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8 Greatest Fight Scenes One Against One!

The Black Belt List
The Black Belt List: 8 Greatest Fight Scenes - One against One

Counting down the greatest fight scenes in a martial arts movie, one against one!

In boxing, there is a saying: “Styles make fights.” The same can be applied to make a great movie fight scene. However, we added two more important criteria: Opponents and Emotion.

Opponents: Just like an MMA fight or a heavyweight boxing match, it's all about who's fighting who. You can have the most creative and skilful fight in a movie, but it's always better when the two facing each other are either of equal skill or have skills that are believable on screen. The classic example of course is Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris in the Roman Colosseum; two gladiators facing off in an epic battle that people still talk about 50+ years later. 

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Emotion: The best fights are when we are invested emotionally in the final outcome.

It's that rare cinematic instance when we genuinely want to rise and cheer when the bad guy goes down.  

When compiling this list, we deem it crucial to consider every aspect, aiming to create an inclusive and comprehensive compilation that appeals to people of all ages and generations. But keeping in mind the most important element is that the reader has a critical eye and opinion on the martial arts. So this list is for those of you who love martial arts and want to see it at its very best.


[Counting down from the most recent to oldest]

Keanu Reeves vs. Mark Dacascos 
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, 2019

Keanu Reeves vs. Mark Dacascos

It's great to watch real-life Hollywood A-list stars do their stunts, and Keanu does many of his own as he faces off against real-life martial arts master Mark Dacascos. This battle includes open-hand fighting and great samurai sword action.

The fight has many master shots and it's great to watch Keanu performing his own moves that include empty hand and weapons. Of course, not to forget that he's fighting against a man with a lifetime of martial arts experience and the title of chairman in the Iron Chef!

Donnie Yen vs. Sammo Hung 
IP Man 2, 2010

Donnie Yen vs. Sammo Hung 

For simplicity, we'll just call this the “tabletop fight.” Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen) takes on a few Kung Fu Masters but saves the big fight for Sammo Hung. In a showdown that includes Wing Chun vs. well, let’s just spell it out, Hung Gar, some Southern style, and cool acrobatic kicks. Sammo is so versatile you really can't pinpoint one particular Kung Fu style, but what makes the fight scene even more amazing is that they do it all while standing on top of a table, it brings a whole new meaning to “breaking bread.”

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Michael Jai White vs. Matt Mullins 
Blood and Bone, 2009

Michael Jai White vs. Matt Mullins

A favorite among so many,  it's become a cult classic. Michael Jai White elevated his status in this fan favorite Blood and Bone.  The showdown vs. Matt Mullins is beautifully filmed and displays many wide shots to showcase Michael Jai White's masterful moves in both his hand and kicking skills. Matt Mullins is no slouch either; a real clinic of kicking skills!

Phillip Rhee vs. Simon Rhee 
Best of the Best, 1989

Phillip Rhee vs. Simon Rhee 

We all cried at the final battle as the eye-patch-wearing Simon Rhee (aka Dae Han) faces off against his real-life brother Philip Ree in the ending battle of Best of the Best.

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Dragons Forever, 1988 

Jackie Chan vs. Benny Urquidez 

Many martial artists consider this one of the greatest martial arts fight scenes of all time.  World kickboxing champion Benny “the Jet” Urquidez never looked better! One of the things that makes this fight scene so great is that it doesn't rely on over-produced, multi-cut edits to speed up the action.

This fight uses many wide shorts and master shots where you get to really appreciate the skill of both martial arts masters. It's the one fight that we're actually afraid Jackie's going to lose because we all know the true skill of Benny the Jet!

Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Bolo Yeung
Bloodsport, 1988

Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Bolo Yeung

This is the movie that turned Van Damme into one of the biggest action stars in the world. Made for only 1.5 million dollars, it eventually grossed 50 million worldwide and introduced the “Muscles from Brussels” to a global audience. 

The ending fight scene featured a young JCVD against the “Asian Hercules” Bolo Yeung. Only a decade and some change since Enter the Dragon Bolo is still muscular and fit.

Van Damme's kicking techniques are so clean and beautiful that even the best Korean Taekwondo stylist would say,  “Damn! That boy can kick!” And indeed he did!!

Bruce Lee vs. Sammo Hung opening fight scene 
Enter the Dragon, 1973

Bruce Lee vs. Sammo Hung

Some may say this was the world's introduction to MMA as Bruce Lee in a very young Samo Hung face-off at the Shaolin Temple. The fight includes striking grappling and even finger gloves. Not to mention some fancy gymnastics, but that, of course, was for show.  Back to the fight, Bruce showed us the future. It was the original mixed martial arts battle!

Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee 
Return of the Dragon, 1972

Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee

Over 50 years and people still argue over this fight scene of a young Bruce Lee and a young Chuck Norris facing off in the Roman Colosseum. This fight still holds up today, no fancy camera work, no special effects, just two of the most skilled martial artists in the world going mano a mano!


Honorable Ego Mention: 8 Greatest Fight Scenes

Jet Li vs. George Chung 
Dragon Fight,  1989

Jet Li vs. George Chung

Okay, sometimes being a publisher has its perks and it’s not a card always used, but for this list, I had to toss in this little nugget of Kung Fu delight! This is why it’s only an honorable mention. The 1989 American-made Jet Li movie was shot entirely on location in San Francisco, mostly on the streets, airport parking lots, and even a horse stable in Marin County. The film was made for a very modest budget and had no special effects or  wire work, only a young Jet Li using his amazing wushu skills to kick ass on several members of the original West Coast demo team. If you can find it, it's a wonderful and pure little gem.

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