13 Best Strikers In UFC History: The All-Time Greats

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Striking in mixed martial arts is what gives us those wow moments, and we’ve seen some of the best strikers of all time in the UFC.

You can’t help but fall in love with knockout artists and footwork specialists, so I’ve pulled together and ranked who I think are the best strikers in the history of the UFC:

  1. Donald Cerrone
  2. Kamaru Usman
  3. Cody Garbrandt
  4. Stipe Miocic
  5. Francis Ngannou
  6. Alexander Gustaffson
  7. Sean O’Malley
  8. Justin Gaethje
  9. Anderson Silva
  10. Jon Jones
  11. Max Holloway
  12. Conor McGregor
  13. Israel Adesanya

13. Donald Cerrone

Donald Cerrone
Peter Gordon, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is known for his vicious head kicks, making him a legend of the sport.

Aside from the head kicks, he also has plenty of notable knockout highlights under his MMA record, retiring on 36-17-2.

One of his most outstanding performances was when he silenced Alexander Hernandez after a series of trash-talking before the fight.

He finished the younger Hernandez with his signature right head kick and sealed the fight with some vicious ground and pound.

Cowboy Cerrone has also struck with some of the UFC’s most renowned strikers.

Despite losing all these fights, he showed heart and exchanged violently with Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, and Anthony Pettis.

Despite not having the chance to win a UFC championship and retiring after a series of heartbreaking losses, Cowboy has engraved his name in the list of the best UFC strikers.

12. Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman at 2018 press con
MMAnytt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He was 2022’s pound-for-pound king, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman.

He is one of the most versatile UFC champions who can destroy opponents on the ground and also has the ability to land some bombs.

For a long time, Usman held a 100% takedown defense record until after his first loss to Leon Edwards.

Still, his takedown defenses would force opponents to stand up and trade shots with him.

Some of his most impressive striking performances were in the first Usman vs. Covington matchup, where he broke Colby’s jaw.

His Gilburt Burns match-up is worth mentioning as he finished the fight with one stiff power jab.

And we can’t forget his one-punch knockout of Jorge Masvidal in their heated war. Something that had Jorge had never experienced before.

11. Cody Garbrandt

Cody Garbrandt speaking at UFC press conference
MMAnytt, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Former Bantamweight king, Cody “No Love” Garbrandt would rarely give any breathing space to his opponents.

He’s known for his killer hooks that seem invisible to the opponent, catching them off guard.

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With his pure power and unbelievable speed, striking with Cody was once a nightmare.

One of his most unforgettable fights was when he won the Bantamweight gold against Dominick Cruz.

Cody made the fight look like a striking clinic as he fed Cruz’s face with punches and used exceptional footwork to outmaneuver a master.

He could’ve easily ended the fight with the first knockdown, but Cody wanted to put on a show while he was at his peak level of performance.

Another ‘wow’ moment from Cody was his dip-hook knockout over Raphael Assuncao, coming just one second before the end of the round.

Recent years haven’t been so kind to Cody, but his past performances retain him a spot on this list as one of the best strikers in the UFC that we’ve seen.

10. Stipe Miocic

Stipe Miocic has long dominated the Heavyweight division with his tactical and calculated style of striking.

As of his last Francis Ngannou rematch in 2021, Miocic had a 75% knockout rate from his wins.

Some of his highlight striking came during both second and third matchups with Daniel Cormier where he continued to retain his Heavyweight belt both times.

He adjusted his game plan in the middle of the fight and landed some solid hooks to the liver. He managed to stop Cormier in the fourth round.

A clinical finisher, Stipe adjusted his game plan and brought DC down with a few well-placed liver shots to win in the fourth round of their UFC 241 matchup.

The man has plenty more notable striking victories over the likes of Junior dos Santos (TKO), Alistair Overeem (KO), and Fabricio Werdum (KO).

Big knockouts over big names in the heaviest division land Miocic a worthy spot on this list.

9. Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou
X2o, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Francis “The Predator” Ngannou is the world record holder of the strongest punch in the world.

His punch is said to have the power of a full-speed moving car. His power and undeniably long hands make Francis one of the scariest strikers on the roster.

When he gets you caught in his striking combinations, it’s often over very quickly.

Take his fight with Jairzinho Rozenstruik, he lashed out a barrage of punches and missed with most—but it only takes one connection to say good night.

Fight after fight, Ngannou has improved his technical ability to match his power.

And he proved that very recently by taking on one of the best boxers in the world, Tyson Fury, and winning on the fans’ scorecards.

Francis has constantly improved his abilities to include technique with his power and has a long list of UFC wins to back it up.

While he might not be contracted with the UFC anymore and has taken to the PFL, he’s still on the books as one of the greatest strikers of all time—especially at Heavyweight.

8. Alexander Gustaffson

Alexander Gustafsson
Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alexander Gustaffson was a Light Heavyweight elite with incredibly high-level boxing technique during his best days.

Gustaffson was a Swedish National Boxing champion before the UFC.

He’s known for his long, strong hands and pristine footwork that elevate his striking game to a new level.

One of his most electrifying fights is the two Jon Jones title fights. The first fight was so good that it became 2013’s Fight of the Year (FotY).

Alexander shocked MMA by pushing Jones to the decision. Aside from lasting five rounds, he also inflicted considerable damage on Jones and gave him one of his greater challenges.

His boxing helped him land on-the-button crosses, swelling up Jon’s face with successive blows. Although he didn’t win the fight, he gained a ton of respect for the striking ability in his hands.

Despite the excellent performance, Jones still went home with the victory on decision and was finished in the third round of their rematch.

Even so, those displays of striking prowess among a few other notable fights have landed “The Great” on this list.

7. Sean O’Malley

Sean O'Malley
Optic Gaming, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sugar” Sean O’Malley recently became the Bantamweight champion, all thanks to his incredible striking in his hands.

He knocked everybody out in Dana White’s Contender Series to work his way into a UFC contract.

He is known for his hands-down guard that lets him throw his strikes out of nowhere.

Since entering the UFC roster, Sean has never failed to entertain the fans with his signature “Suga Show” dynamics.

He forced the referee to end his fight with Kris Moutinho while standing after a barrage of undefended punches.

And let’s not forget his walk-off KO over Eddie Wineland.

O’Malley has a unique gift and training ethic that enables him to predict the outcome of his fights, preparing with exactly the right combination to turn the lights out.

This is what he did in preparation for his title fight with Aljamain Sterling.

His pre-training footage showed him preparing a switch-cross while moving backward, almost exactly the same technique that landed the finishing blow to secure the belt.

6. Justin Gaethje

Trevor Wittman coaching Justin Gaethje with the boxing bag
Photo Credit: Terrence Wittman. Used with special permission.

Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje truly lives up to his nickname as he’s racked up tons of jaw-dropping moments over his career.

Gaethje is known for his daredevil fighting style, ready to get in close and exchange blows with any opponent. And, most of the time, he comes out on top.

The former interim Lightweight champ has some brutal finishes under his record.

One of his great upsets was the victory over Tony Ferguson, Gaethje shattered Tony’s face with precision power shots.

Another has to be the brutality he displayed against Michael Johnson, wearing him down against the fence with knees and heavy punches to the head until the referee stepped in.

Back then, Gaethje was only throwing fist after fist without any hesitations.

Where once Gaethje was known for his recklessness, he’s now become a more refined sniper under the guidance of his coach, Trevor Wittman.

We’ve yet to see more from Justin in the near future and every single fight he’s in is always worth getting hyped up about.

5. Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva in the octagon
Elite Sports Tour, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anderson “The Spider” Silva is probably the most entertaining striker who ever stepped foot inside the octagon.

Where most great strikers have a specific set of skills, Silva was always a wildcard with his movements.

He’s been known to give us the full display of his striking abilities, with front kicks, elbows, and off-angle punches.

