“Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee…”
These are the words, of course, of the late great Muhammad Ali.
Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all-time but more importantly, did more for his country as an athlete than any one man or woman before him.
I didn’t start writing this article today to talk about Muhammad Ali in particular but we can never forget what he did.
Funny story, I used to spar with his grandson almost every week in Las Vegas.
We are the same size and roughly the same skill level in boxing. I had some great rounds with Nico.
Two of the best strikers in the history of mixed martial arts were, and still are I’m sure, heavily influenced by Ali and those two are Anderson Silva and the man defending his belt this weekend on Fight Island, Israel Adesanya.
You won’t find a bigger Anderson Silva fan on the planet Earth than myself but unfortunately, I had to leave him off of our list today.
At the age of 45, The Spider is clearly nowhere close to the fighter he was 5,10, 15 years ago.
I will stop here because if I talk about him anymore then I’m gonna bring up Georges Safe Pierre and how he failed to finish a fight for 5 years of his prime and was retired by Johnny Hendricks.
“Big Rig” went on to win his next 3 out of 10 fights after he beat up Georgey.
Anyways, kinda all over the place with Ali and GSP this morning but Andy’s best days are behind him and we have one of our 5, UFC Middleweight World Champion Israel Adesanya.
Joining The Last Stylebender on today’s list will be some true killers.
I know Paulo Costa is more of a brute than a stylist but if his brutish ways are the kryptonite to high level striking, then maybe he deserves it.
Let’s get to our list and if any of the fighters we talk about today have a fight signed, we will preview that as well, hopefully with betting odds in tow.
BetOnline.AG will always be our #1 source for mixed martial arts betting odds.
They are usually the first sportsbook to put out the betting lines for the fights and they remain the most competitive throughout the event.
Notice I said throughout.
Yes, you can live bet the UFC on BetOnline.AG!
It is so much fun and honestly, if you pay close attention and aren’t afraid to pull the trigger quickly, you can make some money at it too!
Also, if you have a straight bet that looks like isn’t going to hit, you can hedge it with a wager on their opponent.
You aren’t always going to get the best value that way, though, but that’s how it goes.
Hopefully, you don’t make too many of those completely wrong choices on your pre bets.
Let’s get to our list of strikers and also talk about how the different styles of throwing bones from the standing position can help you defend potential takedown attempts from your opponent, or not.
#5: Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal
What else can we say about this guy?
I mean, of course, Street Jesus is Gamebred. I wouldn’t have expected any different.
Pardon the language there. You can go down a real rabbit hole with those backyard fights.
Kimbo Slice used to train his boxing on an old fridge/freezer. He would bob and weave under the freezer door then bang it shut with a hook.
Okay, so these old vids are a cool story and all but he sure didn’t look like one of the best strikers in the UFC right there.
Well, of course not.
The video is almost 20 years old.
That’s right. Gamebred has been arooouuuund.
His first professional fight inside of a cage or ring was in early 2003.
The level he is now, though, is just crazy.
The way he made it look so easy against a guy like Nate Diaz who out-struck many a good fighter in his day including schooling Cowboy in his prime.
I thought, okay, Nate has taken a lot of damage and maybe the 2nd fight with Conor McGregor finally lessened the amount of damage he could take.
For so long, Nate Diaz was known to be one of if not the most durable fighters in mixed martial arts.
I don’t think we can say that right now, though.
Masvidal gave him a worse beating than McGregor.
I started to wonder if he could hang with Conor on the feet after watching how fast, accurate, well-timed, measured, etc that Jorge Masvidal has become.
Jorge Masvidal is the favorite at (-150) while C-Mac comes in as the (+130) underdog.
I love Street Jesus as much as everyone else but I’m on Conor all day there.
I might have just given away another top 5 UFC striker just now but most of you knew it was coming.
It was actually Jorge’s most recent performance when he challenged Kamaru Usman for the UFC Welterweight World Title that sold me.
He didn’t have much of a chance to really do anything.
We all knew Usman wasn’t going to stand with him so every time Masvidal had a chance to strike, he did but almost immediately, Usman was clinching and working towards the takedown.
Jorge lit him up, though, with clean fast powerful shots. His striking chart for the fight had him landing 34% to the head, 43% to the body, and 23% to legs.
I love the distribution directly in the face of a guy who only wants to hold you still.
It’s frustrating to be Jorge in this situation, believe me.
The hardest part about it is keeping a strong mind. Jorge knows that he is trying to hurt his opponent and finish him while Kamaru is only interested in controlling him whether it be up against the side of the Octagon or on the mat.
Masvidal’s mix of lead leg body kicks and rear overhand power punches is his best attack.
I would take him against just about anyone at 170 or 155 in a striking match.
#4: Francis Ngannou
Forgive me, guys. It’s easy to get carried away when talking about Street Jesus.
We don’t want to keep Francis waiting for too long.
He is quite the gentleman outside of the cage but you can’t tell me that man doesn’t have a mean streak.
Normally, I wouldn’t include a heavyweight here simply because they usually don’t have the level of skill in the striking realm that you would see in the smaller weight classes.
I guess they just knockout their sparring partners before they get any practice.
Nah, it’s just an evolutionary thing.
Don’t tell that to Francis Ngannou, though. He believes in the beauty of his striking just as much as the brute force.
Ngannou has looked incredible inside the Octagon but he has also just stared at his opponent for 15 minutes as he did against Derrick Lewis.
BetOnline.AG has a betting line for Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones.
Ngannou is the betting favorite at (-145) and Bones Jones comes in as the (+125) underdog.
I am on Jones here. I think he can take down the big man and will be the best version of himself not having to cut the weight to 205.
There is also a betting line for a potential rematch of Francis Ngannou and UFC Heavyweight World Champion, Stipe Miocic.
Even though he was dominated by the Cleveland Firefighter the first time around for 5 full rounds, Franky is the favorite at nearly 2 to 1!
That’s some respect right there.
A betting favorite over both Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic?
The geatest light heavyweight and heavyweight fighters of all the times!
Francis, technically, can be a puzzle.
When he fought Jairzinho Rozentstruik, he just ran at him swinging haymakers. Bigi Boy dodged the first three but the fourth one caught him right on the button.
This is going to sound crazy but I think that makes him even more dangerous.
Yes, it does give his opponents an opportunity to counter with a strike or takedown attempt, but almost any man is going to shell up and quickly shift his focus to defense and weathering the storm.
Take Anderson Silva, for example.
- He has never just taken off running at his opponents and been highly aggressive.
- He never really had to during his run.
- He didn’t lose to Weidman for the first time until he was 38.
If Anderson did hit his opponents with random nearly out of control bursts of aggression, they would probably shell up out of sheer surprise.
Ngannou has great hands for a heavyweight mixed martial artist but many times, he throws technique out of the proverbial window and only cares about power.
Hey, it works.
And for that reason, he is my #4 best striker in the UFC.
#3: Valentina Shevchenko
Tina is a terror.
Yea, I called her Tina.
If she said don’t call me that, though, I would surely cut it out faster than Dave Coulier at a Full House reunion.
If it’s betting value you’re looking for with Valentina Shevchenko, you aren’t going to find it.
She is consistently a 10 to 1 favorite or more lately.
We did hit the under on her last fight when she pounded out a game Katlyn Chookagian.
In my opinion, She is better than Amanda Nunes.
I know the UFC is claiming that Amanda is the women’s GOAT and I get it. She has the resume that Valentina doesn’t.
Amanda also has two wins over Shev but Valentina is the much smaller woman and those fights were razor close!
Valentina’s footwork doesn’t let anyone get near her and she just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Listen to Justin Gaethje talk about his fight with Tony Ferguson.
He said his feet were the difference. According to him, he didn’t have to think about where to be or when to be there because his feet were so well trained that they just did what they do all by themselves as Bruce Lee would say.
That’s Valentina, although she doesn’t really need to. She could stand in front of her opponents and beat them with a Dutch style of kickboxing.
I love her at range, though, because her opponents slowly become weaker in their mind and that’s when Shev brings out the big guns like her tibia, for example.
Valentina is so incredibly dominant in her division, she has to get some attention as one of the best strikers.
What solidifies it, though?
A dominant unanimous decision win over Joanna Jerdjzyczyk?
Yup. That does it.
#2: Israel Adesanya
Hey, I told you we were going to get to Izzy.
I couldn’t leave The Last Stylebender out of this conversation.
He isn’t too much of a betting favorite this week against a man who could very well hold the style Izzy can’t bend.
Normally, though, Israel Adesanya’s betting odds aren’t exactly affordable.
And there’s a good reason for that.
- For A, he’s undefeated.
- For B, well, he has never lost a professional mixed martial arts fight.
Paraphrasing level 99 right there.
His opponent on Saturday at UFC 253, though, Paulo Costa is undefeated as well.
Adesanya does do things I’m not crazy about like float his chin but what is going to make or break his fight against the Brazilian this weekend is his footwork.
He loves to move backward and catch his opponents that way probably more than any fighter I’ve ever seen.
🏆 @Stylebender doesn’t throw and hope – he aims and fires!
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2020
He obviously was influenced quite a bit by Anderson Silva but Izzy has his own flare for sure.
Only 1-2 steps backward at a time and he is getting off the tracks.
Costa will push forward and if Israel doesn’t get off those tracks after a step or two backward, he is in a lot of trouble.
Betting on the fight is like betting on a lot of main events. I don’t like to do it. I have a terrible record betting the main event.
But a lot of bettors are here for the action and what better way to make a fun fight even more fun than to put some money on it?
I am leaning Adesanya here because of the championship rounds.
They are a killa.
#1: Conor McGregor
Now one of the most hated athletes in the sport of mixed martial arts, Conor McGregor remains undoubtedly the company’s biggest draw.
I see so much Conor McGregor hate on the internet every day.
Sure, he brought a lot of that on himself but how can you hate on the man’s skills?
The only thing I don’t like about C-Mac is how little he fights and how short his contests usually are.
9 of his 12 UFC fights have ended before the 3rd round.
I firmly believe Conor McGregor has the best boxing in the history of mixed martial arts, by far.
BJ Penn and Nick Diaz had some great hands but come on, not the death touch.
Then watch Eddie Alvarez beat title challenger Justin Gaethje and the UFC’s newest lightweight and UFC 254 backup fighter, Michael Chandler.
Conor does have a cocaine, I mean conditioning problem.
Man, I am having so much trouble with my words today.
If it weren’t for his low gas tank, McGregor could show us even more of his magic.
His use of the hook kick to control his opponent’s movement is sensational and never gets talked about.
He stabbed Chad Mendes with that nasty front kick probably 15 times in 8 minutes.
McGregor’s most recent fight against Cowboy, though, my gawsh.
I remember telling people afterward that I didn’t know why Cowboy slipped right into the head kick.
There was no feint or fake from McGregor.
Well, I had to slow the fight video down x4 to see his fake left land that led Cerrone to slip right into the head kick and the fight was over in an instant.
He also busted Cowboy up and discombobulated him for a sec with the shoulder strikes.
McGregor may not be the best boxer in the world or even the best mixed martial artist in his company but in my opinion, he is the best striker in the UFC.
You can get Conor as an affordable favorite against Justin Gaethje at (-130).
The fight may never happen but I think these odds are money money.
There you have it, guys.
I’m sure you will disagree somewhat and that’s awesome.
There are so many levels to striking, so many styles, and within MMA, there is infinite amounts of learning to be had.
I saw a guy use a head kick for an entry to a takedown on the Contender Series the other week.
Look at how much other major sports have changed over the past decade and then think to yourself how long they have been played.
The most evolution happens early on and mixed martial arts is still an infant at this point.
Striking has evolved immensely since UFC 1 and it will continue to do so through UFC 1000 and beyond.
Today, I wanted to talk about who I think are the very best strikers inside the Octagon.
Izzy couldn’t crack the top spot but who knows, with an eye-popping performance against Paulo Costa this weekend at UFC 253, he might do that.