10 Most Entertaining Fighters..

June 12, 2007
by Jake Rossen (jrossen@sherdog.com)

"I would rather lose an exciting fight than win a boring one" is a fighter sentiment I can get behind.

Granted, it's important to figure out whose Kung Fu is best, even if it turns out to be a particularly plodding style. But without unrefined, spastic and occasionally reckless fighters, the combat sports game would be as boring as an Andy Rooney anecdote. Or baseball.

Skill is appreciated, but not compulsory for the list. The following selections are limited to active participants that make audience enjoyment a priority, even out of the ring: though Genki Sudo (Pictures) is a one-man circus, he's proclaimed retirement.

Ten who consistently make it worth suffering through sponsor plugs and stuttering commentators:

10) Gabe Ruediger (Pictures)
Status: Ultimate Fighter 5 castaway; imbiber of inappropriately timed sweets.

I've witnessed precious little of Ruediger's in-ring theatrics, but I don't care. His labored swagger on season five of The Ultimate Fighter has been a series' highlight. (Considering this is the same outlet that presented Chris Leben (Pictures)'s pillow urination as Must See TV, do your own math there.) Episode after episode, Ruediger is seen sporting a prodigious belly, inviting concern that he won't be able to drop enough flub in order to make 155-pounds in time.

True to form, Ruediger's questionable dieting habits -- including an ice cream cake IV drip -- led to a weight cut that held more melodrama than a Sidney Sheldon novel. Fainting repeatedly and sauna-sick, he was eventually unable to shed the final three pounds.

No small wonder, since he was chewing everything in sight -- including the scenery.

Best Moment: Collapsing naked next to the pool, a dehydrated Ruediger mumbles incoherently before being dragged around like an errant corpse.

9) Nick Diaz (Pictures)
Status: Ornery Stockton, Calif. native with limited social skills; "nobody's bitch."

Youth invites a certain brand of hubris, and nowhere is that on better display than in the disposition of Diaz; his face etched in a permanent scowl, the jiu-jitsu prodigy is fond of belittling opponents verbally and taunting them. Mounting and punching Drew Fickett (Pictures), he was heard to utter, "You like that, huh?"

Fickett, predictably, did not.

Best Moment: Disgruntled after losing a decision to Joe Riggs (Pictures), he instigates a fight with Riggs in the hospital, cracking him in the jaw (while allegedly still hooked to an IV drip) as horrified medical staff look on.

8) Bob "The Beast" Sapp
Status: Godzilla's heir apparent in Japan.

Some observers have equated Bob Sapp (Pictures)'s fighting skill to that of an upended turtle combined with the cardio conditioning of Joe Camel. In spite of -- or possibly because of -- such limited resources, Sapp's bouts are usually pithy symphonies of sudden and horrible violence. Either his massive frame envelops and crushes his outsized opposition, or his lungs constrict and he's used as a human focus mitt. There's not much middle ground.

Best Moment: Horribly fatigued between rounds against the formidable Jerome LeBanner (Pictures), Sapp pleads with his corner not to send him back in the fight, his eyes growing saucer-wide at the thought of an impending mauling.

7) Karo Parisyan (Pictures)
Status: Gruff judo player; one-man airline.

In most instances, grappling isn't the stuff screen legends are made of. Jiu-jitsu and wrestling are games of inches, with athletes preferring practicality over camera-ready moves. It's precisely why every MMA movie made to date has sucked like a Hoover ... and why David Mamet has his work cut out for him.

Judo is different. Practitioners enjoy grabbing limbs and forcing flight plans on opponents. Nowhere is the art expressed as beautifully in MMA as with Parisyan, who makes even the most difficult application of leverage seem effortless. His grappling is dynamic, dangerous, and brimming with enough energy to make even the most apathetic observer hit the Rewind button.

Best Moment: Tossing Dave Strasser (Pictures) in the air like an abused child and then transitioning immediately into a Kimura.

6) Shinya Aoki (Pictures)
Status: Rainbow-thighed master grappler.

The submission game is pretty much set in stone by now: find undefended limb, apply pressure, collect check. That Japanese star Aoki can consistently find fresh ways to torque ligaments and reroute blood supplies is massively enjoyable. That he does it while displaying Urkel's physique and Joseph's missing Technicolor leotard is some kind of subversive genius.

Best Moment: Facing Norwegian badass Joachim Hansen (Pictures), Aoki strangles him using his shin.

5) Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Status: Devastatingly handsome Chute Boxe rep, an apparent oxymoron; master of the flying foot stomp.

Rua makes the list for a simple reason. He has one speed: full throttle.

In 18 professional fights, Rua has not once stopped to look contemplative, to gasp for air, or to ponder his next move. He works like a honeybee collective, swarming opponents and stinging them in every vulnerable area possible.

When faced with a downed opponent, some fighters are content to slap idly at their thighs: Rua prefers to launch himself in the air, slamming his heel into eye sockets and chins. And unlike most athletes his age, he has the technique to back up his kinetic approach.

