American Fighter: The Best MMA Fighter from Each One of the 50 States

Andrew MahlmannCorrespondent IJune 6, 2011

American Fighter: The Best MMA Fighter from Each One of the 50 States

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    In less than a month, we will be celebrating the Independence Day of our great nation, the United States of America.

    To honor our awesome holiday, let us take a look the best fighter from each of the glorious 50 states.

    Some states clearly produce more fighters than others, but every state has warriors to be proud of.

    This article is taking a considerable amount of research, so please provide some feedback in the comments if there are some fighters that I am overlooking. I'm sure I could use some help.

    For example, does anyone know who was born in New Hampshire?

    Props to Featured Columnist Sean Smith for the article idea.

    And now, on to Alabama.....

Alabama: John Salter

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    A collegiate wrestling champion and no-gi grappling champion, John Salter, at just 26 years of age, has already competed in four fights between the UFC and Strikeforce.

    With a 6-2 record and having gone 2-2 in the world's biggest promotions, expect to see more out of John Salter.

Alaska: Cody McKenzie

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    Lightweight Cody McKenzie has the most devastating guillotine choke in all of MMA.

    He is going to be one to continue to watch in the UFC.

    Honorable Mention: Justin Buchholz

Arizona: Dominick Cruz and Gray Maynard

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    Now here was a tough one to pick because both Gray Maynard and Dominick Cruz are frequently picked as two of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

    Dominick Cruz is the current UFC bantamweight champion, while Gray Maynard most recently fought to a draw against the UFC lightweight champion.

    Keep it up, Arizona.

Arkansas: Alan Belcher

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    Standout UFC middleweight Alan Belcher is finally close to recovered from a debilitating eye injury and is set to make his return to the octagon in September.

    You will want to keep your eye on Belcher, as he is probably a future title contender.

California: Cain Velasquez

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    There are about 100 top fighters that are eligible for this spot.

    Do you think I should give it to the undefeated UFC heavyweight champion?

    Yeah, we'll go ahead and do that.

Colorado: Shane Carwin

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    Colorado is a bit of a surprising hot bed for MMA talent.

    Heavy handed Shane Carwin takes the cake here, though.

    Honorable Mention: Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Brendan Schaub, Aaron Simpson, Duane Ludwig and Matt Wiman

Connecticut: Dan Cramer

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    Dan Cramer was apart of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs Team Forrest.

    His made his professional debut following the show and has gone 6-2. Most recently, he has picked up two wins inside the Bellator organization.

    Honorable Mention: Will Kerr

Delaware: Din Thomas

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    This veteran fighter has been fighting some of the toughest names in the sport for a long time.

    He owns victories over Matt Serra, Jens Pulver, Clay Guida, Jeremy Stephens, Rich Clementi and more.

Florida: Ben Saunders

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    Florida has a great MMA culture, but there have only been a few native fighters to crack into the elite level.

    Here we honor welterweight Ben Saunders.

    The dude is a devastating fighter whose only three losses have come to top level UFC fighters.

Georgia: Jason Miller

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    There are a handful of top UFC fighters coming out of Georgia, but Jason Miller gets the nod here because he is more of a veteran and high-profile fighter.

    Honorable Mention: Anthony Johnson and Cole Miler

Hawaii: BJ Penn

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    It may be a small state, but Hawaii has some amazing warriors.

    Of course, the award goes to "The Prodigy", BJ Penn.

    Honorable Mention: Travis Browne, KJ Noons, Brad Tavares, Falaniko Vitale and Kendall Grove

Idaho: Jake Rosholt

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    One of the most successful NCAA wrestlers of all-time, Jake Rosholt is a developing fighter and already one of the most formidable middleweights around.

    Honorable Mention: Mike Kyle

Illinois: Matt Hughes and Clay Guida

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    A lot of good fighters have come out of Illinois, but there are two that stand out.

    Clay Guida is an emerging title challenger at lightweight, and Matt Hughes is one of the greatest champions of all time and is still highly competitive at welterweight.

Indiana: Jon Fitch

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    Between Jon Fitch, Chris Lytle and Brian Ebersole, Indiana is apparently the place to be from for welterweights.

    Stephan Bonnar and Miguel Torres are also from Indiana.

    Jon Fitch is the man, though.

Iowa: Ben Askren

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    "Funky" Ben Askren is a two time NCAA division one champion and already an MMA champion in Bellator.

    This welterweight has a particularly bright future ahead of him.

