In mixed martial arts, having a solid ground game has always been a significant hurdle to the entrance for many fighters, particularly for those who prefer their hitting over locking up in a double-leg or subduing their opponent on the ground.
Who are the 3 best grapplers and wrestlers who have competed in the UFC, the premier mixed martial arts organization?
Based on total cage dominance time and the number of takedowns, here are the best 3 grapplers in UFC annals.
Who Are the Greatest Grapplers in UFC History?
You must consider total takedowns and time management while on the ground. Only then you determine who can be regarded as the best grappler in the annals of the business.
We have examined the general management time statistics from the UFC Stat Leaders website. And we have to calculate the ratings and results on Tapology from fans to comprehend how this works fully.
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0-0)
- Height: 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
- Weight: 70 kg
- Nationality: Russian
Russian former professional mixed martial artist Khabib Abdulmanapovich Nurmagomedov was born on September 20, 1988. He held the UFC Lightweight Championship for the longest time, from April 2018 to March 2021.
He stopped with 29 wins and no losses. On June 30, 2022, the UFC Hall of Fame honored Nurmagomedov, one of the best mixed martial artists ever.
Nurmagomedov is a two-time Combat Sambo World Champion with experience in sambo, judo, and grappling. Until his championship break in March of 2021, Nurmagomedov was rated number one in the UFC’s men’s pound-for-pound standings. He is the best lightweight of all time, according to Fight Matrix.
Nurmagomedov is the first Muslim fighter to earn a UFC championship. He is from the Russian Republic of Dagestan. As of the end of 2022, he has more than 34 million fans on Instagram, making him the most followed Russian. In addition, he is well-known for organizing MMA events like the Eagle Fighting Championship. (EFC). He’s been coaching and cornering MMA fighters ever since he retired.
Khabib’s MMA Career
In his first mixed martial arts (MMA) fight, Nurmagomedov won four times in September 2008. On October 11, after beating out three competitors in Moscow, he was crowned the first-ever Atrium Cup competition winner.
He beat all 12 of his opponents for the next three years via knockout. In his M-1 Global start, he submitted potential Bellator championship contender Shahbulat Shamhalaev with an armbar in the first round. In 2011, he fought seven times for the ProFC organization and won every one by technical knockout or submission.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was interested in acquiring Nurmagomedov. After, he went 16-0 in regional tournaments in Russia and Ukraine.
In a later conversation, Nurmagomedov’s father disclosed that his son’s UFC deal had been challenged in court 11 times over a contractual disagreement with ProFC. A settlement saved Khabib’s career after he lost six times and won five times.
Nurmagomedov inked a six-fight UFC lightweight contract in late 2011.
At UFC on FX 1, Nurmagomedov submitted Kamal Shalorus in the third round.
At UFC 148, Nurmagomedov beat Gleison Tibau by a majority decision.
At UFC on FX 7, Nurmagomedov faced Thiago Tavares.First-round KO. After the fight, Tavares tested positive for Drostanolone, a bulking drug.
At UFC 160, Nurmagomedov beat Abel Trujillo by a majority decision. Nurmagomedov weighed in at 158.5 lb, over the limit. He had two hours to cut to the lightweight limit of 156 pounds but chose to pay Trujillo a portion of his fight money and fight at a catchweight. Nurmagomedov set a UFC record with 21 takedowns in 28 tries.
Nurmagomedov faced Pat Healy at UFC 165 on September 21, 2013. He won by majority vote, 30–27. UFC president Dana White said, “That slam, as he just picks him up and slams him, Matthew Hughes style.” That reminded me of Matt Hughes running and slamming a man across the Octagon. Exciting kid. This boy will likely achieve greatness.”
Nurmagomedov confronted Gilbert Melendez on social media in December, setting up a fight at UFC 170 on February 22, 2014. Nate Diaz replaced Melendez after the bout was canceled for unknown reasons. However, Diaz declined the fight.
“If they say that they’re willing to fight the best, they should fight the best,” Nurmagomedov said on The MMA Hour, disappointed. I’ll keep them together if they want.”
In 2014, at UFC on Fox 11, Nurmagomedov met former UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. He won by majority vote, 30–27.
On September 27, 2014, UFC 178 was tied to a Nurmagomedov-Cerrone fight. Nurmagomedov’s leg injury halted the match. He faced Cerrone at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015. On April 30, Nurmagomedov withdrew due to a recurrent knee injury and was replaced by John Makdessi.
The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale featured Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. Edson Barboza replaced Nurmagomedov after he withdrew in late October due to another injury.
UFC on Fox 19 postponed Ferguson’s fight for April 16, 2016. Ferguson withdrew due to lung problems on April 5. Darrell Horcher replaced Ferguson at 160 lb. Nurmagomedov won the one-sided fight by second-round TKO.
