The 5 Best American Top Team Fighters Right Now

Bradley Popkin@@bradpopkinmmaCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2014

The 5 Best American Top Team Fighters Right Now

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    Glover Teixeira lost a unanimous decision to champion Jon Jones at UFC 172.
    Glover Teixeira lost a unanimous decision to champion Jon Jones at UFC 172.USA TODAY Sports

    American Top Team, in Coconut Creek, Florida, is home to some of the best mixed martial artists in the game. The camp has produced several contenders and champions such as Glover Teixeira, Robbie Lawler and Hector Lombard.

    ATT has been a major player in the sport for the last decade. The camp was founded by legendary jiu-jitsu artist Ricardo Liborio. He started the gym in 2001, with the help of hotel executive-turned ATT president Dan Lambert, and by the middle of the decade it grew into a sprawling 20,000-square foot facility, with 20 accompanying franchises. Now, ATT is home to dozens of fighters from organizations big and small.

    In order to rank fighters in the most fair and just way possible, factors such as time with the gym, accolades and record will be taken into account. Furthermore, only active fighters will be considered for this list; those who are on the shelf are ruled ineligible. Before we get started ranking the fighters, take a look at those who just missed the cut. 

Honorable Mentions

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Mike Brown

    Brown [26-9] has been a longtime member of ATT and is a former WEC featherweight champion. His MMA career started 13 years ago, and he had amassed wins in a variety of small promotions before he made a name for himself in the WEC. A tenacious wrestler, the now 39-year-old defeated former WEC kingpin, and wildly popular bantamweight, Urijah Faber in a November 2008 bout in which he maliciously mauled The California Kid for a TKO victory. 

    He lost the title one year later to future pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo. Brown's success never carried over to the UFC when the promotion absorbed the WEC.

    Brown was an extremely dependable fighter; he was durable and possessed underrated jiu-jitsu and a solid stand-up game. While his run at the top of the featherweight division may have been short-lived, his consistency up until his UFC debut is worthy enough of an honorable mention. If it wasn't for a hotly contested, split-decision loss to Diego Nunes, Brown would possibly crack the top five. 

    Yoel Romero

    The 37-year-old Cuba native made his professional debut in the sport at an age when most fighters are hitting their prime. Romero competed in the freestyle wrestling portion of the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics, winning a silver medal in the 2000 competition. He also won gold in the 1999 World Wrestling Championships. 

    Romero (9-1) began his MMA career in 2009, with his Strikeforce debut being his only loss. The Cuban is always capable of ending a fight with just one punch, as seen in his bouts with Ronny Markes and Tim Kennedy.

    The fight with Kennedy was the mark of Romero's ascension to the top of the middleweight division. Before Romero's blistering third-round TKO, there was a bit of controversy as there was a delay in the Cuban's corner, which led to this. Kennedy and his reps have stated that they would appeal the loss but have yet to do so.  

    Other fighters, most notably Mark Hunt, have made a run at UFC gold when most start to break down. Romero could be the next Hunt of the UFC's middleweight division. With Olympic-level wrestling and crippling one-punch power, he is a scary player in the 185-pound mix. Romero has an eerily similar build to that of fellow Cuban, and UFC welterweight, Hector Lombard. With another win, he cracks the top five. For now, he's still an intriguing prospect.

    Dustin Poirier

    With a win over upstart featherweight Conor McGregor, Poirier (16-4) would have wound up in the top five. However, because of yet another disappointing setback in his career, he goes back to the drawing board. 

    Poirier is only 25 years old and started competing professionally back in 2009. He's a solid fighter who wound up in the UFC after just fighting twice in the WEC. A brown belt in Brazilian-jiu-jitsu, he is crafty on the ground and a pinpoint striker. He holds an 8-3 record inside the Octagon, but his three losses have come against the top of the food chain or up-and-comers. 

    He will look to revitalize his career, and time is on his side at his age. Poirier deserves this nod simply based on his record, but as far as leapfrogging the men on this list who lie ahead, he will need to score a career-defining win first.

5. Jorge Masvidal

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    Jorge Masvidal lands a knee to the chest of Daron Cruickshank at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Brown.
    Jorge Masvidal lands a knee to the chest of Daron Cruickshank at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Brown.USA TODAY Sports

    Masvidal cracks the top five ahead of Poirier due to his upswing and because fellow ATT teammates Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt are either out or trying to climb the ladder again. 

    Masvidal (28-8) is currently riding a three-fight win streak. He is 5-1 in his UFC run and has looked impressive since coming over from Strikeforce. He is both decorated on the feet and on the ground; he's placed in the top three in a few North American Grappling Association competitions. He is just as good on defense as he is on offense, with striking and takedown defense percentages at 73 and 81 percent, respectively. 

    The Cuban/Peruvian fighter has fought top names throughout his MMA career, including a title bout in Strikeforce with current UFC lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez. Masvidal came up short in the bout, losing a unanimous decision, but he gave Melendez possibly the most difficult challenge during his time as champion. 

