Jon Jones and the 10 Most Unorthodox Strikers in MMA Today

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2012

Jon Jones and the 10 Most Unorthodox Strikers in MMA Today

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    You hear the term thrown around a lot: “Unorthodox” striking. That, though, has many meanings.

    The actual term “unorthodox” simply means a fighter is left-handed. To others, it means a fighter that does not stand in a boxing-style three-quarters stance.

    Still, MMA is a big place with thousands of professional fighters coming from all backgrounds imaginable. To define “unorthodox” striking as just one thing would be a disservice to the variety of ways fighters tackle their craft.

    So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Ten Most Unorthodox Strikers in MMA. Here, we discuss fighters that have their own unique style and what makes them special.

    The list is in alphabetical order...so no need to complain about ranking.

Marcus "Lelo" Aurelio

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    The “Lelo” up there is to differentiate this Marcus Aurelio from the Pride veteran and UFC washout. Marcus Aurelio was featured here on Bleacher Report not too long ago, and he's definitely one of the kookiest strikers in MMA.

    Capoeira is not your typical martial art, with its roots tied to dance and partly designed to defend oneself with hands tied together. Because of that, the Brazilian style does not really have a clear place in MMA.

    Aurelio, obviously, is desperately seeking to fix that. You can find Aurelio's bouts in the Battlefield Fight League on YouTube. Watching any one of them makes it terribly obvious why he would end up on this list.

    Recently signed to Bellator, watch for Aurelio to make a splash in their lightweight division in the very near future. Even if he loses, his highlight-reel style, filled with flips, leaping kicks, and numerous spin moves, is sure to make everyone do a double-take.

Keith Jardine

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    Whoever said being an unorthodox striker had to be a good thing?

    Keith Jardine's silly, non-technical striking made him beloved by some fans, and loathed by others. What seemed like a complete lack of coordination—with his hands, feet, and head all seemingly moving in different directions—led to some inexplicable wins against top fighters like Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell.

    Then, after a top contender's fight with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jardine's MMA career went into a legitimate freefall. He dropped three more to Thiago Silva, Ryan Bader and Matt Hamill, then got booted from the UFC. He found his way to Strikeforce, but has been finding a similar lack of success, totaling a 0-2-1 record in the promotion.

    His fight with Luke Rockhold was the greatest example of this: Jardine did his Jardine thing, dropping his hands and throwing right haymaker after right haymaker. Rockhold stayed tight and landed straight after straight.

    In retrospect, it is genuinely remarkable that Keith Jardine became such a strong fighter in the 205 lb division.  

Jon Jones

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    Jon Jones does not have the striking pedigree that many of the other fighters on this list have.

    He is not a black belt in Taekwondo, has never fought in K-1, and primarily comes from a wrestling background. What he does have is a reach and height advantage that basically allows him to do whatever the hell he wants and get away with it.

    Jones wowed fans even when he was fighting on preliminary cards with his fearless kicks and spinning elbows. As he grew, so did his repertoire of attacks that almost nobody else could hope to land.

    Front-leg leg kicks from any range. Brutal kicks while backpedaling. Superman punches. Jabs with his elbows.

    Again, Jones does not have the pure technical prowess of others on this list. That does not matter, though. He can still bring fans things they have never seen before and make it look easy.

Cung Le

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    Cung Le is not just one of the most unorthodox strikers. He has a legitimate claim to being possibly the best striker in MMA.

    His kickboxing record is beyond question, having beaten a variety of names in the sport and establishing himself as, possibly, the best American kickboxer of recent years. He stands at 17-0.

    He brings that striking prowess to MMA, and also brings the spinning kicks and backfists that he used to climb to the top of his old sport. Watch any given fight he has been involved in and you can immediately see just how evolved his skills are.

    His next fight is against Rich Franklin at UFC on Fuel TV 6. Check it out this November.

Lyoto Machida

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    Lyoto Machida has such a diverse martial arts background that nothing he does can be considered conventional. Having trained in practically every style you can think of, Machida has more tools at his disposal than anyone else in MMA.

    Machida took the MMA world by storm just a few years ago, raising many eyebrows with his unconventional stance and lifting many from their seats with his ability to absolutely dissect opponents. He used that craftiness to work his way to the very top of the Light Heavyweight Division.

    While he has fallen on tougher times since starting his MMA career 16-0, he still has one of the greatest arsenals in MMA when it comes to his stand-up game. He can punch, he can kick and he can dictate where the fight takes place.

    He used this savvy to put on one of the most lopsided fights of 2012 in his bout against Ryan Bader.

Anthony Njokuani

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    Anthony Njokuani is somewhat similar to Jon Jones in body type but actually has the striking background that Jones lacks. While the Nigerian kickboxer is not anywhere close to the top of the lightweight division, he deserves a spot on this list.

    At 6'1", Njokuani is possibly the tallest lightweight under Zuffa's MMA umbrella. He uses this lankiness to fight long. Very long.

    He can punch or kick an opponent from a remarkable distance, making his trademark move his powerful straight punch. While other opponents try to get into range to kick, he can simply rear back and wait for his opportunity to land that right hand.

    While he is a typical Muay Thai practitioner, his height and reach advantage gives him the opportunity to be quite creative.

Michael Page

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    Michael Page is currently making quite the splash over in England.

    While he has just two professional fights to his credit, the British kickboxer has simply outclassed his opponents.

    Part Muhammad Ali, part Anderson Silva and part Steven López, Michael Page has done whatever he wanted in the cage so far. Those quick, shocking victories earned him a contract with Bellator and a large following in Europe.

    Watch for him to debut later this year—and bring his wild striking (and inordinate amounts of showboating) to some potentially solid opponents.

    Bellator is shaping up to have some fun fights, eh?

Anthony Pettis

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    Anthony Pettis' MMA career may be defined by the “Showtime Kick” he landed on Ben Henderson back at WEC 53. That, though, would be a disservice to his consistently eye-pleasing, kick-focused style.

    Pettis has absurdly quick legs. He moves at a speed that does not seem like it should be achievable by a non-cyborg.

    He knows how to work this, using lightning-fast side kicks to the body and legs to keep opponents spaced perfectly for his devastating head kicks. What's more, his kicks are so fast, that unless opponents get a very good read on them, it is nearly impossible to catch them.

    Think about that.

    While other fighters have jabs, Anthony Pettis' kicks are so well-developed that he can use them to hold back opponents at will.

Anderson Silva

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    No list discussing strikers is complete without mentioning Anderson Silva.

    Silva is so much better on his feet than his opponents that he, much like Jones, can basically do whatever he wants with no fear of repercussions.

    Anderson Silva put on a Capoeira clinic against Demian Maia that probably made Marcus Aurelio cry tears of joy. His shocking knockout of Forrest Griffin is one of the most lopsided beatdowns involving top-ten fighters ever. He has downright embarrassed many of the top fighters in the world.

    Watch some back footage of Anderson Silva and you can immediately tell why he is regarded as the greatest of all time by the majority of fans. He is so creative and so confident that he would be the shoe-in for the top spot if this list was ranked.

Stephen Thompson

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    Cung Le is not the only person on this list with an undefeated record in kickboxing. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is actually sitting on a 63-fight winning streak in striking competitions.

    The karate fighter from Carolina did his background proud in his UFC debut, sneakily knocking out Dan Stittgen with a front-leg head kick that put him to sleep. Though he lost to a strong lay-and-pray effort by Matt Brown in his second UFC fight, he still has a bright future ahead of him.

    Make sure to check out YouTube for some of his past kickboxing matches, filled with hook kicks, cartwheels and celebratory flips aplenty.