10 Most Entertaining Fighters Currently Competing in the UFC
In two weeks, the UFC heads back to FOX for a night of fights that promise to be memorable. Exciting fighters Nate Diaz, Shogun Rua and Mike Swick fill the card with both name value and a desire to finish fights at all costs.
The last time that the UFC went to FOX, we saw some incredible knockouts as well as a Fight of the Year candidate. Will this show surpass the entertainment value of it's predecessor?
In a sport where more and more fighters are "playing it safe" in hopes of avoiding a loss, this is a time for us to celebrate the pugilists who still want to thrill the crowd with a vicious beatdown or scintillating submission.
Here is a countdown of the 10 most exciting fighters currently competing in the UFC.
Here is a quick recap of some exciting fighters who did not make our countdown for various reasons. If there is no explanation listed, they are simply not as exciting as the fighters on the following slides.
Clay Guida: lost his spot on this list after his bout with Gray Maynard back in June
Yoshihiro Akiyama: lackluster performance against Jake Shields cost him a spot
10. Cung Le
At 40 years old, Cung Le may not be as spry as some of his UFC contemporaries, but with a flashy style that generates big-time knockouts, there is little question that the Vietnamese fighter belongs on this list.
Most recently, Le made quick work of former champion Rich Franklin in Macau. The knockout occurred just shy of the halfway point in Round 1, leaving enough impact to suggest that the Hollywood star isn't as close to retirement as we might think.
Not only does Le possess jaw-dropping technique in his striking, but his wrestling has allowed him to rag-doll opponents at opportune moments in his career.
9. Jon Jones
The reigning UFC light heavyweight champion is a polarizing figure to say the least, but when he steps into the Octagon, it's hard to take your eyes off of him.
Eighteen fights into his professional career, the stud of Jackson's MMA has amassed an incredible 15 finishes (yes, I count Matt Hamill in that list), which include submission wins over Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.
"Bones" originally caught the attention of fans around the globe when he used creative striking to floor Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94. A spinning back elbow sent "The American Psycho" into a daze and immediately became a staple of the future champion's arsenal.
8. Anthony Pettis
If you have the testicular fortitude to nickname yourself "Showtime," you had better have a wow factor to back it up. Anthony Pettis has no trouble living up to the moniker.
Holding a third-degree black belt in taekwondo, Pettis has been able to score six career knockouts, including a vicious head kick over Joe Lauzon at UFC 144.
However, the most notable strike of the Roufusport fighter's career didn't earn the KO. In the final fight in WEC history, Pettis met lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the main event.
Looking for an exclamation point, the Wisconsin native used the cage as a springboard before delivering a flying roundhouse that will forever be known as "The Showtime Kick."
7. Leonard Garcia
Anytime someone tells you that Greg Jackson is housing a training camp for boring fighters, please be sure to say two words: Leonard Garcia.
Possessing an unflinching chin, a desire to always push forward and a willingness to absorb damage if it helps him dole some out, Leonard Garcia has a permanent reservation on Fight of the Night honors. He won the award six times, including a Fight of the Year against the Korean Zombie in 2010.
Garcia's exciting and unrelenting attack is so entertaining that it oftentimes convinces judges that he is actually winning fights. The aggression put forth has benefited Garcia in questionable decision wins against Nam Phan, Chan Sung Jung and a draw against George Roop.
6. Diego Sanchez
While Chris Leben might have been the most popular member of The Ultimate Fighter's first season, Diego Sanchez was the oddball that had everyone talking.
Earlier this year, we did a feature on the 25 greatest fights in UFC history. With a thrilling desire to outwork and outstrike his opponents, Sanchez found himself on that list three times for his battles against Karo Parisyan, Nick Diaz and Clay Guida.
Whether you call him "The Dream" or "The Nightmare," Sanchez is undeniably a fun guy to watch. Six Fight of the Night awards highlight his resume, and with a planned battle against Takanori Gomi in the works, it's likely that Sanchez will hit lucky number seven sooner rather than later.
