We all watch MMA for different reasons. Some watch it for the technique that is displayed in a fight. Others may watch it because they are violence junkies. A true MMA fan watches the sport for that perfect combination of competition, violence, and learned technique. In recent years, we have been seeing fighters start performing safely to either avoid getting cut by an organization or because their ego can’t handle losing. Guys don’t engage and defend it by saying that it was their gameplan and they fought smart. They may even stall out a victory by laying on their opponents, but call it ‘controlling’. There are very few fighters left who put it all on the line, every time they fight.
There is a major difference between a fighter and an athlete. MMA is a gruff sport and you really need some major intestinal fortitude to be a competitor in it. Earlier this month, Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs took to his Twitter and reneged on his future plans to become a MMA fighter after his amateur wrestling career was over.
“MMA is brutal. Great sport, but not for me. I will never step foot in the Octagon.” This was a perfect example of an athlete realizing that MMA could take a serious toll on him. He said this before even having 1 professional fight too. There are active fighters who feel this way as well, but they stick with MMA because they have such a strong desire to compete. Some fighters love the competition, but hate fighting. Marinate on that for a minute.
In this sport however, there are some natural born killers; guys who are fighters to their core. They don’t compete to stall out a win or hang on to an opponent to avoid damage. They are fighters who, when the cage door closes, they don’t take a step back. Phrases like ‘throwing caution to the wind’, ‘ready for war’, or ‘bringing the pain’ are used to describe a style that 50% of fighters have never or will never attain.
5 fighters exemplify what it means to be a fighter. They move forward and never back. They will try to achieve their objective of a KO or submission, without the care of losing. Nick Diaz, Robbie Lawler, Fedor Emelianenko, Melvin Manhoef, and Wanderlei Silva all exemplify what we would consider a true savage.
Nick Diaz. 27 wins. 9 losses. Of his 27 wins, 22 of them were by stoppage (yes, Gomi was a win). In his 9 losses, he went to decision 7 times. In short, Diaz is a tough SOB! You have to kill him to beat him. He would go out on his shield, if he actually went down. He doesn’t try to avoid his opponents. Far from it. He will talk smack and even let a guy punch himself out, so he can impose his will.
His coach and manager Cesar Gracie once famously said, “If GSP and Nick Diaz walk into a dark alley, we all know who is coming out alive”. That statement captures perfectly the sheer will of Nick Diaz. He just doesn’t stop coming forward and he never stops punching. Many guys that put it all on the line every fight will eventually get KO’d or sub’d, but not Diaz. He is a cyborg created at Cyberdyne Systems that was sent back in time for 2 reasons: To yell ‘209’ and entertain MMA fans.
Robbie Lawler. Lawler is riding high right now at the top of the 170 lb division. Every punch that Lawler throws is intended to bury his opponent. He is the kind of guy that takes 3 punches so he can deliver 1 back that could potentially end a fight. In his 22 wins, he has gone to 3 decisions. 18 of those wins were by KO or TKO. The first time I saw Robbie fight was at UFC 40 and instantly became a fan of his vicious attacking style. Joe Rogan was talking about how Lawler was a big Mike Tyson fan and it was evident in the way he threw punches. Like I said, he throws punches to kill you. You know when you see pure joy on someone’s face when they are doing something that they absolutely love? Well, that is Robbie Lawler when he knocks someone out.
Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor is regarded by many, such as myself, as the greatest fighter to ever live. During his time of dominance he showed a killer instinct that may still be unrivaled in MMA today. When people were terrified of winding up in Big Nog’s guard, Fedor jumped right into it and said ‘Please sir, may I have another?’. He went on a 32 fight win streak (a 17-second headbutt cut doesn’t count as a loss) before he lost his first fight. Of his 35 professional fights he stopped 27 of his opponents. That list consists of 5 former UFC heavyweight champions. He has never lost a decision. Fedor is a prime example of how to leave it all in the ring and either walk out victorious or be carried out on his shield.
Melvin Manheof. The least commercially known name on this list is Melvin Manhoef. Considering that we are around for ‘Generation: TUF’, I expect that many people won’t even know who he is. You should, though. When Manhoef fights, it should be a prerequisite that all fans watch him before being allowed to continue watching MMA. He is aggression personified. Like Fedor, he doesn’t want a decision. He wants to kill or be killed. 27 wins, with 25 KO’s. That is bananas. He has gone to 1 decision in his losses and the other 10 were him being physically stopped. Manhoef is an attack dog and it is prevalent in his fighting style, as well as his walkouts. His trainer slaps him around, while he is wearing a spiked dog collar and getting pumped up to fight. 25 people have found out the hard way that it is not a good idea to step into his yard.
Wanderlei Silva. Of course Wanderlei made this list. No one has shown to be more aggressive in their fighting style in the last 15 years than Wanderlei Silva. In the last 7 years, Silva has racked up a very mediocre record of 4-7. 0 shits have been given by MMA fans. When Wanderlei fights, people will tune in. He literally fights with no fear whatsoever. If he were a comic book character, he would be Daredevil. He just doesn’t care if he KO’s someone or gets KO’d, as long as he is entertaining. Wanderlei is the very last of a dying breed of savages who are left in the sport. People look forward to the corny smack talking by Bisping or Sonnen these days, but they used to look forward to seeing Wanderlei Silva’s stare downs. The Japanese used to go ballistic for the Silva pre-fight stare down, because they knew what came after. Wanderlei is a fighter from balls to bone. Aside from fighting in the cage, he has gone after Rampage in the ring during PRIDE, went after Coleman during his fight with Shogun, got in Chuck’s face at the weigh-ins… The list goes on. Like Nick Diaz, Wanderlei doesn’t really have an off switch. When it is on… IT IS ON! Enjoy every time he competes folks, because we may not see the likes of someone like him again.
Honorable mentions to this list are José ‘Pelé’ Landi-Jons, Josh Barnett, Ronda Rousey, and Leonard Garcia.
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