Jon Jones and the 10 Most Creative Fighters in MMA History

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2013

Jon Jones and the 10 Most Creative Fighters in MMA History

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    Being genuinely imaginative, artistic and creative in an MMA bout can benefit both the fans watching and the fighters enacting their aesthetically pleasing techniques.

    Fans have long adored and yearned for fighters who pull out obscure tactics like gogoplatas, spinning wheel kicks and belly-to-back suplexes.

    Let's face it, straying from the norm and utilizing a wide array of techniques always has and always will score points with judges and fans alike.

    But many years passed after the UFC's inception in 1993 before fighters began routinely displaying large repertoires of extraordinary moves in the Octagon.

    Here's a look at the 10 fighters who've tapped into their inner Salvador Dali the most in MMA history.  

10. Yves Edwards Has Been an Innovator in the Realm of MMA Since 1997

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    A veteran of 62 pro fights and 17 UFC bouts, Edwards is just as creative as he is durable.

    Since beginning his career in October 1997, Edwards has amassed 42 wins, 17 of which came by submission and 16 of which came by knockout or technical knockout.

    While Edwards' résumé speaks for itself, it's his bag of unusual tricks that sets him apart from most fighters.

    Of all the amazing feats he's accomplished, Edwards made his most significant artistic statement at UFC 49, countering a Josh Thomson spinning backfest with a fight-ending flying headkick (and punches).

    Edwards has since KO'd James Edson Berto with a flying knee, TKO'd Rafaello Oliveria with a head kick and punches and KO'd Jeremy Stephens with punches and elbows.

    Despite getting edged by budding prospect Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 156, Edwards' volatile career definitely shows no signs of slowing down.

9. Frank Shamrock Cemented an MMA Legacy by Being Creative

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    Shamrock may have garnered the top spot on this list, had it been constructed in the late 1990s. Back then, Shamrock was considered by many to be the most dynamic fighter in the sport.

    Shamrock captured the UFC middleweight title (later renamed the light heavyweight title) in 1997, when he defeated Olympic wrestler Kevin Jackson via armbar.

    In his next four fights in the UFC, all of which were title defenses, Shamrock finished with a slam knockout (Igor Zinoviev), a kneebar (Jeremy Horn), a submission from punches (John Lober) and a submission from elbows (Tito Ortiz).

    Shamrock stacked up 10 submissions and six knockouts in his 35-fight pro career, which amazingly spanned from 1994 to 2009.

8. Gegard Mousasi May Fly Under the Radar, but There's Not Much He Hasn't Done

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    Mousasi, a judo specialist with ferocious Muay Thai skills, has yet to do battle in the UFC, but the former Dream and Strikeforce champion has utilized a wide variety of techniques to finish 29 pro fights.

    From knocking out Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza with an upkick to guillotine choking Jake O'Brien, Mousasi has tamed a long list of notable fighters in his 10-year career.

    Between November 2006 and December 2009, Mousasi reeled off 15 consecutive victories, registering 12 finishes in that span. During his 15-fight winning streak, "The Dreamcatcher" piled up six TKO's, two KO's, two triangle-choke submissions, a straight-armbar submission and a submission by punches.

    At 27 years old, Mousasi, who has 18 career submissions and 11 wins by form of knockout, will enter the UFC in his prime.

7. Carlos Condit Is Also a Natural Born Improviser

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    Georges St-Pierre may have outwrestled Condit in their title fight, but "The Natural Born Killer" nearly snatched GSP's belt with an unconventional head-kick combination that took the champion off guard.

    Condit didn't just start using avant-garde techniques in his fight with St-Pierre. Truth be told, Condit punched his ticket to face GSP by perpetually adapting and thriving under duress.

    In his 11-year pro career, Condit has always taken advantage of his propensity to improvise. Opponents of Condit have never known whether a submission or a knockout was on the horizon.

    The Natural Born Killer has 28 career wins and astoundingly prevailed 13 times via submission and 13 times by form of knockout. Condit has notched KO's with kicks to the head, stomps, punches and a flying knee (with punches). He's also won by armbar (four times), rear-naked choke (three times), triangle choke (twice), triangle armbar, arm-triangle choke, guillotine choke and kimura.

    Although Condit's not an upper-echelon wrestler, his fans know they can always anticipate a vast assortment of tricks when he graces the Octagon.

6. Cung Le Does Things in the Octagon That Most Would Only Try in Training

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    Some fans don't know that Le flourished as an amateur wrestler before becoming a Strikeforce champion. That's probably because Le typically only turns to his wrestling prowess when he needs to stuff a shot to keep a fight upright.

    Le has only scrapped 11 times as a pro, but in those outings, he's flashed some of the most cunning kicks, punches, elbows and knees the business has ever seen. Le has won eight fights by form of knockout and has only been to a decision once (against Patrick Côté).

    Le regularly fires spinning back fists, flying knees and spinning wheel kicks, and he always heaves them with impressive authority.

    While Le's ingenuity is primarily tied to his striking, the 40-year-old thumper doesn't need much more to gain entrance to this list. Any fighter who can land spinning and jumping strikes at will deserves a spot in the top 10.

5. Shinya Aoki Has Produced the Blueprint for Creative Grapplers to Follow

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    Supremely limber and extremely intelligent, the catlike Aoki rarely lets go of a limb, neck or chin once he locks his hands on it.

