Wrestling is an inevitable part of submission grappling/BJJ and a key factor in many matches on elite and amateur level. BJJ practitioners are often criticized for neglecting their takedown game, but the best in the sport know that they must have good takedowns and takedown defence, if they want to win major competitions. In this article we are going to look at the Top 10 grappling competitors who are known for their superior wrestling skills and their intelligent adaptation of takedowns for BJJ.
Gordon Ryan`s wrestling skills have exponentially grown in the last few years and have played a major rule in winning his three ADCC titles. He has traded wrestling shots with some of the biggest names in grappling and has also competed against pure wrestlers like Bo Nickal and Pat Downey. Ryan is still heavy on his guard work and leglocks, but his single-leg attack and defence, knee tap and arm drag combinations are beautiful and effective.
Lucas Lepri is known for his amazing wrestling and many of his opponents choose pulling guard right off the bat. About 50% of his takedowns are single-legs and they come not only from stand up, but also from sit up guard, x-guard, single leg-x Guard. He combines the best of BJJ and wrestling in a great fashion. Lepri is also really confident in his duck unders and arm drags. In the Gi Lepri combines beautifully his judo trips and throws with his wrestling techniques.
Coming from a wrestling background Josh Hinger is one of the fighters who mix submissions and wrestling techniques successfully and catches a lot of people by surprise. Duck unders, blast doubles, snapdowns – he can do it all! And if you try to take him down, you will probably get guillotined.
Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida
Explosive and powerful are the words that are used the most when describing Buchecha`s style, and often his stand up game does not receive as much attention as his guard passes and sweeps. Buchecha uses a wide variety of takedowns and chains them perfectly in the Gi or No Gi. He also uses takedowns as counter-attacks and executes bodylock takedowns when he can’t get to the legs.
Matheus Diniz is one of Marcelo Garcia`s very best grapplers. He’s the current ADCC champ in -88 kg. division and is considered to be one of the most exciting BJJ competitors today. Diniz is notorious for his explosiveness and isometric strength, but his mesmerizing takedowns are based mostly on timing and precision. He has many Gi and No Gi takedowns in his arsenal. Often times he uses a takedown to intercept a guard pull.
Another ADCC champ who you might never see pull guard. JT Torres is a relentless wrestler when he knows the points are counting and his takedowns have helped him win 2 ADCC titles in a row. He is extremely good with his arm drags and blast doubles, but his ankle pick takedown is also to be watched out for. He is calm and collected when he has to defend takedowns or hand fight for better grips.
Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu
One of the most seasoned grapplers that compete on the highest level today is Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. This brazilian fighter has been scrapping in the black belt divisions for more than 15 years and has exchanged takedowns with the best from two generations. Even though he is aging, his wrestling looks better and better with every tournament and very rarely do you see him pull guard or get taken down. His bodylock is insanely strong and he manages to wrestle up from his guard very quickly and catches his opponents by surprise.
Too strong, too technical, too good! Andre Galvao has proven himself as one of the best wrestlers in BJJ and many of his training partners and opponents consider him the hardest person to score a takedown on. He barely gets into scrambles, but when he does, he most certainly ends on top. In most cases he just takes people down with a perfectly timed blast double or his signature single leg shot.
With only a few months of wrestling training and an year and a half of BJJ training under John Danaher Nick Rodriguez has taken the BJJ world by storm. This powerful youngster is not your typical ultra-heavyweight. He is quick, explosive and chains his takedowns beautifully creating opportunities to take the back and finish with a choke. In a blink Nicky Rod can be on your outside grabbing your ankle or underneath you for a fireman’s carry takedown. His explosiveness and talent is combined with an insane gas tank and most grapplers just prefer to sit guard against him nowadays.
Rustam Chsiev aka “The Russian Bear” is this one grappler you wouldn’t want to wrestle with. He started his freestyle wrestling training in Vladikavkaz, Russia when he was 10 years old. He is an ADCC Bronze medalists and holds wins over Rafael Lovato Jr., Romulo Barral, Davi Ramos. He also holds a win over Luke Rockhold and has reached to a final of EBI tournament. His big takedowns and submission defence are the keys to his success and most of his losses have came when he was caught in a submission from guard. Nevertheless, if we talk about pure wrestling skills, Rustam Chsiev is the one who has proven he is the best at this on the highest level.