Grappling means so much to mixed martial arts, it is the very element which differentiates mixed martial arts from it’s striking only competitors like boxing, or kickboxing. This makes it essential for fighters competing in the sport to be versed in all styles. Becoming complete mixed martial artist, if at worst only for defensive purposes. Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Judo, and Sambo are the most prevalent forms of grappling in the sport as fighters from such backgrounds are among the top to compete in the sport. In this week’s piece, we look at the very best well rounded of the bunch who employ all techniques of defense, offense, control, and ability to take the fight to where they would like it to be based on their grappling ability. All factors considered, these are the very best grapplers in mixed martial arts.
#5. Damian Maia, Welterweight, UFC
Damian Maia is without a doubt one of the most decorated jiu jitsu practitioners in the sport of mixed martial arts. Holding a 4th degree black belt certainly does not hurt either. Maia has enjoyed a lengthy career in the UFC earning 6 submission victories along the way, one of them being submission of the night. Maia began his career in the UFC competing in the middleweight division, and has since moved down to welterweight which has proven to be much more suitable for his frame. Maia has solid trips and throws which he uses from the underhook clinching position in order to take his opponents to the ground. His control when he gets the fight there is of high level as he secures dominant positions to disallow his foes to get back to their feet. Maia is a very strong grappler, and puts all of his skills together nicely to make him very well rounded, and dangerous on the ground.
#4 Jon Jones, Light Heavyweight, UFC
Jon Jones being on this list is slightly an anomaly as Jones is the only fighter on this list who is not of the Jiu Jitsu or Sambo background, does not posses a black belt, and has only a white belt in Jiu Jitsu. Jones has out grappled everyone he has faced both enroute to claiming the Light Heavyweight title, as well as defending, also submitting two black belts in jiu jitsu along the way. Jones possesses the best wrestling in the sport and has been able to secure takedowns from both the clinch, as well as from shooting for single, and double leg takedowns. Noted from his opponents is the strength which Jones has imposed on them, how hard he is to actually take down which he has defended all, but three, two of which came from Alexander Gustafsson, and one from Daniel Cormier. Jones wrestling and knack for forcing himself into dominant positions on the ground places him amongst the best grapplers in the game today.
#3 Jacare Souza, Middleweight, UFC
Jacare is considered one of the most dangerous jiu jitsu practitioners in mixed martial arts. One of his main abilities which separates him from others, is overall physical strength, and athleticism, mixed with his very high black belt level technique. When on the ground with Souza it looks like a man amongst boys as he will transition into his preferred dominant top position looking for his ultra dangerous head and arm choke. Souza is a very capable wrestler as well, able to shoot in for takedowns and get the fight where he wants I to go. Jacare uses his mastery of top position to control his opponents on the ground, while he waits for the one slip where they yield the opening he is looking for to end the fight. Seemingly improving every fight makes Souza a nightmare grappler.
#2 Khabib Nurmagomedov, Lightweight, UFC
The Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov is the true definition of absolute control in top position. Nurmagomedov has some of the best trips, and throws for takedowns and can employ them at any point he desires. His ability to get a fight to the ground, and keep it there is second to none. He has smothered opponents of a high level grappling acumen with ease, making them look borderline amateur in his ability to control them at any advance they attempt. Though Nurmagomedov has not been a fighter to finish as frequently as one might expect from the dominant positions be accumulates, he has left his opposition bewildered and frustrated as they struggle to escape his clutches. Nurmagomedov was a much debated and lobbied pick for the top spot.
#1 Chris Weidman, Middleweight, UFC
Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman embodies the perfect blueprint for a mixed martial arts grappler. A very high level and explosive freestyle wrestler, freakish athleticism, an extremely high fight IQ, flawless footwork, and a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. If creating a grappling based fighter in a video game, a more perfect carbon copy could not be made. Weidman can take down any fighter he wants at will his footwork and feints place him at angles where his opposition have no leverage to defend his takedowns, in his last fight against Belfort most notably, as be secured his hands around Belfort’s thighs for the takedown, he kicked out Belfort’s left leg as Belfort attempted to pull Chris into his guard, a move that was likely unnoticed to those not paying attention, but it secured Chris’ positioning and set him up for his full mount, and finish by strikes. The transitions are lightning quick, hopping in and out with seemingly little effort. Weidman’s submission finishing ability is brilliant, as is his defense, Chris owns every technical trait one can envision in the perfect grappler, couple that with his intelligence in the Octagon, and overall athleticism, you have the best, and most well rounded grappler in mixed martial arts today.
Honorable Mentions: Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, Rafael Dos Anjos, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Demetrious Johnson, Luke Rockhold
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
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