Last Updated on February 21, 2024
Mixed martial arts involve many combat disciplines, such as wrestling, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, and more.
Wrestling is probably the most essential tool in MMA as it allows you to grapple and control your opponent effectively.
If you look at the greatest MMA fighters throughout history, you'll notice that many have a wrestling background, developing their striking skills later in their career.
And that's what we're here to talk about! We'll be showcasing some of the best wrestlers in UFC, in no particular ranking.
11 Of The Best Wrestlers In The UFC
1. Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez is a California native who's a former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Before he started his UFC career, he participated in collegiate wrestling at Arizona State University. He also competed at the Pac-10 Championships, winning the Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year in 2005.
He made his UFC debut in 2006, winning his first match against Jesse Fujarczyk. Throughout his career, he won 14 times and only lost three times.
According to the UFC data, Velasquez has a 58% striking accuracy and 45% for takedowns. Additionally, he has an impressive 5.13 takedown average per 15 minutes.
He is also the only fighter in UFC history to have double-digit takedowns (11) and triple-digit strikes (111) in the same match.
In 2019, Velasquez retired from MMA and became a professional wrestler signed with AAA. He debuted in a six-man tag team match at Triplemania XXVII, where he and his teammates won.
He also debuted on SmackDown in 2019 but was then released in 2020. He made his return to AAA in 2021.
2. Chael Sonnen
Chael Sonnen is a retired mixed martial artist who competed in the middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions.
During collegiate wrestling, he represented the Oregon Ducks, becoming a two-time Pac-10 runner-up and a two-time Dave Schultz Memorial International Greco-Roman winner.
However, one of his greatest moments as an amateur wrestler came when he won a silver medal at the 2000 Greco-Roman World University Championships.
Sonnen began his MMA career in 1997 and retired in 2019 with 31 wins, 17 losses, and one draw. He boasts a 59% accuracy on takedowns and 44% on significant strikes.
In the Octagon, Sonnen is recognized as the father of introducing smooth trash talking. Moreover, his knowledge of mixed martial arts and overall capabilities make him a fearsome opponent.
He made his career by taking down his opponents and bashing them repeatedly into submission. Opponents may know he will strike, but they typically struggle to squander his efforts.
3. Daniel Cormier
Daniel "DC" Cormier is a former mixed martial artist and current UFC analyst and commentator. He's a former UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion.
Cormier is the second fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously and the first fighter to have title defenses in two divisions.
He is arguably the most decorated wrestler in MMA. He started his career in high school and continued throughout college, reaching the NCAA division finals and becoming an All-American out of Oklahoma State University.
After graduation, he found a successful career in freestyle wrestling. He represented Team USA and won the US National Championships every year from 2003-2008.
He debuted as a professional MMA fighter in 2009 and retired in 2020, garnering 22 wins, three losses, and one NC. He has a 53% striking accuracy and 43% for takedowns.
Despite his diminutive height compared to other fighters, Daniel Cormier is arguably one of the best, if not the best, fighters in the heavyweight division.
His powerful takedowns, aggression, ability to exert pressure and dictate the pacing of the fight, and other qualities leave no room for opponents to breathe.
4. Dominick Cruz
Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz is an active mixed martial artist who was a former two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion. He used to compete in the lightweight and featherweight divisions but now competes in the bantamweight division.
Cruz doesn't have a decorated background, unlike other MMA fighters on this list. He started wrestling in seventh grade but stopped in his senior year due to an injury.
He started his career in 2005 and is still competing today. He has a record of 24 wins to four losses, with a 33% accuracy for striking and 43% for takedowns.
Cruz is a formidable opponent in the Octagon due to his unorthodox movements, where he often attacks from angles in a way that others don't.
One of his most notable UFC fights happened in 2016 when he regained the bantamweight championship from T.J. Dillashaw. Many call this match the most remarkable comeback story in UFC history.
5. Georges St. Pierre
Georges "Rush" St. Pierre is a former professional MMA fighter who won titles in the UFC welterweight and middleweight divisions.
St. Pierre lived a difficult childhood, where he learned Kyokushin Karate when he was seven to defend himself against a school bully. Around age 16, he took up various combat sports, such as boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Before his UFC career, he earned a 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate, a 1st-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and black belts in Gaidojutsu and Shidōka.
Georges St. Pierre became an active UFC fighter from 2002-2013 and 2017. He has an incredible record of 26 wins and only two losses, where he even had a 13-fight win streak. Additionally, he has a 54% accuracy for striking and 74% for takedowns, which is unbelievable.
He is widely considered the greatest fighter in MMA history, being a three-time former UFC Welterweight Champion and ranked by Sherdog as the best welterweight in the world for many years.
He also won the middleweight division title in 2017 but decided to vacate his title after a month due to sickness.
6. Jon Jones
Moving to the light heavyweight division, we have American professional martial artist Jon "Bones" Jones. He's a former two-time UFC champion in his division and is #11 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings as of August 2022.
He started as a high school wrestler and became a state champion in upstate New York. Eventually, he won the National Championships at the NJCAA out of Iowa Central Community College.
Jon Jones made his UFC debut in 2008 and is still an unstoppable force in the light heavyweight division.
He has a whopping record of 26 wins to one loss, with his only loss being a disqualification due to an illegal move. He also has a 58% striking accuracy and 44% for takedowns.
He also became the youngest winner of the UFC championship belt at 23 years old!
Jon Jones is one of the best UFC fighters who stepped foot in the Octagon because he technically has an undefeated record. He has even defeated some of the guys on this list, such as Sonnen and Cormier.