    Honorable Mention: Jeremy Stephens 

Kansas: Bobby Lashley

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    I was not sure if I should give Bobby Lashley the recognition here, but the former pro-wrestler is an amateur wrestling champion, and his only loss is to the surprisingly tough Chad Griggs.

    Honorable Mention: LC Davis

Kentucky: Demetrious Johnson

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    There are some top fighters from Kentucky, but none currently as successful as the 10-1 Johnson, whose last two fights were victories over legends KID Yamamoto and Miguel Torres.

    Honorable Mention: Brent Weedman and Dustin Hazelett

Louisiana: Melvin Guillard

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    With his impressive first round TKO over Evan Dunham in his last fight, Melvin Guillard has established himself as a true contender for the UFC lightweight championship.

    Honorable Mention: Daniel Cormier and Tim Credeur

Maine: Tim Boetsch

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    Former featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown is also from Maine, but Tim Boetsch has been the more impressive of late.

    Recently transitioned into the middleweight division, Boetsch looks great and reinvigorated.

    Honorable Mention: Mike Thomas Brown, Tim Sylvia, Marcus Davis and Joe Riggs

Maryland: Sherman Pendergarst

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    Veteran Pendergarst has a less than impressive record at 11-18, but he has been in with the likes of Shane Carwin, Houston Alexander, Joey Beltran, Antoni Hardonk, Carmelo Marrero and more.

    Do you see any other standouts from Maryland?

Massachusetts: Kenny Florian

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    Is Massachusetts the land of the talented lanky fighters?

    Anyway, two-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian takes the lead for Massachusetts.

    Honorable Mention: Lauzon brothers, Josh Grispi and more.

Michigan: Joe Warren

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    A super elite level wrestler with Olympic aspirations, 7-1 Joe Warren is the current Bellator featherweight champion and says he could also drop down to bantamweight.

Minnesota: Jeff Monson and Sean Sherk

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    Both are grizzled veterans who have seen just about everything.

    Sherk, 37, and Monson, 40, are still competing, and winning, at the highest levels.

Mississippi: Wes Shivers

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    A contestant on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter and former NFL player, Wes Shivers last fought in November of last year, winning by knock out.

    Honorable Mention: Jeremiah Riggs

Missouri: Michael Chandler

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    Undefeated Michael Chandler recently won the Bellator season 4 lightweight tournament with an impressive victory over the well regarded Patricky Freire.

    Veteran Pat Healy almost gets the nod here.

    Honorable Mention: Pat Healy, Tyrone Woodley and James Krause 

Montana: Keith Jardine

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    Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine has been a staple of the MMA landscape for a while now.

    The former UFC light heavyweight contender holds victories over former champions Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin.

Nebraska: Jake Ellenberger

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    Ellenberger is a wrestler with heavy hands and is making a name for himself as one of the most dangerous contenders in the UFC's stacked welterweight division.

    Honorable Mention: Jeremy Horn

Nevada: Frank Mir

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    Nevada has produced a good amount of fighters, but Frank Mir has the most storied career in the UFC's heavyweight division.

    He is a former champion and interim champion and a perennial contender. He is a threat with strikes, submissions and now he has great wrestling, too.

    Honorable Mention: Roy Nelson and Ryan Bader

New Hampshire: ???

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    Hello out there. Any native pro fighters? 

New Jersey: Frankie Edgar

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    UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is considered by most as one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

    Honorable Mention: Jim and Dan Miller and many others

New Mexico: Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez

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    Too close to call, as Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez are both currently considered top 10 welterweights in the world.

    They are also two of the most exciting fighters currently in the UFC.

New York: Jon Jones

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    The youngest champion in UFC history is quickly becoming the next big thing in all of MMA.

    Jon Jones has only recently won the championship, but his reign is already considered dominant with the path of destruction he has blazed. 

    Honorable Mention: Rashad Evans

North Carolina: Spencer Fisher

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    24-7 Spencer Fisher is a dangerous veteran about to have his 14th consecutive UFC fight and 16th overall.

    Honorable Mention: Dave Branch

North Dakota: Jason Brilz and Chris Tuchscherer

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    Disclosure- I really did not want two distinctions for a single state again, but I really think Chris Tuchscherer and Jason Brilz might have been separated at birth.

    Both men are 35 years old, both wrestled at the NCAA division two level and both have lengthy records but are riding a two fight losing streak.

    Can you distinguish one? 

Ohio: Forrest Griffin

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    Wow, we almost just had another situation of two fighters separated at birth for former UFC champions Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin.