    Right now, Masvidal sits at No. 13 in the UFC's lightweight rankings and hasn't fought anyone in the Top 10 of the division yet. His next opponent should be of top quality; he should draw a name like Eddie Alvarez or Jim Miller in his next bout. 

4. Tyron Woodley

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    Tyron Woodley faced Jake Shields at UFC 161.
    Tyron Woodley faced Jake Shields at UFC 161.USA TODAY Sports

    Woodley (14-3) sits at the top of the UFC welterweight division with Rory MacDonald, Carlos Condit and Matt Brown. 

    Woodley's last win over Dong Hyun Kim kept him from falling further in the rankings. The 32-year-old is a heavy-handed wrestler; he was a two-time All-American at Missouri and also a team captain. The Missouri native owns knockout wins over Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit, with the latter helping propel Woodley into title talk. Despite those wins, he has a propensity for losing when a lot is at stake. 

    Back in Strikeforce, Woodley was knocked out by former UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt in a title bout, and just earlier this summer, he lost in a title eliminator against MacDonald. Woodley will have another opportunity to make his claim for a title shot; he should really be 5-1 in the UFC if not for a split-decision loss to Jake Shields.

    You can't really give Woodley a break for that one. What was he doing letting a guy like Shields hang around anyway?

    Woodley has stated he doesn't wish to face his ATT teammate Hector Lombard (more to come on him later). This limits both his and UFC President Dana White's options. Where Woodley goes from here is a potential bout with Matt Brown, who is coming off a title-eliminator loss against Robbie Lawler, also an ATT teammate. Woodley might have ranked higher if not for his refusal to fight Lombard.

    Another detail holding him back from taking a higher rank was that Lombard beat both Shields and Marquardt.

3. Hector Lombard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Lombard rode high praise and expectations into an underwhelming Octagon debut back in July 2012.

    Already a freakishly muscular athlete, Lombard has competed at three different weight classes in his career. After going 1-2 at middleweight, the 36-year-old dropped down to 170 pounds, battering Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields. 

    Lombard's path to dominance started in 2004 when he fought for Pride and Bellator. He captured Bellator's middleweight crown in 2009, defended it once and is 34-4-1 (1). He signed a contract with the UFC in April 2012, amassing a 3-2 record thus far with two split-decision losses. 

    The Cuban is a decorated black belt in judo and has competed for his country in Olympic judo competitions. Lombard is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Although he possesses elite-level ground skills, his bread and butter is his dynamite power. Over half of his victories have come via KO or TKO.

    Lombard is in a weird predicament as of now. He has two teammates atop the welterweight division, including Woodley and Lawler, who's challenging for the welterweight strap in December. Condit is still recovering from knee surgery, and Demian Maia is out with a bad staph infection. MacDonald is waiting for his well-deserved title shot. Lombard will have to settle for the returning Josh Burkman.

    Lombard slides in at No. 3 due to the dangerous Brazilian at No. 2. 

2. Glover Teixeira

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    Glover Teixeira fires off some ground-and-pound on Quinton Jackson at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson.
    Glover Teixeira fires off some ground-and-pound on Quinton Jackson at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson.David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Teixeira (22-3) is a dangerous fighter wherever the fight goes. If he gets his hands on you, the fight is potentially over. There's a reason why he's 5-1 in the UFC with four finishes. 

    The Brazilian-born fighter is looking to get back on the winning track after a loss in a title bout with Jon Jones. Teixeira has trained at ATT branches in Connecticut, where he resides, and in Florida. He trained at the latter branch in preparation for his fight with Jones and also trained with Chuck Liddell and coach John Hackleman. 

    The Brazilian's MMA career took off in 2002, when Teixeira was 22 years old. He owns several submission grappling wins over top-level opponents like Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Dean Lister. For 10 years prior to his UFC run, Teixeira launched an assault on light heavyweights in promotions like WEC and Shooto.

    A loss to the champion shouldn't cloud your judgment of the Brazilian. With Anthony Johnson out indefinitely, Teixeira is sitting pretty at the top of the 205-pound heap. On October 25, Phil Davis could be his next victim. Teixeira's resume speaks for itself, and he would have clocked in at No .1 on this list if not for this next ATT fighter. 

1. Robbie Lawler

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    Robbie Lawler throws a ruthless combination against Matt Brown at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Brown.
    Robbie Lawler throws a ruthless combination against Matt Brown at UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Brown.USA TODAY Sports

    Lawler 24-10 (1) entered the UFC at the tender age of 20 years old and has endured a storybook career. 

    His initial run in the organization ended with losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner, as he compiled a 4-3 record overall. Thereafter, Lawler moved up to middleweight, capturing multiple championships, including one in EliteXC. He hit a rough patch in his career, going 3-5 in Strikeforce before it was eventually absorbed by the UFC. Then, the light bulb turned on for Lawler. 

    He held training camp at ATT in Florida ahead of his UFC 157 fight with Josh Koscheck. Since then, his only loss has come to welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. The pair will duke it out for the second time this year on December 6. 

    Ruthless is a knockout machine and has flattened three of his six UFC opponents. Whether or not it was the return to welterweight or the folks at ATT having a positive effect on the young and talented Lawler, one thing is for certain: He is here to stay.