Mitch Ciccarelli is a staff writer for MMAMadness.com. This article was originally posted there.
One of the most devastating techniques in mixed martial arts is the leg kick. Fighters utilize this technique as a way to break their opponents will and, if properly executed, a leg kick can also finish a fight.
Leg kicks might not look like much, but they are one of the most painful strikes a fighter can have in his arsenal.
One of the first guys to utilize leg kicks in MMA was the legendary Marco Ruas. Ruas was competing in MMA long before the sport was even called MMA, and he would brutally batter his opponents with a series of powerful kicks to the leg.
While Ruas did not invent the technique himself, he was one of the best at utilizing it inside the cage.
If Ruas had the best leg kicks back in his prime, then who has the best leg kicks in today’s world of MMA?
Today I am going to rank the top-10 fighters who have the deadliest leg kicks in the sport today.
Let the countdown begin!
No. 10 - Hayato Sakurai
Japanese MMA superstar Hayato "Mach" Sakurai is known for his striking ability but more importantly he is known for his lethal leg kicks.
"Mach" uses his leg kicks to slow his opponents down before finishing them off with power punches. An example of this is his 2006 matchup against eventual Ultimate Fighter winner Mac Danzig. Sakurai pounded Danzig with several leg kicks in the second round before coming over with an overhand right to knock Danzig out cold on the canvas.
Sakurai's leg kicks cause serious damage. Even in defeat, Sakurai will batter his opponents with leg kicks to the point where they can barely stand. His fight with Takanori Gomi in 2005 is proof of that. Sakurai had Gomi hurt early on with a series of inside leg kicks before Gomi came back and knocked him out later in the first round.
No. 9 - Forrest Griffin
Forrest Griffin is one of the largest fighters in the Light Heavyweight division and although he doesn't have much knockout power in his hands, he makes up for it with massive leg kicks.
Griffin uses his leg kicks to pick apart his opponents and he is very successful at doing it.
In his title fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Griffin's leg kick hurt Jackson so badly that the champ was completely immobilized. This resulted in Griffin winning the second round 10-8, which is something that is rarely seen that early in any fight, let alone a championship fight.
Griffin went on to win that fight and capture the Light Heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision victory over Jackson.
Even in his loss to Rashad Evans, Griffin landed a series of successful leg kicks. Evans, who is known for his quick and powerful boxing skills, had considerable difficulty finding his rhythm against Griffin, before he eventually was able to take the fight to the ground and win it.
No. 8 - Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Shogun is an expert in the art of Muay Thai, and his leg kicks are devastating. He throws leg kicks on a regular basis during his fights, using them to keep his opponents at bay and pick them apart from the outside.
Against Chuck Liddell at UFC 97, Shogun bothered Liddell early on with front leg kicks before dropping "The Iceman" with a left hook and finishing him off with hammer fists to earn the TKO victory.
What makes Shogun's leg kicks so effective is that he throws them after throwing punching combinations. This makes it harder for his opponent to check the kick because they are not able to predict when he is going to throw it.
No. 7 - Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Mirko Cro Cop is a legendary striker who over the years has developed the reputation for having some of the greatest kicks in all of MMA.
The Croatian striker has devastating head kicks, brutal body kicks and ferocious leg kicks. Not only does he have power behind his kicks, but he is incredibly quick and his technique is flawless.
In his previous fights with Hidehiko Yoshida and Hong Man Choi, Cro Cop demonstrated his leg kicking prowess by finishing them both off in the first round with leg kicks.
Cro Cop's kicking technique is near perfect, and he also has very powerful legs, which makes his kicks even more devastating than normal.
No. 6 - Pedro Rizzo
Nicknamed "The Rock," Pedro Rizzo takes after his instructor, Marco Ruas. Rizzo adapted Ruas powerful leg kicks and has used the technique to break down several Heavyweights in his MMA career.
In 1998, Rizzo took on heavy-handed brawler David "Tank" Abbott. As soon as the bell rang, Abbott bull-rushed Rizzo, looking to knock him out early. Rizzo, playing the role of a bull fighter, evaded Abbott and utilized good footwork. Every time Abbott would come forward Rizzo would circle to the outside and land a powerful leg kick.
These leg kicks hurt Abbott to the point where he was barely able to move. After breaking Abbott down Rizzo finished him off with a knockout late in the first round.
