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Take it to the Mat: UFC’s Best Takedown Experts

Niala Samnarine

By Niala Samnarine

March 13, 2014

For MMA fans a UFC fight that ends in a KO or via submission is pretty much as good as it gets. However, equally as impressive is a well-executed takedown. In the Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate rematch of UFC 168 a larger audience witnessed a spectacular hip throw by Rousey to takedown Tate. 

Takedowns are extremely common in matches and several occur in almost every fight. Most top fighters have a well-rounded skill set that includes an arsenal of both takedowns and takedown defenses.

Today we take a look at the best takedown artists in the UFC.

Takedown Level: Expert

If you take a look at the UFC ranking of the best pound for pound fighters you may notice two trends:

1. Most champions are on the list
2. Most have a decent to stellar takedown game

I’ve selected my top 10 of the UFC’s best takedown fighters—in no particular order—and why they make the list:

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

The undefeated “Eagle” has a strong wrestling background and showcases it frequently. He has had 26 takedowns in his last two fights alone, including an impressive showing against Pat Healy at UFC™ 165 .

2. Nik Lentz

Lentz is 3-1 in his last four matches and has a combined 18 takedowns in those matches. Like Khabib, Lentz also has a wrestling background (NCAA Division I) and uses it to execute successful takedowns against his opponents.

3. Demetrious Johnson

The first ever UFC Flyweight Champ makes our list for his impressive use of takedowns during his fights. In his last 5 fights he’s had a total of 24 takedowns. They were particularly effective when he defended his championship against John Dodson in early 2013.

4. Georges St. Pierre

GSP

I feel like there’s no explanation necessary here, but just in case: GSP has taken down every fighter he’s ever fought and is arguably the best wrestler in MMA.

5. Johny Hendricks

Hendricks who will be facing Robbie Lawler for the vacated welterweight championship this weekend at UFC™ 171 is one of the most prolific wrestlers in the UFC and all of MMA. He’s highly decorated and accomplished from high school through college, and into his MMA career. He’s masterful at both takedowns and takedown defense and for those reasons there was no way he was getting left off the list.

6. Dan Henderson

Hendo is a diverse wrestler with accomplishments in both wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling. He is an Olympian, NCAA Division I wrestler and of course a world class MMA fighter. His wrestling background gives him a huge advantage at both takedowns and takedown defense just like his fellow MMA wrestlers.

Cruz7. Dominick Cruz

In his two fights in the UFC (Cruz has been sidelined by an ACL injury and surgeries) Cruz racked up 12 takedowns and has a stellar takedown defense. Against Mighty Mouse, Cruz was able to takedown the champ a total of 10 times and over his career has avoided 83% of total takedowns during fights. He’s a total MMA fighter with an extremely well rounded fight style that includes wrestling, boxing and bjj.

8. Cain Velasquez

Ranked as the #3 pound of pound fighter and the UFC heavyweight champion, Velasquez is one of the most well-rounded fighters in all of MMA. He has trained in muay thai, bjj (black belt), boxing, wrestling, kickboxing and is CRAZY powerful. One memorable performance was his championship winning match against JDS in 2012 where he became the first UFC fighter to record triple digit strikes and double digit takedowns.

9. Rashad Evans

Evans is possibly the best transitional wrestler, from strikes to takedowns, in MMA. He has superior takedown and takedown defense skills. Against other takedown specialists such as Henderson, Phil Davis, and Chael Sonnen, “Suga” has stood his ground and won matchups. Which is why he lands on our list.

10. Daniel Cormier

GSP is “arguably” the best wrestler in MMA because of this man. Cormier has a long list of accolades touting his wrestling prowess. He even trains Velasquez in wrestling. He has defended 100% of takedowns successfully in his UFC career and is undefeated in both heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions.

Honorable Mention: Jon Jones, Matt Hughes

JonJones Headshot

Who’s on your list? What is your favorite takedown? Share in the comments below!

See Them Live

In just two days Johny Hendricks will face Robbie Lawler to claim the welterweight title. Instead of watching the fight on television or at a bar, why not see these takedown masters in person?

UFC VIP Experience now offers you the opportunity to do just that... in VIP fashion! Official UFC VIP Experience Ticket Packages are now available for UFC™ 171 and beyond!
Packages offer the best seats in the house, unparalleled access to behind the scenes events, tours, reserved seating at the fighter Q and A, fighter weigh-ins, entrance to an exclusive VIP hospitality lounge with fighter meet and greets and full of delicious gourmet food and open bar options, and so much more!

So why not be part of the action? Find out more about how you can witness these fighters live and in person, from the best seats around the Octagon.

 

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Images courtesy of UFC