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Best Fighters In Cobra Kai Ranked

As yet another soft reboot (when an older franchise comes back and legacy characters mentor a new generation), "Cobra Kai" has no right to be as entertaining and rewatchable as it is. But the "Karate Kid" spinoff is the real deal. William Zabka and Ralph Macchio reprise their classic roles as Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso, respectively. They're joined by multiple other classic characters and a whole slate of new ones ⁠— mainly high schoolers they're training up to fight in the next phase of the San Fernando Valley dojo wars.

It goes without saying that the series is filled with some epic brawls and displays of karate prowess from its many characters. The central theme is the conflict between strike-first aggression — as exemplified by the titular Cobra Kai dojo — and the more defensive, peaceful mindset of Daniel LaRusso's Miyagi-Do. It's a question that can only be settled by competing members of each dojo duking it out in the streets or on the mat at the All Valley Karate Tournament. So the question is, who's the best fighter on the show? Who's even in the running? We've assembled a list of the best "Cobra Kai" fighters here, worst to best.

Kyler Park

Other than Tory Nichols, Kyler, a wrestler, starts off as the most naturally gifted athlete on the show. He is the bane of Miguel, Eli, and Demetri's existence until they learn enough karate from Johnny Lawrence to put him in his place — at least for a while. As nice as it is to see him get his comeuppance, Kyler eventually joins Cobra Kai himself and sees his status as a bully significantly upgraded.

Miguel Diaz makes short work of Kyler and his friends in a cafeteria brawl in Season 1. A video of the incident goes viral and inspires bullied kids to sign up for Cobra Kai en masse. But after getting some training of his own, Kyler is able to almost defeat Miguel in Season 3, when he joins the rest of Cobra Kai in a violent invasion of the LaRusso home.

Still, Kyler performs rather pitifully at the next season's All Valley Karate Tournament, losing to Hawk without scoring a single point. While he starts strong and has only improved from there, he'll never truly be a match for the many enemies he unwisely makes until he learns to stop underestimating them.

Shawn Payne

In the Season 2 finale, a bitter love square between Tory Nichols, Sam LaRusso, Robby Keene, and Miguel Diaz results in a massive brawl in the school hallways, involving all their Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do peers. In the end, Robby Keene kicks Miguel off a balcony, nearly killing him.

Horrified, Robby runs away, but he's eventually turned in by Daniel LaRusso and sent to juvie. It's a good thing he had such extensive karate training because another inmate there, Shawn Payne, has it out for the new guy. Clearly, Robbie is no pushover, but Shawn is able to take advantage of the "karate is for defense only" mentality that Keene picked up under LaRusso and beat him mercilessly. Not until John Kreese pays Robby a visit and convinces him to gain respect by attacking first next time does Robby get a chance to turn the tables on Shawn. Say what you will about Kreese, but he's right in this instance: taking the high road against a fighter as capable and savage as Shawn is only going to lead to disaster.

Robby earns Shawn's respect after finally battling him to a draw before being bailed out of juvie. And there's a chance we'll be seeing more of Shawn since his younger brother Kenny is now a recurring character. If he's spent the last year or so honing his chops and learning from his last fight with Robby, he may emerge as an even more brutal fighter than before.

Tory Nichols

Tory's rough upbringing made her a survivor before her first karate lesson, as evidenced by the fact that she battled All Valley champ Miguel Diaz to a stalemate on her first day. A former kickboxer, her ascent to the top of Cobra Kai was a certainty from the start.

Her anger issues are a handicap, though. She's able to dominate her opponents early on and hold her own against more experienced fighters like Miguel and arch-nemesis Sam LaRusso. But the price for starting off at a higher level is a lower ceiling, and her vicious aggression leaves little room for defense. It's likely she'll still be unlearning bad habits while her opponents train past her skill level in later years. Robby Keene would've had similar issues if he hadn't started off learning Daniel LaRusso's Miyagi-Do style first, which gave him a wide array of defensive tools to get around these disadvantages. But Tory was aggressive from the start and has only trained under senseis like Johnny Lawrence and John Kreese, who believe aggression to be the only desirable attribute in a fighter. As a result, she's an unbalanced combatant and will likely pay the price down the road.

Still, her skills cannot be denied. She won the All Valley Karate Tournament's girls division in the latest season by defeating Sam LaRusso. Even though it appears Terry Silver bribed the referee to throw the match to her, she still earned the trophy and a spot on this list.

Miguel Diaz

In earlier seasons, Miguel would've ranked just below the adults (or close to it), but other candidates have slowly caught up to him. Cobra Kai gets its first batch of students after a video of him dominating Kyler and his friends in the school cafeteria goes viral. But in Season 3, he almost loses to Kyler alone. And although he is a contender for Season 4's All Valley Karate Tournament, he throws out his back during a spin kick and decides not to continue. Of course, much of his decline can be attributed to the nearly fatal back injury he suffers during the school fight against Robby Keene.

