida, who is a well known Karateka from Japan. But, he also cross trained in Sumo, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and boxing.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
Stephen Thompson competes in the Welterweight division of the UFC, and started training karate at an early age. He has a black belt in Tetsushin-ryu Kempo, according to Wikipedia.
He fought for the UFC title twice against Tyron Woodley. And is considered one of the best strikers in the UFC.
He has a characteristic karate stance, where he stands side on with his opponents. If you’re never seen him fight before, you’ll notice that his stance looks very much like the stance used in kumite karate matches.
His fighting style seems to use light peppering shots to get his opponent to react and move into a position, where he then fires with strong kicks and punches.
The ones I chose are the most well known, and/or have the most karate-like fighting style.
Best Kumite Karate Fighters
Jonathan Horne from Germany, is currently ranked as the best kumite karate fighter. He has the most points in the heaviest weight division, 84 kg + and the best female fighter is Hamideh Abbasali from Iran, in the heaviest women’s weight class 68 kg+.
As you may be aware kumite is the name for ‘sport karate’ where points are awarded for successfully striking your opponent.
But, there’s also points awarded for the best kata. Which is a free form karate demonstration, and exhibits a range of karate techniques. Similar to a gymnastics competition.
A list is provided of the current sports karate standings in each weight class for both kumite and kata karate competition based on the official World Karate Federation website
Karate in the Olympics
The most recent olympics that was held in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil did not include Karate.
However, it was decided that karate will be included in the next summer Olympic games which was scheduled to be held in 2020. As shown, on the official Olympics website. But, it was postponed.
So, it will be very interesting to see who wins the gold medal in karate in each of the divisions in the next Olympic games.
The best male karate tournament fighter in the world is Jonathan Horne, and the best female kumite karate fighter is Hamideh Abbasali. The best karate fighter overall can be debated but there are many well known mixed martial arts fighters that have a background in karate.
And this is very evident in some of their fighting styles, and their selection of techniques.
They have proved their ability to win fights with next to no rules via KO, and TKO. However, they all train in other styles such as kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and taekwondo.
- Wkf.net: WKF Official Ranking
- Wikipedia.org: Masakatsu Funaki
- Wikipedia: Raymond Daniels (martial artist)
- Wikipedia: Michael Page (fighter)
- Wikipedia: Lyoto Machida
- Machidakarate.com: The History Of Machida Karate
- Wikipedia: Stephen Thompson (fighter)
- Wikipedia: Joe Lewis (fighter)
- Wikipedia: Georges St. Pierre
- Olympic.org: Karate