Losing is a natural part of Dragon Ball. Every character does it. Goku loses more than he wins in Dragon Ball Z; Vegeta loses against every single arc villain, and Piccolo didn’t win a single fight between the Buu saga and the Tournament of Power. If you’re going to be a martial artist in Toriyama’s Dragon World, it’s only natural you accept the fact you’re going to lose. This especially goes for Son Gohan. Introduced in the Saiyan saga as Goku’s timid son, Gohan quickly became a fan favorite despite his constant losses.
It really cannot be understated just how much Gohan gets destroyed in battle. Between the first two sagas, you can count all his legitimate wins on one hand. This is a character who fights often, but wins little. It’s a look that works well for him in the original series as it’s fairly fresh and always works in benefit of the story, but GT and Super take the concept to an extreme, belittling Gohan to a character who exists only to get pummelled by the villains. He may have been the strongest character by the end of Dragon Ball Z, but the journey getting there, and the journey after, had him getting wrecked in battle time and time again.
25 Gohan Couldn’t Handle Nappa’s Ferocity
After spending much of the Saiyan saga preparing for the fight against Nappa and Vegeta with Piccolo, it’s only natural that Gohan would shed away some of his cowardice, at least slightly. He puts up a solid effort when push comes to shove, but Nappa ends up being too much for the halfbreed to handle. What’s particularly sad about Gohan’s fight against Nappa is that he had the perfect chance to do some serious damage, but he froze and couldn’t act when the time came to attack. It’s this fumbling that ends up leading to Piccolo’s sacrifice.
It’s one thing to get destroyed in battle, but it’s another thing entirely to watch the man who trained you for six months die before your eyes because you made a mistake. Piccolo’s defeat at Nappa’s hand is a reminder to Gohan of the destruction battle brings. The horror doesn’t end there, however, as Goku doesn’t arrive right away. In the wake of Piccolo’s demise, Nappa prepares to crush Gohan with his foot, ending the half-Saiyan’s life before he could even fight back. Luckily, Goku does show up just in time to save his son, but the damage is done. Piccolo lost his life, the Dragon Balls are gone, and Gohan suffered an emotional and physical defeat.
24 Vegeta Nearly Beat Gohan At The End Of The Saiyan Saga
Through defeat comes true strength. Only by losing to Nappa can Gohan realize the importance of fighting back. It’s this newfound resolve which allows him to fly back into the fray and save his father from Vegeta’s wrath. Gohan’s fight with Vegeta, while definitely understated compared to the absolutely stellar Goku versus Vegeta, is an important moment in Dragon Ball as it completes Gohan’s arc in the Saiyan saga and shows everyone working together to take down the Saiyan Prince. It also features Gohan coming incredibly close to defeat multiple times.
Half-breeds are simply no match for the Prince of All Saiyans.
Although Vegeta has been worn down, and hough Gohan is fighting with new conviction, Vegeta still manages to maintain the upper hand throughout the fight. At best, Gohan is simply stalling him while Goku and Krillin come up with the actual plan to stop Vegeta. In their straight up fight, Vegeta wears down Gohan even after losing metric tons of energy in his fight against Goku. Even when Gohan tosses the Genki Dama at Vegeta, the Prince comes back unphased ready to obliterate Gohan. If it weren’t for Gohan growing his tail back in the heat of combat, Vegeta would have ended his life right then and there.
23 Gurd Almost Skewered Gohan
The Ginyu Force are hilarious! They strike silly poses; they bicker with each other like an old married couple, and they nearly murder our heroes several times during the Frieza saga! Gurd, otherwise known as Guldo in the Funimation dub, nearly skewers both Krillin and Gohan during their first fight against the Ginyu Force. Gurd tends to get a bad rap since he’s the first member to lose, and the only one to lose his life before Goku shows up, but he’s actually quite dangerous. Without much trouble, he’s able to paralyze both Gohan and Krillin while also preparing a tree to pierce their bodies.
It’s actually incredibly dark if you think about it, especially considering how Gohan had absolutely no chance of surviving without Vegeta’s interference. Once Gurd locked him in place with paralysis, the fight was effectively over. Gohan couldn’t move, he couldn’t dodge, and he couldn’t fight back. He simply had to watch as Gurd prepared the device that would theoretically take his life. Of all the ways to get destroyed in battle, this is one of the worst since Gohan was actually doing rather well beforehand. Had he landed a hit in earlier, he could have throttled Gurd into submission. Unfortunately, he underestimated his opponent and nearly paid the price.
