By: Mitch Ciccarelli – Bleacher Report (original here)
Itâ€™s no secret that wrestling is the strongest base to have as an MMA fighter. It has been proven time and time again that fighters who come from a strong wrestling background will usually transition rather easily into MMA.
The thing with wrestlers is that they are they able to use their wrestling base to dictate wherever they want their fights to goâ€”not only that, but they are also extremely mentally tough and would rather die than quit!
Anyone who has spent several years on the mats will usually develop that â€œnever say dieâ€ mentality and it carries over very well into MMA.
It all started at UFC 10 when Mark Coleman introduced wrestling and ground nâ€™ pound into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Coleman was an NCAA wrestling champion at Ohio State and he was making his MMA debut in the eight-man tournament for UFC 10.
Coleman basically proved how effective a strong wrestling base is by taking his opponents down to the ground and pounding on them with strikes from the top position aka ground nâ€™ pound.
Ever since then we have seen several world class wrestlers make the transition over to MMA and eventually go on to become some of the greatest champions in the history of the sport.
Arguably two of the best champions in UFC historyâ€”Randy Couture and Matt Hughesâ€”both came from strong wrestling backgrounds andâ€”just like Mark Coleman was able to doâ€”used their wrestling base and brutal ground nâ€™ pound to defeat their opponents.
The sport of MMA is constantly evolvingâ€”fighters like Mark Coleman, Randy Couture and Matt Hughes are not as dominant as they were a few years ago. There is a new era of dominant wrestlers and today I am going to list the top five.
No. 5: Gray â€œThe Bullyâ€ Maynard
Gray Maynard is one of the fastest rising stars in the UFCâ€™s Lightweight divisionâ€”he is currently undefeated with a record of 7-0 with wins over the likes of Frankie Edgar, Rich Clementi and Jim Miller.
Maynard is an All-American wrestler out of Michigan State University with 106 career wins as a wrestler.
He transitioned into MMA pretty quickly after being recruited as a sparring partner for current UFC Lightweight champion, B.J Penn.
Maynard truly understands the science of wrestling for MMA and there is nobody in his weight class that can out-wrestle him. He is the best wrestler in the Lightweight division and he has a very promising future ahead of him.
No. 4: Josh Koscheck
Heâ€™s the guy that everyone loves to hate, but whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit he is one of the most athletic fighters in MMA today and his wrestling credentials are amazing!
Koscheck was a 2001 NCAA Division I champion and a four-time NCAA Division I All-American out of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
Other than Georges St. Pierre, Koscheck is the best wrestler in the Welterweight division. His position and control on the ground is as close to perfect as you can get and his ground nâ€™ pound is vicious!
Although Koscheck has developed into more of a stand-up style fighter recently, the fact remains that he is still one of the most feared wrestlers in all of MMA today.
No. 3: Ryan â€œDarthâ€ Bader
Coming in at number three on the list is the UFCâ€™s newest Light Heavyweight prospect and TUF season eight winnerâ€”Ryan â€œDarthâ€ Bader.
He is currently undefeated with a record of 11-0 and is coming off a dominant win over a crafty veteran in Carmelo Marrero at UFC Fight Night 18.
Bader has been wrestling for pretty much his whole life. He was a three time PAC 10 champion at Arizona State and is ranked eighth on the all-time wins list for ASU.
He began training for MMA in 2007 at Arizona Combat Sports and has quickly evolved into a well-rounded MMA fighter.
In his last fight with Carmelo Marrero he suffered a torn MCL and will be out of action for at least six months.
Bader said that he felt his knee pop in the first round but he continued to push forward and use his strong wrestling base to dominate Marrero.
Earlier in the article I talked about the â€œnever say die/never give upâ€ attitude of a wrestler and Bader is the best example of that.
I am confident that Bader will follow in the footsteps of fellow TUF winners Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans to become the UFC Light Heavyweight champion in the future.
No. 2: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnarâ€™s college wrestling credentials are amazingâ€”I know a lot of people want to hate on the guy because he used to be in the WWE, but if you can look past that, then you will realize that Brock is an amazing athlete and a world-class wrestler.
He was a two time NJCAA All-American, a two time NCAA All-American, a two time Big Ten champion, and he was the NCAA champion in the year 2000.
Anyone who knows anything about college wrestling will tell you just how impressive those accomplishments are.
Brock is a freakishly strong wrestler and one of the largest Heavyweight fighters in all of MMAâ€”He has to cut about 10 pounds to make the 265 pound weight limit!
Love him or hate him, it doesnâ€™t matterâ€”Heâ€™s an incredible athlete with a very bright future ahead of himâ€¦enough said.
No. 1: Georges St. Pierre
St. Pierre is arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the entire world and he is dangerous at all areas of the game, but his biggest strength is his wrestling abilityâ€”it is simply incredible and there is no doubt in my mind that GSP has the absolute best wrestling skills for MMA competition.
The crazy thing is that GSP didnâ€™t even come from a wrestling backgroundâ€”He didnâ€™t wrestle in high school and he didnâ€™t wrestle in college, yet he was somehow able to develop the best wrestling we have ever seen from a fighter.
St. Pierre might not have wrestled in school but he has been training with Olympic-level wrestlers in Canadaâ€”some of the best in the worldâ€”for many years so itâ€™s not like this wrestling phenom was built over night.
The reason I consider St. Pierre as No. 1 is because he is able to fight against fighters who have much better wrestling credentials than him and he is able to take them all down at will.
Go watch his fights with Matt Hughes (the second and third ones not the first), Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch and you will see exactly what I mean.