November 1993, I sat shocked at what I had just witnessed. A 185 pound Jiu-Jitsu fighter named Royce Gracie had just won the first-ever televised mixed martial arts tournament, The Ultimate Fighting Championship. After having practiced years of Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali, and Muay Thai, it seemed that I had wasted the last ten years of my life becoming a master of the impact arts – grappling had just won it all!
Admittedly, I had been training on and off with Shoot fi ghting coach Yori Nakamura, and had trained for years in Sifu Larry Hartsell’s (RIP) class with soon-to-be MMA star Eric Paulsen, yet I was stunned. How did a grappler so easily defeat any and all comers from multiple striking arts? Over the next few years, the world would be witness to the rise of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the dominant martial art.
THE EVOLUTION OF MMA
Fast-forward to today, and you can fi nd a mixed martial arts event pretty much anywhere in the
The evolution of MMA from a style vs. style tournament into a martial system all its own began in the sweaty dojos of
Today’s fighters are setting a new standard, having mastered counter-takedown and
counter-submissions skills that keep many fi ghts standing. Who is the best? Well, that depends. When looking at the history of MMA and deciding upon a best in the striking arena, I decided to look at a few factors: knockout percentage, technical ability, accuracy, speed, application (standing vs. ground and pound), and tools (hands, feet, elbow, knees). Each area has an obvious winner.
Vitor Belfort at his prime was considered the fastest hands in the Octagon. He boasts a
62% T(KO) rate, but that is based more on speed than power or technical ability. Combine this with his use of hands as a primary weapon and he falls below the line.
A former opponent of Vitor, Tank Abbot, wins hands down for power, but technical ability… yikes! My mom has better punching form. As a result, he and many other up and comers who boast up to 100% knockout percentages are out of the running. What is left is a group of strikers who have made a mark on the history of MMA. Here they are:
7. Andrei Arlovski
One of the most exciting fighters of his time, “The Pitbull” unleashed vicious low leg kicks and lighteningfast accurate hands on his opponents. His athletic ability lent itself well to a striker’s game and made him dangerous even while on his back. Despite losing to Tim Sylvia for a second time, his ability to kick ass keeps him on the list.
6. Maurice Smith
A world-class kickboxer, Maurice fought in
5. Chuck Liddell
With an unorthodox wide base and open stance, “The Iceman” baits his opponents into a straight line attack where their momentum makes them vulnerable to his devastating power shots. His other amazing tool, the sprawl, mandates a standup slugfest for those opponents who plan on taking him down.
4. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
Statesman, anti-terror commando, ass-kicker. This Croatian renaissance man comes to
MMA with striking experience from his K-1 days, and a rear leg kick that is feared by all. Add to that a formidable arsenal of hand and knee strikes, and you have a world-class striker in any fighting venue.
3. Igor Vovchanchyn
This former kickboxing champ turned MMA fighter has been around, fighting consistently since 1995. With striking subtleties that are part Systema, part Western Boxing, and part Sambo, Igor’s ability to strike at odd angles with amazing power places him firmly on the list.
2. Bas Rutten
At a mere 205 pounds, Rutten took on all comers in a weight class that boasted 250 pound behemoths. His ability to seamlessly combine leg kicks and a distinct lead jab with pinpoint accurate rear straights, make him one of the most dangerous fighters of all time.
Anderson Silva’s fi ghts are a thing of beauty: grace, power, speed, amazing accuracy, and technical ability as both a striker and on the ground. His absolute decimation of Rich