This upcoming UFC on Versus 2 will feature some great fights, and a good group of Asian fighters (Takanori Gomi, Yushin Okami, and Mark Munoz). With Pride FC being so strong in Japan in the past, and DREAM taking the reigns after it ended — it’s exciting to see Asian fighters become more successful, especially here in the States. There’s a good trend of Asian fighters homegrown and oversees. Here are the fighters I’ve considered the best:
1. BJ Penn (UFC Lightweight Legend)
BJ Penn is widely considered the greatest Lightweight Champion of all-time. “The Prodigy” has fought and even beaten the best MMA has to over: Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Takanori Gomi, Caol Uno, Renzo Gracie, Sean Sherk, Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez. That resume speaks for itself. He even went up to Heavyweight to face #3 Lyoto Machida. That’s a fighter!
2. Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride FC / DREAM Middleweight Legend)
Kazushi Sakuraba was “The Gracie Hunter” after defeating Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Ryan Gracie and a 90 minute fight with Royce Gracie. He was the heart of Pride FC during it’s hay day. When outsiders were coming to Japan to fight for Pride FC, Sakuraba was there to welcome them with a punch in the face. He was the face of Japan MMA for a long time and is considered a legend there.
3. Lyota Machida (UFC Light Heavyweight)
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto Machida, single-handedly made karate relevant again in MMA. This Brazilian of Japanese descent has been one of the most elusive fighters with a knack of surprising all of his opponents with unorthodox striking based in karate. Since coming to the UFC, he’s fought and beaten the who’s who of the Light Heavyweight Division until Mauricio Rua stopped his undefeated streak.
4. Shinya Aoki (Pride FC / DREAM Lightweight)
Shinya Aoki is “Tobikan Judan” (Master of Flying Submissions). If he gets you to the ground, more likely than not, you’ll be tapping by submission or hearing your bones or limbs break due to your pride. The majority of his wins have come because of high high-level Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. DREAM’s Lightweight Champion, he’s gone through everyone in Japan and continues to tear through the competition. Look forward to seeing him fight the best here in the United States.
5. Cung Le (Strikeforce Middleweight)
Whenever Cung Le fights in Northern California, everyone comes to watch. One of the biggest draws for Strikeforce, he came over from Kickboxing where he spent most of his days in his prime. Coming to MMA later in his career, he was able to translate his experiences well to the new sport and become a Strikeforce Middleweight Champion.
6. Yushin Okami (UFC Middleweight)
Yushin Okami is one of the most underrated fighters in the Middleweight Division. Considered one of the Top 10 Middleweights, he’s faced and beat a ton of the top Middleweight contenders in the UFC. He even beat Anderson Silva (DQ illegal kick). His strong striking and surprisingly tough ground and pound has made him a force in the division.
7. Takanori Gomi (Pride FC / UFC Lightweight)
Takanori Gomi tore up the Pride FC Lightweight Division. After becoming the last Pride FC Lightweight Champion before it was absorbed by Zuffa, he ended his reign as one of the best leaving behind a 13-1-1 record. “The Fireball Kid” had heavy hands that always landed where it needed to. One of his highlights was running through the 2005 Pride FC Lightweight Grand Prix and KO’ing Hayato Sakurai. He won Sherdog’s Fighter of the Year honors with Mauricio Rua.
8. Mark Munoz (UFC Middleweight)
Mark Munoz is rising through the UFC ranks in the Middleweight Division. After his gutsy win over Kendall Grove, he’s considered to be an up and comer. Armed with a dangerous ground and pound, his style harks back to Tito Ortiz and Mark Coleman. An All-American Collegiate Wrestling Champion, he draws from a strong wrestling base which helps grind out some amazing wins.
9. Yoshihiro Akiyama (DREAM / UFC Middleweight)
“Sexy-Yama” is slowly becoming a crowd favorite here in the United State because of his brawling style along with his high class judo. Yoshihiro Akiyama is already a huge star in both Korea and Japan. He fights the best in the division, and always puts on a great show. Both of his fights with Alan Belcher and Chris Leban have earned him “Fight of the Night” honors due to the fight he brings to the table.
10. Brandon Vera (UFC Light Heavyweight / Heavyweight)
Brandon Vera came onto the scene and tore up the UFC Heavyweight Division with 4 decisive wins, including over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir. His dangerous Muay Thai striking and mix of Greco Roman wrestling has set him apart in any division he fights in. Going against the very best, he’s held his own and he’s looking to rise in the ranks of the UFC Light Heavyweight Division.
BONUS: Chan Sung Jung (WEC Featherweight)
He is the “Korean Zombie”. Chan Sung Jung’s fight with Leonard Garcia leading up to WEC’s first pay-per-view, WEC 48, has recently shot him into stardom. He even has his own Korean Zombie t-shirt. The fight was reminiscent of the first Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight for the Ultimate Fighter. It wasn’t technical, but it was definitely entertaining.
QUESTION: Who’s your favorite Asian MMA fighter? Did I miss anyone?