Strikers didn’t fare so well during the early days of mixed martial arts, but things quickly changed once many of them added wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to their training regimens. The sprawl and brawl MMA strategy was developed as strikers became more adept at forcing the fight to take place where they wanted it.
MMA fights start with both contestants standing up, giving strikers a distinct advantage at the start of each round.
The Six Best Strikers In The History Of Mixed Martial Arts
Ready to dive down memory lane? Let’s jump right into our list of the most proficient strikers in the history of mixed martial arts:
1) Anderson Silva
Anderson Silva was one of the pioneers who showcased how successful strikers could be in MMA if they added the right skills to complement their striking abilities. Silva only needed a couple of fights to earn the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight title when he first signed with the promotion – then he successfully defended the belt ten times.
He also went up a weight class during his reign, defeating light-heavyweights like Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, and James Irvin. Silva still holds the record for the longest winning streak in the UFC at 16 consecutive wins.
Silva’s striking is beautiful to watch, from his feints to his slick defensive maneuvers. He often dropped his hands to lure opponents in, then he caught them off-guard with one of his lightning-fast strikes. His head movement inside the cage was second to none, weaving and ducking past punches as if he could see what his opponents were throwing at him in slow motion.
Silva’s striking is so refined that he’s even enjoyed some success inside the boxing ring at the tail-end of his MMA career. His victims inside the boxing ring include Cesar Chavez Jr.
2) Israel Adesanya
Adesanya has been the successor to Silva’s reign. The UFC’s middleweight title switched hands frequently after Chris Weidman brought Silva’s reign to an end until Adesanya showed up. With over 100 professional kickboxing matches under his belt, many would argue that Adesanya’s striking is more refined than Silva’s.
It certainly looked like it when the two men collided at UFC 234. It was an entertaining chess match between the teacher and the student, with Adesanya edging out a decision. Adesanya went on to defeat Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title at his next outing, and he’s been the champ ever since, defending the belt five times.
A counterpuncher like Silva, Adesanya loves to pick opponents apart from the outside, forcing them to try to get inside his long arms.
3) Stephen Thompson
Known as Wonderboy to his fans, Thompson might arguably be the best striker in mixed martial arts, but he hasn’t been successful at the championship level. He’s undoubtedly one of the best karate fighters in MMA history.
Thompson’s cerebral style is a thing of beauty to watch. He loves to maintain range with snappy side kicks that he often follows up with a lighting-fast right hand that often puts opponents away.
Thompson’s biggest weakness inside the cage has been his inability to improve his grappling enough to compete at the championship. Fighters of the top of the food chain have been able to ground him, but he remains a perennial contender.
Johnson is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the history of mixed martial arts and one of the best strikers. A natural flyweight, Johnson’s speed and quickness is impressive even for his size. His technical understanding of range, distance, and strike selection is a thing of beauty to watch, and he has enough power to put opponents away with a single punch.
Johnson is as effective fighting on the outside as he is fighting inside or even in the clinch. His first fight against Henry Cejudo is a perfect example of just how good his striking is. He softened Cejudo up with an excellent selection of strikes before putting him away with a knee to the liver.
5) Lyoto Machida
Machida was the first Karate fighter to win a championship with a major mixed martial arts promotion. He trained in Shotokan Karate and Sumo wrestling as a child, giving him a unique understanding of fighting.
Machida’s Sumo background paid dividends when he started competing inside a cage, providing him with a strong base that made him virtually impossible to take down. Machida’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt gave him the confidence he needed to throw strikes without having to worry about opponents taking him down.
At the top of his prime, Machida was one of the most impressive fighters in mixed martial arts history. He won the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light-heavyweight title as an undefeated champion, and he was the first man to win a round against Jon Jones.
Machida gave opponents a chess puzzle most of them couldn’t figure out. He never threw much offense during his fights, but it typically landed and put opponents away when he did. Machida isn’t just one of the most impressive strikers in MMA history; he also has one of the most interesting fighting styles.
6) Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor has arguably the most dangerous left hand in mixed martial arts history. His understanding of the technical aspects of striking is leaps ahead of the average MMA fighter. While his left hand put away fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier away, his kicking techniques are just as impressive.
Conor’s open-minded approach to martial arts has a lot to do with his deep understanding of striking. A true student of the game, he incorporates any techniques he deems to be effective regardless of where it comes from. His unorthodox training techniques, like using pool noodles as boxing mitts (better known as touch butt in the park per Nate Diaz), give him a mastery of range and distance.
McGregor showed the world how complete his striking abilities were when he squared off against Floyd Mayweather for a super fight. While many boxing experts didn’t expect McGregor to land a single punch on Mayweather, he landed a lot more than that, winning the first three rounds and making the fight somewhat competitive until Floyd put him away in the tenth round.
You may also like: