There are many aspects of mixed martial arts that are important. One of the most important, under-appreciated aspects of MMA are leg kicks.
Leg kicks help set up other moves, such as strikes and takedowns. Powerful leg kicks can also take away power from an opponents striking as well as make them tentative.
Let's take a look at the fighters who have the best leg kicks in MMA today.
Bas Rutten: He may be known for his vicious body kicks and knees, but Rutten also had very strong leg kicks. Not surprising for a guy of his background (black belts in kyokushin and taekwondo), he ended his fight with Ruben Villareal with several leg kicks.
Mirko Cro Cop: Another guy who is unrecognized for his leg kicks because of his deadly head kicks, Mirko Cro Cop had some of the best leg kicks. In his time in Pride, he sent Hidehiko Yoshida packing with some vicious leg kicks.
Pedro Rizzo: Randy Couture can attest to the power of Rizzo's leg kicks, as he has a permanent indent in his thigh after one of their encounters. Rizzo's leg kicks were wicked, helping end bouts against Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn.
Marco Ruas: Ruas never ended a bout due to leg kicks, but they were definitely one of his many feared weapons. A legendary vale tudo fighter, Ruas used his lethal leg kicks to set up finishes against his opponent.
Alistair Overeem: Overeem is a horse (pun intended). All of his strikes are devastating, but his leg kicks are especially wicked. He may have ended his bout with Brock Lesnar with a body kick, but believe me, his leg kicks are insane.
Tyson Griffin: Tyson Griffin may have the most underrated leg kicks in MMA, especially since he hails from a wrestling background, not a kickboxing background. Griffin has very strong legs, allowing him to put a sick amount of torque in each leg kick.
Melvin Manhoef looked as if he was a leg kick or two away from a stoppage against Robbie Lawler, until Lawler hit a miraculous comeback knockout.
Manhoef is a top-level kickboxer, having competed against some of the world's best. Manhoef has great striking in general, but his leg kicks are especially deadly.
A lot of people like to criticize Pat Barry because he is touted as a "K-1 level" kickboxer, while many disagree.
Just because he may not be at that level of kickboxing does not mean he is not a fantastic striker.
Barry's leg kicks are especially devastating, as he holds three stoppage victories due to leg kicks. He also used his leg kicks to soften up Antoni Hardonk before putting him away.
Barry has the benefit of possessing hard leg kicks, but I wonder if he has some doubt knowing that his leg kicks couldn't stop Joey Beltran from dancing the same night at the club.
Edson Barboza has insane Muay Thai, as demonstrated through his incredible striking.
Barboza has insane leg kicks that cripple his opponents. In fact, he holds two stoppage victories due to leg strikes that deemed his opponents unable to continue, including his UFC debut against Mike Lullo.
Everybody continues to talk about his incredible wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim, but Barboza's leg kicks set up his high-kick attacks.
Forrest Griffin may get a little too much credit here, but his leg kicks are extremely effective.
I guess they aren't "vicious," but Griffin uses his length to leg kick his opponents to a point that takes away their power and stay at a distance.
He has yet to stop a fight with his leg kicks, but he broke the leg-kick record in his bout with Hector Ramirez (has since been broken) and noticeably hurt Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in their title bout.
Watching Thiago Alves throw leg kicks is a thing of beauty. It is perfect form, turning over his hip for maximum torque.
Alves has top-notch Muay Thai, which are the base for his violent leg kicks.
To my surprise, he has never stopped a fight due to leg kicks. This goes to prove that he uses the leg kicks to set up his other devastating maneuvers, including knees and punches.
Jose Aldo's soccer background has definitely equipped him with some vicious kicks, especially leg kicks.
Look no further than the Urijah Faber fight, where he battered Faber with leg kicks for five rounds. To Faber's credit, he took the leg kicks like a man and fought till the end.
Aldo has yet to stop a fight with leg kicks, but that is because he is so well versed in his striking. His knees and punches are opened up from the opponent's fear of taking a leg kick from Aldo.