Ben Askren’s Picks For Most Effective Wrestlers In MMA
As the sport of MMA has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years, we have been able to see time and time again which fighting styles are the most effective during a fight. One pattern that has emerged is that having a wrestling background might just be the most important background an MMA fighter can have. In fact, without any real training in MMA, Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz once took a fight in the UFC on a couple hours notice and was able to walk away with the victory using his wrestling ability.
During a recent media day, in the days leading up to his next fight on July 6th against Jorge Masvidal, Ben Askren sat down with the UFC to give his picks for the five most effective wrestlers in MMA.
Coming in at number five, Askren chose Matt Hughes. Hughes is one of the greatest welterweight fighters of all times boasting a record of 45-9 and was a multiple time UFC champion. He is from Illionios where he was a two time state champion and then went on to wrestle division one at Eastern Illinois University where he ended up being a two time All-American. Hughes placed 8th in 1996 and 5th in 1997. Hughes was one of the first fighters to use his wrestling to really dominate his opponent. He would slam people with double legs and work his ground and pound game. Throughout his career he had many notable victories over Renzo Gracie, BJ Penn, Matt Sera, and Georges St-Pierre to name a few.
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Next on Askren’s list at number four is Frankie Edgar. Edgar is from the great wrestling state of New Jersey where he placed as high as second at the state tournament. After highschool, he went on to wrestle at Clarion University of Pennsylvania where he was a four time division one national qualifier. Frankie has used is wrestling background to excel in the octagon over his long career, which is still active. During his career, he has notable wins over BJ Penn, Urijah Faber, and Cub Swanson. Frankie is one of the most effective wrestlers to seamlessly use striking to set up his takedowns.
Daniel Cormier comes in at number three on Askren’s list. Daniel Cormier is one of three fighters in the UFC to ever be a two weight champion, although he did relinquish his belt at light heavyweight. Even though Cormier got into the fight game a little later than most in life, his background as an elite wrestler helped pave his way to great success. Cormier was a three time Louisiana state champion. After highschool, he attended a junior college and was a two-time junior college national champion. Then, he transferred to wrestling powerhouse Oklahoma State where he went on to be a national runner-up losing to Cael Sanderson in the finals.
After college, Cormier had a successful career wrestling freestyle internationally. He was a five-time U.S. national champion, a two-time olympian, and placed third at the 2007 world championships. Needless to say, Daniel Cormier has an impressive wrestling resume and it shows when he fights. He uses his striking to set up takedowns and also uses takedowns to set up punches. He is currently the UFC heavyweight champ.
Number two on the list is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all times, Georges St-Peirre (GSP). Unlike everyone else on this list so far, GSP does not come from a traditional wrestling background but rather more of a traditional martial arts background. Even though he wasn’t a high level wrestler, he worked extremely hard throughout his MMA career and surrounded himself with the right people to become a takedown expert in the octagon. During his career as a fighter, he has an impressive record of 26-2 and has been champion at both welterweight and middle weight (though not at the same time). He has impressive wins over Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, BJ Penn, and Michael Bisping to name a few. GSP’s transition from a traditional martial artist to a takedown machine shows how important it is for a fighter to have a solid wrestling base if they want to be successful.
The last fighter on the list in the number one spot is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Much like GSP, Khabib does not come from a traditional wrestling background as we might think of, but he does have a high level Sambo background. Sambo is a Russian martial art that is much like submission wrestling mixed with Judo, which helps to explain how Khabib has been able to be so dominant in MMA. During his eleven year career, he has a perfect record of 27-0 and is currently the UFC lightweight champion. When you watch Khabib fight, he can not only takedown opponents with ease, but also holds them down and has vicious ground and pound and submissions as well.
Making it onto this list is very impressive if you consider the number of high caliber wrestlers that are just in the UFC alone. There is Henry Cejudo who was an Olympic gold medalist, Yoel Romero who was a world champion and Olympic silver medalist, Johny Hendricks who was a two-time NCAA national champion for Oklahoma State, and dozens of other fighters who had a minimum a college wrestling background.
Even though this was Ben Askren’s list of who he thinks are the top five most effective wrestlers in MMA, it is safe to say that Ben himself probably deserves to be on his list as well. He is currently 19-0 and has won titles in both Bellator and ONE Championship and is currently on the path to possibly win a UFC title as well. Ben’s style of fighting is heavily dependent on his wrestling ability because he is self admittedly not a very good striker.
The connection between being a good wrestler and being a good fighter is pretty obvious. If you would like to learn some solid wrestling technique from one of the best wrestler turned fighters check out Ultimate Askren Wrestling!!