The 10 Greatest Offensive Minds in MMA History

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

The 10 Greatest Offensive Minds in MMA History

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    In MMA's fleeting history, plenty of fighters have flourished from formulating and executing offensive-minded game plans.

    Fighters with offense on their brains rarely need a round or two to warm up and they never need to be reminded by a referee to step up the action.

    From the instant the bell sounds, these shark-like figures emerge from their corners with intentions of quickly getting a taste for blood, a pursuit they almost always accomplish.

    Here are the 10 greatest offensive minds in MMA history.

Honorable Mentions

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    • Chan-Sung Jung ("The Korean Zombie")
    • Vitor Belfort
    • Frank Shamrock
    • Frank Mir
    • Mauricio Rua
    • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
    • Shinya Aoki
    • Royce Gracie
    • Mark Coleman

10. B.J. Penn

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    Fans and pundits tend to only remember the downward spiral that's ensued over the past three years of the stellar career of B.J. Penn.

    Truth be told, though, before dropping back-to-back decisions to Frankie Edgar, "The Prodigy" was an offensive wrecking ball who regularly imposed his will on top-flight competition for nearly a decade.

    The former two-division UFC champ (lightweight and welterweight) has scored 16 wins in his volatile career, seven by knockout and six via submission.

    Now in the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old Penn struggled to enact successful game plans against the likes of Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald. But in his heyday, few, if any, could neutralize Penn's offensive potency.

9. Lyoto Machida

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    Extraordinarily cerebral and studious, former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida practices and executes some of the most difficult and intricate offensive techniques in the game.

    From delivering a knockout blow on Randy Couture with a jumping crane kick to flattening former two-time Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson with a slick trip in the clinch, there's not much "The Dragon" won't try once the Octagon door locks.

    But Machida's unique gift for applying his karate expertise to MMA is what separates him from other stellar offensive thinkers.

    The Dragon baffles his foes with unorthodox footwork, a gift that helps him close the distance masterfully. Machida also knows to take risks with grinders like Rashad Evans and to fight conservatively against venomous fighters like Henderson.

8. Jose Aldo

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    When Jose Aldo joined the WEC in 2008, the then-21-year-old Brazilian was just beginning to hit his stride as an offensive machine.

    Aldo, who's made a living on being a risk taker, has lost just once in 23 bouts, scoring an impressive 13 KOs along the way.

    Not just a knockout artist, however, Aldo also had to use his underrated intelligence to trump Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick in decision wins in UFC title fights.

    With help from Nova Uniao head trainer Andre Pederneiras and several other renowned coaches, Aldo has developed a style that no fighter under the Zuffa LLC umbrella has been able to crack.

7. Kazushi Sakuraba

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    In the early days of Japan's Pride Fighting Championships, opponents could essentially expect Kazushi Sakuraba to almost ignore the element of striking and relentlessly fish for submissions.

    It became evident that Sakuraba's offensive style, which is heavily based on catch wrestling, fit MMA perfectly when he pulled off the unthinkable and submitted Royler Gracie with a kimura at Pride 8.

    Using his grappling prowess first and his striking abilities as a secondary source of offense, Sakuraba has submitted 19 opponents, including an astounding four members of the Gracie family.

    With just four knockout wins to his name, Sakuraba certainly isn't the most versatile offensive fighter in MMA history. But in terms of pure ingenuity in the realm of planning and executing submissions in the sport, "The Gracie Hunter" definitely stands alone.

6. Bas Rutten

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    A bona fide pioneer, Bas Rutten perpetually utilized his unpredictability and finished his illustrious career on a 22-fight unbeaten streak (21 wins and one draw), which spanned from April 1995 to July 2006.

    Rutten's run reached its peak when he edged Kevin Randleman for the UFC heavyweight title in 1999.

    El Guapo surrendered six takedowns and four guard passes to Randleman but outstruck the former UFC heavyweight champ 181-56 to secure a split-decision win.

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

    Despite not sticking around long enough for Zuffa LLC to purchase the UFC, Rutten 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.

5. Wanderlei Silva

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    Forty-nine brutal pro fights have morphed Wanderlei Silva into a watered-down version of his former self.

    Silva devised superbly violent game plans in Pride to knee, elbow, kick and punch his opponents into an oblivion. The approach worked brilliantly, and Silva went unbeaten in his first 20 bouts in Pride, finishing several opponents with vicious soccer kicks along the way.

    The Silva who once reigned supreme over the Pride ring has only emerged on a few occasions in the UFC, most recently in his bout with Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV 8.

    Silva and Stann duked it out for the better part of two rounds before "The Axe Murderer" landed a ferocious combination and put "The All-American" to sleep.

4. Georges St-Pierre

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    Georges St-Pierre seems to grow more and more conservative with each challenger he dispatches of.

    Although labeled vanilla by many fans and pundits, St-Pierre's cerebral and conventional approach hasn't failed the Canadian since he linked up with diabolical Tristar Gym head trainer Firas Zahabi in 2007.

    St-Pierre and Zahabi consistently formulate intricate schemes that revolve heavily around wrestling and ground control.

    "GSP" has also mastered the art of dictating the flow of standup exchanges, using his jab and superman punch to consistently keep opponents off balance and at bay.

    Although fans hope to see the St-Pierre that armbarred Matt Hughes at UFC 79 in the future, chances are, GSP will continue to play it safe.

3. Jon Jones

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    A unique mixture of freak athleticism, cleverness and top-flight coaching at Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., has helped Jon Jones make the jump from relative anonymity to superstardom.

    Throws, suplexes, trips 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.

    But Jones' favorite modus operandi has undoubtedly become the grounding and mauling of opponents, primarily using his freakishly rangy elbows to do the damage. No fighter has even flirted with neutralizing Jones once he gets the top position.

    At just 25, Jones, who constantly manages to employ his brand of fight, could easily pluck the top spot in a countdown of this nature in a few years.

2. Fedor Emelianenko

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    Between May 2000 and June 2010, Fedor Emelianenko lost just one of 34 fights, dropping only a controversial TKO loss via cut to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in the Rings promotion.

    During that run, Emelianenko used a superb killer instinct and a well-balanced bag of offensive tricks to handily beat the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt and Kevin Randleman, among many others.

    Like Chuck Liddell did in the UFC, "The Last Emperor" used a sturdy chin to enact highly offensive game plans on top-flight opponents.

    But when the dust settled—like Liddell—Emelianenko, who lost three of his last six fights, simply refused to tailor his wild offensives to better fit his weakening jawline.

1. Anderson Silva

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    Obviously blessed with the ability to concoct cleverly violent assaults, Anderson Silva didn't realize his true potential as an offensive wizard until he joined the UFC in 2006 at the age of 31.

    Silva, the UFC's top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, always maintains a volatile offensive state of mind, although he sometimes ignores the element of defense.

    With help from his teammates and coaches at Black House MMA and Team Nogueira, "The Spider" regularly enacts slick game plans that revolve around accurate striking, smooth foot movement and the utilization of his 77.6-inch reach.

    Since joining the UFC, Silva has defended his middleweight strap a UFC record 10 times and has won a company-best 16 straight fights.