Great fights are a thing of beauty. Watching Jon Jones and Gustaffson locked in a battle of skill, witnessing Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua push the limits of human endurance and seeing Fedor and Cro Cop deciding who the best heavyweight of their era was – MMA as a whole thrives on these battles.
But a great battle requires two men to last through the rounds, elevating it to legendary status. Sometimes, the stars do not align and a quick KO, Sub or injury robs an audience of the spectacle. But that is the nature of MMA: Random chance.
Yet, if MMA is so capricious, then what do we have to rely on when it comes to entertainment? The answer: entertaining fighters. I’m talking about fighters you could watch a thousand times and not get bored. Fighters who, win or lose, put their hearts and bodies on the line for their family, fans and the love of the sport. Presented below is my list of 5 of the most entertaining UFC fighters to have ever graced the cage with their blood-soaked, battle-worn bodies.
5. Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1)
Wanderlei Silva is listed at number five simply due to how obvious his inclusion is. The man they call the ‘Axe Murderer’ is one of the most violent, entertaining yet fan-friendly fighters in MMA history. His pride-era streak was nothing short of menacing, cutting down opponent after opponent in an 18 fight win streak. His style is nothing short of rabid, with a hulking Muay Thai arsenal mixed with looping, heavy hands. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson was the victim of two of Silva’s most brutal knockouts. Kazushi Sakuraba, the victim of a trio of savage defeats. Holding 27 knockouts to his name, Wanderlei Silva has carved a chunk out of history as one of the most viscous fighters in the sport. Struggling since he first joined the UFC, Wanderlei has treat fans to glimpses of his old self in brutal KO wins over Cung Le and Brian Stann.
Most memorable moment: Leaving Rampage hanging through the ropes following a barrage of knees from the clinch.
Why you should root for him: A pride and MMA legend, Wanderlei is both humble and considerate to his fans outside the octagon. Having met the man himself in Las Vegas, Wanderlei will always have my support.
4. The Diaz Brothers (Nick: 26-9-1NC, Nate: 17-9)
While I realise this is a bit of a cheat entry, it is far too hard to choose just one. Not a week goes by without mention of the Diaz brothers on the internet. Throughout forums, social media and reddit, the duo from Stockton, California are the topic of controversy and speculation. Ignoring all of that entertaining back and forth (Nate’s twitter is generally hilarious,) the Diaz brothers are hugely entertaining fighters. The older brother Nick is the more accomplished of the two having fought in Pride, Strikeforce and the UFC. Nate, however, is a burgeoning talent that proves time and time again how dangerous he is. Both men share a similar style, with volume punching and great aggressive jiu-jitsu. This leads to an array of exciting knockouts and submission wins over top talent such as Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, BJ Penn, Takanori Gomi (both brothers submitted the ‘fireball kid’) and many more. With Nick retired pending further announcement, his legend is uncertain. One thing is for sure: both men put on fantastic fights worth watching. Plus their trash talking and bird-flipping antics alone make for entertainment.
Most memorable moment: Nick: TKO’ing Paul Daley in possibly the most exciting one round fight in the history of MMA or for his three round beatdown of MMA legend BJ Penn. Nate: A crisp, dominating performance against Donald Cerrone that saw Nate get flipped off early in the fight, only to return the gesture at Cerrone after beating him up over three rounds.
Why you should root for him: While both brothers may make some questionable claims and whine on about pay, you’d be hard pressed to see either in a boring fight. Come for the trash-talk, stay for the Stockton slap.
3. Joe Lauzon (23-9)
Owner of one of the least impressive nicknames in MMA, ‘J-lau’ is somewhat of a hero to me. Despite beating a local guy I have trained with and respect in Curt Warburton, Lauzon is nonetheless one of the most relatable fighters in the UFC. He’s also one of the most exciting. A video-game fanatic who is both educated and relatively normal physique-wise, Lauzon is king of the one round beatdown. In almost all of his fights, he either crushes his opponents inside the first or goes out on his shield. He is also the holder of twelve post-fight bonuses. One thing is certain, Lauzon never, ever leaves anything in the cage – except blood.