In September, Nurmagomedov inked two contracts for a title shot against UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez at either UFC 205 or UFC 206. Dana White confirmed the bout for UFC 205.
On September 26, the UFC revealed that Alvarez would defend against Conor McGregor instead. Nurmagomedov called Alvarez a “bullshit champ” and the UFC a “freak show” for turning down the match.
At UFC 205, Nurmagomedov met Michael Johnson instead of a title shot. In the third round, Nurmagomedov submitted Johnson and told Dana White to give him a title shot.
Ferguson fought for the interim Lightweight Championship at UFC 209 on March 4, 2017. However, a bungled weight cut made Nurmagomedov sick, canceling the fight.
At UFC 219. Nurmagomedov faced Edson Barboza. Nurmagomedov ground and pounded Barboza in all three rounds. He won by majority judgment, 30–25, 30–25, 30–24. He also won his first Performance of the Night prize.
UFC Lightweight Champion
Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor
At UFC 229 in Las Vegas on October 6, Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight title against Conor McGregor. McGregor won the third round after Nurmagomedov won the first two rounds.
It was Nurmagomedov’s first UFC round loss. In the fourth round, he submitted McGregor.After the fight, Nurmagomedov tried to strike McGregor’s partner Dillon Danis, resulting in a melee. Khabib’s 27–0 record after the Irishman’s fight was the best in UFC history. The show sold 2.4 million pay-per-views, MMA’s most ever.
Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier
Nurmagomedov inked a multi-fight UFC deal in June 2019. Nurmagomedov defended his title against interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 on September 7, 2019. He won by third-round rear naked choke.
Nurmagomedov won his second Performance of the Night prize and both crowns. After the bout, he and Poirier exchanged shirts in honor. Nurmagomedov said he would sell the shirt Poirier gave him and donate the profits to his charity in his post-fight interview. Dana White equaled the $100,000 shirt sale.
Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje
Tony Ferguson was slated to challenge Nurmagomedov at UFC 249. Both athletes had 12-bout UFC win runs; this was their fifth match. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Nurmagomedov was taken from the card.
At UFC 249, postponed to May 9, Ferguson met top rival Justin Gaethje for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship. Gaethje ended Ferguson’s winning run and earned a title shot against Nurmagomedov by fifth-round TKO.
UFC 254’s main event pitted Nurmagomedov against Gaethje. Nurmagomedov defended and reunified the UFC Lightweight Championship with a second-round triangle hold. Nurmagomedov quit MMA in his post-fight interview.
“No way I’m going to come here without my father,” he said. When UFC phoned me about Justin, I talked to my mother for three days. She didn’t want me to fight without my father, but I swore it would be my last.
My word is binding. Last night here.” He won Performance of the Night. After the fight, Daniel Cormier said on DC & Helwani that Khabib said he chose the triangle grip over an arm bar to protect Gaethje.
Retirement and Vacation of the UFC Lightweight Championship
On March 19, 2021, UFC president Dana White accepted Nurmagomedov’s retirement and vacated the UFC Lightweight Championship. International Fight Week in Las Vegas welcomed Nurmagomedov as part of the UFC Hall of Fame on July 1, 2022.
2. Georges St Pierre (26-2-0)
- Height: 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
- Weight: 77 kg
- Nationality: Canadian
Canadian thespian Georges St-Pier debuted in the MMA cage at 19. He was born on May 19, 1981. He is universally hailed as MMA’s all-time best combatant. St-Pierre earned championships in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight and middleweight categories.
St-Pierre was UFC Welterweight Champion twice and acting champion once between November 2006 and April 2008. Sherdog and other magazines named St-Pierre #1 middleweight for years. Rogers Sportsnet named him Canadian Athlete of the Year 2008, 2009, and 2010. Fight Matrix ranks him as the greatest MMA middleweight and most successful fighter.
In December 2013, he quit as Welterweight Champion after nine straight title defenses and the second-best total title run in UFC history (2,204 days). He became the fourth UFC multi-division champion when he beat Michael Bisping by choke at UFC 217 in November 2017. A few weeks later, he quit MMA and gave up the crown.
Early fights, ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, and The Ultimate Fighter.
At UFC 46, St-Pierre beat highly rated Karo Parisyan by a majority decision in his UFC debut. (29–28, 30–27, and 30–27). Jay Hieron was his next opponent at UFC 48. Hieron was knocked out in 1:42 by St-Pierre.
After he won his second UFC bout, he was scheduled to challenge Matt Hughes for the vacated UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 50. With only 10 seconds left in the first round, St-Pierre bowed out to an armbar despite putting up a respectable showing against the much more seasoned fighter.