One of his most sensational fights was against Vitor Belfort, showcasing his unpredictability and landing that famous front-kick knockout on Belfort’s chin.

Silva continues to showcase his world-class striking on the big stage after retiring from MMA and moving into showtime boxing.

So far he’s had tradeoffs with Tito Ortiz, knocking him out, and going far against the much-younger Jake Paul.

4. Jon Jones

Jon Jones
Vengo Films, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most dominant Light Heavyweight and now Heavyweight champion, Jon “Bones” Jones, is known for his versatile fighting style.

He can submit you, but most significantly, he can wreck your face with sharp elbows and knees.

Jones is just one of many extraordinary black UFC fighters with an incredible set of achievements.

He has a 215cm reach, one of the longest in the UFC, that helps him be so vicious with his striking.

He does an exceptional job at using this reach to his advantage by throwing jabs that are usually followed by an elbow, knee, or a stiff straight hand.

His excellent reach is matched by the long legs that he’s mixed into his combinations by kicking the opponent’s head off.

Some of the unfortunate victims of his top-notch striking have been Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, Chael Sonnen, and Shogun Rua.

3. Max Holloway

“I’m the best boxer in the UFC, baby!” was Max “Blessed” Holloway’s now-famous line during his fight with Calvin Kattar.

A performance that helped him to set the new record for the most significant strikes landed in a career with 3,122.

Max is renowned for his accuracy when it comes to throwing his punches and kicks, always being highly selective and meaningful with every throw.

Other noteworthy wins on his record were against Jose Aldo, Yair Rodriguez, Franky Edgar, Brian Ortega, and Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira.

His long history of fighting in the UFC gives us a great logbook of striking displays to pull from and he has often been incredibly consistent and dominating with his striking.

2. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor
Andrius Petrucenia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“The Notorious” Conor McGregor is the UFC’s biggest PPV pull but has also brought us some of the most fascinating striking in MMA history.

The Irishman has put down several top-level UFC fighters such as Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez, Donald Cerrone, and Chad Mendes—all thanks to the unique technique in his hands.

Knocking out Aldo in seconds and dominating performances over Alvarez and Cerrone are just some of his highlights.

A left hand that seems to be blessed by Zeus and the positioning, reflexes, and Karate-kicking to ‘boot all add up to a legendary mixed martial artist.

Those striking skills helped him go toe-to-toe with arguably the best boxer of all time, Floyd Mayweather, and was competitive for the majority until his gas tank expired.

He may have had a losing streak recently thanks to Dustin Poirier, yet Conor’s striking history is undeniable and puts him very highly on this list of the greatest UFC strikers.

1. Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya
MMMAnytt, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Israel, “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, is the best striker in the UFC history.

With his speed, smooth movements, long reach, and knockout power, he is undoubtedly a striking God of the Middleweight division.

His arsenal is full of weapons including a lightning-speed jab, fast leg kicks, head kicks and more. All while having incredible movement and perception.

Several wins have come from his signature left cross while leaning back, allowing him to evade while landing a powerful counter on any overly aggressive opponent.

Some of his incredible victories have been down to his striking skill, including dominating performances over Marvin Vettori, Robert Whitaker, Paulo Costa and even knocking out Alex Pereira on the rematch.

Izzy is one of the few fighters whose striking and takedown defense can completely disable grapplers where they’re either exhausted from chasing him down or getting caught on the entry and signing an early ticket to the mat.

His career is littered with highlights of knockouts (67% of his wins) and out-classing the highest level of fighters in MMA.

He’s had his downfalls recently, like losing his belt to Pereira in their first UFC cagefight and now Sean Strickland.

But these blips don’t discourage me from selecting him as the number one best striker in UFC history.

Don’t agree with me? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “13 Best Strikers In UFC History: The All-Time Greats”

    • You make a good point, Rafa! The list wasn’t intended to necessarily be a ranking order, but I can see how you think so – this article will get an update 🙂

      Reply

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