The Most Aggressive Fighters Inside the Octagon Right Now
Being labeled an aggressive UFC fighter is like being the tallest guy on the basketball team or the greediest banker on Wall Street.
So it goes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Not every fighter is a house of fire, but there's an abiding sense of combat in every fighter. I mean, this is fighting, after all—bloody, bloody fighting.
For a moment, let us lay down the burdens of things like technical prowess, individual success or concern for the longevity of your career or overall well-being. Let's make Just Bleed Guy happy and focus solely on the aggression factor to rank the five active UFC fighters (plus some honorable mentions) who bring the most of it to every engagement.
Individual success is indeed a factor, but the visual evidence of aggression is the top consideration. Official UFC stats on strikes landed per minute and/or submission attempts per 15 minutes are also part of the equation, but again they don't provide the full picture.
Preference is also conferred on more recent performances, as well as fighters who bring aggression for the duration of their fights, as opposed to shorter bursts. Sorry, Robbie Lawler.
Listed in no particular order:
- Chan Sung Jung
- Robbie Lawler
- Cub Swanson
- Jimi Manuwa
- Doo Ho Choi
- Joanne Calderwood
- Anthony Johnson
- Abel Trujillo
- Diego Sanchez
- Leslie Smith
- Francisco Rivera
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
- Santiago Ponzinibbio
- Jessica Andrade
5. Tony Ferguson
Aggression isn't always inborn, at least not entirely. And it's not always employed arbitrarily or thoughtlessly.
Case in point: Tony Ferguson.
Aggression is a supremely dangerous weapon in Ferguson's hands, which have wrought nine consecutive fights' worth of destruction—including six post-fight bonuses—on the UFC lightweight division.
Ferguson is just hyper-aggressive in every phase, moving and switching stances and swinging for blood. His striking defense pays the price (a fairly common theme among these types of fighters), but when you're putting together seven-strike combinations and dropping all comers like bags of Costco condiments, it's a sacrifice you're willing to make.
He doesn't stalk you down so much as fly after you like the Flash. Before you know it, you're back against the fence with your arms up over your face. He is willing to be methodical in his wrestling or hang back at the perimeter, but it's just the eye of the storm.
Ferguson is No. 5 on this list with a bullet, and if things keep going this way for him he could be here for a while—especially if the universe can align to get him another fight one of these days.
4. Amanda Nunes
Everything Amanda Nunes throws slams home with brutal force.
Yes, the champ flags down the stretch—wouldn't you after such frenetic starts?—but she guts it out. It's all worth it in the end to watch her pathologically aggressive beginnings.
Her jab sets the tone, but she has a full array of punches and kicks, not to mention the crisp footwork and poise to position herself for success even in the middle of a firestorm.
The aggression carries through all phases, too—from the feet to the clinch to the ground.
Here's hoping Nunes gets a strong promotional push for her next defense of the women's bantamweight title. They could use her power for their own star power.
3. John Lineker
It won't shock most fans to learn that John Lineker leads all UFC flyweights with an average of 5.43 strikes landed per minute. His nickname is Hands of Stone, but you could just as easily call him Hands of Mercury.
He's still looking to fully establish himself at bantamweight, where he had to move because of his well-documented issues cutting to flyweight, but that's neither here nor there for the purposes of this list.
Lineker's approach to combat is simple, something that's easier to afford when you can knock the engine block out of a 1965 Chevy: charge in early and often, lay hands on you, try to knock you out. He might have the best uppercut in the game. His power and granite chin cover a multitude of sins and allow him to be maximally aggressive at all times, even when he's off balance or backpedaling.
His style sometimes deteriorates into chaos, but never into passivity. He'll be a fan favorite for as long as that holds true.
2. Vitor Belfort
The results haven't been there of late for Vitor Belfort; five contests since 2015, four knockout losses, including in his last three.
The Phenom is 39 years old and no spring chicken anymore. As his capacities have dampened over the years, though, his commitment to unbridled aggression has not.
The last time Belfort went to a decision was 2007. That's unbelievable. In his last eight contests, he has left the first round a grand total of two times.
The hands are still fast and strong enough to please the crowd, if not get wins. Belfort has already indicated his next fight may be his last, per MMA Junkie. Better enjoy him while he's still around.
1. Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino
Give it up for the queen.
Cyborg Justino isn't aggressive in the sort of go-for-broke fashion of many of these other fighters. She also doesn't need to be. All she needs to do is stalk you down and shell your soul into oblivion like the modern-day embodiment of Pride and Vale Tudo.
She was once a berserker but has polished that aggression with measured skill, including "aggressive counterpunching," described here by Bleacher Report's Patrick Wyman in a piece for the Washington Post:
"Against Leslie Smith, for example, Cyborg moved forward from the opening bell, but not as a berserker. Instead, she flicked a crisp jab as she worked her way into the pocket and slipped her head off the center line. That forced Smith to respond, and when she did, Cyborg unloaded devastating combinations."
Still, the aggression that marked her early career is still very much in evidence, even if it's just a shade more controlled. She will still stalk you and break you down like a wrecking ball breaks down a 7-11.
If she's not the ruler among active UFC fighters, I don't want to be the one to tell her. You tell her.