As UFC 121 approaches, the main card is stacked with top tier fighters... and wrestlers.
From the three main promoted fights, Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hamill and Jake Shields all have strong wrestling backgrounds. While not all were NCAA Champions like Lesnar, they all bring the same style background that has proven to be one of the most successful when it comes to transitioning to MMA: wrestling.
While some have tried and failed, many wrestlers have also succeeded admirably in both their wrestling pedigree and in MMA. I give you Brock Lesnar and the top 10 NCAA Champion wrestlers in MMA.
The Filipino-American wrestled at Oklahoma State University, captured Big 12 and All-American honors at 197 lbs and ultimately won the NCAA title as a senior in 2001. He became the first Filipino-American NCAA Champion in any weight class with his title win and was inducted into the California State Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Muñoz always brings it in his MMA fights and made his UFC debut in March of 2009. He’s compiled an 8-2 record with his only losses coming to notables Matt Hamill and Yushin Okami. Muñoz will be back in the octagon in mid-November.
Josh Koscheck is most well known for his superior wrestling skills in the cage, something that has been his biggest advantage in nearly every fight he’s been in. In 2001, Koscheck won all 42 of his wrestling matches and became the NCAA Division I champion at the 174 lb weight class in his Junior season.
During his time at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Koscheck was a four time All-American and a three-time recipient of the PSAC Wrestler of the Year award.
Koscheck will try and put his best wrestling to use against Georges St. Pierre, as he rematches the French-Canadian and gets his first crack at the UFC Welterweight crown at UFC 124.
“Mr. Wonderful” wrestled at Penn State University, winning the NCAA title in 2008 at 197 lbs. The four-time All-American finished with an overall wrestling record of 116-17 upon graduation.
Davis quickly made a nice transition to MMA and in his fifth professional fight was fighting in the UFC. Davis has put together a 7-0 MMA record thus far and will be back in the cage come mid-November.
Randleman was a champion of the NCAA in 1992 and 1993 for Ohio State, wrestling at 177 lbs. Much like Coleman—his former training partner—Randleman has fought a tough list of MMA fighters in his career.
The still-active Randleman is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, reigning in the late 1990s and early 2000s before finding a home in the Pride organization.
Randleman may most famously be known for slamming Fedor Emelianenko on the top of his head, only to be submitted by Emelianenko in the fight.
Rosholt won the NCAA Division I wrestling title in 2003 in the 184 lb division as a freshman and then the 197 lb title in 2005 and 2006.
The impressive wrestling pedigree of Rosholt led him to be a four-time All-American at Oklahoma State University, where he was 105-20 in his career.
Rosholt has had an up-and-down MMA career thus far. After starting off 5-0, he has gone 2-2 in his last four fights to land a 7-2 record in his young career.
One of the most storied careers in MMA history made its way through the NCAA back when Coleman wrestled for Ohio State University and won a NCAA Championship in 1988. Coleman also competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Coleman has fought a laundry list of the best MMA fighters ever, including Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop and Mauricio Rua, to name a few.
The first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion started his wrestling career at Miami University in Ohio before making it big in the world of MMA.
The Oklahoma State University stand-out won the 2005 and 2006 NCAA Division 1 title at 165 lbs and finished second in 2007. The title loss in 2007 put a stain on Hendricks perfect record, as he was 56-0 coming into that bout.
The four-time All-American quickly moved into the WEC after making the transition to MMA, and then to the UFC once the WEC folded their welterweight division. To this point, Hendricks is 9-0 and will be back in the octagon in early December.
The massive afro of Ben Askren finished second in the NCAA Championship match in both 2004 and 2005 but it was just a tune-up to what was to come from the University of Missouri wrestler.
In 2005-06, Askren dominated his opponents, winning all 45 matches (25 pins) as he cruised to the Big 12 and NCAA Championships at the 174 lb weight class. His performance earned him the Dan Hodge Trophy as outstanding college wrestler of the year.
The success continued for Askren, as he repeated as NCAA champion in his senior year, going 42-0 and becoming only the second person ever to win the Dan Hodge Trophy twice.
Askren took his talents to the 2008 Olympics where he made Team USA, but failed to medal.
Now with a 6-0 MMA Record, Askren is working his way through the ranks of Bellator Fighting Championships.
The first and current Bellator Heavyweight Champion won two NCAA titles while attending the University of Minnesota, his overall collegiate record finished at 155-13.
Konrad has also taken his talents to the international level, where he won a gold medal at the 2005 Pan American Championships and finished third, winning bronze, at the 2006 World University Championships.
Putting together a 7-0 MMA record so far, Konrad has been labeled as “boring” by some fans, but he is effective none-the-less, as the 26-year-old sits on top of the heavyweight division in Bellator.
It’s hard to argue against the top dog in the heavyweight division.
Lesnar was the 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Champion, and he finished second in 1999 to New England Patriots offensive tackle Stephen Neal. As a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Lesnar compiled a record of 106-5 overall in his four years of college and was even impressive before he got to college, going 33-0-0 in his senior year of high school.
Though he was most notoriously known for his time spent in the WWE, Lesnar made a statement in the NCAA with his freakish size and strength—assets that helped him translate into becoming the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Lesnar, of course, will defend his title this Saturday at UFC 121 against Cain Velasquez.