Combat skills are at the basic core of every superhero, and it is often one of their most defining qualities. While it’s certainly important for them to have a strong heart and will, how they fare in a fight is one of the most exciting aspects that makes heroes great. Even those that dwell in the mystic arts much have a solid degree of hand-to-hand combat training to further supplement their skills.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has graced audiences with its great selection of characters and given audiences an array of dazzling fights and combat sequences. With the high-flying master martial artist Iron Fist set to make his introduction as the final Defender on March 17, CBR has decided to take a look at some of the best hand-to-hand combatants the MCU has to offer before he takes the stage.
15. MATT MURDOCK/DAREDEVIL
Known as “The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen” in New York, Daredevil may not be the most physically imposing figure, but his visage and skill are not to be underestimated. Robbed of his sight at a young age, Daredevil is taken in by Stick at a young age, who teaches him how to fight and control his other heightened senses.
Since taking up the mantle, Daredevil’s senses are on an entirely different level, surpassing that of Stick himself. His enhanced senses make sneak attacks against him nearly impossible and he can “see” in the dark, which gives him a distinct advantage when fighting at night or in dark environments. He has proven himself more than capable of taking on multiple opponents single-handedly (and has done so multiple times) and has superb agility and reflexes. He has taken a ton of punishment in some of his fights and continually gets up, showing a fortitude and will worthy of Captain America. He also wields a special baton-like weapon that can separate into two individual weapons and has a retractable cable that can be used in a variety of ways. When it comes to all-around combat skill, few can match Daredevil.
14. TRISH WALKER
A famous talk-show host in New York, many wouldn’t expect this icon to have such skill. A friend and confidant of Alias Investigator Jessica Jones, Walker decides to take matters into her own hands by learning self-defense with the impending danger of Kilgrave on the horizon. To prepare, she takes up Krav Maga, which is a special form of martial arts that originated in Israel that incorporates elements of other styles like judo, aikido and boxing.
This particular style akin to a special form of street-fighting that teaches realistic elements of how to engage and neutralize threats. It is often a style that was, and is, taught in the military. Trish later proved her ability and potential for this particular martial art as she fended off a Kilgrave-controlled Will Simpson long enough until Jones came to help her. Given that she had not been training in Krav Maga for very long, her ability to react and remember her teachings in such a tense situation speaks to her latent potential as a fighter. The next time viewers see Walker, she will no doubt be much improved in her Krav Maga techniques.
13. FRANK WALKER/PUNISHER
Unlike the more finesse styles of other heroes, Frank Castle, better known by his moniker The Punisher, is a straight up brawler. A man hell-bent on revenge for the murder of his family, he seeks to permanently end the life of criminals everywhere. An anti-hero who made his premiere to the MCU in the second season of “Daredevil,” The Punisher’s popularity skyrocketed such that he was even given his own Netflix series spin-off.
A former Marine, the Punisher has years of intense military training that has honed his body into a fine-tuned, well-oiled fighting machine. Ferocious and quick to attack in battle, he was skilled enough to take down a superb fighter like Daredevil in their first encounter. His military training has made him deathly efficient, as he is able to calculate the quickest way to take down an opponent in a variety of ways. His skill is further demonstrated when he takes on and defeats dozens of prisoners during a planned ambush without a weapon. In all of his fights, the Punisher displays a propensity to withstand heavy amounts of punishment and a resilience few can match. Challenging him to a one-on-one fight isn’t a wise thing to do.
12. HOPE VAN DYNE/WASP
When Scott Lang was given the mantle of Ant-Man from his predecessor Hank Pym, he was trained by the person who seemed way better suited to the task than he did: Hope Van Dyne. The daughter of Pym, Hope was the one who oversaw much of Lang’s training in hand-to-hand combat. Given the power of the suit to shrink, it was her job to teach him proper technique to defend himself more properly and have the suit to be as effective as possible when he’s small.
Appearing to have training in several styles of combat, Hope was largely responsible for much of Lang’s offensive capabilities. As much progress as he made, Lang never really got an upper hand on her during their sparring sessions. Unfortunately, she did not take an active role in fights during the first “Ant-Man” film, regulated solely to the hardcore training instructor instead. Fortunately, that looks to change as she takes up her mother’s mantle of Wasp in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which is set to debut on July 6, 2018.
Like his colleague Black Widow, Hawkeye made the unconventional jump from premiere S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to full-time Avenger. Often the butt of everyone’s joke as the guy with the bow and arrow, he has has proven himself worthy of being called an Avenger time and time again. In addition to his veteran leadership, Hawkeye’s skill lies predominantly with his bow, which he uses with a variety of trick arrows that include explosive arrows, corrosive arrows and grappling arrows.
