8 Fighters with the Most Fan-Friendly Styles
Whether you’re of the brand who only tunes in when Anderson Silva steps into the cage or the type that watches every single MMA event regardless of the shape of the cage, one thing is almost certain: most fight fans prefer their cage wars to be the standup kind.
Most fans don’t want to see the Lyoto Machida who picked his spots during the first three rounds in his title fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 175; they want to see the guy who threw caution to the wind in Rounds 4 and 5. They want the Machida who knew the only manner in which he could possibly walk out of the Octagon with Weidman’s gold would not come by way of an official’s objectivity, but by the most subjective method any ultimate fighter knows: the finish.
Really, there’s a reason most casual fans would rather watch any of the following fighters than sit through Demetrious Johnson’s next bout. For as undeniably skilled as Johnson is in every facet of the MMA game, he simply doesn’t have what it takes to captivate fans on a consistent basis.
Scroll on to see what fighters prefer to bite down on their mouthpiece and move forward than sit back and pick opponents apart.
Chan Sung Jung
Professional Record: 13-4 (3 TKO, 8 Submission)
Last Fight: TKO loss to Jose Aldo at UFC 163
It’s been a little under a year since the last time we were graced with watching The Korean Zombie from entering the Octagon.
He may not have an unblemished record full of spectacular knockout finishes, but anybody doubting this guy would have a difficult time stating their case—Chan Sung Jung steps into the cage to entertain.
Do yourself a favor and find a way to watch his first bout with Leonard Garcia from WEC 48. Just make sure nobody is sleeping within 100 feet from you—they’ll be pretty upset when they hear you cheering from how excited you get from watching these dudes scrap.
Professional Record: 9-8 (6 TKO)
Last Fight: No Contest against Antonio Silva at UFC Fight Night 33
Mark Hunt is probably the best fighter in the world with a 9-8 record.
Think about it; four of his eight losses came at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett in 2006, Alistair Overeem in 2008 and Junior dos Santos in 2013—anybody would have had a tough time defeating those guys during their prime.
After a six-fight losing streak that lasted four long years, Hunt got back to his winning ways, knocking out Chris Tuchscherer, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve before locking horns with dos Santos at UFC 160. Although dos Santos managed to dominate most of the bout, Hunt never strayed too far from his original game plan: knock dos Santos senseless.
After being the recipient of a spinning heel kick to the head, Hunt went on to challenge Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in what is widely considered one of the best heavyweight bouts in UFC history.
Professional Record: 20-9 (13 TKO, 5 Submission)
Last Fight: KO victory against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC Fight Night 39
Most of us were worried about Big Nog when he stepped into the cage with Roy Nelson. We had good reason: at 38 years old, Nogueira simply didn’t have the same skill set, let alone the same chin, that he used to.
It was only a matter of minutes and several crushing blows before we realized Nelson’s fan-friendly knockout style would supplant any plans Nogueira had in moving up the heavyweight ladder.
Sure, it may not always pan out for Big Country—like his unanimous decision losses to faster, more athletic fighters like Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier—but at least he’s fully aware any sort of success he may have is ultimately contingent on whether the overhand right lands on his opponent.
Junior Dos Santos
Professional Record: 16-3 (12 TKO, 2 Submission)
Last Fight: KO loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 166
It’s safe to say Junior dos Santos has never walked into the cage to just win—he wants to knock his opponent out. Luckily for us, his above-average MMA boxing skills accompanied by undeniable power in both of his hands make it easy for him to achieve his goals.
Since joining the UFC, dos Santos has only let the fight go to the judges three times: twice in victory against Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson—two heavyweight fighters who have only been knocked out a combined one time in 43 bouts—and once in his first loss to Cain Velasquez.
Thanks to his second and most recent loss to Velasquez, it might be a while before we see Cigano challenge for the heavyweight crown. Fans shouldn’t worry, though—they should rejoice at seeing the Brazilian heavyweight enter the cage, title implications or not.
Professional Record: 22-3 (11 TKO, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166
At 32 years old, Gilbert Melendez certainly hasn’t established himself as a finisher at 155 pounds. But, much to the pleasure of the casual MMA fan, Melendez has established himself as something more valuable: a scrapper.
El Niño’s only managed to make his way into the Octagon twice. His first appearance came against Benson Henderson in a closely contested title tilt. Even after turning it into the type of scrap Melendez is comfortable participating in, the judges saw enough to reward the incumbent champion with the nod.
Almost six months later, Melendez stepped into the cage with Diego Sanchez in what is arguably the best fight to ever take place inside of the Octagon.
Professional Record: 17-2 (7 TKO, 7 Submission)
Last Fight: Submission victory against Benson Henderson at UFC 164
Anthony Pettis is the only UFC champion to make it onto this list. Although he’s got the skills necessary to become a champion, Pettis isn’t afraid to compromise his position and utilize them enough to capture a spectacular finish.
Whether it’s all the off-the-cage attacks or the cartwheel kicks he attempts to land during each of his bouts, one thing is certain: you don’t want to miss this guy when he steps in to the cage.
Be thankful, MMA fans—Pettis and Melendez are set to duke it out soon enough. Fingers crossed it’s just as good as we think it’s going to be.
Professional Record: 24-10 (19 TKO, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory against Matt Brown at UFC on Fox 12
Even Rory MacDonald couldn’t stop Robbie Lawler from making their UFC 167 bout any less exciting than Lawler had intended.
Lawler has long since established himself as one of the premier brawlers in MMA. It wasn’t until he returned to the UFC as a welterweight after a nine-year absence that Lawler managed to showcase his ability to complement his brawling skills with success inside the cage.
He knocked out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker before a split decision victory secured his shot at the vacant welterweight title against Johny Hendricks. A back-and-forth battle at UFC 171 further cemented Lawler’s status as the premier contender in the UFC’s 170-pound division.
Professional Record: 33-6 (20 TKO, 6 Submission)
Last Fight: TKO loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 168
There’s a reason so many people still consider Anderson Silva as the greatest to ever be, despite back-to-back TKO losses to UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Sixteen straight times Silva stepped into the Octagon and showed us why. Sixteen straight times Silva made some of the world’s most dangerous fighters look like they’d never thrown a punch. Sixteen straight times Silva used his head movement and elite striking to caution the best strikers from unloading.
He managed to captivate the entire MMA world by taking a sport built for savages and creating a beautiful representation of his hard work and dedication. It wasn’t just fighting, it was an art—and nobody did it better than Silva.
Comment below on who else you think should have made this list.
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.