Rizzo might not be considered a Top-10 Heavyweight at this point in his career, but his leg kicks have definitely earned him a spot on this list. Crippling power is a good way to describe "The Rock" when it comes to this particular technique.
No. 5 - Brandon Vera
Vera is one of the tallest fighters in the Light Heavyweight division and he possesses some severely dangerous Muay Thai skills.
He primarily fights as a southpaw but will switch his stance up often in his fights to confuse his opponents. He is very successful with his leg kicks and he knows exactly when and when not to throw them.
In his most recent fight against Michael Patt at UFC 96, Vera put on display his excellent striking and finished Patt in the second round with a series of leg kicks. You could literally feel Patt's pain every time Vera landed one of those kicks.
It was almost as if you are watching a lumberjack chop down a tree when watching Vera land his extremely well-timed leg kicks on his opponents.
No. 4 - Keith Jardine
"The Dean of Mean" is the perfect nickname for Keith Jardine. Not only does he look mean and nasty, but his kicks definitely live up to the nickname.
Jardine has some of the nastiest leg kicks in MMA. His kicks are so brutal that they leave painful welts on his opponent's legs.
An excellent example of this would be in his fight with former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Liddell looked like a mutant after that fight from all the welts and bruises he had all over his body and legs from Jardine's massive kicks.
What separates Jardine's leg kicks from most fighters is the way that he throws them in correspondence with his other strikes. Unlike most fighters, Jardine uses his leg kicks to either start or end a combination—much like Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Jardine also throws kicks at very strange angles, which makes his leg kicks very unpredictable as it's difficult to tell when "The Dean of Mean" will throw them.
No. 3 - Pat Barry
Pat Barry is a young prospect in the UFC's Heavyweight division. Although he's still relatively new to MMA, he is making quite an impact with his dangerous striking ability.
Before turning to MMA, Barry had a successful career as a K-1 kickboxer, assembling an impressive kickboxing record of 18-6.
When Barry made the transition to MMA in 2008, he crushed every opponent that was placed in front of him with his superb striking skills. The most dangerous weapon in his arsenal is his leg kicks. Not only are they dangerous, but they are extremely well-timed and executed to perfection.
Barry was eventually signed to a UFC contract and made his debut with the organization in December of 2008. His thunderous leg kicks were put on display to millions of viewers at home when he chopped down Dan Evenson with a series of well-timed kicks to the leg to secure the first round TKO.
Barry has finished three of his five professional MMA fights with leg kicks and one can only assume that the number will continue to rise as Barry gains more fights.
No. 2 - Thiago Alves
Thiago "The Pitbull" Alves is one of the most dangerous strikers in the Welterweight division. His Muay Thai is absolutely vicious and when it comes to leg kicks, he is one of the best in the world.
For a Welterweight, Alves has some extremely heavy leg kicks. He also has very thick legs, making his kicks even more powerful than they normally would be.
One of the best things about leg kicks is that they make it much more difficult for wrestlers to shoot. A wrestler drives off of his front leg when he drops for a double leg, and it is extremely painful to do so if you have been kicked there for a couple rounds.
That is why Alves was so effective in his fight against the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler Josh Koscheck at UFC 90. Alves pounded away at Koscheck's legs, and Koscheck could not take him down.
It will be interesting to see if Alves can implement a similar strategy in his title fight against UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. St. Pierre is known for his freakishly strong wrestling ability, but if Alves is able to weaken the champ with his monstrous leg kicks, we may see the crowning of a new king in the Welterweight division.
No. 1 - Antoni Hardonk
Antoni Hardonk is world-renowned for his legendary leg kicks. He comes from a very strong kickboxing background and has chopped down countless fighters with leg kicks in his MMA career.
Hardonk made his UFC debut at UFC 65 and completely destroyed his opponent Sherman Pendergarst with leg kicks for a first round knockout.
We've seen fighters get TKO's from leg kicks, but it is very rare to see a fighter hurt their opponent with leg kicks in such a fashion that the referee actually considers it a clear cut knockout.
At UFC 80, Hardonk took on Colin Robinson and within seconds dropped him and finished him with powerful leg kicks.
His kicking power is outstanding and can be compared to the power of a horse. Not only is he powerful but his technique and his timing are excellent as well.
We have yet to see a fighter match Hardonk's leg kicking prowess. He is by far the deadliest leg kicker in MMA today.
Honorable mentions: Anderson Silva, Cung Le, Ricardo Arona, Kazushi Sakuraba, Georges St. Pierre and Maurice Smith.
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