Most memorable moment: Either his phenomenal win over Melvin Guillard or for his absolute war with Jim Miller (Who I was debating listing instead of Lauzon.) While Lauzon lost every round of that fight, his determination was remarkable. Diving for a leglock near the final bell, Lauzon proved why he is such a fan favourite – the man never stops trying to win.
Why you should root for him: Joe is somewhat of an everyman. He’s worked in IT, recently become a father and he kicks ass for a living. He also plays videogames with fans and does reddit AMA’s. What more could you want?
2. Matt Brown (18-11)
Almost an unsung hero, Matt Brown has performed with mixed success in the Octagon in the past. Now, however, he is on a roll – carving his way through the welterweight division and lining himself up to take on the highly renowned Erick Silva. Despite this, his up and down career has always had one thing certain: The man they call ‘The Immortal’ is pure entertainment. When I first started watching the UFC (Around UFC 100) I knew little about fighting other than a basic understanding of submissions and that I liked watching people throw hands. Brown epitomises this: a brawling, grinding slugger who can choke you out with a moment’s notice. Riding a six fight win streak, the immortal looks to continue his charge forward when he collides with Erick Siva May 10th.
Most memorable moment: For me it has to be Brown’s gruelling beatdown of Stephen Thompson. ‘Wonderboy’ was on a hype train when he met Brown, only to quickly learn why ‘The Immortal’ is one of the most gruelling and entertaining fighters in the UFC.
Why you should root for him: The subject of some controversy recently regarding statements on womens fighting, Brown is nonetheless a fan-friendly, humble guy. He has quietly amassed a hot-streak and now looks set to tackle some of the welterweight divisions bigger sharks. If you like an underdog that brings it: this is your guy.
1. Chris Lytle (31-18-5)
Number one on my list here could have been a few different fighters. I’m a big fan of Jim Miller, Mirko Cro Cop, Jose Aldo and many more finishers who tend to put on explosive fights. But I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t list the man who most interested me when I first started watching MMA. Back then, I was a newcomer who’d played the UFC 09 videogame and just started training. I watched Chris Lytle fight Kevin Burns to a decision in the Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale and I knew straight away I’d found a favourite. Once holder of the most bonuses in UFC history, the man embodied fighting. Professional boxing experience, slick submissions and a humble, decent guy outside the cage – Lytle had everything I liked. What I liked even more was that he would completely discard that boxing experience at times and just wing punches like he was trying to knock the guys head off. His submission expertise was impressive too. I’ve never been a fighter to swing wildly or chase KO’s, so it was his slick finishes of Brian Foster and Matt Brown that really interested me. I’ve tried that rolling kneebar a few times since I first watched Lytle do it. He’s one of the few fighters on Earth who retired on a high, disposing of Dan Hardy with a guillotine choke and calling it quits. Lytle may be a controversial choice, but for me, no other man has ever thrown so much on the line to give the fans entertainment. I hope that, in retirement, Lytle recognises all the times I watched his fights on the edge of my seat.
Most memorable moment: For me it was his rolling kneebar of Brian Foster. It came from nowhere and opened my eyes to the sheer finishing power and surprise factor of submissions. For a lot of other people, it might have been any of his fights where he walked forward throwing punches from everywhere – baying his opponent on and calling for a war.
Why you should root for him: Now retired, Lytle doesn’t really need your support. However, his legacy cannot be forgotten. Having never fought for a title or reached huge star power, I feel it is important for the true fans of the sport to keep the memory of ‘Lights out’ alive.
Carlos Condit (Fearsome kickboxer, awesome chin)
Jim Miller (Most entertaining submission fighter in the UFC?)
Chuck Liddell (Greatest TKO delivery man of all time?)
Shogun Rua (Muay Thai and Pride FC wrecking machine)
Rousimar Palhares (Either by heel hook or by entertaining mishap, this man makes fights fun to watch)
I hope you enjoyed this list. It’s personal opinion, of course. I’d like to hear who you’d put up there. Comment below!
Written by Craig Thomas Boyle