UFC 148 Fight Card: Chael Sonnen and the Best Grinders in MMA
For every striker that gets celebrated for their exciting style, there’s a wrestler quietly making their way towards the title picture.
As much as fans may hate it, MMA has evolved passed a point where elite strikers can make it to the top of the sport without being proficient in the ground game, but the same can’t be said for wrestlers.
The popularity of MMA has grown so much over the last few years, that now it seems that every single decorated wrestler coming out of college is pursuing a career inside the Octagon, and it’s leading to pure wrestlers smothering their opponents in order to earn themselves a victory.
Obviously this fighting style is going to invoke a lot of criticism but the fact is that if a fighter is being held down on his back for a full 15 minutes, he didn’t do enough to earn the win.
These “grinders”—wrestlers who completely overwhelm their opponents with takedowns and ground and pound—are some of the most loathed fighters in MMA but the ones that do it best are also among the best in the world.
You can’t deny that Chael Sonnen is fantastic at what he does.
Not only can the man promote a fight better than just about anyone in the world, but he can grind out a win over seemingly anyone in the middleweight division.
Sonnen has dominated highly-regarded fighters like Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami and Brian Stann since returning to the Octagon in 2009, and there was that fight against Anderson Silva that he performed pretty well in.
Other than a few minor slips in submission defense against Silva and Demian Maia, Sonnen has been one of the most dominant fighters in the sport over the last three years and he could easily find himself wearing a UFC belt if he can grind out Anderson Silva this weekend.
It’s always nice to see a highly-touted prospect reach their potential, and Ben Askren has met all expectations so far in his young career.
After just three-and-a-half years in the sport, Askren has already earned himself an undefeated 10-0 record and most of those wins came due to his tremendous wrestling background.
After winning the Bellator welterweight championship less than two years after his first professional fight, Askren has defeated his last three opponents, all by decision.
Askren has taken a lot of criticism as of late, especially for his seemingly uninspired performance against Douglas Lima in April ,but as much as fans want to hate the brash welterweight, he doesn’t lose.
One of the best grinders in the sport, Jake Shields has had an up and down career in the UFC.
Since entering the organization at UFC 121, Shields has gone 2-2 inside the Octagon with key wins over Kampmann and Yoshihiro Akiyama, but his ability to grind out victories hasn’t been on display.
However a move back to the middleweight division might be just the thing Shields needs to get back to dominating opponents on the mat.
For a while Shields was one of the very best middleweight fighters in the sport, even scoring a win over current light heavyweight title contender Dan Henderson in his final Strikeforce bout, and hopefully not having to cut the extra weight will pay dividends for Shields inside the cage.
A lot of the guys on this list don’t exactly have a strong fanbase, but Phil Davis has found a way to keep supporters despite his grinding style.
After winning an NCAA national championship at 197lbs during his senior year at Penn St, Davis set his sights on MMA and has amassed a 9-1 record so far in his professional career.
Davis has solid wins over Brian Stann and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but in hindsight the most impressive win of his young career came against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 112, where Davis was forced to work very hard in order to secure the takedown that eventually led to a first round anaconda choke victory.
The poster boy for grinders, Jon Fitch has probably taken more criticism from fans than anyone in UFC history as far as boring fights are concerned.
Fitch has been one of the premier fighters in the sport for a long time now, and due to his amazing ability to control the fight he’s amassed an impressive 13-2-1 record inside the UFC.
With wins over tough fighters like Mike Pierce, Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez, Fitch has earned the right to be called one of the best fighters in the world in the welterweight division.
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued Fitch over the last few years and he’s only won a single bout over the last two years.
Another injury forced Fitch out of a scheduled fight against Aaron Simpson on July 11th, and there has been no set date for his return.