Mirko Cro-Cop and the Top 25 Kickers in MMA History

Andrew MahlmannCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2011

Mirko Cro-Cop and the Top 25 Kickers in MMA History

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    Kicking has been, and will remain, one of the most exciting aspects in Mixed Martial Arts.  From a time when only a few could utilize them effectively, to the modern day where all fighters are trained in kicks, some fighters are always going to separate from the pack and standout as amazing kickers.

    These are the Top 25 kickers in the history of MMA.

    Criteria is based on effective use of kicks against high-level competition.  Secondary consideration is also given to kickboxing backgrounds and credentials in kick utilizing martial arts.

Honorable Mention

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    Guy Mezger

    David Loiseau

    Stephan Bonnar

    Chuck Liddell

    Alistair Overeem

    Carlos Condit

    Miguel Torres

    Amir Sadollah

    Martin Kampmann

    and dozens more, including tons of young upcoming fighters...

25. Melvin Manhoef

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    Perhaps the most explosive kickboxer under 200lbs that ever lived.

    Despite an obvious handicap in the grappling department, Manhoef continues to challenge himself with MMA fights while still fulfilling his kickboxing duties.

24. Evangelista Santos

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    Long regarded as a dangerous opponent, Santos has been professionally smashing his feet and shins into opponents since the late 90s.

    Using great timing, power and technique, Santos has been aided by his kicks in putting away a number of his opponents.  One of those victims is none other than top-10 kicking stud, Marius Zaromskis.

23. Antoni Hardonk

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    One of the best low kickers in the era of modern MMA.  

    Hardonk has a strong kickboxing background, but since officially announcing his retirement in 2010 with only eight professional MMA victories, his name could eventually get lost in the history books.

22. Hayato Sakurai

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    Past his prime now, Sakurai has been smashing opponents since the mid 90s.

    Unfortunately, he is sometimes overlooked for competing mostly in Japan, but regardless, he is one of the greatest welterweights of all time.

    That reputation is because of his overall striking ability.  He has a great kicking arsenal, most notably a fantastic low kick.

21. Forrest Griffin

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    A freestyle fighter, Griffin loves to get into a fist brawl and is not always a consistent kicker, but he does have some of the best kicks in the game.

    Against Hector Ramirez, he broke the UFC record for most leg kicks landed in a three-round fight, and in his championship winning victory over Quinton Jackson, he brutalized the champ's lead leg so bad that tough-as-nails Jackson hobbled backwards in visible pain.

20. Marco Ruas

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    Marco Ruas is renowned as one of the pioneers of Brazil's Vale Tudo ("no holds barred") and thus modern MMA.  He was noted as one of the best low kickers of his time.

    With only eight professional MMA victories to his name, his impact on modern MMA is due more to his style and his teachings than his professional performances.

19. Alan Belcher

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    A promising upcoming young fighter, Belcher loves going toe to toe with his opponents.  Capable and 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.  

18. Rich Franklin

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    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. A couple of years ago, Rich took out the always durable Matt Hamill with a beautiful liver kick back at UFC 88.

17. Lyoto Machida

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    One of the elite Karate black belts in the world, Machida uses the kicks from his karate stylings in a number of ways for MMA.

    From a variety of angles and with incredible speed, Machida likes to mange his range by firing off strong leg, body and head kicks.

16. Thiago Alves

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    Dubbed by commentator Joe Rogan as a "Muay Thai wrecking machine", Thiago Alves has the most devastating low kicks in the welterweight division.

    Usually avoiding the ground game, Alves is a top ranked welterweight who uses a well-rounded striking game to dismantle or destroy his opponents.

15. Gabriel Gonzaga

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    Gonzaga is the owner of the greatest head kick knock out in UFC history. And while many thought the kick was simply a fluke, Gonzaga would go on to show he really does have some of the most effective and dangerous kicks around.

    In the two fights following the victory over Filipovic, 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 TKO victory over Chris Tuchscherer with a kick to the head.  

14. Patrick Barry

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    Patrick Barry has an infectious fun-loving personality and some of the most vicious and devastating strikes the heavyweight division has to offer.

    Barry traded in an impressive professional kick-boxing career to focus on MMA and won his first four MMA fights in the first round all by way of his kicks.

    You might want to be best buds with him outside of the cage, but once inside, you better have an extremely healthy fear of his kicking ability or risk serious injury.

13. Dennis Siver

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    A German kickboxing champion, Siver is also trained in Tae Kwon Do and is one of the best strikers in the lightweight division today.

    Despite great hands, Siver enjoys throwing kicks even more.  

    Siver finished two opponents in the UFC by way of spinning back kick.  That is a practically unbelievable accomplishment.