But even after almost dying in the resulting coma and being wheelchair-bound for weeks, he recovers enough of his former power to once again be a force to be reckoned with, and his sheer determination points to unrealized potential. He is the show's first All Valley champion and nearly defends his title in the latest season, post-injury. Almost exclusively training under Sensei Lawrence has hampered his defensive skills, but only by a bit. He was always more thoughtful and compassionate than his ruthless Cobra Kai peers. While they see this as weakness, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, Miguel is hardly an unbalanced fighter, as evidenced by victories over Kyler, Xander Stone, and Robby Keene. When he's in the zone and near the top of his game, few fighters his age can keep up with him.

Samantha LaRusso

As Daniel LaRusso's daughter, Samanta LaRusso was exposed to karate far earlier than her high school peers, and it shows — muscle memory left over from childhood sparring marches with her dad undoubtedly played a large role in how quickly she became one of her generation's best fighters.

Unlike her ex Robby Keene, she never left Miyagi-Do after mastering her father's defense lessons. But she did get a chance to train with his on again, off again rival Johnny Lawrence long enough to develop some wicked attacks. With both defensive and offensive skill sets under her belt, she's able to analyze her opponent's style (a unique talent of hers) and calculate which techniques, counters, and combos are most suitable for any situation on the fly. That's a mighty foundation on which to keep developing her skills, and it's precisely why she came so close to beating Tory Nichols and taking home the prize at Season 4's All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament girl's division.

Speaking of Tory, though, Sam isn't without her weaknesses. Her rivalry with Cobra Kai's top female fighter began when she falsely accused Tory of stealing. It continued as they fought over Robby and Miguel and escalated severely after Tory essentially tried to kill her in the finales of Seasons 2 and 3 as part of the larger rivalry between their competing dojos. Sam's hatred of Tory is understandable, but as evidenced by her All Valley defeat, it's something she needs to get a better handle on moving forward.

Hawk

Like a lot of "Cobra Kai" characters, Eli Moskowitz is fueled by rage for most of the show. He is tormented at school for years due to an unsightly surgery scar on his face before "flipping the script" by getting a huge back tattoo and a towering mohawk (hence the nickname) and pouring himself into his training at Cobra Kai. Johnny Lawrence once told him that "the best defense is more offense." He takes this to heart and quickly becomes one of the most fearsome attackers on the show, capable of overwhelming larger opponents and even taking on multiple foes simultaneously with a flurry of kicks and punches, often coupled with nonviolent intimidation.

Of course, Johnny's advice works best against opponents who couldn't threaten you if they tried. For several seasons, Hawk sees defensive training as an admission of defeat and spends little time honing those skills. This means even mediocre opponents, including his old friend Demetri Alexopoulpus — hardly the best fighter in the series — have been able to beat him under the right circumstances.

But in Season 4, a newly humbled Hawk makes amends with his former victims and trains extensively with defensive expert Daniel LaRusso. Ultimately, he wins the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament championship and seems to have a more promising, balanced future ahead of him.

Robby Keene

As he's told both his father Johnny Lawrence and his former mentor Daniel LaRusso, Robby trusts no one and is too stubborn to be indoctrinated into any of the ideologies that define the warring dojos. Instead, he absorbs only what he finds useful, using his extensive training in both Miyagi Do-defensive combat and Cobra Kai-style aggression to craft his own blended form of karate. This unique advantage makes him the most well-rounded young fighter in the show and the top student of whatever dojo he's in.

He never wins an All Valley Karate Tournament, but he makes it to the final round in both cases and never loses because he is genuinely the inferior fighter. In the 1st season, Miguel Diaz has to repeatedly attack his wounded arm to beat him. In Season 4, Robby gets distracted during the final match with Hawk, setting himself up for a defeat he almost certainly would've avoided otherwise.

Robby does have a dark side, but his bitterness (especially towards his dad) doesn't actually hamper his fighting. If anything, it makes him more dangerous, as evidenced by his almost killing Miguel by kicking him over the railing during the school fight. No, it's when he's struggling with his conscience that he gets confused and distracted. When he gains a little more discipline and the confidence to permanently settle into a moral lane, he'll likely realize his full potential and become the show's most dangerous martial artist.

John Kreese

Cobra Kai founder John Kreese's biggest problem is his inability to distinguish between the kill-or-be-killed conditions of the Vietnam War and his job as the sensei of an after-school, strip mall karate program. He inherited an immature dojo rivalry and escalated it to the point of open warfare. His students, brainwashed by his "Strike hard, strike first, no mercy" mantra and equipped with proto black ops skills, are now child soldiers committing acts of terrorism across the valley, including Hawk snapping Demitri's arm at the arcade and destructive invasions of the Miyagi-Do dojo and the LaRusso home. The guy should be in prison, yet inexplicably sees his influence as positive.

This twisted mentality obviously manifests in his fighting style. He's well past his prime, as evidenced by defeats against Lawrence and LaRusso, but a special ops background and a lifetime of fighting for his life make Kreese one of the show's most ruthless and cunning combatants. He's more adept at using his environment to his advantage than anyone else in the show, even when it exceeds the limits of karate. He'll use weapons against unarmed opponents and sucker punch foes when their guard is down. Kreese sees ruthlessness as a virtue and honor as foolishness in a cold, cruel world. What he cannot seem to grasp is that its own vicious behavior that's made him so many enemies in the first place. But there's no denying the man is exceedingly dangerous, even in his later years.