7. José Aldo
José Aldo is an active MMA fighter who used to compete in the lightweight and featherweight divisions but now competes in bantamweight.
Aldo was interested in football but was tired of getting beat up on the streets, so he decided to learn capoeira. This Brazilian art form combines martial arts, dance, acrobatics, and music.
Eventually, he decided to train in jiu-jitsu, where he a bronze medal in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and two gold medals in the Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
He made his UFC debut in 2004 and is still active today, with a record of 31 wins to seven losses. He has a 46% accuracy for striking and 54% for takedowns.
Aldo has a gritty fighting style, combining his boxing skills, leg kicks, and Muay Thai striking to knock out his opponents.
He is considered one of the best fighters in the featherweight division. He's also ranked #3 in the UFC bantamweight rankings as of August 2022.
8. Kamaru Usman
Kamaru "The Nigerian Nightmare" Usman is a former freestyle wrestler and professional mixed martial artist who competes in the UFC welterweight division.
He started wrestling in high school and continued through college, helping the UNK Lopers get their first-ever team title and becoming an NCAA Division II national champion.
Usman made his UFC debut in 2012 and is still active today, with an impressive record of 20 wins and one loss. He has a 53% accuracy for striking and 49% for takedowns.
Additionally, he has a 100% takedown defense. This means no one has ever taken down Usman in his entire career!
He is also the current Welterweight Champion, using his wrestling abilities and hard-hitting combos to defend his title three times successfully.
What's also impressive is that he's ranked #1 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings as of August 2022!
9. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib "The Eagle" Nurmagomedov is a former professional mixed martial artist who competed in the lightweight division. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on June 30, 2022. He's now an MMA coach and cornerman.
He has a background in sambo, judo, and wrestling, where he started training during childhood. He even wrestled a bear at age nine!
He started his MMA career in 2008 and retired in 2020, where he has an unbelievable record of 29 wins and ZERO losses.
Furthermore, he has 49% striking accuracy, 48% takedown accuracy, and an incredible 5.32 takedown average per 15 minutes. He even once landed 21 takedowns in a single fight.
Khabib's wrestling skills are about exerting relentless pressure on his opponents, often described as "mauling." He is widely considered the most dominant wrestler in UFC, as his fighting style allows him to incapacitate his opponents and force them to quit.
10. Matt Hughes
Matt Hughes is a former mixed martial artist widely regarded as one of the best in MMA history. He is a former two-time UFC Welterweight Champion, NJCAA Hall of Fame inductee, and UFC Hall of Fame inductee.
He started wrestling in high school, graduating with a whopping record of 131 wins and only two losses. He continued in college, participating in the NCAA Division I Wrestling.
Hughes made his MMA debut in 1998 and retired in 2013, where he competed in the welterweight division. He has a record of 45 wins and nine losses, with a 53% accuracy for striking and 50% for takedowns.
Hughes' excellent wrestling background, mastery of submissions, and powerful grapples make him one of the greatest welterweights of all time. He has victories over great fighters like Georges St. Pierre, Matt Sera, and B.J. Penn.
Additionally, he was the #1 pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world during his career!
11. Randy Couture
Randy "The Natural" Couture is a former mixed martial artist and former Greco-Roman wrestler. He was a six-time UFC Champion, competing in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions.
He started wrestling in middle school and continued in high school, where he won a state championship during his senior year.
After he was discharged from the Army, Couture won various awards from the Pan American Championships, the World Cup, and the NCAA division at Oklahoma State University.
He made his professional MMA debut in 1997 and retired in 2011, combining his wrestling skills with dirty boxing to overwhelm his opponents.
Couture has a record of 19 wins and 11 losses, where he competed in 16 title fights. He has a 58% accuracy for striking and 47% for takedowns.
However, don't let these losses fool you because he has many records yet to be surpassed.
For example, he has the most title reigns (6) in the UFC, is the only fighter to win a championship after becoming a Hall-of-Famer, and is the oldest champion in MMA history at 43 years old.
Knock-Out Point: What if we told you that there are gorgeous ladies willing to exchange hard blows and kicks to their lithe but athletic bodies? Know them here -- Hottest UFC Fighters.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are takedown and striking accuracy?
If you visit the official UFC website and look at the profile of a particular fighter, you might see "striking accuracy" and "takedown accuracy" in their stats.
Accuracy simply means how often they execute a particular move. For example, dividing the successful takedowns by total takedown attempts, then multiplying the number by 100 determines the percentage of the takedown accuracy.
Is Khabib the best wrestler ever?
Yes, he is. Based on records alone, you can say Khabib is the best wrestler because he's undefeated. There's no doubt he's one of the best, but whom you think is the absolute best depends on your opinion.
Why are wrestlers so good at MMA?
Wrestlers often dominate the MMA scene because they can use their wrestling abilities to grapple and take down their opponents.
For example, a kickboxer who started training wrestling in his twenties to compete in MMA will have little chance of stopping the takedowns of someone who has been wrestling since childhood.
Are there UFC fighters who competed in the Olympics?
Yes, there are. In fact, Henry Cejudo and Kevin Jackson are two former UFC fighters with an Olympic gold medal in wrestling!
As you can see, many UFC champions today and throughout history have an excellent background in wrestling.
With the growing popularity of MMA, will there be more youth who first train as wrestlers before adapting to the sport? Or will they train with the goal of being a mixed martial artist?
Only time will tell.
That said, these are 10 of the best wrestlers in UFC. Did your favorites make it to the list? If we missed other great wrestlers, we'd love to hear all about it!