The 50 Most Devastating Signature Moves in MMA History
Professional mixed martial artists are highly trained professionals in all areas of self-defense and combat; making it all the more incredible that some of these guys can master specific techniques and use them effectively against world-class competition.
A signature move means they have used the move multiple times with effectiveness, thus identifying the move with that specific fighter and vice versa.
Using a move once, even if iconic, does not make it a signature move for the purposes of this list.
Machida landing the front kick on Randy Couture was amazing, but not necessarily a signature move since we do not see him use it to great effect on a regular basis.
The same could be said for Frank Mir's armbar over Tim Sylvia or John Makdessi's spinning back fist over Kyle Watson.
That also means no inverted triangles, showtime kicks, or pace chokes.
That being said, please let me know what I missed.
Dan Miller: Guillotine Choke
Dan Miller has one of the nastiest guillotine chokes that you will ever seen.
Three of his eight submission victories have come by way of the choke.
His guillotine over Dave Phillips in the ill-fated IFL had Phillips' head bent all the way down on his chest in what looked like a neck being snapped in half.
Chris Leben: Foot Stomps
So I could not find a picture of Chris Leben foot stomping, but trust me, he does it.
When clinching with his opponent against the fence, Leben is one of the few people who likes to stomp on his opponent's feet.
It is not a fight-ending strategy, but it is a signature move of his and I guarantee it does not feel good.
Keith Jardine: Chimpanzee Punch
Karo Parisyan: Judo Throw
Karo Parisyan debuted in the UFC back in 2003, and has made a name for himself since then as probably the most effective judo player in MMA.
Adept at all aspects of the grappling game, Parisyan is particularly adept at clinching and throws.
When he grabs a hold of an opponent, you can almost guarantee that they will be going for a ride.
Thiago Alves: Leg Kicks
Highly regarded for his leg-kicking technique, Thiago Alves regularly puts a beating on the legs of his opponents.
Although he has not ended a fight with kicks, watch his fight against fellow top contender Josh Koscheck to see how leg kicks can dictate a fight.
Alistair Overeem: Guillotine Choke
A devastating finisher all around, Overeem also appears on this list for his signature striking technique, but here we laud his guillotine choke.
Out of 19 submission victories, eight have been guillotines and his guillotine victims include notables such as Vitor Belfort and Igor Vovchanchyn.
Dustin Hazelett: Armbar
Five of Dustin Hazelett's nine submission victories have come by way of armbar.
Not just a sound technical practitioner, Hazelett snags armbars with flair.
His back-to-back submission victories over Josh Burkman and Tamden McCrory were two of the best armbars of 2008 with each one winning the "submission of the night" award.
Josh Koscheck: Looping Right Hand
Like many before him, Josh Koshcheck has developed a solid striking attack led by, and reliant on, a powerful right hand.
Koscheck's particular punch is an exceptionally looping one that often looks like an exaggerated baseball pitch.
His highlight-reel knockout of Yoshiyuki Yoshida is a great example.
Thales Leites: Arm-Triangle Choke
Former middleweight title challenger Thales Leites can end a fight with any kind of submission, but his signature finish is the arm-triangle choke.
Five out of his twelve submission victories have via arm-triangle with the highlight being a technical submission over Brazilian legend Jose Landi-Jons.
Joe Stevenson: Guillotine
Ultimate Fighter Season 2 winner and former lightweight title challenger Joe Stevenson has earned a reputation as having one of the most devastating guillotine chokes in the business.
In the UFC, Stevenson has guillotined such notable fighters as Melvin Guillard, Dokonjonosuke Mishima and Gleison Tibau.
Marius Zaromskis: High Kick
With three consecutive headkick knockouts in 2009, welterweight Marius "The Whitemare" Zaromskis has solidified himself as the most devastating high kicker in MMA since Mirko CroCop.
Whenever you watch Zaromskis perform, always keep an eye out for his powerful and lightning-fast kicks.
Brock Lesnar: Hammerfists (Conga Smash)
Brock Lesnar is so big and powerful that swarming a grounded opponent with short-range punches and hammerfists is actually a legitimate offensive.
Although he hurt Randy Couture with a standing punch, he was able to finish the job with a torrent of hammerfists.
