Grappling refers to techniques, maneuvers, and counters applied to an opponent in order to gain a physical advantage, such as improving relative position, escaping, submitting, or injury to the opponent. Grappling is a general term that covers techniques used in many disciplines, styles and martial arts that are practiced both as combat sports and for self-defense. Grappling can be a mixture of or just one specific area including jiu-jitsu and judo or a series of different realms of wrestling to include Greco-Roman, Shoot or Catch.
So how do you determine who has the best grappling in mixed martial arts? One might want to break it down into different categories. For example who has the best grappling as far as jiu-jitsu in MMA or who has the best wrestling based grappling?
But if you want to dig down real deep you need to combine all areas into one list. This is a list of our picks of the 10 best all-around grapplers in MMA today.
10) Ben Askren – A member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team and brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Askren is currently the Bellator Fighting Championships welterweight champion. Askren is currently undefeated at 11-0 dominating all of his opponents with his wrestling prowess. He was also a 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Championship quarterfinalist.
9) Ronda Rousey –Rousey is the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, as well as the former Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Champion. She has finished all of her opponents by armbar in the first round. Rousey became the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008. She is the pound for pound number one female fighter on the planet. At just 17, Rousey qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, becoming the youngest judo competitor in the entire Games. Also in 2004, Rousey won a gold medal at the 2004 World Junior Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
8) Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza –Souza is a Brazilian mixed martial artist, submission grappler and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Souza is the former Strikeforce middleweight champion. He also holds the distinction of submitting Marcelo Garcia (a man considered by many to be the greatest pound-for-pound grappler of all time) in submission grappling competition.
7) Jake Shields – An NCAA Division II level wrestler and accomplished black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Cesar Gracie, Shields is best known for his 15-fight win streak where he finished eight straight opponents. Shields held the Strikeforce middleweight title and the Elite XC and Shoot welterweight titles. He is also the 2005 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships bronze medalist, 2005 Pan American Championships gold medalist, the 2007 Gracie Open Superfight Champion and a three time Grapplers Quest Advanced Division champion.
6) Johny Hendricks – Hendricks is an accomplished former collegiate wrestler. While competing for Oklahoma State University, Hendricks won the 2005 and 2006 NCAA Division I wrestling title at 165-pounds, and he finished second in 2007. Hendricks is considered the #2 welterweight in the UFC right now with a professional record of 14-1.
5) Frank Mir - Mir is a two time UFC Heavyweight Champion. He currently holds the record for most victories and submissions in the history of the UFC heavyweight division. He is also the only man in UFC history to win a bout by toe hold. He holds the distinction of being the first and only man to both knock out and submit MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mir holds black belts in both Kenpo Karate and BJJ and has had more fights in the UFC than anyone else who has competed in the heavyweight division.
4) Joe Warren – Warren is a Greco-Roman wrestler that won the 2006 Pan American and World Championship and was a favorite for the 2008 Olympics, but was given a two-year suspension after testing positive for THC while trying to qualify for the 2007 World Championship. He later participated in and won the 2007 World Cup. During the end of 2008 Warren started transitioning to MMA and in just a few short years he claimed a world championship.
3) Georges St. Pierre – The current UFC welterweight champion and #2 pound for pound fighter on the planet, Georges St. Pierre is a BJJ black belt and also hold black belts in Kyokushin Kaikan, Gaidojutsu, and Shidokan. He currently holds a professional record of 23-2. When starting professional mixed martial arts this Canadian fighter had little to no wrestling training. He has improved so much that he is now considered one of the best wrestlers in the organization and has shown interest in competing for his country in the Olympic trials.
2) Shinya Aoki - Japanese mixed martial artist and grappler noted for being the DREAM Lightweight Champion, WAMMA Lightweight Champion and former Shooto Welterweight Champion. Aoki holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as a black belt in judo. He is best known for his excellent flexibility, and submission skills often taking opponents by surprise and earning him the nickname Tōbikan Jūdan meaning ‘Grandmaster of flying submissions.’ As well as his MMA credentials, Aoki has garnered several submission grappling accolades including two All Japan Jiu-Jitsu championships, a Japan Open Jiu-Jitsu championship, a Budo Open championship, and an ADCC Japan championship.
1) Demain Maia – Maia, a 4th degree black belt in BJJ has beaten some of the world’s best wrestlers, strikers and BJJ practitioners with his ability to outmaneuver his opponents. Maia is widely considered the best grappler in the UFC and all of mixed martial arts. He is three-time World Cup champion, two-time World Champion, Pan American champion 2006, ADCC champion 2007, ADCC 2nd place in 2005, Brazilian champion, 7x state champion, 4x Brazilian team champion.
Maia’s grappling prowess is so highly regarded among MMA fighters that noted heavyweight submission artist and fellow BJJ black belt Frank Mir hired him as his head jiu-jitsu coach prior to his UFC 100 title fight with Brock Lesnar. Mir credits Maia with bringing Mir's jiu-jitsu skills to different levels, saying "I thought I was actually good at it until I started rolling with him."
Other Notable mentions: Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira , Chris Weidman, Fabricio Werdum, Jon Fitch, Gilbert Melendez, Roger Gracie and Daniel Cormier.