St-Pierre’s first professional defeat led him to confess he was intimidated by Hughes heading into the championship fight.
After losing to Matt Hughes, St-Pierre defeated Dave Strasser by first-round kimura at TKO 19. He defeated Jason Miller at UFC 52. (30–27, 30–27, and 30–27).
St-Pierre entered the world’s largest under-77 kg wrestling contest a month after UFC 52. Otto Olson was his first opponent in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. Wrestling was St-Pierre’s advantage. St-Pierre lost to bronze (2000) and silver (2001) World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship winner Leonardo Silva Dos Santos in a diving armbar at 50 seconds in his second bout.
At UFC 54, St-Pierre faced Frank Trigg, a top candidate. With less than a minute left in the first round, St-Pierre secured a rear-naked choke.
At UFC 56, he fought future lightweight king Sean Sherk. In the second round, St-Pierre defeated Sherk and finished him. In the post-fight interview, he begged UFC management for another title shot on his knees.
At UFC 58, St-Pierre beat former UFC welterweight king B.J. Penn to become the top candidate. At UFC 63, St-Pierre faced then-champion Matt Hughes in a repeat.
Due to a groin injury, St-Pierre was replaced by B.J. Penn, whom he beat in March. Afterward, the UFC declared that St-Pierre would fight for the crown when he fully recovered.
St-Pierre trained Matt Serra, Shonie Carter, Pete Sell, Patrick Côté, and Travis Lutter on Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback. During the season, St-Pierre openly supported his training buddy Patrick Côté.
Winning and Losing the Welterweight Championship
St-Pierre attended UFC 63 to support native Canadian David “The Crow” Loiseau. He urged Loiseau to “fight his fight” against Mike Swick. After Matt Hughes beat B.J. Penn, St-Pierre entered the cage to promote his title fight against Hughes, saying he was glad Hughes won but “not impressed” by his Performance.
According to Joe Rogan and Hughes’ book, Hughes disliked St-Pierre’s remark. Hughes said they “had words” off-camera, and St-Pierre apologized, saying he mistook something Hughes said on the microphone.
St-Pierre faced UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes again at UFC 65. Hughes survived the first round after St-Pierre knocked him down with a superman punch and left hook.
After a left kick to Hughes’ head and a flurry of jabs and elbows, St-Pierre won by technical knockout in the second round. On January 30, 2007, St-Pierre inked a six-bout UFC contract after the fight.
At UFC 69 in 2007, St-Pierre lost the welterweight crown to The Ultimate Fighter 4 victor Matt Serra after a string of unanswered punches at 3:25 of round one. Before the fight, Matt Serra was 11–1.
St-Pierre later split ways with his boss and most of his retinue, saying he lost the fight partly due to personal issues like his cousin’s death and his father’s disease. St-Pierre later admitted that Serra was the better boxer that night and that he shouldn’t have made excuses.
The Unified Welterweight Championship Match
St-Pierre faced Matt Serra in a rematch at UFC 83 on April 19, 2008, to decide the ultimate UFC welterweight title. Montreal’s Bell Centre hosted the UFC’s first Canadian show. St-Pierre started with a takedown and mixed up his attack, preventing Serra from mounting a major assault.
St-Pierre pushed Serra into the turtle position and kneed his midriff in the second round. Referee Yves Lavigne halted the fight in round two after a tired Serra couldn’t defend himself from St-Pierre’s knees.
Return and Retirement
On June 20, 2016, St-Pierre revealed that he was renegotiating his UFC deal to return for UFC 206 in Toronto.
St-Pierre and UFC reached a multi-fight deal money agreement on February 15, 2017, after months of talks. Dana White announced St-Pierre’s re-signing the following day. St-Pierre announced the four-fight deal in March 2017.
Dana White announced on SportsCenter that St-Pierre would face UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping in 2017. Dana White halted the match on May 11, 2017. The UFC and Bisping wanted to fight at UFC 213 in early July, but St-Pierre revealed on Instagram that he had an eye injury and couldn’t move up a weight class, delaying the fight until November.
Dana White confirmed the match at UFC 214’s post-fight press. White wanted St-Pierre to face UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. White was scathing of Woodley’s last two bouts, and with Bisping’s next opponent, Robert Whittaker, medically banned until January 2018, White returned to the initial plan.
GSP faced Bisping in the main event of UFC 217 on November 4, 2017, nearly four years after UFC 167. St-Pierre became the Middleweight Champion after submitting Bisping in the third round.
This win won St-Pierre his first Performance of the Night prize. St-Pierre’s return to the cage broke the Canadian pay-per-view record, beating Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor in August 2017. Justin Trudeau congratulated St-Pierre.
After 34 days as UFC welterweight champion, St-Pierre resigned on December 7, 2017. St-Pierre hoped to avoid stalling the welterweight class due to chronic colitis.