Alistair Overem: Knees (Uber Knee)
Currently the No. 1 kickboxer in the world, it is no surprise that Alistair Overeem has devastating knees.
Overeem has used knees to finish 10 of his 14 TKO/KO victories.
Durable heavyweights Sergei Kharitonov, Paul Buentello, and Kazuyuki Fujita have all fallen by way of Overeem's knees.
Jose Aldo: Leg Kicks
Featherweight champion Jose Aldo has some of the most devastating leg kicks in the game today.
His best display of leg kicks was a brilliant five-round pounding of former champion Urijah Faber.
Faber released pictures after the fight, revealing his legs to be intensely swollen and discolored.
David Loiseau: Elbows
For a while, David Loiseau was known as having the most damaging elbows in the sport, and he remains one of the all-time best users of elbows.
Part of the strategy in damaging with elbows is to cut open your opponent.
Opening a cut makes damage unavoidably apparent, allows blood to affect your opponent's vision, and potentially ends the fight in a TKO at a medical doctor's judgment.
Brad Imes: Gogoplata
Brad Imes started gathering attention in the MMA community when he won a fight via gogoplata; an especially difficult technique for the usually less dexterous heavyweights.
In his very next fight, he won via gogoplata again.
Back-to-back gogoplatas are unheard of, and have defined Imes's career post-UFC.
Shonnie Carter: Spinning Back Fist
A true veteran and pioneer, Shonie Carter has been fight since the 90s and has over 80 MMA fights.
He is most known for his spinning back fist.
His most famous spinning back fist is easily his come-from-behind spinning backfist KO victory over Matt Serra at UFC 31.
Pedro Rizzo: Leg Kicks
One of the first truly devastating strikers to rise to prominence in MMA.
Pedro Rizzo's most recognized weapon was his brutal leg kicks.
He left a permanent dent in Randy Couture's thigh and ended fights against men like Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn with his leg kicks.
Anderson Silva: Knees
It might be hard to consider Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest striker in the sport, having a signature strike since he can beat you with just about anything.
He uses all manner of strikes to great effectiveness, but if you had to single out a signature move, it might be his knee strikes.
He famously destroyed former champion Rich Franklin twice by way of knee strikes from the clinch.
He also knocked out standout welterweight Carlos Newton with a flying knee strikes.
In his title fight with Demian Maia, he also landed an brilliant knee to the side while flying through mid-air that rattled Maia really good.
In victories over Chris Leben and Jorge Rivera, knees also paved the way for brutal victories.
Matt Hughes: Slams
When the legendary Matt Hughes was in his prime, practically no one could compete with him at welterweight.
He was literally throwing his competition around the cage.
Hughes will go down in history as one of the greatest slam artists in MMA history.
Although they were mostly earlier in his career, Hughes has won at least four fights by slams.
Vitor Ribeiro: Arm-Triangle Choke
One of the best lightweights throughout the past decade, Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro's signature move was his devastating arm-triangle choke.
He has won via arm-triangle choke seven times in his MMA career.
His victories over Joachim Hansen and Jean Silva, respectively, for the Shooto and Cage Rage world championships, were both via arm-triangle.
Wanderlei Silva: Knees from Thai-Clinch
For the late 90s and the better part of the following decade, Wanderlei Silva had the sport's most devastating Thai-clinch.
He has at least five victories due to Thai knees, and that includes two devastating assaults of fellow superstar Quinton Jackson.
Pat Barry: Leg Kicks
His leg kicks are so brutal that Pat Barry has ended three of his eight MMA fights by way of leg kicks.
The notably durable Joey Beltran, his last opponent, barely made it to the final bell trying to survive leg kicks.
No one else can claim that kind leg kick devastation, making Barry arguably the best leg kicker in the sport today.
Tito Ortiz: Elbows/Strikes from Inside Guard/Top Position
Tito Ortiz is a specialist at ground and pound in general, but his ability to do damage from within the guard with elbows is legendary.
True to his team name, "punishment," Ortiz finds ways to abuse his opponents with a relentless and aggressive game.
Masakazu Imanari: Leg Locks
Masakazu Imanari's leglocks are so devastating that his nickname is actually "master of leg locks."
