Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, the greatest kicker that the sport of MMA has ever known, will be co-headlining UFC 103 in Dallas this Saturday.
While the Croatian chose to focus on his hand strikes in his last outing, he will have to use all the tools in his arsenal to defeat one of the most dangerous heavyweight strikers around.
In honor of Mirko's legendary kicks and all that they have done for our sport and highlight reels all over the world, I bring you today a list celebrating the top ten kickers currently in the UFC.
Enjoy, and may Mirko and his fellow kickers continue to shock, scare, and inspire us for years to come.
*photo from UFC.com
No. 10: Antoni Hardonk- Heavyweight
This Dutch heavyweight is renowned for his devastating leg kicks. While Antoni's ground game leaves a bit to be desired, he is a UFC veteran and will be a stern test to anyone who steps in the cage against him.
He makes up for his lack of diversity with his power and technique. Just watch his fights against Sherman Pendergarst and Colin Robinson where his ability to control fights with his kicks becomes evident.
In his next bout, at UFC 104, Hardonk will find himself in a strange situation as he actually faces a superior kicker than himself in the man ranked directly ahead of him on this list...
No. 9: Patrick Barry- Heavyweight
With the ability to knock any fighter out with his fast powerful kicks, Barry brings an outstanding kickboxing reputation into the Mixed Martial Arts world. He has won a number of his kickboxing matches by all manner of kicks, plus he has won three of his four MMA victories by the use of low kicks. His upcoming bout with Hardonk promises to be a dream fight for leg-kicking fans .
Much like Hardonk, Barry's ground game needs some work, but if he can prove himself worthy to stay among the UFC's heavyweight ranks, expect Barry to shoot much further up the list of top UFC kickers.
No. 8: Alan Belcher- Middleweight
Alan "The Talent" Belcher is a promising, well-rounded, upcoming young fighter who loves to stand and trade strikes. Disciplined in all areas of the fight game, Alan is most captivated by the muay thai kickboxing discipline and he frequently utilizes effective kicks in his fights.
The most prominent display of Belcher's kicking prowess is his frightful head kick knock-out of veteran Jorge Santiago back at UFC Fight Night Seven. Extremely eager to get back on track and move back up the rankings, Alan will have to bring out his best when he faces another dangerous and well-rounded striker in Wilson Gouveia at UFC 107.
No. 7: Keith Jardine- Light Heavyweight
Often times praised for being an unorthodox striker, Keith's specialty, and his most revered weapon, is his ability to execute powerful low kicks. Rarely known to attempt a high kick, Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine is excellent at catching his opponents with well-timed leg kicks and body kicks.
It was precisely a combination of those kicks that helped him dismantle the legendary Chuck Liddell.
Having earned a reputation for alternating between impressive and lackluster performances, Keith will need to keep his head on straight and achieve some consistency if he hopes to stay relevant in the UFC's ultra talented Light Heavyweight division.
No. 6: Rich Franklin- Light Heavyweight
Rich Franklin, a freestyle kickboxer and MMA star, is an expert at game planning and using selective striking to pick apart lesser disciplined fighters.
His powerful left leg has hurt opponents on multiple occasions, with kicks to the head, body, and legs. In recent memory, Rich took out the durable Matt Hamill with a beautiful liver kick back at UFC 88.
In order to be competitive against the super talented and resurging Vitor Belfort, Rich will no doubt have to use his kicks to maintain distance and control pace in the headlining bout this Saturday.
No. 5: Thiago Alves- Welterweight
The only kicker below the Middleweight division to make it to the top 10, Thiago Alves easily has the most devastating low kicks in the Welterweight division.
While Thiago has yet to finish a fight in the UFC by use of his kicks (his knees are a different story), he will continue to use his effective kicks and I reckon it's only a matter of time before a foe crumples under the might of his shin (or foot).
If Thiago can make use of his excellent takedown defense against Paulo Thiago at UFC 107, expect him to brutalize his opponent and make Paulo look like a fish out of water in the stand up game.
No. 4: Gabriel Gonzaga- Heavyweight
Gonzaga is the owner of the greatest head kick knock out in UFC history. And while many thought that kick was simply a fluke, Gonzaga would go on to show that he really does have some of the most effective and dangerous kicks around.
In the two fights following the "Cro Cop" victory, he fractured Randy Couture's arm with a kick and put a beating on Fabricio Werdum's legs, although both would prove to losing efforts.
He also set up his most recent TKO victory with a kick to the head against Chris Tuchscherer, although we will all try to forget the gruesome inadvertent groin shot against Chris earlier in the fight which will probably go down as the worst groin kick of the year.
While he doesn't have the kickboxing pedigree or background as some of his fellow heavyweights, let's hope Gonzaga continues to show off some of the most devastating kicking ability around.
No. 3: Anderson Silva- Middleweight
The most dangerous all-around striker in the sport today, Anderson "The Spider" Silva is the most inventive, creative, and diverse kicker on the list. Aside from his masterful command of the basics, he has shown to pull out a spinning back-kick against Franklin, effective front kick/teep-kicks against Henderson, and some cringe worthy knee jams against Leites.
Anderson is positively supreme at integrating any kind of kick into his lethal combinations.
While he has shown a propensity for boxing in some recent showings, the top-rated fighter in the UFC can pick and choose his attacks and is more than happy to ram his shin across his opponents' faces.
No. 2: Brandon Vera- Light Heavyweight
Similar to Mirko "Cro Cop", Brandon Vera chose to focus more on his hands in his last fight, but it is his legs that his opponents fear most. A versatile and powerful kicker, Vera has been heralded by Keith Jardine as "one of the best kickboxers, pound for pound, in the sport."
After their fight, Keith also said in regard to Vera's kickboxing abilities: "[They're] even better than Chuck Liddell."
Vera has ended fights in the UFC with both high kicks (Eilers) and low kicks (Patt). Expect Brandon to be in full form and hold nothing back when he takes on the legendary Randy Couture in the headlining bout at UFC 105.
NUMBER 1: Mirko Filipovic- Heavyweight
In the words of the legend himself: "Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery". Mirko has earned this spot by being far and away the most effective and devastating kicker in the history of MMA.
Using a combination of incredible flexibility, speed, power, and technique, Mirko has brought down some of the baddest men on the planet with his kicks.
Even when his opponents knew exactly what he wants to do, they would find it nearly impossible to steer clear of perhaps the single greatest weapon an MMA fighter has ever wielded.
Being a former professional kickboxer, elite anti-terrorist officer, and even Croatian Parliament member, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic brings confidence and stone-cold execution into the octagon.
While Mirko has lost his place as one of the top-ten ranked heavyweights in the world, his legs still command the utmost respect and contain the power to shoot him right back up the rankings should they be able to put away the formidable Junior Dos Santos this weekend.
Carlos Condit, Forrest Griffin, Cheick Kongo, Lyoto Machida, and Mauricio Rua.