He’s shown himself as more than a simple marksman, as his skill in hand-to-hand combat is enough that he is capable of matching Black Widow singlehandedly, who barely managed to defeat him while he was being controlled by Loki via the Mind Gem in “The Avengers.” He is skilled in using his bow in close-quarter fights, and gains an upgraded version in “Age of Ultron” that can become a staff, showcasing his skills in using multiple weapons. The most dangerous thing about Hawkeye is his penchant for reading situations and catching people off guard, as he did with Loki during the Chitauri invasion. On a team full of super-powered icons, Hawkeye proves his worth time and time again.
There are some people whose entire lives have been consumed with nothing but the next fight and no one personifies that better than Elektra. Trained by her master Stick in the same manner that her lover Daredevil was, Elektra quickly made a name for herself as a top-notch combatant and a proficient assassin.
Skilled in a variety of martial arts, she was trained from a young age by Stick and the Chaste, making her a killer from a young age. Unlike Daredevil and most heroes, she doesn’t have any qualms when it comes to killing her opponents, especially if they’re trying to kill her first, always willing to do whatever it takes to win. She is versatile, as she can make use of a variety of different weapons like swords and daggers thanks to her vast amount of training, though she is just as skilled fighting unarmed. In combat, she prefers the use of special daggers with curved hilts (known as sai) that she gained from an opposing Hand member whom she killed, which further enhances her quick, agile fighting style. Making use of her speed and quick attacks, Elektra is a graceful, lethal opponent on the field of battle.
Like Elektra, Gamora was the result of unfortunate circumstances, as her entire species, including her parents, were killed off by the mighty Thanos. However, for some reason, the mighty overlord spared Gamora’s life and took her under his wing as his adopted daughter. As it turns out, he bad bigger plans for her, molding the green alien into an assassin he could make use of in his never-ending quest for domination over the entire galaxy.
Together with her adopted sister Nebula, both were genetically enhanced and trained to become deadly assassins to serve their adopted father. Thanks to these enhancements, Gamora’s physical capabilities are beyond that of most normal humans (or aliens), as she is able to shoot and throw projectiles with pinpoint accuracy, and run faster and longer while also being able to leap greater distances. She is also a deadly swordsman, able to carve up obstacles and various foes alike with her sword named “Godslayer.” Her skill is such that she was able to overcome her sister Nebula in single-combat, with whom she shared a strained relationship and rivalry. When it comes to women in the galaxy, few can match her prowess and skill.
8. DRAX THE DESTROYER
Known as “The Destroyer,” Drax turned to a savage life of criminal activity and vengeance as he pursued Ronan The Accuser, an agent of Thanos who killed his family. While Drax often comes across as one of the least intelligent and socially aware members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, it does not hinder his ability to fight, as he is easily their strongest front-line fighter alongside Gamora.
Drax possesses incredible strength and is able to tear through metal with relative ease. His bulky physique has also given him great durability, able to withstand a lot of punishment from physical attacks. Like Gamora, he can run and leap great distances, though he does not possess any of the enhancements that she does, with all of his physical traits being the result of his natural physiology. He is also an accomplished knife wielder, and his dual-wielding fighting style relies on the use of using two of them in battle. He is ferocious and brutal in battle, and his skill is such that he was able to defeat Korath The Pursuer by himself during the Battle of Xandar, an impressive feat given the mercenary’s physically enhanced features.
7. KARL MORDO
One of the first teachers and acquaintances to Doctor Steven Strange, Mordo was a character whose devotion to his craft and the mystic arts was unmatched. Of course, while wielding magic is an impressive feat in itself, the basic essentials of combat are still needed to protect and defend the world from the mystical threats beyond the physical world.
While still within the order of the mystic masters, Mordo was one of its most powerful members in not only magic, but in combat as well. He easily bested Strange in sparring sessions, showing his versatility and creative use of magic items. One such item includes the “Boots of Valtorr,” which allow Mordo to leap high and ride the air, which gives him a unique ability to get behind his opponents and makes him a hard target to track. He also wields a unique staff that extend and contracts and can be used as both a whip. A perfect mix of magic and martial arts, Mordo will make for a dangerous foe for Strange and other mystic users in the very near future.
6. THE ANCIENT ONE
Being hundreds of years old brings about plenty of combat experience, and the Ancient One has plenty of it. As the former Sorcerer Supreme, she possesses a wide array of magical abilities and commands an order of magic users to defend the world from various mystical threats. What often goes unnoticed is her prowess in hand-to-hand combat.
Similar to her student Mordo, the Ancient One uses a fine mix of magic and traditional combat. While she doesn’t possess any items like Mordo’s boots or Strange’s Cloak, she uses her magic to create sword and shield constructs from her palms as weapons to use in battle, dual-wielding and switching between various weapons at will. This makes her quite unpredictable to approach in combat, and her experience shows in her ability to stay calm despite being outnumbered. She is very agile and quick on her feet, able to engage Kaecilius’s followers by herself with relative ease despite the shifting environment. Add in her other magical abilities to things like transporting foes into the mirror dimension and manipulating the environment, and the Ancient One is an opponent many can’t hope to take down alone.