He owns eight victories by leg submissions, including a grotesque kneelock over eventual world champion Mike Brown that separated his lower leg to the side of his knee.
Rousimar Palhares: Heel Hook
There is not a submission in the world that powerful middleweight Rousimar Palhares is not devastating with.
His signature move, however, is the heel hook.
He has four heel-hook victories, including back-to-back heel hooks in the UFC.
Fedor Emelianenko: Armbar
The most legendary fighter in the history of the sport has probably the most dexterous and quickest hips in the history of the heavyweight division.
His armbars are always highlights as he he has submitted Mark Coleman twice, Hong Man Choi, Matt Lindland and others.
Brian Ebersole: Cartwheel Kick
If you saw Brian Ebersole's UFC debut against Chris Lytle, you no doubt noticed his unique cartwheel kick.
Not just a novelty or one-time experimentation, Ebersole frequently uses this kick to great effect, including earning a highlight-reel knockout victory.
Wanderlei Silva: Windmill Punches (Consecutive Looping Punches)
Wanderlei Silva is a knockout puncher thanks to his windmill style of punching.
He wades in with wide, alternating looping punches that usually find their mark upside someone's head, and usually leaves them with scrambled nerves.
Kenny Florian: Elbows from Guard
Kenny Florian is able to cut open his opponents and do lots of damage with what commentator Joe Rogan calls his "razor-sharp elbows."
Most notably, Florian delivers vicious elbows to the top of his opponent's head while they are in his guard.
Ken Shamrock: Heel Hook and Leg Locks
Back in his prime, Ken Shamrock was a demon on the mat.
His submission grappling prowess was especially notable for his devastating leg locks.
Especially in the Pancrase organization, Shamrock gained his reputation as "The World's Most Dangerous Man" for making grown men whimper from nasty achilles locks, heel hooks, and kneebars.
Randy Couture: Dirty Boxing (clinch Boxing)
Just like Mark Coleman revolutionized striking on the ground, Randy Couture revolutionized boxing from the clinch.
His patented "dirty boxing" involved short ranged punches and elbows to the head and body with tight hooks and uppercuts.
Wanderlei Silva: Stomps and Soccer Kicks
Illegal to use currently in the UFC, Wanderlei Silva was a relentless and vicious assailant back in Japan's PRIDE with the use of stomps and soccer kicks.
Once an opponent was felled, the assault continued with kicks and stomps to their dome until the referee was forced to mercifully end the fight.
Mauricio Rua: Stomps and Soccer Kicks
Like his Chute Boxe mentor, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua was an unstoppable freight train of wreckage with his use of stomps and soccer kicks under PRIDE rules.
He has ended at least five fights just by his use of stomps and soccer kicks.
Paul Daley: Left Hook
Powerful welterweight and Muay Thai champion Paul Daley is devastating with all his strikes, but his best is his left hook.
He fires them off in the blink of an eye, and when they hit, his opponent usually drops.
Paul Sass: Triangle Choke (Sassangle)
Paul Sass won all of his first seven professional MMA bouts by way of triangle choke.
In his UFC debut against Mark Holst, you thought Holst would be privy to avoid the triangle choke, but alas, he fought with fire, and he got triangle choked.
Cody McKenzie: Guillotine Choke (McKenzietine)
Cody McKenzie's guillotine choke is so good, he almost seems bored and let down when his opponents give him the slightest of room to grab around their necks.
From 2008 through 2010, McKenzie won every single one of his fights by guillotine, an absurd 10 guillotine chokes in a row.
Georges St-Pierre: The Superman Punch
The Superman Punch has proven to be a legitimate addition to an MMA fighter's arsenal, with the use of it by Georges St-Pierre leading the charge.
A risky maneuver if timed wrong, GSP uses it to great effect in all of his recent fights. He is able to manage his range skillfully and land the Superman Punch with great power.
Georges St-Pierre: The Jab
Georges St-Pierre uses the jab as skillfully as anyone in MMA, especially as seen in his last two fights, against Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields.
Against Koscheck, St-Pierre's jab was actually able to fracture Koscheck's orbital bone.
