It’s no secret to MMA fans that those transitioning from wrestling to MMA tend to experience tremendous success. After all, most UFC champions come from a wrestling background and I think it is safe to say that wrestlers will continue to dominate MMA.
Wrestlers are so good at MMA because the rules and judging criteria favor their offensive grappling approach. Wrestlers decide whether a fight remains standing or goes to the ground, and it adapts well to all styles. Wrestlers also come from very competitive backgrounds and are great at weight cuts.
Factors That Make Wrestlers Good at MMA
MMA is a sport that’s evolved immensely over the past 30-plus years. Along with this natural evolution, several disciplines have enjoyed their place at the “top.”
In the very first UFC event, the legendary Royce Gracie shocked the world by defeating men far larger and physically stronger than himself to become the champion. He did this by using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a ground-based grappling system that few had ever seen before.
However, those entering the MMA world were soon experts in other disciplines; mastering one approach no longer guaranteed success. Fast forward to the current era — wrestlers have come to dominate the MMA arena.
Looking through the list of the current top-ranked Mixed Martial Artists in the world will attest to this fact. Most have NCAA wrestling backgrounds and accolades, and some even hold Olympic and Pan-American titles.
So, what is it that makes wrestlers nearly unstoppable in MMA? Here are top 5 reasons wrestlers dominate in MMA.
#1 The Rules of MMA Are Advantageous for Wrestlers
For starters, the rules of MMA heavily favor wrestlers. This perk isn’t by design, but it just so happens that MMA rules perfectly mesh with a wrestling strategy.
MMA matches can be fought and won in several ways. For example, MMA fights can end with a knockout or technical knockout, submission, or judging decision.
Because of their ability to take their opponent down and keep them there, wrestlers can dominate the match and secure a decision on the judge’s scorecards fairly easily.
Wrestlers exhaust their opponents and break their will through a constant onslaught of overwhelming control. Judges look favorably on wrestlers because wrestlers are almost always in positions of dominance during the fight.
Wrestling also scores quite a bit of points in MMA competitions. Takedowns, ground control, and strikes from an advantageous position grant points that ultimately determine the winner of the fight. Since wrestlers are used to taking people down and controlling the fight on the ground, they’re more likely to score points.
#2 The Versatility of Wrestling Makes It Good For MMA
The next reason why wrestling is so effective in MMA is its universal applicability and versatility.
Other forms of martial arts have to consider their opponent’s style and discipline and how these two might mesh together. An example of this is a boxer taking on a Muay-Thai fighter.
The boxer will likely want to stay outside and avoid the clinch, whereas the Muay-Thai specialist will aim to get inside and land knees and elbows at close range.
Wrestlers differ in this regard because, for the most part, they’re much less concerned with what their opponent brings to the table stylistically. Wrestlers are neutralizers. Whatever you want to do, their job is to smother you and stop you.
Of course, a wrestler will have to be careful when fighting someone very good at throwing up submissions off their back, but overall the wrestler’s game plan remains the same.
You can almost say that a wrestler transcends the whole game of stylistic matchmaking and simply stops their opponent’s offense in its tracks.
Wrestlers will have a fair chance against any combat style on the ground once they learn how to avoid putting themselves into vulnerable positions.
#3 Wrestlers Control Where The Fight Goes
This sort of plays back into the first point about the rules of MMA being tailor-made for wrestlers, but there’s also another way to look at it. Wrestlers determine where the fight takes place. This is probably the biggest reason wrestlers are so good at MMA.
If a wrestler decides they want the fight to remain standing on their feet, they can simply block any grappling attempts made by their opponent and force the fight to be a striking affair. If they decide that they want the fight to take place on the ground, they can take it there.
A wrestler can essentially decide which type of fight is fought. On the other hand, many fighting styles prefer to stay standing. If a wrestler senses their opponent is uncomfortable on the ground, they can take them down and control the whole fight.
On the other hand, if a wrestler is fighting a world-class BJJ expert who has poor stand-up, the wrestler can decide to keep the fight standing. After all, the jiu-jitsu fighter can execute his game plan if the fight does not go to the ground.
Since wrestlers are better takedown artists the jiu-jitsu fighter is going to have a very hard time getting the wrestler to the ground.
Again, complete control can win the fight via the judges’ scoring cards. Even if the wrestler doesn’t submit, TKO, or KO the opponent, they can win based on pure domination.
#4 Wrestlers Come From Vert Competitive Backgrounds
Wrestling is an incredibly competitive sport, even at the high school level. Wrestler’s training routines are so grueling and competitive which makes the transition into MMA much easier. After all, they have already been conditioning for competition for many years.
Wrestling training forces athletes to lift weights, run sprints/hills, repeat technical drills, perform constant conditioning and strength training, and push their bodies and minds to the limit.
In wrestling, you don’t have a moment to relax. It’s constantly offensive, as opposed to Jiu-Jitsu or judo, which can take on a more defensive style (counters are the name of the game). Wrestlers, on the other hand, never leave the offense.
Their opponents can seldom get a second to breathe; they pursue dominance from start to finish. Wrestlers use their hardened cardio and calloused determination to overwhelm their opponents in MMA. Whether it takes one round or five, a top-notch wrestler is always a formidable opponent.
By the time a wrestler has reached the NCAA level, their mindset is so tough, and their aggressiveness so honed that it’s almost impossible to present a challenge to them.
#5 Wrestlers Have Mastered Weight-Cutting
Weight-cutting is a practice where athletes shed body weight quickly to qualify for lower-weight classes. Then, they quickly put the weight back on before the contest to gain a size advantage over their opponent.
This has become more and more of a factor in MMA success. Many of the top MMA competitors in the world cut incredible amounts of weight before a competition, and by fight time, they often tower over their opponents.
A person who fights at 170 pounds (77.11 kg) can rehydrate and bulk up to 185 pounds (83.91 kg) on the night of the fight.
This practice is also very common in wrestling. This is yet another reason why wrestlers are so good in MMA. Their background in weight-cutting leaves them feeling energized and ready to fight where other disciplines might feel weak.
Every pound counts when a wrestler’s sole intention is to handle their opponent however they see fit.
Many of these fighters have been cutting weight since they were in a high school wrestling program. So naturally, they are used to cutting weight and have become quite good at it by the time they start MMA.