22 Tullece Monkeyed Around With Gohan
Gohan has it rough. Not only does he have to get beaten into the ground during the actual series, the movies also tend to use him as a battering ram for the main villains. Tullece, or Turles if you’re only familiar with the Funimation dub, or even Taurus if you’re from the fansub days, is the Goku Black prototype who terrorized the Son family all the way back in Tree of Might. The third Dragon Ball Z film, this movie saw Tullece coming to Earth in a pseudo-retelling of the Saiyan invasion at the end of the Saiyan saga. He even gets to beat down on Gohan just like Vegeta!
Is there anything worse than getting turned into a monkey by a guy who looks like your dad?
Where Vegeta destroyed Gohan and was then defeated by Gohan suddenly turning into an Oozaru, Tullece actually beats Gohan to a pulp in order to weaponize his Oozaru form against Goku. It’s a brutal and exceptionally cruel tactic that pits father against son in a way the series proper never explored. Gohan’s Oozaru form is mindless, after all, so there’s some natural drama in his father having to subdue him. It’s made all the worse by just how vicious Tullece is in forcing Gohan to transform. He beats him up, grabs him tight, and forces his eyes open. If Tree of Might were canon, this would be legitimately scarring.
21 Reacoom Snapped Gohan’s Neck
Gohan becoming the Great Saiyaman in the Buu saga makes a whole lot of sense when you start seeing it as a coping mechanism related to all the trauma he experienced at the hands of the Ginyu Force. Almost as soon as Vegeta saves him from Gurd, Gohan is thrust into a fight against Reacoom. What’s worse, Reacoom has already utterly destroyed Vegeta, the strongest member of their group at that point, before Gohan taps in. What follows is a genuinely horrific beatdown where Reacoom snaps Gohan’s neck with one, swift kick.
There are gorier and bloodier moments in Dragon Ball, but this might be the most uncomfortable given the context. A five-year-old boy has just had his neck snapped by a grown man and is slowly fading away on the ground. His body is limp, nobody’s around to save him, and it’s only a matter of time before his consciousness fades. Just like with Nappa, Goku arrives right in time, but there’s an added moment of panic when Goku has to force the Senzu down Gohan’s throat. It’s a morbid dose of reality that really brings home just how terrifying the Ginyu Force, and by extension Frieza, are.
20 Frieza Played With Gohan
Speaking of Frieza, Gohan was the only character to really fight the tyrant before Piccolo showed up on Namek. During the entire fight with second form Frieza, Vegeta happily sits it out of pure terror. Krillin does his best to stay alive and even manages to cut off his tail, and Gohan straight up goes into the action landing some serious hits on Frieza. Unfortunately for Gohan, however, Frieza was pretty much just humoring him the entire time. While Gohan thought he was doing actual damage and wearing him down, Freza was simply waiting to transform the entire time.
If Goku's the main course, Gohan is Freiza's overpriced appetizer.
Put yourself in Gohan’s shoes for a second. You’re fighting as hard as you can, you’re actually pushing your opponent back, and then it’s revealed that the man you’ve spent most of your stamina fighting is just fooling around. Not only that, he has two more transformations that’ll basically heal him up, dragging the fight out even longer. You essentially wasted all your time and energy in a fight that didn’t count. By the time Frieza’s in his final form, there’s absolutely nothing Gohan can do to damage him. Piccolo couldn’t defeat his third form, Dende was shot as soon as Frieza transformed, and Vegeta just got the life beat out of him. The fight against Frieza is a masterclass in psychological destruction.
19 Androids 17 And 18 Played With Future Gohan Like A Toy
There’s only one character who has it worse than Gohan and his name is Future Gohan. Well, technically it’s Gohan, but the distinction is pretty important. The future timeline is exceptionally cruel to Gohan. Not only is he forced to watch the Z-fighters perish in combat against the Androids, he’s made a fool of by them time and time again. As the only hero who can stand up to them, the Androids keep him alive only as a plaything. Every time he shows up to fight them, they treat it like a game. The Androids take Gohan’s arm, fight him back long enough for the Senzu crop to wither away completely, and then even reveal to him that Android 17 was only ever using half his power.
