Mixed Martial Arts has come quite a long way from its insane origins. Just to paint a picture of how loose the rules were, at UFC 4 Joe Son (a.k.a the guy who threw a shoe at Austin Powers) lost his fight to Keith Hackney due to submission via groin strikes. Granted he is now serving a life sentence for rape and torture, so he probably deserved way worse, but I digress.
The point is, MMA has evolved a lot from groin destruction being a viable way to end a fight. No longer can fighters just rely on one skill set to dominate the competition. Fighters are now required to round out their striking, wrestling and brazillian jiu-jitsu games in order to have a chance at making to the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Even with months of training and several unsatisfying meals of chicken and rice, a fighter can still be forced to fall back on a single technique for victory. An ace in the hole, something in their back pocket, whatever expression you want to call it, some fighters have the innate ability to land these techniques and change the course of a fight.
This list will highlight 10 maneuvers used by fighters that have proven capable to pull off with frightening frequency. Before we begin, I’d like to note that one of the moves will not be given mention on this list. This means that techniques like Anthony Pettis’ Showtime Kick and Anderson Silva’s triangle choke are barred from this list, due to them not utilizing those techniques often enough to win their fights. Also, just for sake of variety, no two moves will be repeated twice, that way we won’t have wrestlers filling up this list with ground n’ pound and double leg takedowns.
10. Jose Aldo: Leg Kicks
There have been quite a few fighters who have utilized leg kicks throughout the years, starting with Marco Ruas chopping down the colossal 6″8 Paul Varelans back at UFC 7 in 1995. No other fighter though has inspired more terror in their leg kicks than the current UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Not only is he the greatest Featherweight in the history of MMA, his leg kicks are also some of the most devastating strikes in any weight class. His handiwork can be seen on full display during his WEC 48 encounter with Urijah Faber. Faber, at the time, was considered one of the best P4P fighters in MMA, but Aldo turned Faber’s legs into hanging sacks of meat that Rocky would feel fine punching. His low ranking on the list is due to the fact that Aldo has transitioned more into a counter-puncher at this point of his career but make no mistake, when Aldo winds up his kick, be prepared to check that damn kick.
9. Georges St-Pierre: Double Leg Takedown
If we were going by effectiveness, this would have a chance at taking the top spot. While not as flashy or exciting as some other entries on this list, GSP’s rushing (see what I did there?) double leg takedown is undoubtedly one of the best signature moves in MMA. Despite this being a wrestling move, it is a man who never trained in wrestling as a kid who possesses the best double leg in the sport. In his book “The Way of The Fight” (incredible read by the way) St-Pierre says how it’s not the “how” of his takedown that makes it so great, but the “when”. True enough, St-Pierre seems to know the exact moment to sweep an opponent off his feet and drive him to the mat. While St-Pierre could be on this list with his superman punch or razor sharp jab, it’s his double leg takedown which makes this list.
8. Mark Coleman: Ground n’ Pound
Elbows, forearms, hammer fists and head butts oh my! While every fighter and their mother threw strikes on the ground before Coleman stepped into cage, it was the “Godfather of Ground n’ Pound” who turned it into an art form. The less rules the better for Coleman, who made a career of dragging foes down and beating them until a ref pulled him off. A lack of submission defence hurt Coleman as his career went on but in the early days of MMA, you would be hard pressed to find anyone more proficient in grounded face smashing than this UFC Hall of Famer.
7. Jon Jones: Spinning Back Elbow
While hard to believe now, at one point in time Jon Jones was one of the most liked up and coming superstars in the Light Heavyweight division. Before he was rubbing his fingers in opponents’ eyes, Jon Jones was making established fighters like Matt Hamill and Brandon Vera look like amateurs with some of the most creative offence ever seen in the sport.
Most notable of these though, would be his spinning back elbow. He debuted the strike at UFC 94 by smashing Stephan Bonnar’s head so hard that it bounced off the mat like a basketball. It was this same strike that Jones used to turn the tide of his classic title fight versus Alexander Gustafsson in the fourth round after being down on the score cards. No matter what else Jones adds to his arsenal, “Bones” will always be remembered for the beauty of his spinning back elbow.
