Before Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko rose to prominence in the mid-2000s as European heavyweights possessing frightening striking power, there was Igor Vovchanchyn.
The Ukrainian emerged into MMA just as the sport, then known as NHB or no holds barred, began spreading across the European continent following the success of the early UFC events.
Standing just 5'8" and having a 68-inch reach, Vovchanchyn compensated for his small size for the heavyweight division by possessing serious knockout power and technical kickboxing skills. After his debut in 1995, he began competing in a variety of one-night tournaments across the Eastern Bloc. After compiling a 5-2 record in his first seven fights, Igor would go on an incredible 37 fight unbeaten streak before losing to fellow MMA pioneer Mark Coleman in the final of the 2000 PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix.
Despite also finding success in Japan, Vovchanchyn's best period was in the wild west days of MMA during the mid-'90s. I mean, the guy has two wins that are officially listed on his record as 'submission to headbutts'. Imagine having to fight a guy where if you somehow manage to escape the fight on the feet with your consciousness intact, you'll instead be pulverised with headbutts on the ground. Yikes.
These days, Vovchanchyn has retired as an artist in violence to a more relaxed life running a cafe in his native Ukraine.