We rank the 10 most entertaining striker vs. grappler fights ahead of McGregor vs. Alvarez 5 years ago

We rank the 10 most entertaining striker vs. grappler fights ahead of McGregor vs. Alvarez

When the UFC first appeared on our screens in 1993, the concept behind the tournament was to discover which martial art was the most effective.

We had all sorts of striker vs. grappler fights with a Savate competitor taking on a Sumo wrestler and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt going up against a one-gloved boxer.


Over the past 23 years, we've seen a multitude of what MMA commentary teams dub "the classic match-up of striker vs. grappler" and we're set for another in the main event of UFC 205 when Conor McGregor puts his background in boxing and Taekwondo up against Alvarez, a two-time National Prep All-American.

The contrasting styles create so many questions ahead of the opening bell - Can McGregor stuff Alvarez's shot? How long will Alvarez wait before he attempts to drag the fight to the mat? If the fight does go to the ground, what will happen?

Both fighters have progressed in all disciplines while moving through their respective careers with McGregor now a BJJ brown belt under John Kavanagh and Alvarez proving he's more than a hard-nosed wrestler, knocking out former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in July


But don't be fooled, Alvarez will resort to his double leg if he finds himself caught by the famous left hand of the Irishman and he would cherish the prospect of engaging McGregor into a gruelling clinch war against the fence.

Ahead of Saturday night's monumental event, we've decided to rank the 10 most entertaining MMA fights that have featured the classic match-up of striker vs. grappler and this is what we've come up with.

10. Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture - UFC 129


Back in the late 2000s, there were few strikers more enjoyable to watch than Lyoto Machida.

He had single-handedly made karate in MMA a success and his fluidity, accuracy and speed made him a threat to anyone.

That's why it became so interesting to see how he'd fare against the wrestling of one of the greatest to ever grapple in the Octagon.

Couture tried three takedowns, failing with each before falling victim to one of the most beautiful knockouts that's ever taken place.


9. Alistair Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar - UFC 141

Two more intimidating figures have never stepped through the Octagon doors than when former pro-kickboxer Alistair Overeem took on Brock Lesnar who had gone 106-5 in his college wrestling career.

Lesnar was content to stand with the Dutch fighter which proved a foolish tactic as 'The Reem' connected with a vicious body kick that took the wind out of Lesnar's sails and sent the former WWE wrestler out of mixed martial arts for half a decade.


8. Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba - PRIDE 13

With a nickname like 'The Gracie Hunter' and nine submission victories to his name at the time, Kazushi Sakuraba's grappling was considered a huge test for the knockout artist known as Wanderlei Silva.

The fight looked to be playing perfectly into Sakuraba's hands when 'The Axe Murderer' locked up with him against the ropes but it didn't take long for Silva to disengage and do what he does best.

Silva took advantage of a lazy shot from the Japanese fighter before hammering home some knees and finishing with a soccer kick after just 90 seconds.

7. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos III - UFC 166

This was bloody perfect. Junior dos Santos had handed Velasquez the first loss of his career with a first round knockout in 2011 before Velasquez redeemed himself with a decision victory over the Brazilian the next year.

Then came the 2013 rubber match to find out who the baddest man on the planet truly was.

The AKA wrestler avoided over 60% of the strikes from JDS, whose boxing many claimed was the best in the sport, before TKOing him in the final round.


6. Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo - UFC 31

To sum it up, it was single-legs versus leg kicks for this 25 minute war.

'The Natural' may not have been as effective as he'd have liked with his takedowns, scoring just three of his fifteen in the heavyweight title fight but he came out on top on the scorecards thanks to his clinch work and forward pressure.

Many call it a controversial decision but Couture removed any doubt by beating the Brazilian in a rematch just six months later.

5. Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier - UFC 182

The build-up to last January's light heavyweight title fight was what earned this bout its place on this list as the pair of 205lbers' rivalry led to the most bad blood for a championship fight in recent memory.

It must be pointed out that Jones does have a wrestling background but he's primarily been a striker in his MMA career so we've classified him as such.

The gameplan for both was clear. Jones would have to keep the Olympic wrestler at distance and pick him apart on the feet while Cormier had to get inside the rangy striking of the then-champion and take him to the ground.

It was the former strategy that won out and Jones' ridiculous talent was exhibited as he enjoyed more success in the grappling realm, taking Cormier down 3/5 times and stuffing all but one of his opponent's eight attempts.

4. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Cro Cop - PRIDE Final Conflict

Greatest ever heavyweight grappler vs. greatest ever heavyweight striker? Very likely.

When the Sambo skills of the wrecking machine known as Fedor clashed with the highlight reel producer known as Mirko Cro Cop's left leg, nobody knew what to expect.

That's because Fedor had nasty boxing to accompany his ability to take any living human to the mat and that his Croatian opponent had very underestimated takedown defence.

In the third round Emelianenko took Cro Cop down, was stood up by the referee and took him right back down again to cement the decision in the eyes of the judges.

3. Anthony Pettis vs. Rafael dos Anjos - UFC 185

Seldom in recent memory have we seen a challenger dominate a champion the way that Rafael dos Anjos had his way with defending champ Anthony Pettis last March.

Pettis was well on his way to being considered the most entertaining fighter on the UFC roster thanks to his 83% finish rate. His famous "Showtime Kick" best summed up the striking proficiency of the 3rd dan Taekwondo black belt.

But he came unstuck when attempting to defend the 155lbs strap last year against the 3rd degree BJJ black belt Rafael dos Anjos.

RDA took Pettis down in nine of his ten attempts en route to one of the most one-sided unanimous decisions you're ever likely to see.

2. Anderson Silva v Chael Sonnen - UFC 117

Anderson Silva was a 1/4 favourite going in against the gritty wrestling of Chael Sonnen.

The unprecedentedly creative Muay Thai of 'The Spider' was expected to deliver him his 13th consecutive victory but all odds went out the window when Sonnen ragdolled the former middleweight champion for four and a half rounds back in 2010.

Sonnen took Silva down three times throughout the fight and controlled the Brazilian with relentless ground-and-pound and constant pressure.

The gold was as good as Sonnen's having dominated the first four rounds but with two minutes remaining, Silva threw up a triangle choke that caught Sonnen unaware and the trash-talker had to tap.


1. Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson - UFC 1

This makes it to the number one spot for two reasons. 1) It was the first time that we saw how BJJ could be used to completely disarm fighters who didn't train in that discipline and 2) The image of Art Jimmerson's one glove will forever live in our memories.

The Jiu-Jitsu black belt took the boxer into unfamiliar territory on the mat and, unable to defend himself because of his bizarre decision to wear one boxing glove, Jimmerson tapped after just two minutes.

In 2016, there is no such thing as pure striker vs. pure grappler as all elite fighters are able to compete in all realms of mixed martial arts.

And McGregor vs. Alvarez does not simply boil down to a stand-up fighter taking on a wrestler.

There are more factors at play but, hey, any excuse for an ol' list. Am I right?

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