Future Gohan’s last fight against them is a fruitless endeavor where he never truly stood a chance. As a result, Future Gohan’s entire life is reduced to a cruel joke. He genuinely believed he could one day defeat them, but he was only ever being played with. He goes into his last fight with so much confidence only to discover the Androids never saw him more than as a way to kill boredom. It’s a tragic fate for the future’s last hero, and he never even gets the comfort of knowing Trunks would travel back in time to fix everything. He fall in combat believing the Earth to be doomed.
18 Baby Bodied Gohan
Unless your name is Goku, chances are you aren’t going to have a good time in Dragon Ball GT. Doubly so for the Baby saga where just about every named character gets possessed by the titular villain. Goten is the first major casualty, but it doesn’t take long for Gohan to fall victim to Baby’s body jacking shenanigans. What’s particularly embarrassing about Gohan’s defeat here is that he’s technically losing to Goten of all people. Regardless if Gohan has stopped training or not, he should at least be stronger than his younger brother, especially since Goten clearly does not care about martial arts.
The biggest insult? Baby doesn't even bother keeping Gohan's body as his personal host.
Gohan can’t go Ultimate, can’t subdue his brother, and ends up gets his body stolen by Baby. If anyone could have stopped Baby, it should have been Gohan. Dragon Ball Z ends with Gohan at the top of the totem pole. The Buu saga is all about him learning to take responsibility and stay in shape, yet the Baby saga shows him fumbling when the time comes to protect the Earth without his father. He fails spectacularly in stopping Baby, and he honestly only makes the situation all the worse by giving him a significantly stronger host body.
17 Cell Tossed Gohan Around Like A Doll
While Gohan does go on to defeat Cell at the end of the Cell Games, it’s important to look back and recognize he very nearly didn’t. Although Gohan was stronger than Cell throughout the entirety of their match, he simply didn’t have it in him to fight back. His father gave Cell a Senzu bean, he was feeling conflicted over his life purpose, and Cell was intent on torturing the boy to teach Goku a lesson. Were it not for Android 16’s head getting crushed, Gohan wouldn’t have found the will to fight back.
This fight is particularly scary because Gohan could have pacified Cell at a moment’s note. Psychologically, though, he simply didn’t want to fight so he didn’t. Dragon Ball fights boiling down to who’s stronger tends to be a recurring complaint amongst more casual fans, but this fight proves that strength doesn’t matter all that much in the long run. Gohan was stronger, but he didn’t want to fight and he got punished by Cell as a result. There’s a deeply emotional element to the match that justifies Gohan’s action and leads to some very real drama where the strongest person on Earth takes an obscene amount of damage because he’s not psychologically ready to fight.
16 Dabra Made Gohan Reconsider His Life
Not only should Gohan have been able to defeat Dabra, he should have been able to do so without any trouble at all. By the end of the Cell saga, not a single character came close to Gohan in terms of sheer power. Even Super Perfect Cell was just a blip on the radar for Gohan. With Super Saiyan 2, the half-Saiyan was near unstoppable. Come the Buu saga, however, and Gohan’s slacked off considerably. Vegeta explicitly mentions how Gohan’s even weaker than he was during the Cell Games, but it’s his fight with Dabra that proves it.
You know things are bad when you can't even beat discount Cell.
Confirmed in text to be Perfect Cell’s equal in terms of strength, Gohan struggles far more than he should during their fight. He can’t even turn Super Saiyan 2 since he has no emotional trigger to guide him. The fight ends in a complete draw where neither character takes the other one out, but that in itself is an embarrassment. Gohan at the start of the Cell Games, without SSJ2, could have handled Dabra easily. Gohan let himself slack off and found himself incapable of keeping up with an enemy he should be leagues above. It’s an embarrassing reminder of the importance of training and one that guides Gohan’s character arc for the rest of the Buu saga.
15 Gohan Could Do Nothing Against Super 17
A good rule of thumb to live by: if you’re in Dragon Ball GT and your name’s not Goku, don’t bother doing anything. Gohan went from being DBZ’s deuteragonist to just another face in the ground in the transition to GT. Along with the screen time, Gohan also lost the ability to be useful in any meaningful way. While he loses a lot in Dragon Ball Z, those losses serve to develop his character or build tension for the story, sometimes both. In GT, Gohan loses because he’s not Goku.