    Thankfully, the two warriors fought each other recently, with Griffin separating himself as the victor (albeit also being the heavier fighter).

    Honorable Mention: Rich Franklin 

Oklahoma: Johny Hendricks

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    Welterweight Johny Hendricks narrowly gets the distinction for Oklahoma.

    Hendricks is 10-1, with his lone loss being a very close decision that went the way of Rick Story.

    Honorable Mention: Gerald Harris, Shane Roller and Brian Foster 

Oregon: Chris Leben

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    There have been some great fighters to come out of Oregon, with Chris Leben barely getting the honor to hold down the fort for now.

    Chael Sonnen would easily claim the spot if his legal issues were not getting in the way of his career and putting off his return indefinitely.

    Honorable Mention: Evan Dunham, Mike Pierce and Rick Hawn 

Pennsylvania: Eddie Alvarez

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    The Bellator lightweight champion is 22-2 and has seemed to be a step ahead of his competition for the past few years.

    Alvarez is only 27, but he better stay sharp if he wants to stay Pennsylvania's No.1 guy, because there is definitely some other top talent coming out of the Keystone State.

    Honorable Mention: Josh Koscheck, Phil Davis and Charlie Brenneman

Rhode Island: Mat Santos

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    His record only stands at 3-7, but for those in the know, Mat Santos is one of the baddest mofos coming out of Rhode Island.

    Honorable Mention: Ruben Rey

South Carolina: Rodney Wallace

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    Rodney Wallace lost three straight decisions in the UFC to tough fighters, but he has beaten such guys as Ovince St. Preux, Antwain Britt, David Heath and Cale Yarbrough.

    Honorable Mention: Edwin Dewees 

South Dakota: Brock Lesnar

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    After being derailed by diverticulitis for the second time, former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar should be back in no time, and he is the clear selection here.

Tennessee: Quinton Jackson

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    It looks like the former UFC light heavyweight champion is going to be the first man to challenge Jon Jones since Jones became champion.

    Jackson is a heavy handed wrestler and one of the best and most popular fighters in the sport.

    Honorable Mention: Mike Pyle and Muhammed Lawal

Texas: Joseph Benavidez

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    Top ranked bantamweight Joseph Benavidez has only lost twice, and both of them were to Dominick Cruz.

    The second of the two losses was a split-decision for the bantamweight championship of the world.

    Honorable Mention: Eddie Wineland, Mike Swick and Leonard Garcia 

Utah: Scott Jorgensen

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    After losing to Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight championship, Jorgensen bounced right back into the title hunt with a devastating knock out victory.

    Honorable Mention: Josh Burkman and Demarques Johnson

Vermont: Tom Murphy

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    Murphy is an undefeated heavyweight from Vermont.

    He has victories over Josh Hendricks and Jason Guida.

    He was on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, losing to Rashad Evans. 

Virginia: Brandon Vera

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    Vera has had a rough stretch the past three fights, but he is still one of the world's most talented light heavyweight fighters.

    He is a former heavyweight and light heavyweight contender and is considered to have some of the best Muay Thai kickboxing in the sport.

Washington: Josh Barnett

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    Barnett will have a chance to reaffirm his status as one of the world's top ranked heavyweights when he faces Brett Rogers in a couple of weeks.

    If he falls short, Rick Story might move into place as Washington's top fighter.

    Honorable Mention: Rick Story, Ed Herman and Lyle Beerbohm

West Virginia: Brian Bowles

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    Brian Bowles looked like he might be the future of the bantamweight division before he broke his hand fighting Dominick Cruz and lost his title.

    He won his first fight on his return and looks to overcome Tekeya Mizugaki on July 2 on his way back to the title.

    Honorable Mention: Corey Hill

Wisconsin: Anthony Pettis

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    He may have lost to Clay Guida, but Anthony Pettis, the last WEC lightweight champion, is still one of the top lightweights in the world.

    His ground game is constantly a threat, and he has some of the flashiest kicks around.

    Honorable Mention: Ben Rothwell

Wyoming: Nate Marquardt

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    Nate "The Great" Marquardt has been a top-ranked middleweight for the past decade, but he will be making his welterweight debut in his next fight.

    He will be taking on the tenacious Rick Story and is poised to make an immediate impact in the title picture.

Bonus! Washington D.C.: Christian Morecraft

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    I cannot say that I was expecting to find an elite MMA fighter coming out of Washington D.C.

    Morecraft is the real deal, however, with a 7-1 record and his only loss coming from Stefan Struve, who rallied from a hellacious first round beating.