Depending on age, some of you might remember the early days of the UFC. The early day of the UFC were in essence, the attempted answer to the question: "which martial art beats all of the others?" Now that the league is over 20 years old, the answer seems to be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Obviously boxing, muay thai, and any kind of wresting are important, but BJJ seems to bring them all together in such a way that nearly every successful UFC fighter has at least some training in it.
While mixed martial arts is broken up based on fighting discipline, fights also break down into striking, the clinch, takedowns, ground and pound, and submissions. Most martial arts have some variation of all of these. Any mixed martial arts fan has probably, at some point, had some version of the conversation "what is the most important part of a fighter's game?" It's a tough discussion, but ultimately striking takes the cake. Obviously this doesn't mean a striker will always beat a wrestler, but a perfect strike cannot be defended, while a phenomenal ground game can be defended against. This is a much larger debate than can't be conclusively settled in a brief article, so if you think we're off, throw some words in the comments section.
Tangent aside, a ground and pound game can be worked around, as can a submission game, good clinch skills, and aggressive takedowns. But, at the end of the day, any time two fighters square off in the octagon, they will eventually stand and throw; whether it be kicks or punches. It is the most important part of the fighting game, and accuracy is a major part of any decent striker's arsenal. A fighter can be as strong as a horse but flailing one's arms in the octagon is pointless and wastes energy. In other words, a strike with lots of force behind it is important, but if you can't connect to an undefended part of an opponent, it is worthless. Here are the ten UFC fighters who have the highest significant strike percentage for their careers.
Take note that the total strike leaders and significant strike leaders in terms of overall landed strikes include Georges St. Pierre, Michael Bisping, the Diaz brothers, BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar, Chris Lytle and Jon Jones, but none of these fighters are among the top ten in terms of striking accuracy. Here is the list. Stats compiled are from fightmetric.com and all fighters on the list have fought a minimum of five UFC fights and have attempted 350 strikes.
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10 Kenny Robertson: 55.5%
The thirty year old Welterweight from Illinois starts off our list at number ten. He went 10-0 prior to getting his chance in the UFC and has gone 4-3 in the promotion, though he's now riding a three fight win streak. His last two wins have both been dominant and have demonstrated Robertson's striking ability, despite the fact that much of his formal martial arts training has been in wrestling.
Most recently, against Sultan Aliev, he finished the fight in the first round via knockout, having thrown 33 strikes and landing just 14 (eight to the head, achieving a KO). This was a low percentage for Robertson, who in his previous fight, against Ildemar Alcantara, landed 70 of 110 strikes (63.6%), winning via unanimous decision.
9 Brandon Vera: 55.8%
Now 37 years old, Vera no longer fights in the UFC, but between 2005 and 2013, he fought 16 times, splitting time between Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight. His most notable victory came over Frank Mir back in 2006, but when placed in the octagon with elite fighters, such as Jon Jones, Randy Couture and Mauricio Rua, he lost.
Like Kenny Robertson, he was a wrestler originally, but grew into a capable striker once competing in MMA. A couple of his fights ended in knockouts in the first round, including the fight against Mir and one against Justin Eilers. When he knocked out Eilers,, it took just seven strikes (out of ten), one of which was a great head kick, and against Mir it took 21 strikes, 17 of which landed.
8 Jimy Hettes: 57.1%
Having fought in the UFC Featherweight division since 2011, Hettes has fought just five times in the promotion and has gone 3-2. His last fight was supposed to be against Diego Brandao on January 31st, but it was scratched as Hettes was ill. His experience in Judo, combined with impressive wrestling have led to most of his wins, both inside and out of the UFC coming via submission. Much of his high percentage comes from the fact that most of his fights go to the ground, and he rarely tries to stand and throw.
His fight against Nam Phan at the end of 2011 ended in victory via unanimous decision and was his most prominent striking based bout. Nam Phan of course is one of the most notable disappointments from The Ultimate Fighter, going just 2-4 in UFC competition. In that fight, Hettes connected with over 70% of his strikes.