Gohan doesn’t even get the honor of losing to Super 17 on his own. Rather, he’s unceremoniously wrecked with an AoE blast that takes out Goten and Trunks with him. It’s perhaps the worst loss Gohan experiences in the series solely due to the fact that it’s so glossed over. Gohan’s a character who deserves the limelight. When he loses, it absolutely should be a big deal. He shouldn’t be an afterthought in an enemy’s blast, but that’s exactly what happens against Super 17. Even Android 18 manages to put up a better fight, and Gohan’s been stronger than her for decades at this point. It’s a sad, frustrating loss that destroys not only Gohan, but his reputation.
14 Majin Buu Baffled Gohan Into Submission
You’d really think Gohan would have learned his lesson in underestimating his opponents by the Buu saga. Just because Majin Buu acts like a child, looks like a giant gumball, and seemingly has no interest in fighting doesn’t mean he’s not a force to be reckoned with. Even after Kaioshin’s repeated warnings that Majin Buu must by no means be awakened, Gohan tries his luck at fighting the freshly awakened Djinn. Needless to say, it does not go well by any means whatsoever. Buu annihilates both Kaioshin and Gohan, with the latter almost losing his life.
This is an important loss, not just for Gohan, but for the saga as a whole. Buu is a character visually designed to be underestimated, and his complete triumph over Gohan shows just how dangerous of an opponent he is. Gohan couldn’t beat Dabra, but he at least held his ground. Against Buu, however, Gohan couldn’t even land a proper hit in. He was incapacitated almost as soon as the fight started, and it’s only thanks to Kaioshin that Buu and Bobidi didn’t end his life right then and there. Gohan does end up getting a rematch via Super Buu, which he does actually win, but the victory doesn’t last long…
13 Buutenks Made A Mockery Of Gohan
Oh Gohan, you came so frustratingly close to solving the Buu crisis all on your own and you had to mess it up. Upon attaining his Ultimate power-up, Gohan heads down to Earth and delivers a beatdown unlike any other onto Super Buu. It’s a cathartic fight where we finally see our heroes turn the tide. Unfortunately for Gohan, he’s the type of fighter who likes to play with his food and Buu ends up fleeing. When he returns, he tricks Gohan into letting Goten and Trunks fuse into Gotenks allowing him to then absorb the fused fighter.
In Gohan's defense, there was really no way he could be perceptive enough to realize he was clearly being tricked.
It’s a devious plan that Gohan pays dearly for. As soon as Super Buu becomes Buutenks, the fight is effectively over. All Gohan can do is flee and toss in a few loose punches and kicks while Buutenks has his way with the ultimate warrior. It gets go bad that Goku, a fighter significantly weaker than Gohan at this point, needs to head down to Earth in order to lend his son a helping hand. When it comes time to fuse with his father, Gohan messes up yet again by missing the potara earring. Gohan ends up getting absorbed and the only reason Goku survives is because Enma kept Vegeta’s body around in case of emergency. Good job, Gohan. You ruined everything.
12 Piccolo Whipped Gohan Into Shape (Multiple Times)
Is there anyone better to be destroyed by than your martial arts master? Although Gohan surpasses Piccolo multiple times throughout the course of the original series, most notably permanently by the Cell Games, the Namekian still commands quite a deal of respect from his pupil, especially in Dragon Ball Super where Gohan has slacked off considerably. In the Saiyan saga, Piccolo outright beats bravery into Gohan with some seriously intense training and Gohan later trained with Piccolo again during the three-year gap before the Android assault. DBS, itself, has two instances where Piccolo tries to train the Ultimate back into Gohan.
Like father, like son.
The first is a filler episode after Resurrection F. Realizing just how badly he botched Frieza’s revival, Gohan has Piccolo retrain him the basics. Just the fact he has to go over anything basic is bad enough in its own right, but it doesn’t even lead to anything meaningful as Gohan does nothing for the next two arcs. Come the Tournament of Power, however, and Piccolo is once again pushing Gohan to his absolute limits. This time, though, Gohan is making great use of his Ultimate state. In the manga, Piccolo even brings a bag of Senzu beans with him to train Gohan, implying he’s putting him through the training of a lifetime. It just goes to show you can’t outgrow your Piccolo.