12. Maurice Smith

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    One of the first kickboxers to successfully transfer over to Mixed Martial Arts.

    Maurice Smith was a kickboxing champion and then became the first ever African-American MMA champion when he won the UFC heavyweight title in 1997.

    Smith utilized kicks, and especially leg kicks, to great effect in his fights.

11. Georges St. Pierre

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    There is nothing that Georges St-Pierre does that is not excellent.  That includes kicking.

    St-Pierre is a black belt in kyokushin karate and uses a variety of kicks to great effect.

    In winning the UFC welterweight championship for the first time in a brilliant second round TKO of Matt Hughes, St-Pierre executed a perfect front-leg head kick that sent Hughes crashing to the floor before finishing him with punches and hammerfists.

10. Jose Aldo

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    At only 24-years-old, featherweight champion Jose Aldo is already talked about as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

    That is due mostly to his incredible Muay Thai attack.

    In his championship defense against MMA star Urijah Faber, Aldo brutalized Faber in one of the all time greatest displays of low kicks.  Prior to that he used a similar attack in brutalizing and dismantling burgeoning star Jonathan Brookins.

9. Mauricio Rua

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    UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Mauricio Rua, is probably the most dangerous muay thai striker the division has to offer.

    In his first battle with then champion Lyoto Machida, Rua battered Machida with brutal kicks to the legs and body.  

    Rua pushes a very fast pace in his fights and using devastating power and flawless technique, Rua can deliver crippling kicks in the blink of an eye.

8. Anthony Pettis

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    Anthony "Showtime" Pettis made the MMA world take notice of him with his win over WEC lightweight champ Ben Henderson that was punctuated with a spectacular kick off the wall in the remaining minute of the bout.

    The "showtime kick" made all kinds of headlines as fans from all around the world collectively picked their jaws up from the ground.

    Pettis is a kicking prodigy who throws some of the most unique and versatile kicks ever witnessed in an MMA arena.  Despite already utilizing a number of interesting and effective kicks, Pettis claims that the best is still yet to come.

7. Marius Zaromskis

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    When you watch Zaromskis fight, you can be guaranteed to witness some of the most vicious and effective kicks used in MMA.

    In 2009 Marius "The Whitemare" Zaromskis exploded into welterweight notoriety with four straight wins, three of which coming by way of first round head kicks.

    He is clearly one of the best kickers operating in MMA today.

6. Brandon Vera

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    A versatile and powerful kicker, Vera has been heralded by Keith Jardine as "one of the best kickboxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport."

    Vera has some of the most powerful kicks in the sport and is a protégé of Rob Kaman, a man many consider to be the best kickboxer of all time.

    Vera has ended fights in the UFC with both high kicks (Eilers) and low kicks (Patt).

5. Cung Le

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    A black belt in Tae Kwon Do and multiple time champion in San Shou kickboxing, Cung Le is one of the best kickers to ever compete in MMA.

    Cung Le won the Strikeforce middleweight championship by breaking Frank Shamrock's arm with a kick, and set up a TKO victory over tough Scott Smith with a spinning back kick.

    Powerful and creative, Le is nearly in a class to himself in his ability to utilize incredibly flashing kicking techniques effectively in MMA.

4. Anderson Silva

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    Perhaps the most dangerous all-around striker in the sport today, Anderson "The Spider" Silva is one of the most inventive, creative and diverse kickers on the list. Aside from his masterful command of the basics, he has shown spinning back kicks, front neck kicks and side knee kicks.

    Anderson is positively genius at integrating any kind of kick into his lethal combinations.  Veteran and No. 2 ranked middleweight Chael Sonnen said, "...he kicked me in the stomach.  I've never been kicked like that."

    While he has shown a propensity for dancing and 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 opponent's faces.

3. Pedro Rizzo

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    Protégé of No. 20 Marco Ruas, Rizzo is famous for his brutal leg kicks.  

    A Muay Thai fighter, Rizzo has been competing since the mid 90s and considered by many to be a pioneer in leg kicks for MMA.

    Although he has never won a UFC championship, he has defeated a number of UFC champions and engaged in some very memorable bouts for the belt.

2. Bas Rutten

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    A pioneer and all-time great in MMA, Bas loved learning and utilizing new techniques, but he will always be remembered as a devastating kicker.

    A Muay Thai kickboxer and black belt in Karate and Tae Kwon Do, Rutten knew how to put a hurting on his opponents with kicks.

    He would hurt opponents with kicks to the legs or head, but he had an affinity for targeting the body and going after his infamous "liver shot."

1. Mirko Filipovic

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    Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic might not be the top-ranked fighter he used to be, but he is still the godfather of MMA kicks and a force to be reckoned with.

    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.