Fighters who displayed artistry in the octagon

It’s almost here. UFC 264 is right around the corner and fans are buzzing over what promises to be a hard-hitting, star-studded evening of MMA mayhem. In the main event, the UFC’s most recognizable star, Conor McGregor, will look for revenge in a trilogy fight with UFC’s number one ranked lightweight, Dustin Poirier.

In the semi-main, two of the welterweight division’s finest, Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson, will clash in a curious mismatch of styles. Expect fireworks when heavyweight hosses Tai Tuivasa and Greg Hardy do battle as well. The whole card is stacked with intriguing, promising fights well worth every fight fan’s attention.

Unsurprisingly, UFC 264 will host several top-of-the-line fighters who have displayed truly exceptional skills in the ring. From master strikers to submission artists, here are three fighters on the UFC 264 card who have shown exceptional artistry in their fights over the years.

#3. UFC women’s bantamweight fighter Irene Aldana

Ketlen Vieira v Irene Aldana
Ketlen Vieira v Irene Aldana

With a record of 12-6, it’s safe to say Irene Aldana’s MMA career has been a little hit and miss. Her most recent outing was an exhausting unanimous decision loss to Holly Holm at UFC on ESPN 16 in October last year. Currently ranked at number four in the UFC women’s bantamweight rankings, Aldana needs to beat Yana Kunitskaya this month to stay anywhere near title contention.

A stroll down memory lane tells us it can be done. Look no further than her jaw-dropping knockout of Ketlen Vieira at UFC 245. With nine seconds to spare in the first round, Aldana left Vieira looking at the lights following several perfectly-placed punches.

A sharp, well-rounded striker, Aldana has finished several opponents with some seriously brutal boxing. One of her most masterful performances goes all the way back to her time in Invicta FC. Throwing down with Colleen Schneider in February 2015, Aldana exploded into the fight with several dangerous shots.

Already reeling, a spaghetti-legged Schneider was barely standing when Aldana slapped on a rear-naked choke. Showing a great mastery of leverage and control, Aldana kept the hold locked in and safely took it to the ground where Schneider almost immediately caved in.

All of that was just the first minute of the fight, truly a one-of-a-kind performance.

#2. UFC welterweight fighter Gilbert Burns

UFC Fight Night Jacare v Hermansson
UFC Fight Night Jacare v Hermansson

One of the most accomplished submission grapplers in the UFC today, Gilbert Burns will fight for the first time since his loss to Kamaru Usman this month at UFC 264.

A second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Burns has displayed brutal efficiency in the octagon time and time again. At UFC Fight Night 150, Burns showed off his submission expertise, locking Mike Davis up with a scary rear-naked choke. With no way to escape, the fading Davis was left with no choice but to tap.

In the years since, Burns has finished only one other opponent: Demian Maia. In arguably his career-best performance, Burns leveled his fellow BJJ king with deadly punches halfway through round one. Picking up a TKO win on the grappling legend, ‘Durinho’ also walked away with Performance of the Night honors.

Burns’ other victories in recent years have come by unanimous decision. Between his masterful grappling and top of the line cardio, it’s hardly surprising that Burns can go the distance. He will be looking to showcase his exceptional skills once again when he faces Stephen Thompson at UFC 264.

#1. Former interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier

UFC 257: Poirier v McGregor
UFC 257: Poirier v McGregor

‘The Diamond’ may just be on the run of his career if he wins later this month. Prior to his devastating submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242, the multi-time Performance of the Night winner was on a four-fight win streak.

In a truly exceptional display, Poirier decimated Eddie Alvarez at UFC on Fox 30. Expertly dismantling Alvarez with well-placed strikes towards the end of round two, Poirier was a force to be reckoned with.

Stepping a little further back in time, Poirier’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills were on full display at UFC Fight Night 120. Poirier went toe-to-toe with former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in the main event of the November 2017 show.

In arguably the most violent brawl of his career, Poirier busted ‘Showtime’ open badly with his vicious shots. Controlling an increasingly frantic Pettis on the ground, Poirier tapped him out with a rare body triangle hold almost halfway through round three. Showcasing great fluidity, strength and technique, Poirier was on fire here.

Last but not least is his perfect strategy at UFC 257. Taking full advantage of Conor McGregor’s ill-advised switch to a boxer’s stance, Poirier went all-in with his leg kicks. Hobbling the former champ-champ, Poirier finished the job with a series of ferocious punches for the TKO win.

Can he repeat the magic at UFC 264?

Edited by Jack Cunningham

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