Striker vs. grappler matchups have led to some of the most entertaining and frustrating fights in mixed martial arts history. Grapplers dominated the early days of mixed martial arts, and, for a time, it seemed like they would always be on top.
However, new fighting styles like “sprawl and brawl” and “anti-Jiu Jitsu” were born, leading to the more competitive grappler vs. striker matchups we see today. The days of MMA fighters only training one style are long gone as most mixed martial artists are trained in all aspects of fighting.
In current times, “striker” simply means a fighter who has a striking base while “grapplers” have grappling bases. This article will take a look at some of the most epic striker vs. grappler matchups and examine how these matchups have evolved over the years.
Seven Most Epic Striker Vs. Grappler Battles In Mixed Martial Arts
Let’s jump right into our list of the most epic striker vs. grappler matches:
1) Royce Gracie Vs. Art Jimmerson
At his peak, Jimmerson was a 32-7 professional boxer and many would say he was the biggest name at the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship event. Jimmerson’s decision to wear a boxing glove on one hand turned out to be unwise as Gracie easily took him down and tapped him out in less than two minutes.
It turns out his professional boxing experience didn’t prepare him to deal with grappling styles like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. At UFC 1, the world got to see a fighter solely trained in BJJ and a boxer go at it. Those days are now behind us as training in BJJ, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Wrestling has now become standard practice for most mixed martial arts fighters.
2) Wanderlei Silva Vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
Silva was arguably the most feared knockout artist in Pride when he collided with the legendary “Gracie Killer,” Sakuraba. The fight started well enough for Sakuraba as the two men were quickly locked up in a clinch against the ropes, but Silva eventually disengaged and started throwing bombs.
Determined to get away from Silva’s strikes, Sakuraba shot in desperately and Silva sprawled and took the top position. He fired away some vicious knees and followed up with a soccer kick that brought the contest to an end 30 seconds from the opening bell.
3) Anatoly Malykhin Vs. Reinier De Ridder
Reinier made his way through ONE Championship’s middleweight and light-heavyweight ranks, primarily depending on his submission grappling. He built up a 16-0 record while securing the middleweight and light-heavyweight belts.
However, his luck would run out when he faced Anatoly Malykhin in a classic grappler vs. striker matchup that featured two undefeated fighters. Malykhin effortlessly stuffed all of Reinier’s takedown attempts, forcing a stand-up battle. He hurt Reinier a few times with jab-cross combos before putting him away with a massive right hook to claim ONE Championship’s light-heavyweight belt.
5) Randy Couture Vs. James Toney
Toney is the second boxer on our list who found out that there is more to mixed martial arts than being able to throw your hands. A former WBC, WBO, and IBA heavyweight champion, Toney also has the honor of being the most accomplished boxer to ever give mixed martial arts a try.
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t prepare well enough to counter Couture’s takedowns and wasn’t unable to get back to his feet once grounded. The referee eventually stepped in to save him about three minutes into the contest.
5) Xiong Jing Nan Vs. Michelle Nicolini
This matchup pit one of the best strikers in ONE Championship’s women’s strawweight division against one of the best grapplers. A decorated BJJ blackbelt with 28 gold medals at international Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, Nicolini made it clear what her game plan would be when she jumped on Xiong and pulled guard during the opening moments of the fight.
While some fans weren’t thrilled by her approach or might have called it boring, it was the smart move given how deadly Xiong is on her feet, with most of her wins coming via knockout.
This fight turned out to be one of the best examples of how mixed martial arts has evolved since Nicolini was able to trap Xiong in many compromising positions that would have caused someone who didn’t understand the fundamentals of BJJ to tap. However, Xiong’s BJJ knowledge was enough to keep her out of Nicolini’s submissions and she did enough damage while standing to score a unanimous decision.
6) Anderson Silva Vs. Chael Sonnen
Anderson was at the peak of his championship reign when he collided with Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. Silva was a 4:1 favorite heading into the contest and few people expected Sonnen to last long inside the cage with him. Sonnen wasn’t anywhere as accomplished as Silva was, and many expected to see the latter punish him for his trash talk leading up to the fight.
Sonnen put lots of pressure on Silva from the opening bell of the fight, catching him with an overhand and taking him down at will. He dominated the first four and a half rounds of the fight, coming minutes away from dethroning Silva before getting caught in a triangle choke.
This turned out to be one of the most entertaining and drama-filled striker vs. grappler matches in MMA history. McGregor was and still is the biggest name in mixed martial arts, and he was coming off his super-fight with Floyd Mayweather, which earned him over a hundred million dollars.
Many fans weren’t even sure if McGregor would ever compete again given the huge payday he had just received, so the excitement was at an all-time high when his bout with Nurmagomedov was announced.
The backstage drama leading up to the fight created more anticipation for the fight. Khabib and his crew slapped up Conor’s teammate Artem Lobov at a hotel, leading to the infamous bus fiasco during which McGregor and his guys attacked a bus Khabib was on.
Emotions were insane leading up to the fight and they delivered. Khabib dominated most of it, but McGregor’s takedown defense held up better than most people expected. Conor attempted a comeback in the third round and won it, but Khabib took him down during the fourth and tapped him out to defend the lightweight title for the first time. Khabib jumped out of the cage and kicked one of Conor’s teammates immediately after getting the tap, causing a brawl.
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