Georges St-Pierre and 5 Best Defensive Grapplers in MMA Today

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

Georges St-Pierre and 5 Best Defensive Grapplers in MMA Today

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    Several mainstays in the UFC have maintained job security by consistently producing enthralling submissions.

    Promotional staples like Joe Lauzon, Charles Oliveira and Jim Miller have each displayed phenomenal offensive grappling skills, submitting fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts and garnering Submission of the Night bonus checks on several occasions.

    But in the same vein, some of the UFC's best offensive grapplers have ultimately found themselves on the other end of the spectrum. Lauzon has been submitted three times in his career, Oliveira tapped to a Miller kneebar, and Miller got guillotined by Nate Diaz.

    George Sotiropolous floored Lauzon three times, and Kenny Florian and Jamie Varner each grounded him twice. Miller got taken down seven times by Benson Henderson and four times by both Mark Bocek and Gleison Tibau. And Oliveira surrendered a pair of takedowns to Nik Lentz and had his guard passed twice by Efrain Escudero.

    Not to trivialize their ground games, but guys like Lauzon, Oliveira and Miller each have a bit of refining to do if they want to avoid tapping again in the future.

    Here's a look at five fighters who've honed their defensive grappling skills to near perfection.

Honorable Mentions

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    It's mighty difficult to leave any of the following fighters off this list. But the top five means just that.

    The following list represents the best of the rest: Cain Velasquez, Benson Henderson, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Demian Maia, Jose Aldo, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Josh Barnett, Johny Hendricks, B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, Martin Kampmann, Masakazu Imanari, Rory MacDonald, Urijah Faber, Michael Chandler, Renan Barao, Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy, Dan Henderson, Ben Askren, Shinya Aoki and Gray Maynard.

5. Frank Mir

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    Mir may not possess the best defensive wrestling chops on this list, but the 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt can defend himself against any submission fighter on the planet.

    In perhaps his most impressive career victory, Mir got stunned early by strikes from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and then nearly tapped to a "Minotauro" guillotine choke.

    Mir, however, rolled through Minotauro's guillotine attempt and ended up on top of the prolific Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Once on top, Mir turned the tables and snatched a kimura, eventually snapping Minotauro's humerus.

    In his 20-fight UFC career, Mir has surrendered just five takedowns and allowed six guard passes.

    No fighter, other than Minotauro, has threatened Mir with a submission. It's safe to say that he'll retire without ever tapping in the Octagon.

4. Daniel Cormier

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    If Cormier were just more seasoned, he'd certainly merit more recognition in the realm of defensive grappling.

    Nevertheless, the former Oklahoma State University wrestling standout has amassed a pristine grappling record in his 11-fight pro career, allowing no takedowns and no guard passes.

    Cormier schooled three straight Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts by dismantling Jeff Monson, Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett in Strikeforce. In those three fights, Barnett was the lone fighter to attempt a submission on Cormier. Barnett briefly grabbed a leglock before Cormier calmly slipped out of it.

    "DC" will face his harshest grappling test next when he locks horns with the venomous Mir at UFC on Fox 7 in April.

    Mir holds the most career victories and the most submissions in the history of the UFC's heavyweight division.

    Cormier isn't alarmed by these facts, but he'll surely try to duplicate the game plan Junior dos Santos imposed against Mir and engage in a strategic strikefest in order to avoid his ground game entirely.

3. Chris Weidman

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    Like Cormier, Weidman hasn't been in the game very long, but he's looked awfully impressive in his nine-fight career.

    In five UFC tilts, the former Hofstra University wrestler has stuffed every takedown his opponents have tried to dish out.

    In fact, Weidman has spent such a minuscule amount of time in vulnerable positions on the ground that he's yet to have a submission attempted on him and he's yet to allow a guard pass.

    "The All-American" aced his stiffest grappling challenge yet when he made the cut from nearly 217 pounds to 185 in just 10 days to face Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Submission champion Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2.

    Although visibly sluggish from the tremendous weight cut, Weidman managed to shrug off seven takedown attempts from Maia and score four takedowns and two guard passes of his own.

    If Weidman ever fulfills his dream of fighting pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva, the middleweight division will finally get a true glimpse of what kind of animal they're facing in The All-American.

2. Jon Jones

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    There are not many sectors of Jones' game that need sharpening, and that includes the area of defensive grappling.

    Like Cormier and Weidman, Jones has an immaculate grappling record in pro MMA. Since 2008, "Bones" has fought 12 times in the UFC, allowing no takedowns, no guard passes and just one submission attempt.

    Jones' most trying encounter in his pro career came following a first-round takedown of former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort in his last fight.

    Belfort trapped Jones' right arm, switched his hips and then hooked his right leg en route to sucking Jones' arm in and hyperextending it almost to its breaking point.

    Although caught off guard, Jones remained calm, battled through the pain, and ultimately squirmed free from Belfort's clutches.

    Jones clearly got caught on his heels against Belfort and it nearly cost him his belt. But the 25-year-old virtuoso proved that even when he's ill-prepared, he's got the athleticism and the heart to escape nearly any precarious dilemma.

1. Georges St-Pierre

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    For just an instant at UFC 50 in 2004, St-Pierre had a lapse in his ironclad defensive grappling armor. But as it turned out, Matt Hughes' armbar of "Rush" definitely aided in the spectacular launch of GSP's career.

    The longtime former UFC welterweight champion, Hughes, who defended his belt seven times, snagged a nifty armbar from side mount on St-Pierre and forced the 31-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to tap with one second left in the first round.

    Simply put, St-Pierre hasn't allowed a similar blunder to occur on the ground since. GSP has allowed just four takedowns, two guard passes and one submission attempt in his last 17 fights.

    St-Pierre learned a priceless lesson from Hughes' armbar, one that he's still benefiting from today. GSP knows how humiliating it felt to tap and he took the proper measures to ensure that it would never happen again.