Wrestling and MMA go together like peanut butter and jelly. Put two good wrestlers together, and it either makes for a boring fight or a stand-up war. I've compiled a list of the top 10 wrestlers in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. For those who have read my other two lists and are nervous about the blasphemy they may uncover in this one, I say don't worry. To make this list, the person had to have Division 1 or 2 wrestling experience. Unless you're named Georges St. Pierre. Now, enjoy!
I know I'm going to catch hell for this, since Carwin has never had any real need to use his wrestling ability during his UFC career. The potential is there, however. He has had to block takedowns in his career, and his five submission wins show that he knows his way around on the ground. He next fights against Frank Mir, who should test Carwin's wrestling background. He holds notable wins over Gabriel Gonzaga (KO) and Christian Wellisch (KO).
This may be too high for him, but I like what I see from this guy in terms of wrestling. No one in his division can take him down, although that might be attributed to his brutish size. He forces his will upon his opponents, often just taking them down and ground-and-pounding them until the fight is stopped or the fight ends. He placed seventh among his weight class (157 lbs.) at Michigan State. Seven of his nine career wins are by decision. He holds notable wins over Nate Diaz (Split Decision), Roger Huerta (Split Decision) and Frankie Edgar (Unanimous Decision).
Matt Hughes was one of the first really good wrestlers in the Fertitta era. Like Gray Maynard, Hughes was (and is) nearly impossible to take down (unless your name is GSP). Once he gets the top position, Hughes is masterful at staying on top while trying to advance positions. He is very well balanced. He was a Division 1 All-American Wrestler at Eastern Illinois University and placed fifth in his weight class (158 lbs.). He holds notable wins over Frank Trigg (submission, RNC, twice) and Georges St. Pierre (submission, armbar).
Another pick that is sure to get me beat up by my peers. Josh Koscheck is a dominant wrestler. He has all the physical tools to be a good wrestler, and he is. He was a four time Division 1 All-American at the University of Pennsylvania. During his junior season in 2001, Koscheck never lost one of his 42 matches. During his UFC days he has been able to out wrestle everyone he has faced (except GSP). That list includes notable names such as Frank Trigg, Anthony Johnson, and Diego Sanchez. He can stand and trade with anyone as well, making him a potential superstar if he can become more consistent. After he fights Paul Daley, win or lose, a matchup between him and Jon Fitch should be set up so we can see who the second best welter-weight is.
This spot could have been traded around with Josh Koscheck. The two are equal on the ground as far as I'm concerned. The only difference is, Rampage has out-wrestled better quality opponents. Couple Rampage's stand-up with his outstanding wrestling and you have a KO waiting to happen. Rampage never wrestled at the Division 1 or 2 level. However, the list of great wrestlers he has beaten, often by out-wrestling them, warrant him a spot on this list. His best display of wrestling in the Octagon was easily his fight against Dan Henderson, who was an Olympic wrestler himself, twice. Rampage easily out-wrestled Hendo that night, winning a unanimous decision.
Jon Fitch is a great wrestler, a great guy, a great welter-weight, and a boring fighter. He has dominated his opponents, true, but he has never produced a night setting KO or a quick, crisp submission. This guy is, however, great at ground and pounding. His fights go something like this: Start the match, take the opponent down, and pummel him. Lather, rinse, repeat. However, it wins him fights. His consistency is what makes him a good fighter. His wrestling credentials are top notch as well. He lettered four times while wrestling at Purdue University and eventually was made captain. Except for the three letter word that is GSP, Fitch has dominated almost all of his opponents by simply out-wrestling them.
I don't need to go on a rant about his wrestling talent. Anyone who watched him dominate the first two rounds of his fight with Thiago SIlva knows what I'm talking about. And he doesn't just wrestle. His striking is among the best in the division. He wrestled for Michigan State during his college career, where he showed flashes of potential but was wildly inconsistent. He is one of, if not the most well balanced fighter in the UFC. He will next fight against Quinton Jackson at UFC 114. These two are so evenly matched both standing up and on the ground that it is impossible to pick a favorite.
Randy Couture is like the Lyoto Machida of karate. He has mastered the sport. Couture's takedowns are of the spine-shattering variety. He rarely gets taken down, and if you are in the clinch with him, you are not safe. Like Jon Fitch, his game plan is to take you down and brutalize you on the ground. Unlike Jon Fitch, his fights aren't all yawn fests. Couture's fight against Brandon Vera was uneventful. Couture used his wrestling to hold Vera up against the fence and down on the ground for almost the whole length of the fight. Couture specializes in Greco-Roman wrestling. He was a three time Olympic alternate and was a Division 1 All-American at Oklahoma State University.
I'm sure everyone knew who the top two were going to be, but the order was the question. Brock Lesnar is arguably the poster boy for the UFC. He has the greatest drawing power and charisma, and he puts on a good show. For a man his size (6'3", 265 pounds), Lesnar can move with the quickness of a middle-weight. And all of this helps him in the UFC. His wrestling credentials are: two time NCAA All-American, two time Big Ten Conference Champion, and the 200 NCAA Heavyweight Champion. His record after four years was an incredible 106-5. During his UFC career, he has lost to Frank Mir, dominated Heath Herring (by out-wrestling him), beaten Randy Couture (by out-wrestling and out-striking him), and avenged his loss to Frank Mir (by taking him down and pummeling him until the ref was forced to save him). Not bad for only five professional MMA fights. His ground-and-pound is third only to GSP and Randy Couture. His immense weight makes it hard for opponents to get him off once he gets a dominant position. Now, on to the number one spot (and most obvious choice of all)...
Not bad for a guy who never wrestled in high school. Georges St. Pierre is an incredible wrestler. When you can take anyone in your division down at will and keep them down for five rounds, your wrestling is something special. GSP has out-wrestled such wrestlers as Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Frank Trigg, Matt Hughes, and Sean Sherk. His striking is good, but his ground-and-pound is better. He spent much of five rounds beating Thiago Alves' face to a pulp this past July, when he defended his belt. Like Matt Hughes, he is very good about not losing position when he is on top. He is vulnerable when he faces someone unafraid to stand and trade with him, but that isn't often. His takedowns are perfectly timed, often catching his opponent by surprise. He holds notable wins over the entire welterweight division, if you will, and he has avenged both of his career losses (to Matt Hughes (armbar) and Matt Serra (TKO).
For a "noob" MMA fan, I think I did alright on this article. If you have any opinions, threats, or anything else, comment. Thank you so much for reading.