UFC 165 Primer: Jon Jones and the 3 Best Kickers in MMA Right Now
With Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic no longer at the top of the food chain in the realm of kicking in MMA, a less traditional breed of kickers has stepped to the forefront of this explosive offensive department.
Striking legends like Cro Cop and Pedro Rizzo employed a more conventional brand of Muay Thai, with round kicks to the legs, body and head and the occasional front kick making up their simple but effective arsenals.
Today, the sport's top-tier kickers use both classic techniques and more modern and low-percentage kicks.
The notion of scoring a knockout from a spinning back kick, jumping crane kick or spinning wheel kick seems more feasible because of the presence of these men.
Here are the sport's three best kickers.
3. Jon Jones
Even though Jon Jones hasn't notched a kick knockout yet, the 26-year-old New York native has inflicted plenty of damage with his unorthodox kicks.
The UFC light heavyweight champ and pound-for-pound king heaves traditional round kicks to the legs, body and head. "Bones" is also known for throwing an array of front kicks, just like Anderson Silva, and uncorking the occasional spinning back kick.
Jones, however, specializes in a side push kick, or an oblique kick, that he frequently jams into opponents' knees to keep them off balance.
He's yet to land a flush kick and drop an opponent, but it's only a matter of time before he connects on a sweet spot with one of his flashy leg strikes. At that point, he'll finally get the respect he deserves as an elite kicker.
2. Anthony Pettis
Even without arguably the most famous kick in MMA history, "The Showtime Kick," UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis deserves a slot on this short list of kicking royalty.
He made the MMA world aware of his extraordinary kicking ability when he catapulted himself off the cage and kicked Benson Henderson in the face to pull off The Showtime Kick late at WEC 53.
The stunning maneuver gave Pettis instant fame but ultimately became his identity until the Milwaukee native fought Joe Lauzon at UFC 144. At Japan's Saitama Super Arena, Pettis uncorked a thunderous head kick that instantly rendered the ever-durable Lauzon unconscious.
In his next bout, he brutalized Donald Cerrone with kicks to the body at UFC on Fox 6. After that finish, he all but completed his transformation from flashy taekwondo practitioner to venomous MMA knockout artist.
Before submitting Henderson at UFC 164 in his latest outing, Pettis softened the former champ up by delivering several punishing kicks to the former champ's body.
With Duke Roufus steering his ship and the freakish athletic ability needed to become top dog, Pettis will continue to refine his striking game and mature as a kicker.
1. Anderson Silva
Accuracy, speed and power are just a few descriptors that fans and experts refer to when analyzing the kicks of former UFC middleweight champ and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.
He first displayed his dexterity with his feet and legs when he hammered Chris Leben with kicks to the body and head in his promotional debut at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 5.
Silva did much of the same to former middleweight linchpin Rich Franklin in a pair of title fights at UFC 64 and UFC 77. Although "The Spider" polished Leben and Franklin off with his patented knee strikes, he set the knockouts up with unforgiving round kicks to the head, body and legs.
His most brilliant display of kicking dominance occurred at UFC 126 in a contentious bout with countryman and former teammate Vitor Belfort.
Approximately 3:20 into the bout, Silva split Belfort's hands and delivered a left front kick to the button that sent the former light heavyweight champ crashing to the canvas. A dazed Belfort absorbed several punishing punches from a rabid but controlled Silva before referee Mario Yamasaki had seen enough.
While Silva doesn't throw bone-crushing kicks like Pettis, The Spider distinguishes himself as the premier kicker in the sport by remaining dominant in every other department. At 38 years of age, he still kicks like he did when he entered the UFC in 2006.