Wrestling is widely regarded as the most necessary, and effective base to begin a career, and succeed in mixed martial arts. There are variety of fighters who have practiced wrestling at high levels of amateur competition and have found much success in crossing over to mixed martial arts. Today’s rankings are based on the fighters who employ their takedowns, control, and position both offensively and defensively more effective than all others.
#5 Yoel Romero, Middleweight, UFC
The six-time world championship level medalist and 2000 Sydney, Australia Olympic Silver medalist Yoel Romero breaks in at the number five-spot on the list. The middleweight contender’s freestyle wrestling accolades clearly speak for themselves. Romero has used his wrestling to amass a 9-1 record in mixed martial arts, his only loss coming back in 2011. The Cuban is physically imposing and is freakishly strong. He can secure a takedown with relative ease at any time he wants with his opponents offering up little resistance. He does not mask his takedown with angles or feints, like many of the top wrestlers do, he simply desires to shoot in for a single or double and secures it. Romero has fallen in love with his hands over recent outings as he has an abundance of power in both. If he is to challenge for the title, it will be his bread and butter, wrestling, which he will have to use to best the elite of the middleweight division.
#4 Ben Askren, Welterweight, ONE FC
Ben Askren is the sole participant on the list who competes outside of the UFC Octagon. Askren, the former United States Olympic team member competed at the Beijing Olympics, where he went 1-1. Askren differs in approach as he is not as explosive as others who make up this list, that being said, his methods are no less effective as he methodically takes down his opponents at will with flawless technical precision. Askren might possess the best control when on the canvas as he completely smothers his opponents for five rounds. His fourteen total wins and no losses make Askren a threat to any top fighter in the world. A perfect world would see Ben testing his abilities against the elite welterweights in the UFC, hopefully something which comes to fruition in the near future.
#3 Daniel Cormier, Light Heavyweight, UFC
Daniel Cormier, the man who is the self-proclaimed “King of the Grind”, is one of the most talented fighters in mixed martial arts, and on his way to compete for the light heavyweight title later this month against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187. Cormier is a former United States team member, and fourth place finisher at the 2004 Athens, Greece Olympic games. DC as he is referred to often, uses his violent slams to get his opponents to the ground, he might be the most fun to watch of the bunch as a result of the overall excitement of those slams. Cormier has out wrestled countless opponents, most while being the smaller man in the contest, and that alone makes his performances more impressive. Technically sound, explosive, and low to the ground makes this title challenger one of the very best there is.
#2 Jon Jones, Light Heavyweight, UFC
Jon Jones is the least credentialed member of this list, but arguably the very best. His athletic ability is freakish, and at a long 6’4 he would not be expected to have the leverage advantage he does. That is part of what makes his game so impressive. The variety of ways to get his opponents to the ground makes his efforts nearly unstoppable. When Jon Jones wants his opponents on the ground, that is where they end up. Jon Jones uses Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling techniques as he will throw from the clinch better than anyone, or drop down and pull legs out from under his adversary, much as he did against Daniel Cormier, the #3 fighter on this list. Jones almost makes it look too easy against fighters he should not be able to on paper. A truly phenomenal athlete and arguably the best talent the sport has ever seen.
#1 Henry Cejudo, Flyweight, UFC
It is hard to argue against an Olympic Gold medalist, so it won’t even be attempted. The 2008 Gold medalist from the Beijing Olympics is as talented as they come. Be it Cejudo, only a prospect at the moment, moving his way up the UFC’s 125 pound flyweight division, the American is an absolute force. His takedowns come at his opponents from an array of angles, his control pins them to the canvas with no breathing room, and he is athletically gifted as well, being extremely explosive to complete his takedowns. With a division that has been nearly cleared out by the champion, Demetrious Johnson, Cejudo is likely a major challenge to the belt in the near future. At 8-0, his last win was his most impressive, a complete domination of former title challenger, Chris Cariaso. Cejudo has yet to break a sweat. Credentials, mixed with supreme athleticism and variety, Cejudo takes the mantle as mixed martial art’s best pure wrestler.
Honorable Mentions: Cain Velasquez, Demetrious Johnson, and Johny Hendricks
This category is the first of an ongoing series which will be displayed and discussed on Tuesday each subsequent week. Next week will showcase the fighters with the best pure striking power. Stay tuned.
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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