http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2012/11/...-cung-le-mma-best-kickers-china-rich-franklin Kicking in mixed martial arts has gone through a great evolution since the early days when the only fighters who would attempt it were pure kickboxers. These kickboxers would then get taken down and submitted or have to hug from closed guard until the referee restarted the bout on the feet. Once cross training became a common occurrence, strikers learned to sprawl and (some) wrestlers learned to kick. Now kicking is a common feature that occurs in almost every bout on a major MMA card. That does not mean that all kicks are effective - in fact a great many are a colossal waste of effort or simply lead to a fighter getting taken down. On the whole though kicking is becoming a new force in MMA - the champion is no longer the guy with a sprawl and knockout power, but the guy who has the kicks to keep the bout at range. Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Dominik Cruz and Benson Henderson are all fighters who use kicks to limit the number of engagements a round - thereby limiting the number of times they are forced to defend punches or takedowns. Watching Jon Jones against Rashad Evans or Quinton Jackson, or Anderson Silva versus Demian Maia it is clear that dangerous opponents can have their skills nullified if they are kept at kicking range but aren't adept in the art of kicking. In today's article I want to pay homage to some of the best kickers in MMA. Some will be here for the sheer volume of kicks they throw, others for their inventiveness, and others for their significance in the evolution of striking in MMA. There's only so many I can write about but here are a few men who I feel use or used kicks especially well. Cung Le On this list because: Fights like a character from a video game. The vast majority of Cung's offensive output is made up of kicking techniques. Cung Le is an interesting case because he spent the majority of his Sanshou career out-wrestling kickboxers, then came to the cage and looked leagues ahead of most in the striking department. I have gone on record before as saying Le's hands are pretty mediocre, as is his defense, so Le's main method of defending himself and winning fights has been to go on the offence with hard kicks right from the start. Le's kick heavy game is incredibly labor intensive - causing him to gas in recent bouts - but his combinations and techniques have been wonderfully inventive over the years. Cung Le's side kick, for example, was one of the first to be used effectively in MMA - ramrodding out into his opponent any time they attempted to close the distance. [youtube]CLHFqj_FY8k[/youtube] Le's ability to recover from missed kicks is also an excellent quality for a striker to possess. Notice the spinning backfists off of kicks in the below highlight. Cung dropped Wanderlei Silva with a similar technique. [youtube]0Q8ARC4X9gA[/youtube] Bas Rutten On this list because: Rutten was the first to apply kicks successfully and consistently in top level MMA competition. Pancrase was one of the first organisations to offer a contest that is recognizable to us today as a mixed martial arts bout. Founded by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki; both catch wrestlers, the organisation quickly filled it's roster with Japanese wrestlers and a couple from overseas. Rutten came to represent the striking martial arts in Pancrase; coming into the organization after a stint in Muay Thai competition. Rutten boasted an impressive record in Muay Thai but was not the most technical of fighters. [youtube]2h_YESyfpU4[/youtube] What Rutten quickly came to learn was that his in your face, brawling style would either get him a quick knockout win or taken to the mat and submitted. Throughout his Pancrase career Rutten's striking output slowed and he became a more patient fighter. Never developing takedown defense that was worth writing home about, Rutten became one of the first effective kickers in mixed martial arts competition by adopting two very unique strategies. The first was to teep or push kick his opponent as hard as he could into the ropes, forcing them to bounce back as he ran in with palm strikes and punches. This assured that his opponent's feet were not in stance and that they could not 1) shoot for a takedown or 2) strike back. Rutten did this to wrestlers and strikers alike, performing the move on Maurice Smith and Guy Mezger as well - both far more accomplished kickboxers than Rutten. Rutten performs this technique at about 0:28 of the highlight below. [youtube]tvdZrLnNnmg[/youtube] Rutten's second great trick to landing kicks effectively was to always follow with a palm strike while standing on one leg. If the kick were caught he could stun his opponent with the palm strikes (as he famously did to Frank Shamrock, resulting in Frank stumbling to the ropes and both men falling out of the ring), and if the kick weren't caught he could place it down behind him and continue a combination. Count the number of strikes thrown while on one leg in any Bas Rutten highlight and it will probably be higher than most fighters throw off of one leg in their career. [youtube]uiGQIh-6Kdo[/youtube] Bas is credited as being one of the first truly rounded fighters, but in truth he never had much of a positional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game or a great sprawl. It was when Rutten slowed down his output and found times to swarm on his opponents, rather than simply attempting to knock them out every moment that the fight was on the feet, that Rutten became a far better mixed martial arts competitor and a pioneer of kicking in the sport.