Johnny Lawrence

If Johnny Lawrence had any more densely packed "peaked in high school" energy, he'd collapse into a black hole. But unlike others who crank up '80s hair metal, obsess over high school sports achievements, and wax lyrical about the virtues of "being badass," Lawrence isn't just showboating when he says he can fight — he actually can beat you into a coma if he feels like it.

As fans of the original "Karate Kid" movie remember, Lawrence was Cobra Kai's top student back in the '80s. And this dojo wasn't an after-school program — it was a violent cult. The karate skills Lawrence picked up under his sadistic sensei John Kreese all those years ago are very real. But today, Lawrence teaches and has mastered a version of Cobra Kai (now called "Eagle Fang") that's more respectable but still dangerous. Unlike Kreese, Lawrence leaves room for mercy and fairness in his combat style. But he's still capable of crushing opponents if he must.

Lawrence's biggest weakness is his lack of respect for defense. He thinks overpowering enemies with aggressive speed is the best way to win, and he's usually right. But when he's up against other skilled fighters, this can get him into trouble. In Season 4, though, he reluctantly agrees to let his old rival Daniel LaRusso teach him about balance, mindfulness, and defense. If he swallows his pride and applies these lessons, he would get a massive upgrade to his already impressive combat skills.

Daniel LaRusso

Daniel LaRusso might be a bit pretentious with his whole "wise sage" act, especially since he's as prone to violence and petty revenge against high school rivals as anyone he likes to think he's better than. But the OG "Karate kid" sure knows his stuff. Now an adult, LaRusso has mastered Mr. Miyagi's defense-first style of karate and wants to share his wisdom with a new generation to combat the violent threat of a resurgent Cobra Kai.

LaRusso's mastery of mindful balance makes him hard to outmaneuver or sneak up on and allows him to perceive — and therefore control — nearly everything that's happening around him. And although his style focuses on defense and counterattacks, he's perfectly capable of smashing an opponent in combat. He's not as strong or as ruthless as Johnny Lawrence or John Kreese, but his style doesn't require him to be. After all, his precision and disciplined mastery of his combat techniques make him a superior fighter all the same.

On multiple occasions throughout the show, LaRusso takes on and beats multiple foes at once, seemingly without breaking a sweat or sustaining much damage at all. Being humble enough to learn is a powerful asset too. Daniel's training with both Johnny Lawrence and Chozen Toguchi teaches him some dangerous new offensive skills, and the ending of Season 4 sets up a further partnership between all three. It'll be interesting to see how LaRusso grows as a fighter in Season 5.

Terry Silver

You know a character's bad news when he makes a violent sociopath like John Kreese look sympathetic. Kreese joined forces with multimillionaire Terry Silver, whose life he saved in Vietnam, to start Cobra Kai and later torment Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi ("The Karate Kid Part III"). Although neither he nor Kreese was a match for Miyagi at the time, with LaRusso's mentor gone, Silver's likely the most lethal martial artist this side of the Pacific. Just look at the few fights we've seen him in. He hospitalized Stingray (a comic relief character but hardly an incapable fighter) while stumbling drunk, and he toyed with Johnny Lawrence — a stronger fighter than Kreese himself — before knocking him out with ease.

The show does like to give unexpected redemption arcs. Notably, Miguel, Chozen, and Hawk got theirs, and Robby is in the middle of his second. Tory and Kreese appear to be turning a moral corner, and of course, the whole show started as Johnny Lawrence's moral rehabilitation, so maybe Terry will get one. When Kreese caught up with him at the beginning of Season 4, he had clearly put his violent ways behind him. Maybe that goodness is still in there.

But Kreese appears to have awoken something truly dark in his old pal by pulling him back into Cobra Kai; Silver revels in cruelty and treachery. Terrifyingly, he's got the combat skills to back it all up and be a bigger threat to our heroes than Kreese ever was.

Chozen Toguchi

In "The Karate Kid Part II," Daniel LaRusso joins Mr. Miyagi on a trip to his home island of Okinawa, Japan. There, he encounters Chozen Toguchi — a violent, ruthless foe trained by a student of Mr. Miyagi's father who made the first movie's Cobra Kais look like the children they were. Daniel managed to beat Chozen only with extreme effort, additional training from Mr. Miyagi, and, no doubt, a healthy dose of plot armor.

Decades passed before the two ran into each other again during Daniel's Season 3 trip to Okinawa. Chozen agrees to spar with his old foe, and we learn that while LaRusso spent the years since their last encounter starting a business and raising a family, Chozen had done little else but pour himself into Miyagi-Do karate, learning techniques that might've eluded even Mr. Miyagi himself. He dominates Daniel using precision strikes to the joints that render entire limbs — and thus the fighter who owns them — temporarily immobile. Daniel later uses this tactic against Kreese to great effect.

It's doubtful this is the only special technique Chozen has mastered during his years of intensive karate training. Now that he's returned to help LaRusso take down Terry Silver's Cobra Kai, we're excited to see what other ancient ninja tactics this peerless martial arts master has up his sleeve.