Best Moment: Eager to bring the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix title back to Chute Boxe, Rua disarms Ricardo Arona (Pictures) with a stomp before unloading on his unconscious frame.

4) Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett
Status: Ritalin child of MMA; plague of referees everywhere.

Fighters are a somber, surly lot when it comes time to fight; they pace, they avoid eye contact, they mutter. Bennett, in contrast, jumps around with the enthusiasm of a kid on his way to Disneyland. He lounges on top of the ropes; he launches attacks that would be deemed too theatrical in a Van Damme movie; he mocks officials. That you're annoyed by it all is probably the point.

Best Moment: During an alleged post-fight locker room scuffle in Japan, Bennett claims to have knocked out Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) cold. Like most violent yarns, you really, really want to believe it.

3) Don Frye (Pictures)
Status: Grizzled veteran of many a sanctioned war; advice columnist.

Everyone has a pair. Those weatherworn boots caked in mud and lined with stress fractures that still stand up to the worst you can throw at them.

Sizing up Frye next to a pair of smelly old shoes is a backhanded compliment, but there's precious little comparison for a guy who's seen more hazardous circumstances than any pair of Wolverines. "The Predator" has been beaten, tossed, knocked cold, knocked senseless, retired, un-retired, clobbered, submitted, and gouged. He's emerged from fights looking like he got caught in a blender. And he has never, ever bothered to duck when his chin will do just fine.

Best Moment: Facing Japanese hero Yoshihiro Takayama (Pictures), Frye digs in his heels, clenches his teeth, and proceeds to punch (and get punched) ad nauseum in the world's first and only approximation of Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots.

2) Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures)
Status: Sentient Anime character; gleeful representative of pro wrestling; future cripple.

There may be no athlete that's been more considerate to paying attendees than Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), who has, on various occasions, taken time out of fighting to smile at the crowd, perform two-handed Mongolian chops, swing opponents around the ring, and bounce off the ropes like an ersatz Hulk Hogan.

The goodwill he's engendered was on full display during K-1's recent visit to Los Angeles, where fans, who might expected to be aware only of athletes featured on SpikeTV, gave him one of the evening's biggest receptions. It's been well earned.

Best Moment: Addressing reporters prior to his no-time-limit bout with Royce Gracie (Pictures) in 2000, Sakuraba shows up to a press conference wearing a diaper. In an unlimited-time bout, he explains, the first one to have to use the bathroom will lose.

1) Chuck Liddell (Pictures)
Status: Sleepy-eyed serial killer; cough medicine connoisseur.

To be fair, Liddell hasn't always been exciting. His 2001 bouts with Jeff Monson (Pictures) and Murilo Bustamante (Pictures) would've put coffee to sleep. But starting with his shin-to-grill destruction of Renato Sobral (Pictures) in 2002, the Iceman has been the fight equivalent of a Michael Bay movie: all smash cuts and geysers of blood.

In 12 straight bouts, Liddell has stopped (or been stopped) inside the distance. In nine of them, he's been the hammer, knocking out a laundry list of durable contenders like Randy Couture (Pictures), Jeremy Horn (Pictures), Sobral, and Tito Ortiz (Pictures).

A pending showdown with Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) is likely to make it 13.

Best Moment: Satiating years of pent-up malevolence, Liddell renders Ortiz a lump of fallen hubris in a flurry that would've made Vitor Belfort (Pictures) proud.

Or jealous.

"an ersatz Hulk Hogan" "sentient anime character" "cough-medicine connoisseur"

funny stuff.

BJ Penn, Wanderlei Silva, Kevin Randleman, GSP, Matt Serra, Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture, Fedor, Mirko Cro Cop... lots could be added.

sak in his prime was funny as hell. it looked like he didnt even care.

List is worthless and void w/o Genki Sudo.


True to form, Ruediger's questionable dieting habits -- including an ice cream cake IV drip


List is worthless and void w/o Genki Sudo.

Soo true

Hermes Franca NEVER disappoints the crowd, win or lose. Shogun, Aoki, Brandon Vera, Nick Diaz, Gomi, these guys put it down all the time, I'd pay to see them

where is rampage on that list? if he isnt entertaining i dont know who is. not to mention genki for sure and kid.

i stopped reading @ #10...give me a fucking break........

really, diaz, shogun, krazy horse and sak are the only ones that are unquestionalbe IMO.

i can see why they put chuck, because he ends fights, and frye, because well, he is frye. but some of the others just make me wonder about sherdog.

^ lol i noticed that.

Robbie Lawler

Jose "Pele" Landy

Gono even if he doesn't fight.

Sudo hands down, best entrances, best antics...shame with the back neck problems :(

remember the spin to ankle lock? i mean cmon

NO MAYHEM? Blasphemy. I figured he'd be #1.











oops.. I forgot Fedor. LOL!