This Saturday, Ronda Rousey defends her Strikeforce Bantamweight Title against Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman is arguably Rousey's stiffest challenge to date, boasting wins over the likes of Liz Carmouche and Rousey's previous opponent, Miesha Tate. The smart money, though, is on Rousey due to her sheer dominance thus far and her dreaded armbar.
That armbar, by the way, is a big part of her success as a fighter. Like a pro wrestler who hits his signature maneuver at the peak of a match, Rousey's armbar has become her go-to finisher in a sport that doesn't see many of them. The reason we don't see more is that the myriad of styles brought into the cage require a fighter to have a wide array of tools at their disposal, and relying too often on one submission can spell disaster if your opponent sees it coming.
That's why it's rare to see signature moves in MMA, but also all the more impressive when someone does not only have one but find success with it time and again.
Here's a few that have stood out.
Ronda Rousey's Armbar
"If I get her in an armbar," Rousey recently told MMAFighting.com, " I'm going to rip it off and throw it at her corner." Ronda Rousey is SO pro wrestling, and I love it. She has her signature move that she goes to time and again, literally ending every single one of her fights with it. Not only is she going to tell you about it, she's confident that you won't be able to stop it even though you know it's coming. And it is, indeed, a wonder to behold.
Chuck Liddell's Overhand Right
Chuck Liddell used this looping, unorthodox strike to finish the likes of Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture while compiling one of the greatest title runs in UFC history. It's not what you would call a technically graceful strike, either. If you were to throw it in front of a coach or trainer, you'd be chastised for poor form and leaving yourself open. Liddell, however, had a ton of power behind the punch (he once threw it to a bag on an episode of "The Ultimate Fighter" and it made everyone in the room wince) and a it was shockingly accurate, hitting its target more often than not square on the chin.
Bas Rutten's Liver Punch
When Bas Rutten was in Pancrase, he didn't care much for the rule that forbid closed-hand strikes to the head. His solution was to employ liver strikes. If you've never been hit with one, let's just say that it's preferable to get knocked unconscious (long term damage notwithstanding). It's one of the most painful legal maneuvers in all of combat sports, and if hit, it's all but guaranteed to end the fight. In most cases a liver shot is a freak occurrence or at best a roll of the dice. But Rutten, somehow, was able to land it with as yet unmatched frequency.
Brock Lesnar's Hammerfists
People rag on Lesnar for the manner in which he left the sport and returned to the WWE, but before all the health problems that put him on the shelf twice and may have shortened his MMA career, he was one of the scariest heavyweights we'd ever seen. He wasn't just big, he was skilled and athletic; the perfect combination of discipline and sheer brutality. Most fights would end by putting that strange combination on display, with Lesnar using his wrestling prowess to take it to the ground and secure mount, followed by devastating hammerfists to the head. It looked silly, like a toddler banging a broken toy on the ground, but for his opponents it felt anything but childlike.
Cro Cop's Roundhouse Head Kick
When he was fighting for Pride Fighting Championships, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was one of the most feared strikers in the world. He was a steely-eyed and stoic member of an elite special forces police unit in Croatia who found success and fame in kickboxing, which reads like the plot of a bad action movie from the eighties. Unfortunately for his opponents, though, his story was all too real. His signature maneuver was an accurate high roundhouse kick that landed with a smack that would echo throughout the arena. Filipovic would be felled by that same kick from Gabriel Gonzaga once he got to the UFC, but up to that point, we believed he could beat anyone on any given night with it.
Krzysztof Soszynski built his reputation in the IFL and arrived in the UFC an improved and more complete fighter. One of the additions he made to his arsenal in between the two stints was his kimura, which he used to win three straight fights in 2008 and 2009. After upsetting Brian Stann with the move, it looked as if he'd take his spot at the upper echelon of the middleweight division along with his opponents' arms. Unfortunately he struggled in 2010 and in his last fight in December, he suffered a vicious knockout loss to Igor Pokrajac that led to him announcing his retirement from MMA. He later rescinded, but neither he nor his kimura have been seen since.
Cody McKenzie didn't invent the guillotine choke. It's one of the first submission moves you learn in training. But the Ultimate Fighter season 12 contestant has damn near perfected the application of it, winning an astonishing eleven fights with his version of the maneuver. Like K-Sos, he ran into a bad set of circumstances when he moved up in competition. Here's hoping he's able to bounce back, because I love a good guillotine.
Jake Shields's Horizontal Bear Hug
It's weird how Jake Shields always falls back on a single maneuver and weirder still that it takes him so long to get it finished… sometimes the entire fight. You may not like this move, and it may bore you to tears, but you can't deny its effectiveness when he gets it applied.