11 Omega Shenron Outclassed Gohan Completely
As a villain from Dragon Ball GT, it’s only natural that Omega Shenron outclass Gohan in every respect. Just like with Super 17, Gohan doesn’t even get the luxury of losing in a one-on-one fight. Instead, he’s just part of the peanut gallery attacking Omega in the hopes of doing something, somehow not realizing the Goku trend GT plays so heavily into. What’s most insulting about Gohan’s “fight” against Omega Shenron is the fact he shows up in his old gi. Visually, it almost seems like Gohan might do something significant, but we all know how this game plays out.
You want to know what’s even sadder? This is Gohan’s last “fight” in the anime continuity. For the longest time, this was the last time fans could see Gohan in action, and even writing “in action” felt like the world’s biggest stretch. Gohan does absolutely nothing of value in Dragon Ball GT, and that’s worse than losing any fight. It’s a character destruction. He goes from DBZ’s second most important character to a nobody in GT. He’s Goku’s son and Pan’s father, but that doesn’t mean anything of value for Toei. Gohan’s destiny in GT is to keep his head down and lose to the arc villains so daddy can get his precious screen time and save the day.
Dragon Ball GT destroyed Gohan.
10 Beerus One Shot The Strongest Character In Dragon Ball
Since Battle of Gods takes place in Dragon Ball’s manga continuity, and not too long after the end of Dragon Ball Z, it perhaps goes without saying that Gohan is still the strongest unfused character in the series by the beginning of the film. There’s nothing to really suggest Goku or Vegeta surpassed him in strength, and Gohan still has access to his Ultimate state, so everything implies he’s still as strong as he ever was. It also works as a tool to show just how powerful Beerus is. Nothing says “God of Destruction” like one shotting the strongest character in the series.
Even Vegeta put up a better fight against Beerus.
While practically all of Gohan’s losses in Super are his fault and reflect terribly on him, his defeat at Beerus’ hand really isn’t that humiliating. At that point, Goku had already been defeated with relative ease. It’s only natural Beerus would continue his onslaught of destruction by taking out the rest of the cast without trouble, Gohan included. Gohan’s defeat also allows Super Saiyan God to come off all the better. It’s such an incredible transformation that Goku surpasses his son’s Ultimate state, which was already leagues stronger than anything Goku had access to. More than anything, Gohan’s defeat here is a great narrative tool.
9 Broly Utterly Ruined Gohan
Broly is kind of like Beerus in the sense that losing to him is more of a given than anything else. Where it works for Beerus, however, it doesn’t exactly work for Broly. We, as an audience, have a frame of reference for Broly whereas we don’t for the God of Destruction: he’s as strong as Perfect Cell. Realistically, he can only be as strong as Super Perfect Cell if you want to give the Legendary Super Saiyan a bit more credit. Regardless, this does mean Gohan should have been able to defeat him easily even as a regular Super Saiyan.
Obviously that doesn’t happen, otherwise, we’d have no film. Broly absolutely dominates Gohan into oblivion. He tosses him through buildings, repeatedly pummels him, and hangs him off a loose pole. It’s… weirdly brutal, right up there with Reacoom. Gohan gets it far worse than any other character who fights Broly, and he doesn’t even fight him for that long. Comparatively, Goku fights Broly the longest and even he manages to put up a better fight. Not a great fight, mind you, but still a better one. It’s outright bizarre just how badly Gohan lets Broly beat him. Logically, Gohan should have been able to handle him with ease.
8 Shisami Took Advantage Of Gohan’s Lack Of Training
Resurrection F is a genuinely awful time for Gohan. Not just because he has to deal with the fallout of neglecting his training yet again, but because he loses every single major fight he participates in, and badly. The least embarrassing, but still embarrassing, defeats Gohan undergoes is against Shisami. He does fight him in base, so it’s unfair to view this as a full out loss, but Gohan should honestly know better than to hold back during a fight against Frieza's army. It doesn’t help Gohan’s case that it this point he’s barely strong enough in his base form to trigger the Super Saiyan transformation.
