I grew up a massive fan of The Karate Kid, watching all three original movies hundreds of times, and then the two additional films a few times. Despite this, it took me until Season 2 to take the plunge and pay for YouTube Premium to watch the show. The investment was immediately worth it. As much as I loved the original Karate Kid franchise, Cobra Kai exceeds it tenfold with the level of acting, writing, and character development. They took a fun piece of nostalgia and expanded it into a legitimate television masterpiece.
I’ve already rewatched both seasons at least 5–10 times, and now that it’s on Netflix, I’m going to watch it a lot more since it will be something I can put on in the background while working.
After a lot of thinking and reading message boards, I compiled a list ranking every fighter in the Cobra Kai series. We are pausing for this ranking until right before the ending of the school fight in Season 2. I do not know how to project Miguel will be after Season 2, and thus, we are only going to imagine him at his best as a respect. Also, respect in peace, Tommy.
18 Bert and Nathaniel
Bert and Nathaniel come in last because even though they have been hard-working students for Cobra Kai and Migayi-Do, they do not possess the size to be legitimate threats quite yet. In the giant school fight scene, both kids were taken out by a single security guard due to their petite statures. Once they fully hit puberty and put on some weight, they could ascend through the ranks.
While Demetri was able to defend himself against Hawk in the school fight and put one over on him, the whole situation more felt like a 1 in a 100 hail mary, versus something that would happen consistently. Demetri’s history of being unable to fight and Hawk murdering thirty kids right before he approached Demetri was a perfect recipe for an all-time backfire and an all-time underdog win.
If Demetri were to pull this off a second time, then he skyrockets up the list. Until then, he’s still near the bottom due to a large sample size of not being able to defend himself.
16 Chris and Mitch
They joined Cobra Kai following the All-Valley Tournament (Chris later joining Miyagi-Do). Thus, we expect them to trail their friends in skill and ability. Both guys are relatively big compared to the rest of the cast, which is part of the reason they rank higher than Bert and Nathaniel.
Stingray has the most time and money to devote to martial arts. Since his mom does not charge him rent, he has the cash to blow on fulfilling his dreams of becoming a world-class martial artist. He won the Coyote Creek challenge by creatively camouflaging himself. Stingray beat up some kids during the school fight. Despite his successes, we’ve never seen Stingray operate when getting attacked. Does he have any defensive ability?
Kyler is a high school wrestler who is presumably good based on his rank in the school’s social food chain and athletic build. I know Cobra Kai likes to champion karate as the end-all-be-all, but amateur wrestling should not get slept on. Especially since Kyler has likely been training longer than most Cobra Kai students. He also got some good licks in on Johnny Lawrence in the Series Premiere.
When Miguel defeated Kyler and his friends, he reported back to Johnny at the Dojo; Johnny replied, “even that big dumb one?” It implies that Johnny regards Brucks as the toughest to face, likely due to his sheer size. Brucks is also part of the wrestling team.
The quietest OG Cobra Kai member and was the only brown belt among his peer group. He lost to Daniel the original All-Valley in the second round and has taken some time off from fighting before reuniting with his Cobras to meet their friend Tommy for one last hurrah.
He was the All-Valley champion before Cobra Kai came back. In the quarter-finals of the most recent All-Valley with Cobra Kai in play, Aisha took Xander to the limit in a 3–2 bout, despite Aisha having trained only for a few months. Xander got decisively beat 3–1 in the semi-finals against Miguel. Maybe if Xander joined Cobra Kai or Miyagi-Do, he would have the potential to be near the top. Unfortunately, he is paying for an inferior version of karate.
While Xander defeated Aisha, she was still new to karate. We should be right in assuming that Cobra Kai students are growing exponentially. Considering how close she was to defeating the former champion, I feel comfortable placing her above Xander now that time has progressed. Aisha is also the daughter of an NFL legend and has the pedigree of an athlete. I don’t think she has quite the drive of Miguel, Tori, or Hawk as she has other interests in her life; nonetheless, she is a dedicated student.
From the jump, Tory established herself as a legitimate fighter when going toe-to-toe with Miguel on day one as a Cobra Kai student and often getting the upper-hand. While Miguel never went 100% all out against her, he did get up to 80–85% by the end, and Tory prevailed because of her naturally cutthroat attitude and behavior. Tory was born a Cobra, and her strike-first mentality is why she thrives and also why she sometimes fails.
Another OG Cobra. Bobby is the Cobra who injured Daniel in the semi-finals when following Kreese’s orders. He did not want to do this, and immediately after doing so, Bobby kept trying to apologize. Bobby was the voice of reason of the group and in present-day is a pastor.
In terms of credentials, he made it to the All-Valley Final the year before Daniel LaRusso arrived, losing to Johnny Lawrence in those finals. Bobby is the only Cobra who never lost a legitimate match to Daniel. It’s not out of the question that Bobby could have beat Daniel either since most of Daniel’s previous matches were very close 3–2 bouts.
In modern-day, we assume he would still rank among the best fighters as he was the second-best Cobra and has God’s power behind him now.
