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“Top of the Food Chain Series” Volume 3: Best Kicks

Derek Bowe

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The kicking game has evolved exponentially in the sport of mixed martial arts, where having a background in a traditional discipline which employs effective kicks, has become a more than a weapon, but a threat to end the fight from any angle, at any time. From leg kicks, roundhouses, spinning hook kicks, to teeps, the arsenal which present fighters choose to employ in their attack is vast, and has been seen to end fights in the most exciting, and brutal fashion. In addition to the array of kicks which exist, many of the kicks are executed differently by different martial arts backgrounds. The setup, and execution varies between the styles, the fighters which make up this list represent this very example, as they have been compiled with consideration being given to their creative and effective nature. Without further delay, the list of the best fighters to use the kicking attack in mixed martial arts.

#5 Conor McGregor, Featherweight, UFC
Conor McGregor has been on a meteoric rise to the top of the the featherweight mountain, his ascension in the sport is unparalleled, and coupled with his promotional ability, the man is unbelievably talented. Conor uses a wide, semi-karate style stance and rattles off very creative kicks which are absolutely beautiful to watch. The snap and power is evident, as well as the balance displayed in the finish, which is brilliant. Spinning hook kicks, lead hook kicks, spinning back kicks front side kicks, and a Meia Lua de Compasso (compass half moon) which comes from his practice of Capoeira. The creativity of Conor’s kicks can arguably be placed in the top slot of this list, as the evolution of his ability continues, it will be exciting to see what else is in the Dubliner’s bag of tricks.

#4 Edson Barboza, Lightweight, UFC

Edson Barboza has the best leg kicks in mixed martial arts. The ferocity is evident, as two, to three landing flush requires a switch in stance, additional landing, and loss of planting ability and use of that particular leg all together. Rafaelo Oliveira, Mike Lullo, and Marcello Giudici have felt this pain as they were all stopped by Barboza via leg kicks. Barboza also has a knockout victory over Terry Etim by way of an unbelievable spinning wheel kick, making Etim go stiff. That knockout is considered one of the greatest knockouts in the history of the sport. The kick was meant to continue through the point of contact, as it did, sending the British fighter to the canvas without consciousness. With Barboza’s propensity to attack the legs, opponents need to completely gameplan around this attack, easily landing Barboza on the list as one of the most effective in the game.

#3 Vitor Belfort, Middleweight, UFC

The Phenom, as Belfort is described is just that. The Brazilian star came into the sport at 19 years of age, and was known to have the fastest hands the sport had seen, blitzing opponents, and overwhelming them with a barrage of punches. Enter the new Vitor Belfort in 2013 when he kicked Michael Bisping’s head into the front row of the audience, then blasted Luke Rockhold via spinning back heel kick, and subsequently rattled the old bones of Dan Henderson by vicious head kick. This is a new Vitor, showing the execution of power and technique in the kicking department which places the Brazilian with the elite. Vitor steps into the cage to challenge for the Middleweight strap opposite Chris Weidman at UFC 187. His ability to finish three divisional top contending stalwarts in a row by kicks lands the Phenom at number three on the list.

#2 Lyoto Machida, Middleweight, UFC

The Dragon, Lyoto Machida is the most effective Karateka in mixed martial arts. Machida has exceptional movement and leaps in and out of attacks with fluidity. Machida likely masks his kicks better than any fighter on this list, as his karate background allows him to execute his kicks without setting them up, no pivoting, no giveaway turn of the hips, he simply unleashes the kicks from his stance. Finishes have come from roundhouse head, liver kick, and to one of the greatest ever seen, a jumping front switch kick over Randy Couture, reminiscent to the “Crane Kick” made famous in the Karate Kid movie. Lyoto’s kicks are very hard to defend against, while he sacrifices some power in lack of setup, the speed and unpredictability make them highly effective in finding their target. Machida would likely have landed the top spot if not for the sniper occupying the mantle.

#1 Anthony Pettis, Lightweight, UFC

The man who goes by the name Showtime, made his name for throwing fantastic kicking techniques which have not been seen in the sport. Cartwheel kicks, and the famous “Showtime Kick” which saw the former lightweight champion leap up off of one leg, press against the cage with the other, and spring off of the cage, launching his hind leg in roundhouse fashion at his opponent Benson Henderson. Had the kick resulted in a knockout, instead of simply a knock down, it would have been the greatest finish ever seen. As those kicks are recognized, Pettis has also shown great ability to mask his attempts and they have led to huge success in the form of head kick knockouts, as well as the brutal liver kick finish. Pettis has no qualms or hesitancy in throwing whichever kick his creative mind believes the body can execute, he was a runaway pick for the top spot, as he embodies the creative, as well as the effective aspect of the kicking attack.

Honorable Mentions: Anderson Silva, Daron Cruickshank, Donald Cerrone, Jose Aldo, Stephen Thompson

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Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

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In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

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Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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