Quinton Jackson: Slams
In recent years, Quinton Jackson has swayed from his days as a vicious slamming machine.
When he first hit the scene in PRIDE, Jackson gained a reputation for his considerable physical strength by hoisting opponents into the air, with seeming ease, before mercilessly slamming them back down to the mat.
Jon Jones: Elbows
Phenom and current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is devastating with all his techniques, but what has started to stick out as his signature is elbow strikes.
He has used devastating spinning back elbows against Stephan Bonnar and Jake O'Brien, he finished Vladimir Matyushenko with elbow strikes, and be spectacularly broke Brandon Vera's face in three places with a single elbow.
Junior Dos Santos: Uppercut
Junior Dos Santos is arguably the most devastating puncher currently fighting in MMA, and his signature strike is his uppercut.
He uses it regularly to batter his opponents, and in his UFC debut, he demolished highly ranked veteran Fabricio Werdum with a single perfect uppercut.
Dan Henderson: Right Hand
Dan Henderson has knockout power in both of his fists, but his right hand is his legendary weapon.
It is truly devastating and one of the single most powerful strikes in the history of MMA.
Igor Vovchanchyn: Right Hand
"Ice Cold" Igor Vovchanchyn is one of the most under-appreciated and under-recognized legends in today's contemporary MMA worldview.
At one point, Igor was the baddest man on the entire planet, knocking guys out left and right.
His most devastating weapon? An atomic right hand.
Shinya Aoki: Gogoplota (+Aokiplata)
Shinya Aoki pulls off one of MMA's most difficult moves, the gogoplata, with seeming ease.
He has submitted notable Joachim Hansen with a gogoplata, as well as submitted Katsuhiko Nagata with a gogoplata from the mount, thus dubbed the "aokiplata" for its originality.
Dennis Siver: Spinning Back Kick
Dennis Siver has ended two fights in the UFC with his spinning back kick and uses it to great effect on regular occasion.
Other striking specialists have used the spinning back kick successfully against top competition, but no one like Dennis Siver comes close to using it with such devastation so frequently.
Mark Coleman: Ground Strikes
Mark Coleman is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time and earned the nickname "Godfather of ground and pound" for his revolution in ground striking.
Before Coleman, fighters would rarely focus on striking once the action hit the mat.
After Coleman, the entire sport realized that strikes on the ground were just as devastating a way to end a fight as any.
Jeff Monson: North/South Choke (Monson Choke)
I am not sure if Jeff Monson actually invented it, but he is so proficient at the North/South Choke that it is actually referred to by his name ("the Monson choke").
This special technique is like an inverted guillotine from the North/South ground position.
Monson has finished six opponents with the Monson choke, including Sergei Kharitonov.
Chuck Liddell: Overhand Right
Chuck Liddell became the most prominent fighter in the sport and the UFC light heavyweight champion because of his signature overhand right.
Not a straight punch, nor a hook, Chuck would launch his right hand over his shoulder nearly like a baseball, and it would come down on his opponents with tremendous force.
It is one of the most signature moves in all of MMA, and not surprisingly, also one of the most devastating.
BJ Penn: Rear Naked Choke
BJ "The Prodigy" Penn has established himself as one of the greatest fighters ever to compete in MMA.
He has taken out some of the toughest men the sport could provide, and often when stakes are at their highest, Penn reverts to his signature rear-naked choke.
Penn's RNC has choked out the likes of Jens Pulver, Takanori Gomi, Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian and Matt Hughes.
Bas Rutten: Liver Shot
A legend and pioneer, Bas Rutten was a UFC heavyweight champion and King of Pancrase.
Devastating with submissions and strikes, Rutten was most well known for his liver shots.
Whether it was with kicks, knees, or punches, Rutten loved to target the liver.
He could would drop men and even knock them out with a single shot to the liver.
Ever since he ruled from the mid- to late-90s, shots to the liver have always been, and will forever be, linked to Bas Rutten.
Mirko Filipovic: Left High Kick (Cemetery)
The greatest kicker in the history of MMA could end fights with leg kicks and kicks to the body.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's signature, however, was the left high kick.
Due to the path of destruction Mirko's LHK paved in Japan, high kicks in MMA will forever be linked to the Croatian kickboxer.