Some fighters lean on reserved, highly calculated approaches. Some guys don’t; some are willing to put everything on the line in order to finish a fight. These are the combatants who epitomize the old adage “leave it all in the cage."
And, while not throwing caution to the wind isn’t always the brightest maneuver, it does make for aesthetically pleasing affairs that, more often than not, produce exciting finishes.
I think the majority of dedicated MMA followers can appreciate and respect tactical game plans. No one is arguing that guys like Georges St-Pierre and Dominick Cruz are amazingly talented individuals, but many would argue that not every bout they compete in is guaranteed to produce a mind-boggling finish.
Sometimes, when your fight IQ is through the roof and you know exactly how to win, you do just enough to manage while eliminating the risk of a stumble, let alone a defeat.
The only problem with that approach is the fact that sometimes, it just doesn’t lead to stimulating entertainment.
The men featured on this list, however, take tremendous chances and always dump every last ounce of their being inside the cage, always aiming to add another nice piece of footage to their highlight reel. It’s commendable, but not necessarily always successful.
While Jon Jones’ last few fights have been fought under fairly cautious circumstances, this man typically takes serious chances inside the cage.
I won’t deny that neither the bout with Rashad Evans nor the bout with Vitor Belfort were absolute barnburners, but there’s solid reason for that: Rashad was a former training partner who knew “Bones” better than any man to ever enter the cage opposite, and Belfort nearly took Jon’s arm home in the early portions of their fight. Faced with those kinds of challenges, I can understand a bit of caution on the champion’s part.
Take a look at virtually every other fight Jones has competed in, and you’ll see some high-risk attacks being made: spinning elbows, spinning kicks, flying knees, clinching with proficient Muay Thai practitioners. Jon isn’t afraid to let it hang out there; he’s just not always credited for his courage due to the fact that he’s wise enough to know when he can and when he can’t get away with it.
After being brutally knocked out by George Roop at WEC 51, most figured we’d see a controlled nearly trepid man compete henceforth. Such has not been the case.
“The Korean Zombie” is smart enough to steer clear of the wade in and play rock ‘em sock ‘em robots with his opponents now, but he constantly takes calculated risks, and they’re paying major dividends.
In his second bout against Leonard Garcia, Jung showed no fear, waded in, intelligently battered Garcia and eventually attempted a submission we’ve never even seen inside the UFC: the almighty Twister.
He followed that fight up with an amazing upset over former title challenger Mark Hominick. Hominick jumped the gun, rushing for a blitz, but Jung maintained composure, and as the opening created itself, came right back at the Canadian, putting his lights out in astonishingly easy fashion. Few would dare approach Hominick with such aggression on the feet, but Jung did it.
His most recent outing proved that The Korean Zombie just doesn’t give a damn. Against Dustin Poirier, he fought intelligently but aggressively. He never let his foe off the hook, applied pressure, evaded incoming offense and again latched on another beautiful submission to move his UFC record to 3-0.
This is a man clearly not intimidated by the idea of putting himself out there.
Every now and then, Aoki’s bold attempts to drag his foes to the mat are met with a fistic fury that leaves the Japanese star crumbled on the canvas. But you cannot deny that while his persistence doesn’t produce a 100 percent success rate; the man is willing to do anything and everything to get the fight to the mat, and that's commendable.
Once there, Aoki does things we rarely see in professional competition. It doesn’t matter what position he holds, he’s going to attempt to lock some form of submission on his foes, and if a well-known attack isn’t readily available, he’ll simply make one up on the spot.
Risky and innovative, I like it!
You know that cliché “bull in a china shop”? Well, that saying is actually a load of crap. Bulls are actually very alert to their surroundings. Throw one in a china shop and he prances around the isles, bumping not so much as a single decorative piece.
However, that saying sounds like it should hold merit, and if it did, it would be the perfect description of Belfort’s style. If Vitor sees an opening to counter, he’s going to rush his opponents, guns blazing at an alarming speed.
Typically, the Brazilian’s willingness to plow right through the pocket leads to big victories, but every now and then, things backfire (see the beautiful counter Chuck Liddell landed to drop “The Phenom” at UFC 37.5).
