Mixed martial arts is a sport dictated by violence. From vicious knockout to suffocating submissions, fights are continuously subjected to life-altering danger.
And while injuries like broken legs, snapped arms, thick cuts, torn knees and dissolved chins stand out among many, there may not be one more disturbing than the cauliflower ear.
Here are the 10 worst spanning the history of MMA:
#8 Frankie Edgar’s high-throttle mixture of ground-and-pound and striking has left him looking like this. Luckily, his ears have never effected him during competition, despite nearly being entirely closed.
#7 B.J. Penn’s ear looks like a shriveled up prune (and we say this with all respect in the world). He has done really well for himself but the effects of countless wars in and out of the cage are taking a huge toll on this fighter’s ear. He undoubtedly sports the most famous cauliflower ears in Hawaii.
#6 Alexander Gustafsson has demonstrated one of the best standup games in all of MMA over the past few years, including a historic title boat opposite Jon Jones at UFC 165. However, the fact that his ears look like this at the somewhat young age of 29, is certainly a cause for concern.
#5 Rafael dos Anjos is known for how good of a striker and wrestler he has become, but in reality he is a much better grappler than either one of those two disciplines, and his days of rolling on the mat en route to earning a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is represented by his cauliflower ears.
#4 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is so darn tough that it wouldn’t surprise people if his ears could fight, especially looking like that. And at the end of the day, no matter how gross his ears may look, Nogueira’s ear issues hold no comparison to his skills and what he brings to the ring.
#3 Leslie Smith is probably one of the toughest girls in MMA today. Her unflappable grit was displayed at UFC 180 when her cauliflower ear literally exploded on the end of a Jessica Eye right hand. The wily veteran pleaded to continue, but the fight was stopped and ruled a TKO victory for ‘Evil’.
#2 Dan Henderson has one of the worst cauliflower ears in all of MMA and a half of his teeth missing. While that unsettling combination is what jack-o-lanterns are made of, it fits Dan fairly well. As you can judge by this picture, he’s just a good old-fashioned wrestler with ferocious ground-and-pound, relentless heart and a chin that allows his head to clatter of leather time and time again.
#1 James Thomson’s cauliflower ear was almost punched off when he met Kimbo Slice at EliteXC: Primetime back in 2008. The destruction and blood that followed the explosion led to Thomson losing a via third-round TKO.