The Best Fighters at Each Major Component of MMA
With 385 fighters in the UFC alone, it's an awfully difficult task to try to name the premier practitioners in each specific component of MMA.
Former Olympians in the fields of wrestling (Greco-Roman and freestyle), judo, karate, Taekwondo and boxing have used their skill sets as bases to launch their careers in MMA.
While heaps of gifted athletes have undoubtedly flooded the sport, who stands at the top of the proverbial mountain in each discipline in MMA?
Here are the best fighters of every primary component of MMA.
Wrestling: Daniel Cormier
Some fighters bring tremendous amateur wrestling credentials to the table, but when it comes to wrestling functionally for MMA, their talents just don't translate.
A two-time Olympian and a former captain on Team USA's 2008 freestyle squad, Cormier unquestionably doesn't fall into this category.
Akin to similarly talented functional wrestlers like Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Ben Askren, Cormier has scored and stuffed takedowns with ease since debuting with Strikeforce in 2009.
In 12 pro fights, Cormier has amassed 12 takedowns and surrendered none, using his wrestling prowess to neutralize the likes of lethal heavyweights Frank Mir, Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva, among others.
Granted, St-Pierre, Jones and Askren each possess unique wrestling gifts. But when referring to the sport's best functional wrestler, Cormier separates himself with brute strength, an ability to transition smoothly, and a nearly flawless bag of techniques.
Striking: Anderson Silva
Longtime pound-for-pound king and UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva certainly doesn't possess the most potent punching power in the division. But what "The Spider" lacks in pop, he exponentially makes up for in accuracy.
Silva, who sports a 77.6-inch reach, liberally fires punches, elbows, knees and kicks with bad intentions from all angles, most of which tend to land with frightening accuracy.
In his 10 straight middleweight title defenses, The Spider has utilized his notoriously lethal striking chops to either TKO or KO six of his foes.
With 20 notable KO's under his belt, Silva has illustrated for over 15 years that the best strikers aren’t the meanest and most athletic fighters, but rather the most cerebral and most precise.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Demian Maia
Sure, Demian Maia can pull off submissions on top-flight competition in the UFC. But that's not why Maia takes the cake as the sport's best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
A 35-year-old southpaw from Brazil, Maia got the nod as the MMA's best jiu-jitsu competitor because of his ability to control and advance position at will on the world's best.
Maia wisely made the descent from middleweight to welterweight last summer at UFC 148 and has reeled off three straight pivotal wins since. Most recently, Maia dominated perennial contender Jon Fitch at UFC 156 in a bout that many expected Fitch to win.
In a remarkable display of grappling, Maia grounded the feisty Fitch seven times, passed his guard five times and attempted three submissions on the former Purdue University wrestler.
It's difficult to debate whether Maia, a 2007 ADCC gold medalist (77-87 kilogram category), has a more refined Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game than fellow ADCC champs like Roger Gracie or Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
However, while Gracie and Souza can say they've accomplished more in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu outside the Octagon then Maia, neither man can say they've done the things the former middleweight title challenger has done in the UFC.
With six submission wins on upper-echelon UFC competition, Maia also edges submission machines Shinya Aoki and Masakazu Imanari in this category. Aoki and Imanari have racked up 22 and 17 submission wins, respectively, but they have done so outside the UFC.