    The Japanese judo star has suavely submitted 21 of 39 foes in his stellar pro career, which began in 2003 and climaxed when he captured the Dream lightweight title. 

    Of his many noteworthy submissions, "The Tōbikan Jūdan" pulled off MMA's first ever mounted gogoplata when he tapped Japanese Olympian Katsuhiko Nagata with the infamously funky maneuver.

    Aoki also holds significant submission wins over Eddie Alvarez (heel hook), Joachim Hansen (gogoplata), and Tatsuya Kawajiri (achilles lock), among many others.

    Not known for his punching or kicking power, Aoki still managed to enact strike-heavy game plans to pick up decision wins over grappling wizards Marcus Aurelio and Vitor Ribeiro.

    Granted, Aoki has just one pure knockout win to his credit, but what The Tōbikan Jūdan lacks in punching power, he makes up for in grappling dexterity.  

4. Bas Rutten Coined More Than Just the Liver Shot

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    Now chiefly known for his commentating and acting careers, "El Guapo" spent the better part of the 1990s kicking, kneeing, punching and elbowing his opponents' livers into an oblivion.

    But after suffering submission losses to Masakatsu Funaki and Ken Shamrock, Rutten spawned a newfound love for grappling and ultimately balanced his submission aptitude with his knockout ability.

    Constantly using his unpredictability, Rutten finished his career on a 22-fight unbeaten streak (21 wins and one draw). El Guapo's run reached its height when he edged Kevin Randleman for the UFC heavyweight title in 1999.

    Throughout his illustrious career, Rutten won 13 bouts by submission and 12 by knockout. In 33 pro fights, El Guapo only allowed four bouts to go to a judge's decision.

    Even though Rutten didn't stick around long enough for Zuffa to purchase the UFC, he still made his mark on the sport with submissions like the Bas Rutten neck crank and the toe hold, and knockouts like the palm strike and the knee to the liver.

3. Anthony Pettis Lives Up to His Nickname and Then Some

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    Few fighters would dare take on the label "Showtime," although the 26-year-old Pettis seems to live up to his flashy moniker with relative ease.

    But regardless of what great heights he reaches in the Octagon, Pettis will always be linked to the notorious "Showtime Kick," which he landed to stamp his win over Benson Henderson at WEC 53.

    While the Matrix-like kick Pettis landed on Henderson's jaw shocked the MMA landscape, it also made many pundits forget what Showtime's fully capable of.

    Both explosive and accurate, Pettis has looked nearly unstoppable since dropping a decision to Bart Palaszewski in his second bout with the WEC in 2009.

    In his last eight fights, Pettis has won two by triangle choke, two by head kick (and punches) and another by body kick. Pettis' only decisions in that span were a narrow loss to Clay Guida and wins over Jeremy Stephens and Henderson.

    Because he's such a cerebral student of his superiors, fans can assume to watch Pettis' ingenuity blossom more with every fight he takes.

2. Anderson "The Spider" Silva Has Many Ways to Trap an Opponent in His Web

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    Becoming the pound-for-pound kingpin obviously entailed thumping the middleweight division's elite, but Silva instantly solidified international stardom by landing a series of precise strikes on Vitor Belfort's jaw.

    In what was billed as Silva's stiffest test, The Spider swiftly landed a front kick on Belfort's button that dropped the former light heavyweight champ. Silva swarmed and dispatched off Belfort seconds later to retain his belt for the eighth consecutive time.

    Silva also made a huge statement regarding his valor when he tapped Chael Sonnen late in their first encounter for the middleweight strap. Injured and needing a finish to retain his belt, Silva hooked up a Hailmary triangle armbar with less than two minutes left in the fight to submit Sonnen.

    Other signature Silva wins include Tony Fryklund (KO by reverse elbow), Carlos Newton (KO by flying knee and punches), Travis Lutter (triangle choke with elbows) and Chris Leben (KO by knee), just to name a few.

    With 20 wins via knockout and six by submission, it's difficult to deem Silva inferior to any fighter in terms of creativity.

    Unfortunately for Silva fans, Jon "Bones" Jones came along and started to steal the show in 2008.

1. Jones Has Made a Living Surprising His Opponents with Tricky Techniques

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    Jones capitalized on a unique blend of freak athleticism, cleverness and top-flight coaching to make the jump from relative obscurity to superstardom.

    Eight of Bones' 17 wins have come by way of knockout and six of his victories have come via submission.

    Trips, throws, suplexes and slams have all served as staples in Jones' Greco-Roman wrestling arsenal. In the striking department, spinning back elbows, superman punches, oblique kicks and flying knees are all favorites of the rangy 25-year-old.

    Jones has utilized a plethora of inventive maneuvers in his brief career to stun renowned fighters like Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans.

    A self-described martial artist, Jones possesses all the necessary ingredients to continually pull off the unexpected.

Honorable Mentions

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    Compiling a list of just 10 fighters in the storied history of the sport of MMA was tricky, to say the least.

    Many fighters that unquestionably deserve recognition for their inclinations to be creative were regretfully excluded.

    Here's a list of honorable mentions who also deserve some artistic praise: Jose Aldo, Lyoto Machida, Jeremy Horn, Georges St-Pierre, Frank Mir, Marius Zaromskis, Genki Sudo, Nick Diaz, Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Benson Henderson, Karo Parisyan, Nate Diaz, Mauricio Rua, Chan Sung Jung and Masakazu Imanari.