6. Ken Shamrock: Heel Hook
Like Georges St-Pierre earlier on this list, Ken Shamrock had not one but two techniques which he used to terrorize heavyweights world wide in the early days of MMA. Those two techniques being his kneebar and heel hook submission holds. The heel hook gets a slight edge over the kneebar due to how sudden the pain of a heel hook can set in. Shamrock’s best use of the maneuver wasn’t even in a victory, but in a split decision loss to Don Frye all the way back at Pride 19 in 2002. While he lost the match, Frye has attributed his former addiction to painkillers to injuries sustained in that fight against Shamrock. Even in defeat, Ken Shamrock is still “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”.
5. Anderson Silva: Knees from the Clinch
In the virtual jungle of the internet, the debate of who is the greatest of all time will forever rage on. Was it Anderson Silva as the UFC likes to tell us? Was it Georges St-Pierre? How about the tubby Russian Fedor Emelianenko? Whichever side of the argument you agree with, it’s fair to say that the Spider has the greatest highlight reel of the three. The technique which gave Silva a lot of attention though would be his knees from the Muay Thai clinch. Poor unassuming Rich Franklin had no idea of the amount of pain he would be in once his head was clasped in the hands of Anderson Silva at UFC 64, where Silva proceeded to give the most unpleasant facial ever by breaking Franklin’s nose with a knee to the face. The grace in which Silva moves his opponents’ heads into the right spot to land his killer knees makes an ugly thought a beautiful thing to see.
4. Ronda Rousey: Armbar
If Rousey is a WWE fan, it must be because her and Chris Jericho share a sacred love for the armbar. Known as Juji-Gatame in her native sport of Judo, this submission hold has accounted for all but two of her MMA victories, the two of which she had a fling with striking due to her opponents only hitting the canvas once they were defeated. The most famous and gruesome application of this hold has to be in her first fight with Miesha Tate with which she fashioned herself a boomerang out of Tate’s left arm. Oh yeah and she took her Strikeforce Bantamweight title too. As Rousey’s star continues to shine, the legend of her signature armbar will continue to grow as well.
3. Bas Rutten: Liver Shot
Seriously now, who doesn’t love “El Guapo”? Even though he’s one of the nicest and funniest fighters outside of the ring, inside the cage Bas Rutten was one of the most frightening strikers in MMA history, let alone the heavyweight division. A big reason why opponents feared him was the sheer glee that Rutten had for targeting their livers. Whether it be with a roundhouse kick or a punching “stab” as Rutten calls it, Rutten hit livers so hard it’s a wonder why they didn’t burst out the backs of his opponents. What makes this worse than a shot to the head? A shot to the head makes you unconscious, while this liver shot keeps you conscious, fully capable of feeling the horrible agony of a bleeding internal organ. Don’t be mistaken by his smile and wonderful sense of humour; Bas Rutten is a liver killer.
2. Mirko Cro Cop: Head Kick
One of the few fighters to actually be able to boast about “K1 Level Striking”, Mirko Filopovic fought terribly in the UFC, but don’t let that be your image of Cro Cop. In PRIDE, the phrase “Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery” truly meant something. The speed, power and perhaps most amazingily, the accuracy of Cro Cop’s left high kick made it the most feared weapon in MMA. Dropping men like Wanderlei Silva, Igor Vovchanchyn and Alexander Emelianenko proved that the left high kick was nothing to brush off. Unless you’re Mark Hunt, in which case you are insane. The only thing keeping this out of the number one spot was Cro Cop’s inability to use this technique at a high level in the UFC. Not a problem at all for number one…
1. Dan Henderson: Overhand Right
Good lord is this punch powerful. Lots of fighters have claimed the overhand right as a signature move, but none wielded its mighty power like Dan Henderson. Dubbed the “H-Bomb” by fans and media alike, Dan Henderson has defied logic and managed to remain a threat well past the age of most combat sports athletes – he’s 44 – due to this one punch. Everyone who trains to fight Henderson knows that what’s coming, but hardly anyone has been able to defend against it. Even in fights where it seems that Henderson has lost like his 2nd fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, all it took was one H-Bomb and victory was his. While his list of victims is lengthy, the most amazing use of this move had to be at UFC 100 when he obliterated Michael Bisping with it and proceeded to slam a forearm on his head just in case some DNA was left over. It’s going to take a hell of an athlete to take away H-Bomb’s status as the best signature move in MMA history.
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