5. Joe Lauzon
For a brief moment, Joe Lauzon had the record for most UFC Fight Night bonuses. Earning 11 awards (six for submission, four for fight and one for knockout), "J-Lau" is a rousing member of the UFC's overstocked lightweight division.
Lauzon's bout with Jamie Varner at UFC on Fox 4 is on the short list of contenders for 2012's Fight of the Year. Not only did it take home Fight of the Night honors, but the Massachusetts native collected Submission of the Night dollars as well.
His sharp grappling isn't the only thing that opponents should fear. Prior to choking out Melvin Guillard, he dropped "The Young Assassin" with a punch, and has a career knockout over striker Jens Pulver.
4. The Diaz Brothers
Was ranking the Diaz brothers together a cheap way of sneaking an 11th member onto this list? Probably, and I'm a despicable person for it, but with both men in possession of a mirroring style, it's safe to say that they can share a place in the countdown.
Fans love to see fighters leave it all in the cage, and nobody illustrates that fighting mentality better than Nick and Nate Diaz. If their opponent even considers doing anything that doesn't resemble a beat-em-up brawl, they can expect to be badmouthed and taunted for their lack of perceived manliness.
While they can pepper any opponent with strikes, don't overlook their grappling credentials. Both members of the Diaz clan are elite ground specialists who can submit the very best in their respective divisions.
Nick has earned stoppage victories in 21 of his 26 professional contests. Meanwhile, Nate has 16 professional wins with 14 by way of stoppage. The younger sibling also has 10 Fight Night bonuses that have fattened his bank account tremendously.
3. Donald Cerrone
"Cowboy" Cerrone is a soft-spoken kickboxer who is willing to scrap at the drop of a ten-gallon Stetson. That eagerness saw the Colorado native step inside the Octagon five times in 2011 and quickly separate himself as a contender at 155 pounds.
Since joining the UFC, Cerrone has picked up six wins and just as many Fight Night bonuses. His most recent awards came at UFC 150, where his knockout against Melvin Guillard earned Best KO and Fight of the Night honors.
Add those bonuses to his five Fight of the Night awards earned in the WEC, and you'll quickly understand why Cerrone earns such a high spot on our countdown.
2. Anderson Silva
Not only is Anderson Silva the most dominant fighter in the history of the UFC, but he is also has a way of exhilarating a crowd like no other. Perhaps that comes from his unparalleled striking game, which has made even the best kickboxers look absolutely foolish.
One punch can knock out any fighter at any given time. So when Anderson Silva drops his hands, stands in front of you and dares you to strike him, it's a moment that makes onlookers scream at their televisions in confusion.
The thing that makes Anderson so exciting lies in his ability to score highlight-reel knockouts without putting out much perceived effort. With KO finishes against Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin, Rich Franklin and many more, seeing "The Spider" in a main event is a safe bet that your night will end on a violent note.
1. Chan Sung Jung
What does it take to surpass Anderson Silva at something?
Introduce a visually breathtaking new submission into the UFC? Record the fastest knockout in UFC history, and do so against a title contender? Put on a Fight of the Year candidate on multiple occasions?
In case you haven't figured it out yet, The Korean Zombie has done all of those things.
"But Duane Ludwig knocked out Jonathan Goulet faster!!!"
Yeah, yeah. I know. But the UFC officially recognized Zombie's KO over Mark Hominick as the fastest in history for months before reviewing the Ludwig KO and correcting the record books. So it counts!
Chan Sung Jung has been one of the best value fighters that Zuffa ever signed to a contract. His battle with Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel earlier this year is a front-runner for Fight of the Year. It would look great on his mantle next to his 2010 Fight of the Year trophy from his bout with Leonard Garcia.
Andrew Saunders is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report MMA. Follow him on Twitter at @SaundersMMA