A shonen epic of multifaceted merits, One Piece is not just a story of sea-faring adventures. It also features some of the most exhilarating fights in battle shonen history, elevated by the series’ masterful emotional storytelling, unorthodox power systems, and outstanding ability to weave narrative into combat. Over the years sailing the Grand Line, the Straw Hat Pirates have encountered plenty of formidable foes, taking on fellow pirates, ruthless dictators, and even representatives of the corrupt World Government.
Each big battle in the One Piece narrative signifies a crucial point of development for the combatants, which makes the series’ battles so memorable and impactful. On top of serving as a storytelling device, combat in One Piece is always exhilarating to watch, filled to the brim with spectacular action, unexpected twists, and thrilling power-ups.
10 Luffy Versus Arlong
For many fans, the Arlong Park arc represents a turning point in the One Piece narrative, finally showcasing the true potential of this legendary story. After all the emotional buildup surrounding Nami’s long-lasting abuse at the hands of the Arlong Pirates, the Straw Hats take the matter into their own hands, determinedly marching to defeat the dictator of the Cocoyasi Village.
The first truly formidable foe Luffy had to face up to this point in his adventure, Arlong doesn’t go down easy. Yet, powered by his desire to free and protect his newfound nakama, Luffy crushes his opponent, destroying the tower that represented so much pain and oppression for his navigator in the process.
9 Luffy Versus Sanji
Sanji’s duel with Luffy hides its power in its implication not its action. It was a moment of harrowing emotional development for both the cook and his captain. After abandoning the Straw Hats in a desperate attempt to save Zeff and his crew from the wrath of his birth family, Sanji ends up beating Luffy bloodied, with the Straw Hat captain not even attempting to fight him back.
The Whole Cake Island arc had plenty of moments of devastating character development for Sanji. Yet, none of them compare to the debilitating sight of the valorous cook beating down his dearest friend and captain. Thankfully, Luffy’s profound understanding of Sanji’s actions allowed the cook to return to his rightful place among the crew.
8 Whitebeard Versus The Marines
The Summit War of Marineford is a moment in One Piece history that changed everything, shifting the established power scales for the entire world and permanently altering the progression of the story for every major character. The battle to free Portgas D. Ace from the Marine Headquarters also took the lives of multiple big-name pirates, including the captive himself and the legendary Edward “Whitebeard” Newgate.
As expected from a pirate of his magnitude, Whitebeard didn’t go down without a fight, and his clash against the Marines was unforgettable. Whitebeard died standing proudly, just like he lived, and even gave the new generation of pirates hope with his final proclamation about the One Piece treasure.
7 Luffy Versus Magellan
The vicious Chief Warden of Impel Down, Magellan, holds a special place in the One Piece narrative, being the only villain in the series’ history to ultimately defeat Luffy with no chance of a rematch.
Despising Luffy for being the first person to break into his impeccably protected prison, Magellan unleashes the full power of his venom Devil Fruit on the pirate, leaving him dying of toxins. This was an attack even the Straw Hat couldn’t withstand, having to retreat with the help of Bon Clay and suffer an agonizing treatment at the hands of Ivankov.
6 Sanji Versus Queen
Sanji’s showdown with Queen in the Wano Country arc is a fight of both tremendous emotional weight and grand visual flourish. A scientist fascinated by Vinsmoke Judge’s inventions and a man with no respect for women, Queen the Plague made a perfect opponent for Sanji to confront his painful past once again.
During his fight with Queen, Sanji consistently questions his humanity, fearing becoming a weapon of science with no moral compass, just like his brothers. Queen, who can copy Vinsmokes’ special abilities, urges Sanji to accept his genetic modifications. Yet, through combining them with his Armament Haki, Sanji unlocks a new technique and defeats Queen without betraying his principles.
5 Zoro Versus Dracule Mihawk
Long before the Straw Hats had to clash with some of the New World’s most formidable fighters, the crew got a taste of their unmatched power when they encountered Dracule Mihawk, the World’s Strongest Swordsman. With his eyes on Mihawk’s title, Zoro challenges the legendary swordsman to a duel, which goes about as well as expected.
Armed with only a tiny knife, Mihawk destroys Zoro, who fails to land a single hit on his opponent. An early demonstration of the monsters awaiting the Straw Hats on their adventures, Mihawk’s fight with Zoro left a lasting impact on the fans and got them excited for the eventual rematch between the two at the end of the Grand Line.
4 Luffy Versus Rob Lucci
Commonly regarded as one of the series’ best arcs, Enies Lobby features some truly spectacular battles. Yet, none of them come even close to the impact of the fight between Luffy and CP9’s Rob Lucci, both in terms of excitement and narrative weight. A shockingly powerful opponent, Lucci gave Luffy a run for his money, almost annihilating the Straw Hat not even halfway through his journey.
However, this challenge helped Luffy unlock two of his most iconic powers – Gear 2 and 3, which ultimately allowed the pirate to overcome his opponent. The two even had a nostalgic rematch during the most recent Egghead arc, with Luffy, once again, coming out of the clash victorious.
3 Luffy Versus Usopp
One of the most emotionally devastating fights in One Piece history, Luffy’s battle against Usopp to decide the fate of Going Merry is a soul-crushing instance of conflict within the unbreakable Straw Hat Pirates crew. Unwilling to let his beloved ship go, Usopp faces Luffy in a clash he knows to likely lose.
Despite putting up an impressive fight, the sniper couldn’t compete with his captain’s raw strength and combat experience, and seeing him defeated by one of his best friends left countless fans heartbroken. While not the most impressive fight technically, Luffy’s match against Usopp is, without a doubt, the series’ most touching and disheartening battle.
2 Luffy Versus Charlotte Katakuri
One Piece always finds creative ways to present its main hero with new challenges and, in the case of Luffy’s fight against Big Mom’s second son, Charlotte Katakuri, the Straw Hat realizes that the world is still full of respectable opponents who can give him a run for his money. Katakuri’s Mochi Mochi no Mi powers are almost identical to Luffy’s rubber properties, making their clash a mirror fight.
Yet, Luffy stood no chance against Katakuri’s advanced foresight Haki. Their twelve-hour-long face-off was full of twists, turns, and unexpected power shifts, ending with both opponents gaining enormous respect for one another.
1 Luffy Versus Kaido
The most recent big clash in the One Piece anime and a highly anticipated showdown of the Wano Country arc, Luffy’s battle with the world’s strongest creature, Kaido of the Beasts, will go down in history as one of the best moments in the entire series.
What started as an absolutely brutal annihilation, with Luffy, despite getting close to performing on par with the monstrous Yonko, getting defeated twice and even dying. Yet, in an incredible transformation, Luffy awakens his Devil Fruit, Hito Hito no Mi, Model: Nika, and, with the newfound abilities of Gear 5, defeats Kaido once and for all with a cheerful smile on his face.
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