Monday, June 19, 2017

Which US Wrestlers Should Transition to MMA?

The United States World Team Trials for freestyle wrestling happened last weekend, and, as always, it was one of the most underrated sporting events of the year. Incredible battles with incredible drama led to this being one of the most memorable team trials in recent history. Some guy's dreams came true, while far more were left with bitter disappointment. But disappointment can lead to opportunity, so I wanted to take a look to find out who would best transition from the sport of wrestling to the sport of mixed martial arts.

I'm only going to be looking at guys who fell short at the trials, because the guys who won clearly have some wrestling left to do in their careers. I also won't be including guys still in college, as I don't see any wrestler abandoning wrestling altogether at that age. So let's start at 57 KG (pounds will be put in their likely weight class as opposed to the exact KG equivalent) and work our way up.

57 KG - Nahshon Garrett (125 pounds)
Garrett hasn't had a great transition from folkstyle to freestyle, as this year he was on the losing end of a technical fall in his first match against Alan Waters, followed by a decision loss to Darian Cruz. Still, Garrett is an explosive athlete that can absolutely overwhelm opponents. In college, he would overwhelm opponents with his athleticism. With that sort of style, he could make an immediate impact in mixed martial arts, and considering the athlete that he is, it's not hard to envision him becoming good in all aspects of fighting. Of course, considering he got an education from Cornell, it wouldn't be surprising if he was too smart to get in the fight game.

61 KG - Joe Colon (135 pounds)
Colon is another guy who struggled at the team trials, as he went 1-2, only managing a win over NCAA runner-up, Seth Gross. But again, his struggles in freestyle do not take away from his incredible physicality. Colon is the type of wrestler that can simply overwhlem his opponents. His freestyle technique is nowhere near the best, but that technique will still be better than anybody he faces in MMA, and it's the physicality that will put him over the top.

65 KG - Jordan Oliver (145 pounds)
Unlike everyone else on this list, Oliver did not compete at the US Team Trials, but that was due to a drug suspension as opposed to not being good enough. I mean, with a drug suspension already on his record, he's basically living that MMA lifestyle already. Also, Oliver has consistently fell short of representing the United States in international competition. At first, Brent Metcalf got the better of him, then it was Molinaro, and now, when he had his best shot, he got popped for performance enhancing drugs, and Zain Retherford looks to be the guy taking over the weight class. I think it's time for a change of competition if he wants to make an impact in athletics.

70 KG - Dylan Ness (155 pounds)
Dylan Ness is funk personified. He is incredible at getting in the weirdest possible positions and somehow always coming out in an advantageous spot. No one has shown this sort of funk acumen since Ben "Funky" Askren. Now, Ness is not the wrestler that Askren was, but Askren has shown the blueprint for how to transition his skillset into mixed martial arts. Was it all just the wrestling of Askren that led him to greatness, or are funky wrestlers better at translating their skills to fighting? I would love to see Ness give it a go so we could find out.

74 KG - Kyle Dake (170 pounds)
74 KG is likely the most loaded weight class for potential MMA superstars. Jordan Burroughs could be amazing, but after pulling off another victory at the trials, he was ineligible for this list as he definitely has some more wrestling in his future. Isaiah Martinez is an absolute beast, but he's still in college, so he has some growth to do. I went back and forth on the last two guys, but eventually went with Kyle Dake over Alex Dieringer. Dieringer is still young and seemed to close the gap on Dake, so he very well may be the future of the weight class when Burroughs retires. Of course, he may never be able to pass up Dake, as it is not like Dake doesn't still have some strong years in him. Still, I went with Dake as "Kid Dynamite" would simply be too much fun to see in MMA. Dake is not only explosive, but even in college, he was smart enough to do whatever it took to win, never worrying about being the most exciting guy, just being concerned with being the best. I would love to see him transition that wrestling acumen to fighting.

86 KG - David Taylor (185 pounds)
I cannot imagine David Taylor making the transition to MMA, but it'd be pretty cool if he did.

97 KG - Kyven Gadson (205 pounds)
Gadson is the last American to beat super human wrestling machine, Kyle Snyder, but Snyder showed that things have changed quite a bit in the last two years. With Snyder around, there really isn't any future for Gadson to represent the United States. Still, you'd have trouble finding a wrestler with a much higher ceiling than Gadson. His biggest issue has always been consistency. Although he's not Kyle Snyder, he's still really good at wrestling, and he has the skills to give a lot of people trouble in what isn't all that deep of a weight class.

125 KG - Tony Nelson (HWT)
So right now the best choice would seem to be Nick Gwiazdowski, but since he's busy dominating the American Heavyweight division in wrestling, I had to move on to someone else. Although I wanted to be a homer and go for former Hawkeye, Bobby Telford, I think the former Golden Gopher, Tony Nelson is probably the best choice. Looking at the heavyweight division, I feel like Nelson could be a top-10 UFC heavyweight within a couple years.

Wrestling is the world's toughest sport, and that is why wrestlers do such a good job when moving to mixed martial arts. I have no doubt that if these guys would do great if they decided to make the transition. 

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