If you listen to boxing aficionados they will tell you that MMA striking is rudimentary and sloppy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Comparing the striking in MMA to any other combat sport is ludicrous because MMA is unlike any other sport in the world. Fighters can attack and be attacked in numerous forms and because of the ground game striking in MMA has evolved to include elements of takedown defense in the techniques making them appear to be less polished.

The fact of the matter is MMA strikers are some of the most well versed strikers in the world when it comes to real hand-to-hand combat; that’s why many forms of military combatives incorporate MMA techniques into their systems.

While MMA is still very young as a sport it has been littered with elite strikers from various backgrounds including some highly decorated pure strikers. But just because fighters come from a decorated striking background doesn’t mean their striking will translate to MMA. In fact most pure strikers have done poorly in MMA because they don’t have complete skill sets.

To be a great MMA striker, a fighter must have solid technique, power and great balance to avoid takedowns. In a sport dominated by wrestling and BJJ, these fighters helped the sport evolve into the melting pot that it is today by knocking people out.


10 – Fedor Emelianenko

Emelianenko is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all-time and he was a dominant force in the Pride heavyweight division. An elite grappler and powerful striker Emelianenko could win a fight in every way imaginable. While his grappling was his strong suit, his striking game was deadly. His weapon of choice on the feet was the casting punch; a looping overhand punch power punch that is also used as a tool to close distance and initiate clinch grappling.


9 – Chuck Liddell

Liddell is a revolutionary in the sport of MMA because he was the first fighter to really use wrestling in reverse effectively creating the “sprawl and brawl” style. Liddell would force his opponents to stay on the feet and he would punish them with his devastating overhand right. At one point in his career, Liddell won seven straight UFC bouts all by knockout. While his striking wasn’t pretty Liddell proved it was effective.


8 – Igor Vovchanchyn

Fans who are new to MMA will not know Vovchanchyn, but if you were a Pride fan then the name Vovchanchyn is one that is held is high regard. One of the few pure strikers to find success in MMA, Vovchanchyn showed that elite striking can be deadly because all fights start on the feet. An amazing 38 of Vovchanchyn’s 55 career victories came by way of knockout.


7 – Mauricio Rua

There was a time when Rua was widely considered to be the world’s best light heavyweight fighter and while he is still relatively young at 32 those days are long gone. In his youth, Rua was an absolute killer with 19 of his 22 career victories coming by way of knockout. It was Rua’s blend of power and tenacious Muay Thai that made him deadly. Rua could inflict massive amounts of damage on opponents from close range, but he was at his best when he could use stomps and soccer kicks to downed opponents under the old Pride rules.


6 – Wanderlei Silva

Silva has always had an aura about him; that fierce stare, unrivaled tenacity and willingness to lay it on the line made him a legendary figure in MMA. Silva ruled the Pride middleweight division for eight years with his patented blitzkrieg Muay Thai style. Silva threw every strike with bad intentions and when he caught someone in the Thai clinch the barrage of knees and elbows that would follow were pure violence. No one in the history of MMA is as beloved as Silva is for his sadistic fighting style.


5 – Lyoto Machida

Machida single-handedly changed the perception of traditional karate in an MMA setting. His unique approach to distance fighting and his pinpoint accuracy have made Machida a difficult fighter to prepare for. While he doesn’t have the violent power the other fighters on this list have he has a technical brilliance few can match. His ability to create angles and avoid damage while picking opponents apart from the outside is uncanny. Watching Machida fight can be maddening for fans who just want to see action but if you have a love for the beauty of traditional martial arts he is a joy to watch.


4 – Vitor Belfort

Belfort has been a force of nature in MMA since debuting in October of 1996. What set Belfort apart from the strikers before him and what continues to drive his success in the sport is his hand speed. Belfort can land three power punches before some fighters can load up and throw one. As Belfort has evolved in the sport so too has his striking game. Today, at 37, Belfort is still a contender in the UFC middleweight division because of his speed and fight changing power.


3 – Bas Rutten

Rutten was a pioneer of MMA competing in the sport before it was even seen as a true sport. Rutten evolved with the sport becoming a skilled grappler, but he always was a striker at his core. Rutten’s power was well known by all but it was his accuracy that made him feared. Rutten knew how and when to attack an opponent’s body. Still today no one attacks the body like Rutten.


2 – Mirko Filipovic

Filipovic or Cro Cop as he is lovingly know changed how people saw striking in MMA. Before Cro Cop MMA striking was all about loading up with an overhand punch or stopping a fight with a barrage of strikes. Cro Cop was a different breed; he was a high-level technical kickboxer who was able to adapt his style and be successful in MMA. Cro Cop proved to the world that high kicks could be a dangerous weapon in MMA. Cro Cop’s left head kick is arguably the most feared technique in the history of MMA.


1 – Anderson Silva

What is there to say about Silva that hasn’t already been said a thousand times; the man is simply the greatest the sport has ever seen. Silva has proven that he can beat a fighter in every aspect of the game, but he will always be known for his striking prowess. Silva’s striking game was so much more advanced and evolved than the rest of MMA it was almost unfair. Silva could knock an opponent out with anything he pleased and he made it look easy. Watching Silva fight is like watching a master painter create a masterpiece.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.