It’s this lack of strength that allows Shisami to grab ahold of Gohan and nearly snap his spine. Gohan does manage to pull off a burst of Super Saiyan in order to break free, but the fight doesn’t get to continue as Tagoma takes Shisami out himself. If Gohan slacked off on his training just a bit more, he wouldn’t be able to turn SSJ and Shisami would have broken him on the spot. It’s only made worse by the fact that Shisami is implied to be around as strong as Dodoria and Zarbon. Super is in no way consistent with power scaling, but that’s just humiliating if taken as fact.
7 Ginyu Gets Revenge On Gohan
In the Frieza saga, Ginyu believes that switching bodies with Goku will make him an unstoppable fighter. Unfortunately for him, he has no clue how to access any of Goku’s techniques and ends up getting destroyed by Gohan and Krillin. It’s a brief, yet nice, fight that shows the importance of skill over raw power. Come Super’s adaptation of Resurrection F, Ginyu is back and he’s ready for revenge. This time, he switches bodies with Tagoma and gives Gohan the second of his three Resurrection F beatings.
Imagine living your life so poorly you end up getting defeated by a guy who literally used to be a frog.
Typical for Gohan in Super, he does not immediately transform into a Super Saiyan and gets tossed around like a doll. Like his fight with Shisami, this fight serves to show just how foolish Gohan was to neglect his training. Tagoma-Ginyu is tough, but not so tough where Gohan should be getting destroyed in base. Gohan does end up turning Super Saiyan to fight Ginyu back, but Frieza intervenes before the fight can proceed further, desiring Gohan’s demise at his own hands. It’s ultimately left to Vegeta to take out Gohan as the half-Saiyan clearly is in no position to keep fighting. After all, he very nearly lost to a man who was a frog for several decades.
6 Bojack Cells Gohan
I hope you liked Gohan’s fight with Cell because that’s exactly what his fight with Bojack is in Bojack Unbound. The ninth Dragon Ball Z film, this is the first of three to star someone who’s not Goku as the main character. While certainly beloved for its premise, it also unfortunately falls into the same trap as the other movies by just reiterating whatever saga was happening at the time. Gohan fights Bojack, Bojack beats Gohan into submission, and Gohan turns Super Saiyan 2 after some unforeseen interference.
It goes without saying that Bojack beats down Gohan pretty bad, arguably worse than Cell all things considered. In the Cell fight, he was always just toying with Gohan. Bojack legitimately almost won. Were it not from a bizarre interference from Goku, Gohan would have been destroyed. It’s worth noting that no movie villain has ever gotten as close to a victory as Bojack. Gohan was on death’s door before his dad’s spirit showed up to save him. If the film followed Dragon Ball’s own pre-established logic, Bojack should have taken Gohan’s life That doesn’t make for a good movie, though, so Gohan gets back up, turns Super Saiyan 2, and wins a fight he should have lost.
5 Frieza Humiliated Gohan
The last of Gohan’s three great defeats in Resurrection F is by far his most humiliating. Hard as Gohan might try, there is absolutely nothing he can do in the face of first form Frieza. That’s right, Frieza absolutely crushes Gohan in Resurrection F without ever transforming. In the movie, Frieza defeats him cold with a single punch. In the anime, he delights in torturing Gohan by shooting death beams at his limbs until he collapses. Gohan’s lack of action in the anime also leads to Piccolo, once again, sacrificing himself to save his pupil.
In the end, Gohan is left beaten, battered, and masterless as Frieza has humiliated Gohan beyond belief. This fight is honestly more sad than it is embarrassing. In-universe, it’s a reminder of just how low Gohan has sunk. He ended DBZ as the series’ strongest character and now he’s struggling to turn Super Saiyan. Out of universe, it’s downright disrespectful to Gohan’s legacy. He’s forced to regress as a character for the sake of drama when he didn’t need to be so pitifully weak for Resurrection F’s plot to work. Gohan doesn’t even fix his act until the Tournament of Power meaning this saga does nothing for his character for two whole arcs.