Hawk’s main issue as a fighter is that he doesn’t variate his style or focus on defense at all. His vicious fighting style makes him a menace in a war-type battle like the school fight where he can take out multiple enemies at once (he legit took out 10–20 people). Simultaneously, when things slow down, and he gets forced to go into one on one close combat, fighters can avoid his big sweeping moves, deconstruct him, and strike back hard once he leaves an opening. Hawk also seems to be putting on a bit more muscle as time goes on. He got to the semi-finals of his first All-Valley and had Daniel LaRusso not interfered; it is possible he defeats Robby Keene.
If Hawk became truly focused on self-defense, he’d have the potential to be the best fighter since he is easily the most dedicated student and has an obsessive personality.
Robby is naturally clever and athletic from his many years of skateboarding. He performed the two-legged kick exceptionally early in his karate career (something Daniel never accomplished) and finished in second place in his first All-Valley tournament. Robby is a bit of a natural Cobra Kai in that he has this strike first mentality once he gets heated and makes poor choices (i.e., almost killing Miguel). If Robby could rid of those habits, then he will continue to grow as a fighter.
Robby’s biggest fault as a fighter is his absolute adoration for Daniel LaRusso and sees him as someone he wants to be exactly like. The problem with that is you can genuinely only replicate a certain amount of what another individual is. Daniel learned from Miyagi and used those lessons and mixed them with his desires to become the human and fighter he is now. It’s part of the reason Daniel struggles as a teacher at times because he tries to replicate Miyagi. Robby is stagnating a bit because he’s simply a Diet Daniel LaRusso.
All the fighters on this show seem to have begun karate in their teenage years, which is honestly quite old. Sam has a massive edge on all other fighters since Daniel taught her at the age of 8, and thus, her body has the natural muscle memory and instincts that the other fighters do not.
Sam probably has the least interest in being the best fighter; she only wants to when forced to (self-defense) or see people starting to pass her up. During the school fight, Tory brought out her best and even injured Sam in the process, yet, Sam was still able to pull out the win.
What makes Miguel such a great Cobra is the fact that he is a natural Miyagi. The guy is naturally caring and is always thinking. As a fighter, he is ready to strike first whenever, yet works on his self-defense and remembers everything he gets taught. While fighting Robby, Miguel pulled out the headbutt that Johnny taught him to create a separation between the two. When going against Hawk in the Coyote Creek challenge, Miguel outplayed Hawk in the same high gear offensive style that Hawk excels in.
As the series has gone on, Miguel has grown in height, has long limbs, and is putting on muscle. Miguel is disciplined and works hard while growing at a healthy rate. Hawk is going much harder than Miguel in training but doesn’t give himself the time to step back/relax and grow. What helps Miguel is his surroundings. He is Johnny’s surrogate son in the show, Tory is bringing him a kickboxing background and romantic partner, Hawk is his best friend who he can spar and grow with, and then the Miyagi-Do’s are rivals that get his competitive drive out.
His biggest strengths are his will and curiosity. It is why John Kreese never approached Miguel like he did Hawk because he fears Miguel’s intelligence and prowess.
Sidenote: Xolo Mariduena, the actor who plays Miguel, does such a good job in his role, and I legitimately feel he has the potential to be a mainstream actor and star for the next few decades.
3 John Kreese
Fighting a man who has murdered people is terrifying. John Kreese taught Johnny Lawrence how to fight and likely has some tricks up his sleeve that he never taught Johnny. Then again, the man is old and is nowhere near as spry as he used. Hell, he looked old in the original Karate Kid movies, and now he’s still out here fighting.
Johnny had the upper-hand on Kreese during the Season 2 premiere episode, and Kreese got even once Johnny showed mercy. I don’t think that either of LaRusso or Johnny would be willing to offer this psychopath actual mercy going forward. The most dangerous thing about him is that he will sink as low as possible to win.
2 Johnny Lawrence
As a martial artist, Johnny has a much more impressive record than Daniel. They always mention that Daniel is a 2x All Valley Champ, but Johnny is also a 2x All Valley Champ. He won his first title during his Sophomore Year of high school! Could you imagine Bert or Nathaniel winning the All Valley? Because that’s what Johnny did. As a Junior, Johnny won the All Valley his second All Valley recording a perfect record where not a single opponent scored a point against him. Daniel LaRusso couldn’t even manage that in a tournament where he only had to fight one match.
In terms of pure offense, Johnny Lawrence is an all-time fighter who can go toe to toe with Daniel LaRusso. His weakness is the decades of drinking and a poor diet. Up to 60% of the human body is Water; Johnny Lawrence is 60% Coors Banquet.
1 Daniel LaRusso
As much as I would like to rank Johnny #1, Daniel’s head to head wins put him atop the list. Daniel defeated Johnny Lawrence, Jimmy, and Bobby as kids in the All Valley with limited training. He also put up impressive wins against Chozen and Mike Barnes, respectively, in Karate Kid 2 and 3. While Daniel never has the dominant wins that Johnny has, his plot armor and gutsy mentality have allowed him to overcome many enemies.
In the present, he has stayed in great shape and teaches 2 out of the 3 best martial artists of the new generation. John Kreese has never attacked Daniel because he knows that he will get demolished, just like when Kreese attacked Miyagi.