Jon Jones and the 10 Best Technical Wrestlers in the UFC Right Now
Although clinch striking probably played the biggest role in Jon Jones defending his light heavyweight championship against Glover Teixeira at UFC 172 over the weekend, the 205-pound titleholder also scored three takedowns on Saturday.
While Jones' reach and striking have gotten most of the attention lately, it was the champion's wrestling and ground-and-pound that carried him to the top of the light heavyweight class. Bones has scored at least one takedown in his past 12 outings.
Only 26 years old, Jones still seems to be making improvements to his MMA wrestling. That is a scary idea to process for 205-pound contenders hoping to dethrone the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Clearly, Jones is among the best wrestlers in MMA. Here is a look at where he stands among the top 10 wrestlers competing in the UFC based on results inside the Octagon.
10. Chael Sonnen
At 37 years old and with one win in his past four fights, Chael Sonnen's time as one of the best wrestlers in MMA could be coming to an end. Fighters like Chad Mendes, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Yoel Romero are right on his tail for this No. 10 position.
Still, Sonnen's wrestling has been solid against everybody he's faced except fellow elite wrestlers. Based on takedowns, the former middleweight title challenger has only been outwrestled by light heavyweight champion Jones and Rashad Evans in his past 10 fights.
During that period, Sonnen frustrated Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt, Brian Stann, Michael Bisping and Mauricio Rua with his wrestling. He also nearly dethroned Anderson Silva with five rounds of ground-and-pound.
9. Phil Davis
An NCAA champion wrestler and four-time All-American at Penn State University, Phil Davis has the base needed to become one of the best wrestlers in MMA history.
Mr. Wonderful has developed into a good MMA wrestler, beating Stann, Alexander Gustafsson, Tim Boetsch, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Lyoto Machida and more with help from takedowns. However, he hasn't been sharpened into a complete fighter, which has allowed Davis' toughest opponents to disrespect his striking and have an easier time defending takedowns.
Evans scored three takedowns to Davis' two when the pair met in January 2012. More recently, Anthony Johnson completely shut Davis out and joined Vinny Magalhaes on the short list of fighters Mr. Wonderful hasn't been able to force to the ground.
Davis possesses elite wrestling. Though, he would probably agree that he has been underperforming in the area where he is strongest.
8. Rashad Evans
Five years after losing the 205-pound championship to Machida, Evans is still chugging along as one of the best in the light heavyweight division.
Right now, Evans is recovering from a knee injury, but he stopped Sonnen with ground-and-pound in his last trip to the Octagon. In his past 12 fights, Evans has only been outwrestled by Jones, who only recorded one takedown against the former champion.
Utilizing takedowns in wins over Davis and Sonnen, Evans has shown he's capable of winning wrestling matches with the best wrestlers in the light heavyweight division. A standout wrestler at Michigan State University, Evans has parlayed his amateur athletic career into a very successful tenure in MMA.
7. Daniel Cormier
Olympian Daniel Cormier has quickly made his way into title contention with help from his high-level wrestling.
Cormier has not been taken down since starting out in MMA, and that doesn't appear like it will change any time soon. As excellent as Cormier is defensively, he'll probably need to be better offensively should he have the chance to dethrone Jones some day.
With four takedowns against Josh Barnett and three in his bout with Roy Nelson, Cormier has tossed around bigger men than Jones. Coming down to 205 pounds, Cormier's wrestling should be even more effective and could carry him to a shot at the light heavyweight championship.
6. Jon Jones
Earlier in his career, Jones leaned on his wrestling and ground-and-pound to rise through the ranks. He now has the striking to stand with the best in the world, but he still has that wrestling in his back pocket when needed.
Bones has scored a takedown against every UFC opponent he's faced except Jake O'Brien. On the defensive side of things, Jones has only been taken down by Gustafsson.
In his next appearance, Jones will likely have a chance to redeem himself against the Swedish contender. While Jones defeated Gustafsson, he'll no doubt be driven to put together a more dominant performance in the rematch.
5. Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson was already a top wrestler in the bantamweight division. Since the creation of the 125-pound division, his wrestling has begun to shine even brighter.
Mighty Mouse has scored 24 takedowns in his past five fights. Over that period, he's only surrendered three takedowns. Having already beaten the four most highly ranked contenders in the flyweight class, Johnson should be able to wrestle his way to a long title reign.
Aside from Ian McCall, whom he defeated in an immediate rematch, Johnson has only been outwrestled by Dominick Cruz, a long-reigning bantamweight champion.
4. Dominick Cruz
Dominick Cruz has not competed in two-and-a-half years, but he was one of the best wrestlers in MMA the last time he stepped into the Octagon. Until he retires or returns from his knee injury and looks like a damaged fighter, Cruz still deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments.
In his two UFC bouts against elite opposition in Johnson and Urijah Faber, Cruz scored 14 takedowns while allowing only two. During his WEC days, Cruz also dominated Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen in the wrestling department.
Should Cruz make his way back to the Octagon and get a chance to reclaim his belt from Renan Barao, wrestling will play a big role in his game plan.
3. Cain Velasquez
Mixing wrestling and outstanding conditioning has helped Cain Velasquez become the best heavyweight in the world.
The champion has been made by his trilogy with Junior dos Santos. In those fights, Velasquez totaled 13 takedowns, which led to wins in the latter two meetings. In 12 UFC appearances, Velasquez has only been taken down twice, and one of those came against former champion Brock Lesnar.
Velasquez's next challenger will be Fabricio Werdum, one of the most talented grapplers in MMA. The matchup could lead Velasquez to use his wrestling more defensively than offensively.
2. Chris Weidman
When Chris Weidman was originally matched up with Anderson Silva, many believed his wrestling would be the key to dethroning the longtime middleweight champion. Instead, both of Weidman's wins over The Spider were decided by striking.
Still, Weidman has more than proven how good his wrestling can be inside the Octagon. The All-American did score one takedown in each fight with Silva, and he also outwrestled Mark Munoz and Demian Maia during 2012.
Lyoto Machida will soon provide Weidman with a new challenge. The elusive Brazilian has been one of the tougher fighters to ground and has been a dangerous matchup against wrestlers unable to score takedowns against him.
1. Johny Hendricks
Because he prefers to look for knockouts, Johny Hendricks hasn't been as dominant with his wrestling as he could be in the welterweight division. However, he possesses better wrestling ability than any fighter competing under the UFC banner.
Long considered the best wrestler in MMA, Georges St-Pierre had difficulty against Hendricks. The two were fairly even when it came to takedowns, with St-Pierre scoring three and Hendricks securing two against the Canadian.
That was the only time Hendricks has been outwrestled in his past nine fights. In his most recent outing with Robbie Lawler, Hendricks scored a huge takedown in the final round to secure the 170-pound championship.
For that reason, Hendricks is the best wrestler competing inside the Octagon. If you're looking for the fighter most capable of scoring a takedown in the clutch to lock up a win, the two-time NCAA champion wrestler is the guy.