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MMA's Best: Defensive Wrestler


Carbomb
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So this one came to mind after watching some Cro Cop. 

I remember a few people on here talking about how a big part of Cro Cop's arsenal was his defensive sprawl to keep the fight on the feet, and that his defensive wrestling was surprisingly good for someone who was seen as almost exclusively a kickboxer. This kind of perspective was definitely helpful to my acquiring a better understanding of MMA, because at the time it didn't occur to me that wrestling was used for anything other than offence.

From what I understand, Anderson Silva's defensive wrestling was of a pretty high standard; I guess it must have been in order for him to be considered GOAT in the first place, but also because when we consider that most of his victories came from his stellar striking, there had to be (and there were, like Sonnen) opponents who knew this and would try to use wrestling to counter that.

What other examples can you think of in terms of great defensive wrestlers? Obviously, there are loads of excellent attacking wrestlers like Cain, Khabib, and DC, but the defensive aspect fascinates me as it strikes me as being essential in the weaponry of any striking specialist. I'm thinking Robbie Lawler must have pretty good defence, although I don't recall seeing any specific examples, which I would attribute to all the striking wars he's drawn people into (but bear in mind I haven't seen all of his recent matches, so I'm sure there are some that someone else can point to).

(BTW one of the reasons I'm doing this series of threads is, in addition to generating discussion, it also helps me further my understanding of the vagaries and subtleties of MMA, as I'm sure my frequent asking of n00b questions can get tiresome.)

Edited by Carbomb
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The two names that immediately spring to mind are Mirko Cro Cop and Jose Aldo. 

Cro Cop's takedown defence was unlike anything I'd seen at that point. Scary considering he came over from K-1 with no wrestling background whatsoever. Just a ridiculous sprawl on him in his prime. 

Aldo, I think, has the greatest takedown defence percentage of all time, doesn't he? Isn't his takedown defence % in the high 80s/low 90s or something crazy? 

Couple of other names I'll throw in; 

Chuck Liddell has to be in the convo. One of the best sprawls in MMA in his heyday. He was actually probably the originator of the old 'sprawl and brawl' in a way. Although there were other examples earlier in MMA, Liddell took it to another level using his wrestling background in reverse to keep the fight standing where he could knock fuckers out. 

Joanna Jedrzejczyk absolutely deserves a mention here. She has been taken down a few times but she's so fucking good at getting back up. Most of the time she doesn't get taken down at all. Claudia Gadelha probably had the most success with takedowns against her and even she didn't get much done. Carla Esparza is pretty much purely a wrestler and never came close. Joanna is the female Cro Cop in many ways for me. Killer striking and her takedown defence compliments that perfectly and forces her opponents to stand with her. 

For an example of Robbie Lawler and wrestling defence see the Ellenberger fight. Ellenberger is a good wrestler, he walked through hell to get a takedown in that one. And when he finally did get Lawler down, Lawler literally laughed at him, spun out and came out of it on top in side control. With Lawler it's no so much takedown defence that is his strong point, although it is good, it's that he's so good at springing back up when he's taken down. And that probably deters a lot of wrestlers from even bothering because you'll end up wasting your energy unless you can wear him down first. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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Michael Bisping is a super underrated defensive wrestler. I have no idea if that's due to his early days, but the more than average average guy is rarely on his arse. I was super impressed with his contest with one Chael P Sonnen. Bisping managed to prevent takedown after takedown and this was when the P was short for PED, with Chael taking down anyone he wanted, his wrestling being some of the very best in the game.

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Now that I think further on it, I think Jon Jones has excellent defensive wrestling; when Gustafsson took him down the commentators went mental, talking about how it was the first time that had ever happened. Also, the fact that DC's best weapon was completely neutralised during their first match spoke volumes, I thought.

Edited by Carbomb
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Jones is definitely a good shout. I heard Jones mention recently that Gust getting him down was due to being completely surprised by a Swedish striker taking a shot. There is probably something to that, but I also think Gust has shown how excellent his wrestling is - let's not forget one of the reasons Jones is so good with wrestling is due to his size, which is nullified by Gust. Truly few things in MMA I want to see more than a rematch between the two of them.

Oh, and I enjoy these threads a lot. Cracking idea.

Edited by ColinBollocks
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I always thought Anderson Silva’s takedown defence was his one big weakness. If you could get a hold of Silva and him away from the fence, he really wasn’t that hard to take down. Travis Lutter took him down a couple of times in their fight and Nate Marquardt took him down as well, and they’re not nearly the wrestler Chael Sonnen is.

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Gustafsson took down DC as well, didn't he? 

Bisping's a good shout. He's trained really hard on his wrestling over the years. He's talked a lot about being very aware from early in his career that he had a shitload of ground to make up because he came from the UK and we don't wrestle in school here. He's said before that almost from day one he was constantly drilling worst case scenario positions. Like he'd start his sparring from his back and have a wrestler on top and he'd have to battle to his feet before he could do anything. 

He's always been a really underrated grappler all round IMO. He's hard to take down, if you get him down he's hard to keep down, if you keep him down his BJJ defence is tight and he's a bastard to submit. He's got a lot of layers to his grappling.

Which is why it surprised and gutted me that fucking Tim Kennedy was able to dominate him the way he did. 

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I'm starting to get the feeling that Bisping is going to show up in a lot of these threads. I do remember someone on here (probably you, wand) saying that Bisping was pretty much good at everything, but not great at any one thing.

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Yeah, I think I said he was a jack of all trades, master of none. It sounds like a knock but I don't mean it as one. Forrest Griffin was kind of that way. Carlos Condit as well. Not specialists in any one area but good all-round to the point they're comfortable wherever the fight goes. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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6 hours ago, wandshogun09 said:

 

He's always been a really underrated grappler all round IMO. He's hard to take down, if you get him down he's hard to keep down, if you keep him down his BJJ defence is tight and he's a bastard to submit. He's got a lot of layers to his grappling.

If you watch TUF 3 back, that was what stood out to Ortiz. Bisping's grappling skills were much better than he expected. 

As for the thread topic, it was Liddell and Cro Cop who crossed my mind first. BJ Penn in his pomp was also a bastard to takedown. 

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