4 Lavender Straight Up Blinded Gohan
The Tournament of Power’s exhibition match is particularly interesting considering it’s anime-exclusive content that likely wasn’t in Toriyama’s outline. As a result, not much of importance can actually happen, and that means Gohan can’t win a fight. Since his arc in the ToP is tied to relearning how to be useful, winning in the exhibition would mean potentially capping his arc early. As a result, his match with Lavender can’t really see him winning. He does draw, but it’s a draw he struggles for. At this point, Gohan isn’t in the tip-top shape he needs to be and he pays for it.
Always wear safety goggles, kids.
If the DBS entries are starting to sound like a broken record, it’s only because Gohan’s arc in Super is derivative of the same concept: Gohan doesn’t train hard enough. While other fights use this concept to show Gohan getting defeated by brute force, Lavender uses strategy in order to subdue Gohan. He blinds him with poison forcing Gohan to use his senses to keep fighting. It’s actually quite a clever fight in that respect, and an interesting twist on the “Gohan is bad at martial arts” formula Super had fallen into. That said, Lavender still nearly defeats Gohan and it’s really luck more than anything that allowed Gohan to tie.
3 Jimeze Warps Circles Around Gohan
Instantaneous Movement, or Instant Transmission in the Funimation dub, is easily one of Goku’s best techniques, if not his best. Passed down by the Yardrats, Goku learned the move some time between leaving Namek and arriving on Earth to meet up with Future Trunks. It’s a technique we only ever see him take advantage of in the original series which makes it all the more interesting when Gohan faces off against Jimeze in the Tournament of Power. For once, an enemy gets to use the overpowered teleportation technique and it lives up to its reputation.
Gohan does not manage to get a single reliable hit in during his fight against Jimeze. In turn, Jimeze doesn’t do much damage either since he just keeps warping, but that doesn’t change the fact that Gohan’s the one in real danger here. One wrong move and Jimeze can easily knock Gohan off the stage. Even then, just the act of constant teleportation is disorienting enough to shatter Gohan’s psyche, allowing someone else to sneak up and attack him. If Frieza didn’t show up in time to rescue his fellow team mate, it’s entirely likely Jimeze would have eventually wore Gohan down and eliminated him without breaking a sweat.
2 Gohan Whiffed His Fight With Toppo
There’s no denying Toppo is a tough opponent. A God of Destruction in training, Goku straight up loses to him in the manga and Vegeta has to just about sacrifice himself to knock Toppo off the ring. When Gohan goes to fight him, he’s already at a disadvantage given Toppo’s sheer strength, but he messes up all the worse thanks to his inability to properly team up with Android 17. Instead of coordinating their attacks accordingly, Gohan simply rushes in with no rhyme or reason hoping that he and 17 can handle the fight on their own.
Naturally, they do not. It’s even commented on in-universe that Gohan is commiting a rookie mistake by trying to fight in-sync with someone he’s never fought with. At one point, though, this ends up working in his favor and the two come incredibly close to knocking Toppo off the stage. Doing so would also cause 17’s elimination, though, so Gohan ends up relenting, allowing Toppo to go free. While certainly stupid in the moment, it’s this decision that does end up winning the tournament for Universe 7. Had 17 dropped out here, there’s be nobody to save Goku and Vegeta from Jiren later. For once, Gohan’s loss ends up leading to victory.
1 Gohan Had To Eliminate Himself To Defeat Dyspo
Speaking of victories in losses, Gohan’s last fight in Dragon Ball Super ends with him eliminating himself from the Tournament of Power. Unable to handle Dyspo’s extreme speed, Gohan realizes that the only way to knock out the Pride Trooper would be with a well executed sacrifice. Particularly, his own. In order to counter Dyspo’s speed, Gohan devices with Frieza a plan where the latter forms a cage of Ki around the Pride Trooper to lock him into place. By trapping him, Gohan can use his Ultimate form to do serious damage, albeit by also placing himself in the cage.
It's a noble defeat, at the very least.
Unfortunately, Frieza can’t handle the keeping his Ki in place and Dyspo breaks free. In a moment of foolhardy brilliance, Gohan latches on to the Beerus-look alike and demands Frieza blast them both off the stage. As much of a loss this is for Gohan, it’s the kind that really works for his character arc. After spending an entire anime losing match after match, he finally loses one in style. He proved he could win and he sacrificed himself for the benefit of his team. Gohan ends Dragon Ball Super by destroying the notion that he’s useless.
Hopefully it sticks this time.