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“Top of the Food Chain Series” Volume 6: Best Overall Grappler

Derek Bowe

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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

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Events

*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results

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The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.

An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.

The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.

UFC Winnipeg Official Results:

MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT

  • #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
  • #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
    • Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
  • #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45  round 1

PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT

  • #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
  • Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
  • Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
  • John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
    • Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT

  • Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
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Fight Announcements

Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando

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The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.

It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.

Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.

In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.

Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.

In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.

UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

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Fight Announcements

Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem

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Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.

Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.

First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)

Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.

Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.

Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.

In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.

UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira

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