Everybody needs a good master to learn from, and Stick, despite his methods, is a master unlike any other. Blind from birth and in allegiance to a mysterious organization known as “The Chaste,” Stick was a teacher to both Elektra and Daredevil, who both became accomplished fighters in their own right. This is especially the case for the Matt Murdock, who was taught to use his blindness to his advantage by Stick and make to it his own.
A man who doesn’t like developing connections outside of the fight, Stick learned to overcome the weakness caused by his blindness to be able to heighten his other senses, a skill that greatly aids him in battle. Despite his advanced age, he remains a calculated fighter, taking down enemies in the most efficient way possible. Stick is deceptively quick for a man of his age and has also trained with multiple weapons, having shown proficient use in swordsmanship and wielding staffs. While not one to show any hints of positive emotions towards his former students, Stick is no doubt a teacher who has earned their grudging respect for his advanced skills.
4. NATASHA ROMANOV/BLACK WIDOW
From ruthless Russian assassin to vaunted S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to world-saving Avenger, Black Widow has held numerous titles and identities over the years. But her skills in combat, groomed from an early age, have never waned and have allowed her to become one of the best pure fighters within the MCU.
Black Widow’s beauty is only matched by her fighting skill and her ability to think quickly on her feet. She became a member of the Avengers solely due to her own skill and without the use of any super-serums, mech suits or superpowers. Her skill is such that she was even able to sneak up on Loki, who acknowledges that there aren’t many humans who exist that could accomplish such a task. She has mastered various fighting styles and held her own against threats like the Chitauri and Ultron’s robot minions alongside her more super-powered colleagues. She is proficient in the use of many weapons, with her primary focus being on various pistols and electroshock weapons that she keeps within her suit and on her person. At the end of it all, Black Widow demonstrates the full capabilities of pure human skill in combat.
3. T’CHALLA/BLACK PANTHER
Having only recently entered the MCU in “Captain America: Civil War,” the young King of Wakanda immediately made his regal presence felt. Even though “Black Panther” isn’t set to debut until February 2018, he already made his mark as one of the MCU’s top combatants despite appearing in only one film at the time of writing this list.
Though we don’t know the full extent and details into Black Panther’s abilities, his prowess in combat is among the best viewers have seen in the MCU. Boasting an intimidating vibranium-laced panther suit, he has enhanced speed that allows him to easily keep pace with Captain America in a foot race. He also displayed enhanced strength in fights against Captain America and Bucky Barnes, fighting on equal footing with both of them. As his name suggests, his movements are very akin to that of a panther itself, with retractable claws built into the hands of his suit that he uses to slice and dice his opponents. He uses an aggressive fighting style with a variety of acrobatic kicks and leaps that make him hard to pin down. Once his solo title debuts, there is no doubting the Wakandan king will demonstrate his full fighting potential.
2. BUCKY BARNES/WINTER SOLDIER
Known as the Winter Soldier for his days as a brainwashed assassin for Hydra, Bucky Barnes went from loyal friend of Steve Rogers to an unthinkable and nearly unstoppable assassin of the highest caliber. Thanks to his training under the Winter Soldier program, Barnes was honed in ways he couldn’t have imagined.
Making his transformed return in “Captain America: Winter Solider,” Barnes is similar to his friend in a variety of ways: he possesses the same kind of strength, stamina and endurance as his friend post-Super Soldier serum. He is a superb fighter in hand-to-hand combat, showing proficiency in wielding various weapons like knives and all matter of military-grade equipment. His skills are such that he outclasses Black Widow in single combat, having overcome here on several occasions while he was still under mind control. He also has a special bionic arm that is strong enough to penetrate Iron Man’s armor and perform a head-on punch against Cap’s shield without sustaining damage to it or himself. While he willingly places himself back in cryo following “Civil War,” there’s no doubting he will make his return soon.
1. STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA
An iconic symbol of both America and the Avengers, Steve Rogers has consistently proven himself as one of the toughest hand-to-hand combatants to beat. Thus far, those who have gone against Cap in single-combat have never really emerged victorious. Plenty gave him a run for his money, but could they truly beat him?
In terms of physical skill, the Super Soldier serum stripped Rogers of his frail body, enhancing his body to that of superhuman levels. His durability is such that he could get smashed into a car shielding himself from an explosion and come back fighting. He can also withstand an engaged battle against Iron Man and take direct hits from the enhanced mech suit. His weapon of choice is his trusty vibranium shield, which is nearly indestructible and able to pierce through nearly anything. His balance and dexterity are such that he can throw his vibranium shield perfectly and predict its projected path in the heat of battle. His hand-to-hand combat skills are also superb, holding his own against the likes of powerful opponents like Loki, Barnes, Ultron, Black Panther and Iron Man.
Who’s your favorite hand-to-hand fighter in the MCU? Let us know in the comments!
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