In the sport of MMA, a ‘grappler’ is someone who more often then not has a background in Wrestling, Sambo, or other forms of grappling.
A grappler is often labeled as boring, but as Bas Ruten once said to me, “What people don’t realize is that on the ground, someone could have any bone broken in a matter of seconds.”
Grappling doesn’t always make for the most exciting fights, but when you watch the best grapplers, you often can have a sense of entertainment.
Not all grapplers on this list are exciting to watch, but their record shows why fan support doesn’t always matter. So, lets take a look at the 10 best grapplers in MMA.
#10: Michael Chandler
We start the list off with the multi-time Bellator world champion. Chandler makes this list because of his longtime dominance in Bellator. Sure, every now and then he takes a loss, but he constantly rebounds better than ever.
What makes Chandler’s grappling so great, is the name list of who he has dominated through his ground work and clinch. The names of Patricky Pitbull, Brent Primus, Brandon Girtz, and Eddie Alvarez sit upon his wall.
Chandler doesn’t make it higher because of his “lack of competition” if that’s what you can call it, as it isn’t as steep as others on the list, but he still makes his claim after dominating other strong grapplers in their strong suits.
#9: Colby Covington
I don’t like Colby Covington. In fact, he very much bores me, and I find him unentertaining, but his skill is not something to ignore.
Colby superior wrestling shows, as with a very weak striking game, his record shows its impressiveness. Colby has used the same formula over and over again, and as of now, it hasn’t stopped him yet.
He continues to defeat elite MMA fighters such as Demian Maia, and RDA, and now finds himself against Robbie Lawler. Covington remains at the top of the welterweight rankings, and his elite grappling looks like it will keep him up there for the foreseeable future.
#8: Tatiana Suarez
When I first started making this list, I had Suarez very high, perhaps even #2 or #3, yet, she falls because of her most recent fight. Suarez has often been labeled the “Female Khabib” by fighters and sports analysts alike, because of her ruthless ground game, and pure dominance in all of her fights.
That being said, the reason she fell on this list, is because of her fight against Nina Ansaroff. In the fight, Suarez remained dominate, but gassed out, and that dominance faded into a competitive match, a match she almost lost.
Suarez however, is still on this list,and could very well be top 5 in no time, but afters seeing her last fight, she is setback a little on this list.
#7: Jon Fitch
So here he is. The guy fired from the UFC because he as too boring. Listen, I’ve never been a Jon FItch fan, and I don’t know many that are.
That being said, you can hate his style, but he deserves a bit of respect. While many claim Fitch is boring, his style is undeniable, as at 41 years old, he still remains consistent, and was even on the verge of claiming the Bellator welterweight championship, yet a poor judges decision rendered the fight a draw.
Fitch has remained unbeaten since 2014, and although he is negatively received by fans worldwide, he uses his style in every fight, and has beaten the likes of Paul Daley, Yushin Okami, Thiago Alves, and Diego Sanchez, even earning a shot at then dominate champion, GSP.
#6: Daniel Cormier
I originally had Cormier lower on the list, but it would be a travesty to drop him to the bottom of the list. Cormier began his career like many grapplers on this list, in wrestling every match, and dominating.
However, as he evolved, he turned into a very good striker. The reason Cormier isn’t higher on the list, is because many of the other names rely on grappling, and their record shows there success, while Cormier now is well rounded, and takes the fight everywhere.
Now, Cormier still rely’s heavily on his wrestling, as against elite strikers like Anderson Silva, Volkan, and Derrick Lewis, he takes the fight to the ground consistently, but his talent is undeniable on the feet,and especially on the ground, that being why he makes this list.
#5: Jon Jones
So this will upset a lot of people. “Why is Jones higher than DC?” And it goes as simple as this. Jones’ beginning was very similar to Cormier’s, in that he was exclusively a ground fighter.
Jones is over Cormier because of the dominance he had in their 2 fights. Jones is also similar to Cormier on this list, in that he is lower because of his dominant striking.
His striking is possibly the best out there, and many people forget how great he is on the ground and in the clinch.If Jones and Cormier weren’t so well rounded,they might be 2 and 3, but because of greatness in all area’s, they fall behind those who mainly follow the grappling route.
#4: Ben Askren
Askren kicks off the final 4, and just like the top 3, he reaches this spot because of his dominant record, that was obtained, almost exclusively via grappling.
I personally believe Askren may be #1 or #2 in grappling, but it just seems to early to tell. While he was a killer outside of the UFC, his strong suit just barely escaped him from his first fight in the promotion, winning controversially.
Askren is undefeated, and the only reason for that is his wrestling. Until Lawler, no one truly stopped Askren that hard. He had been challenged, but never to that extent.
With Askren’s fight coming up in around a week’s time, he can prove himself as dominate, and as a higher ranked competitor than I’m giving on this list, but we’ll all find out very soon.
#3: Kamaru Usman
Yeah, so here’s the thing. In my mind, I BELIEVE Askren is a better than Usman in the grappling realm, but what I have SEEN, shows that as of now, Usman seems to edge out Askren.
Usman has followed the route of a person lower on this list, that being Colby Covington. Usman has the same wins as Covington, yet both were more dominant. And what skyrockets Usman on this list is his last fight. Against one of the best wrestlers in the UFC, in Tyron Woodley, Usman killed him.
It wasn’t a close fight. The fight saw Usman rag-doll Woodley for 5 rounds, before taking the strap. Usman proved in this fight how deadly his grappling is, and his 15-1 record, just sets it in stone a little bit more.
#2: Jessica Andrade
So the reigning Strawweight Queen takes the #2 spot. I will admit, going into the Joanna fight for her first crack at the belt, I did not know very much about the then challenger. She was defeated by a much more technical fighter in Joanna.
Andrade rebounded with one of the most impressive wins streak put together though, but now only beating top fighters, but steamrolling fighter than thought to be to good to be destroyed.
Andrade would steamroll a than Claudia Gadelha, who had only been beat by the then champ, in fights that were very close. Next she would steamroll the then 10-1 Tecia Torres,and would follow up this fight in her campaign for a rematch, by KO’ing Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Excluding the Kowalkiewicz fight, Andrade would gain this streak by pure power of tossing around opponents. When getting her title shot against the now champion Rose Namajunas, she was outclassed early, despite landing some takedowns, but would ultimately take the win after a brutal slam KO, showing and proving her dominance as the best female grappler in MMA
Honorable Mention: Kron Gracie & Ryan Hall
#1: Khabib Nurmagomedov
To think it would be someone else would be ludicrous. The undefeated, unstoppable 27-0 UFC lightweight champion, has gotten to this point exclusively through his Sambo.
At 27-0 Khabib has rag-dolled, dominated, and steamrolled almost every opponent the same way. Takedown, smash, takedown, smash, takedown, smash.
Khabib up to now, has never once been truly tested, as the only time he really looked hurt was when Michael Johnson snapped his head back with a jab. Khabib has never been tested, and has for his grappling, no body can stop, or has stopped a fresh Khabib.
As the fight wears on, he tends to lessen his takedown dominance, yet when his opponent is to the ground, very rarely do they get up. Khabib’s subpar striking further shows his grappling skill, as his striking often looks very well, due to opponents keeping their hands down, terrified of the takedown.
Will Khabib ever be tested, and will anyone ever shut his game down? As of now, it is a firm no, but being the King of the toughest division in the sport, there is still a lot of game yet to test their luck against the Dagestani Badass
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