After winning UFC 223, Khabib Nurmagomedov challenged St-Pierre to his first title defense later in the year. St-Pierre refused again, citing medical issues. The UFC reportedly tried to book St-Pierre against Nate Diaz as the co-main event at UFC 227 in June.
St-Pierre said he was contacted but didn’t want to fight Diaz. In August, St-Pierre declared he wanted to return at the end of the year and face the victor of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor at lightweight. St-Pierre will stay at middleweight, according to Dana White.
On December 13, 2018, St-Pierre announced on La Sueur show that he had healed from ulcerative colitis but had not chosen whether to fight again.
At a Montreal Bell Centre news meeting on February 21, 2019, St-Pierre declared his departure.
UFC revealed St-Pierre’s Modern-Era Wing induction on May 9, 2020.
Saint-Isidore unveiled a life-sized 136 kg metal figure of St-Pierre with a narrative named “Place GSP” on June 9, 2021. St-Pierre’s eight key values—family, persistence, wisdom, integrity, charity, respect, innovation, and honor—are etched in French on the statue’s hexagon floor.
3. Demian Maia (28-11-0)
- Height: 6 ft (183 cm)
- Weight: 77 kg
- Nationality: Brazilian
Demian Maia is a Brazilian competitive MMA fighter, choke grappler, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt born November 6, 1977.
In 2001, Maia became one of MMA’s best grapplers after earning the Pan-American Title and the ADCC Submission Fighting World Title in BJJ. Maia was a UFC Welterweight and Middleweight. (UFC). He lost to Anderson Silva in 2010 and Tyron Woodley in 2017.
At Tormenta en el Ring in Caracas on September 21, 2001, faced Raul Sosa. Maia won his MMA start by TKOing Sosa in 48 seconds. At The Cage Vol. 4 – Redemption, he arm barred Lukasz Chewlicki after a four-year absence. Maia won the 2007 under-83 kg Super Challenge after three wins at Super Challenge 1. He faced Ryan Stout in GFC Evolution 2007. Stout’s shoulder dislocated after Maia reversed him into a mount in the first round, forcing a halt.
Maia’s UFC deal was announced on August 7, 2007. Due to eye surgery, expert Marvin Eastman withdrew from the match. Team Quest-trained Ryan Jensen replaced him. UFC 77 in Cincinnati hosted the qualifying bout on October 20. Maia got Submission of the Night and $40,000.
On April 19, 2008, Maia faced Team Quest’s Ed Herman at UFC 83 in Montreal, Quebec. Maia submitted Herman with a seated triangle choke at 2:27 of the second round. He won $75,000.
Maia’s third bout was against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jason MacDonald at UFC 87. Both warriors entered the cage, winning UFC Submission of the Night twice. Maia defeated MacDonald by rear naked choke at 2:44 of the third round, winning another Submission of the Night prize of $60,000.
He became the first UFC fighter to win three straight Submissions of the Night. He may be the UFC’s best pure grappler after four straight dominant finishes.
Maia beat Nate Quarry by rear naked choke at UFC 91. Maia wanted to face Michael Bisping after the bout.
At UFC 95 in London on February 21, 2009, Maia faced WEC star and future UFC middleweight title rival Chael Sonnen. Maia threw Sonnen over his head with a lateral drop takedown and took mount. Sonnen fell at 2:24 of the first round when Maia applied a triangle grip.
Maia faced former title candidate Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 on August 29. Marquardt put Maia out with a hard right hand 21 seconds into the bout, his first career loss.
At UFC 109, Maia faced Dan Miller. Maia won the bout unanimously. (30–27, 29–28, and 29–28).
Middleweight Championship Fight
Maia was chosen to replace Vitor Belfort and challenge UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva at UFC 112, the UFC’s first open-air event in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Belfort had to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.
Silva mocked his opponent and struck quickly in the first two rounds. Silva’s pace changed in the third round, and he circled and baited Maia. Silva’s inactivity in the fifth round led judge Dan Miragliotta to warn him, and the fans began to support Maia. Silva won unanimously after five rounds.
Professional Grappling Career
Stars 8. Maia defeated MMA veteran Alex Oliveira in a super fight with a triangle hold at 2:11.
On June 25, 2022, Maia faced Benson Henderson in the Polaris 20 main event. He dominated the fight, earning a majority decision without submitting Henderson.
Maia faced Sangwook Kim in the Spyder BJJ ‘Road to Black’ final super fight on February 12, 2023. Maia won with an arm-triangle hold after scoring 16 points.
Although many excellent competitors exist in the UFC, mastering the art of grappling is crucial for success. There are undoubtedly many more skilled athletes out there, but these are the three best UFC grapplers.
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