Hettes was supposed to fight Diego Brandao at UFC 183, which would have been a great scrap, but he fainted during his warm up and the fight was cancelled.
7 Fabricio Werdum: 57.4%
The current UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion, who is waiting for a chance to take a crack at Cain Velasquez, is our number seven. That fight to unify the belt should take place in the middle of 2015. Werdum has a history of being able to knock guys out while also being a threat on the ground. He has been competing for over a decade and is currently in his second contract with the UFC after joining Strikeforce in 2009. He is currently riding a five fight win streak, with his most recent brutalizing of Mark Hunt in November 2014. In that fight he showed off his striking ability, TKO'ing Hunt in the second round.
6 Randy Couture: 58%
They don't call someone "The Natural" without him being something truly special. Randy Couture is the oldest man ever to hold a UFC belt and is the oldest fighter ever to win a UFC fight. Couture could fight on the ground or standing up and had some of the most memorable knockouts and TKO's in UFC history. He also demonstrated his patience in his striking game, as he became on of the most notable fighters for his devastating one-punch KO ability. His strength, skill and the way he controlled the octagon were three important aspects of his striking game that led to his high percentage.
5 Cain Velasquez: 58.1%
The currently injured UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez, comes in at number five and his fight later this year against number seven, Fabricio Werdum, will be an amazing scrap. Velasquez not only has the knockout power to fight on his feet but also the wrestling ability to win on the ground and the cardiovascular conditioning to compete for five rounds. Eleven of his thirteen professional wins have come via knockout or technical KO, including two against Junior Dos Santos, two against Bigfoot Silva and his amazing knockout of Brock Lesnar which won him the belt the first time. Cain is one of those fighters who can penetrate a fighter's defense no matter what and doesn't throw punches or kicks haphazardly, but rather throws consistently with near perfect technique and great precision.
4 Cheick Kongo: 58.2%
The French kickboxer with 82" reach competed in the UFC from 2006 until 2013, achieving some success but never getting a title shot. His ground game was shaky and his stand up was great in some fights, though sometimes he just looked off. While he was never the most well-rounded competitor, he was a gifted striker and landed a great percentage of his punches and kicks throughout his career. Since signing with Bellator in late 2013, he has gone 4-1. Overall, it was never Cheick Kongo's offense that was the problem, but his defense. His last two losses in the UFC came to Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt. Despite having significant reach advantages over both, Kongo was knocked out in the first round both times.
3 Evan Tanner: 59%
Evan Tanner, for those who are new to UFC/MMA fandom, competed in multiple promotions in the late 90's until his death in 2008. Many consider his later years to have been a downward spiral involving alcohol abuse which caused a significant slip in his performance and which would eventually lead to his early death, in the Californian desert.
A gifted kickboxer, Tanner was one of the best strikers in the early days of the UFC. In 2005, he had one of his most memorable fights, which involved a great finish when he TKO'd David Terrell to win the UFC Middleweight belt.
2 Fabio Maldonado: 60.6%
The 12th ranked Light Heavyweight in the UFC is our number two and while his accuracy is great, he had a rough time getting started in the promotion. He went 1-3 in his first four fights, but since then, he's been great, going 4-1. Outside of MMA, he has competed in boxing for almost a decade, which deserves partial credit for his undeniable accuracy.
Maldonaldo's next fight is against Quinten "Rampage" Jackson in April, and this will be a great fight to determine whether Maldonaldo is the real thing or just another fighter who is great against non-contenders but can't compete with the elites.
1 Anderson Silva: 63.2%
The Spider is the best striker in the history of the UFC (and probably all MMA) and his accuracy is just one part of his mercilessly dominating game. Prior to his two losses to Chris Weidman, he was kicking, punching and kneeing with such velocity and explosiveness that he was a constant knockout threat. He's still the best of all time and his sharp stand up game is the best of all time.
There was some doubt as to whether he would be the same after his injury, but his performance against Nick Diaz was solid at UFC 183 (though they both failed their drug tests), but his missed strikes dropped his accuracy percentage from 67% down to 63.2%.
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