Over the years the sport of mixed martial arts has gone through an incredible evolution; what started off as an event to see which martial art was the best has become combat style all its own. Today mixed martial artists are some of the finest athletes in the world and they continually integrate new styles and techniques from traditional martial arts in the sport.

As the sport has evolved, so too has the level of preparation fighters put into it. Now that fighters do not have to prepare to face multiple opponents on the same night they can focus all of their attention on beating the person standing in front of them. Today game planning is just as important to a fighter’s success as drilling technique and proper weight cuts.

A game plan is essentially a blue print to win a fight but the great game planners take it beyond a simple overview; they look for specific ways to attack opponents and for specific techniques to utilize. Great game planners don’t just understand what their opponent is going to do, they understand what their opponent does, what their weaknesses are and how to exploit them with what they do best.

10 – Benson Henderson

Former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson’s resume is loaded with impressive wins and a big part of his success is his ability to game plan for his opponents. Henderson knows how to use his athleticism to his advantage and his well-rounded skill set allows him to attack his opponent’s weak point. If you want to see the epitome of a tactical MMA battle, watch either one of Henderson’s bouts with Frankie Edgar.

9 – Urijah Faber

Urijah Faber is one of the fighters who really put the lighter weights on the map and without his influence the lighter divisions would not be where they are today. The former longtime WEC featherweight champion has always been an exciting fighter to watch and that skews people’s perception of his game planning ability a little bit. But when you watch closely you will see that Faber is a master tactician because he is precise with how and when he attacks.

8 – Anderson Silva

What more can be said about the great Anderson Silva that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? The man is simply the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen and when he finally decides to call it quits you will be able to hear the collective sigh of relief from the rest of the UFC middleweight division. Silva understands that his striking is light years ahead of everyone he faces and his ability to bait them to attack him is masterful.

7 – Frankie Edgar

Former UFC lightweight champion and current UFC featherweight contender Frankie Edgar is as good as they come when it comes to game planning. Edgar was able to capture the UFC lightweight title from arguably the greatest lightweight in MMA history, BJ Penn, and defended it several times even though he was very small for the division.

6 – Demetrious Johnson

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is as dominant a champion as there is in the UFC today and the rest of the division isn’t even close to his skill level. Johnson’s understanding of footwork and distance make him virtually untouchable in the cage and his lightning fast quickness has turned him into one of the most effective strikers in the sport today. Johnson knows how to attack, when to attack and where to attack an opponent for optimum results.

5 – Cain Velasquez

UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez isn’t the first fighter that comes to mind when you think of game planning, but maybe he should be. No one is better at breaking the will of an opponent than Velasquez. The pace he keeps and the pressure he puts on his opponents is simply amazing.

4 – Lyoto Machida

Former UFC light heavyweight champion and current middleweight contender Lyoto Machida has one of the most unique styles in all of MMA and he has played a key role in the popularization of Karate in MMA. Machida uses his style to his advantage better than any other fighter in the history of the sport and his use of specific distances is incredible. Machida knows and understands what distances to use against what fighters and that is a big reason as to why he has taken so little damage over the course of his career.

3 – Jon Jones

When it comes to active fighters, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is as good as it gets. Not only is he the best fighter in the sport today, but under the tutelage of the great Greg Jackson Jones is the best game planner in the sport. Jones is a rare breed who could very well go down as the greatest of all-time when it is all said and done. Jones knows how to use his length, he knows how to effectively use his wrestling and leverage, he knows when and where to attack and what is truly scary is that he knows how to beat you at your own game. Look at his last bout against Glover Teixeira; Jones beat him on the feet where Teixeira is at his most dangerous.

2 – Randy Couture

Whereas current UFC champion Jones can and will beat you at your own game, former multi division UFC champion Randy Couture was a fighter who was going to force you into spots you didn’t want to be and break you down in the process. While Couture was a gifted wrestler and an adequate boxer he didn’t have the sheer finishing ability that other fighters had. Because of that, Couture had to become great at taking away his opponent’s strengths which he did through his suffocating clinch game. Couture used the clinch to perfection to wear down his opponents and avoid damage. Couture knew he wasn’t going to out-strike or submit most opponents, but he knew he could control them and test their mettle.

1 – Georges St. Pierre

While all of the other fighters on this list are great game planners, none of them can hold a candle to former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre’s ability to develop and execute a game plan. St. Pierre had an uncanny ability to neutralize an opponent and impose his will. No matter what kind of fight his opponent wanted to have St. Pierre would make sure the opposite would happen; a fighter who wanted to wrestle would get picked apart on the feet and a fighter who wanted to strike would be put on their back.

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.