Of course, when fists don’t get the job done, Vitor’s obviously willing to fall back on his jiu-jitsu,, as evidenced in fights against Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson.
Wherever the fight takes place, Vitor takes risks.
I’ve reached the conclusion that Nate Diaz simply doesn’t give a damn about anything. He’ll eat a leveling punch from the likes of Melvin Guillard, only to get up, work his aggression and secure a submission. He’ll maintain composure if an opponent happens to score a takedown, only to attempt any and all available submissions, plenty of which pay off (see the lovely triangle choke against Kurt Pellegrino at UFC: Fight Night 13).
And if he’s down on the cards, or believes himself to be, keep your eyes open, he’s got no qualms with pushing as hard possible to break his opponents with punches in bunches.
Being a fearless fighter can be a beautiful thing, but a sturdy chin had better be a boasted attribute or that fearlessness could come back to bite you in the tail. Fortunately for Nate, his beard looks to be as resilient as the rest of his body and mind.
Forget for a minute that the bout with Nick Diaz ever took place. Now, try to tell me this guy doesn’t take risks.
The beauty in Carlos’ style is the fact that, if you hurt him, it only seems to piss him off and fuel his aggression. Comebacks are a specialty of Condit’s, and that’s because he’s willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to capture victory.
Just ask guys like Jake Ellenberger, Dong Hyun Kim, Rory MacDonald and Martin Kampmann (who I still thoroughly believe he beat thanks to one amazingly overwhelming final round).
You’ve got to love ballsy fighters who actually love what they do. “Shogun” is that guy through and through.
Knock him down, he’ll be back up and in the danger zone immediately. Apply a submission, he’s moving like an anaconda to escape, sometimes putting himself in more precarious positions in the process of evasion.
His gas tank is empty, you say? It doesn’t matter, he’ll be there, in your face, all or nothing, do or die.
Shogun is truly a modern-day gladiator with no fear of risk in a damn risky situation.
Some may be a bit baffled by this selection, but hear me out.
Anderson Silva will stand in front of bigger, stronger men, hands down and allow them to hurl leather at him freely. He’ll even eat a few flush punches, apparently just to give the crowd their money’s worth. Then he turns into Neo and the fight becomes a scene from The Matrix.
We know where it goes from there.
But for the sake of discussion, let us say he finds himself on his back, mounted by a talented wrestler. What’s he do? He…chills! When the submission opening arrives, he’s all over it like white on rice.
“The Spider” is arguably the most dominant man to ever compete in mixed martial arts. He also happens to be profoundly risky when he chooses.
Pat “Risk-Taker” Barry…I think I like the sound of that more than “HD."
Everything about Barry’s style is risky. If he can’t beat an opponent on the feet, he’s in trouble, and that’s exactly why he gifts us such thrilling wars. Always out to keep it standing, this man will throw hands and feet with anyone and everyone.
His problem, which has kept him far distanced from a top-10 ranking, is his reckless abandon. He refused to fight intelligently against Struve, and it cost him; had Cheick Kongo unconscious twice, but refused to downshift, and he plunged face-first into a power punch that rendered the arena black. He enjoyed some surprising success against Mirko Cro Cop and let his emotions get the better of him.
When Barry is on and fighting intelligently he’s a great fighter. When the insatiable thirst for risk creeps into his core, he’s a question mark and a half.
At least he’s an insanely exciting risk taker.
For Joe, it’s always all or nothing. There is no middle ground for this man. He shows up, and he’s focused on one motto: finish or be finished. As a result, he hangs his cajones out there every single time he sets foot in the octagon.
Outside of Anderson Silva, Joe Lauzon is the most thrilling fighter to watch on the UFC roster.
If he gets the back, he’s going to do everything in his power to sink a fight-ending choke; errant arm, he’s searching for the armbar. Being mauled from the bottom? He’s tossing those legs up for a triangle. If he staggers you during a striking exchange, a hellacious barrage of strikes rides the wake.
Joe Lauzon always—and I truly mean that—always takes huge risks. With 22 career victories under his belt, he’s never allowed a winning performance to go to the judges. If that’s not a statistic indicative of a risk taker, then I just don’t know what is.