Everyone who has more than a passing interest in MMA should know how integral Wrestling is to the sport and last week’s NCAA Division 1 Men’s Wrestling Championship also showed a crossover in the type of fans attending. Among the shirts worn by fans wanting to rep their their University teams you were just as likely to see Tapout and Affliction apparel as you were to see PSU Nittany Lions and Iowa Hawkeyes jerseys. Strikeforce Champion and all around MMA legend Dan Henderson was there to do autograph signings as well as promote his Clinch Gear brand, which is in the process of putting together a USA Wrestling line.
Even some of the top MMA gyms were scouting for potential prospects, most notably American Top Team’s Ricardo Liborio scoping the talent in Philly on the Friday before heading to UFC 128 in Newark on the Saturday.
With that in mind I’m going to look at some of the competitors of last week and make my picks on who I think can transition well into an MMA career.
First up is Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins who many believe pulled off the upset of the tournament in pinning Penn State’s David Taylor.
Jenkins is a no brainer as he’s made it clear he plans to head into MMA just as recently as his post match press conference last Saturday (video after the jump). He won the championship at 157lbs so a career at 155lbs Lightweight makes sense, but he has wrestled as low as 149lbs so a drop to Featherweight might not be totally out of the question either. However I think he looks solid for a Lightweight and the extra 10lbs drop could be a drawback more than a benefit.
More importantly he has good connections to begin an MMA career. He was coached for wrestling under Bellator Welterweight Champion, 2x NCAA Champion and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren. Jenkins claims he has fast hands and fast feet and can’t wait to bring his Sun Devil Tough drive to the cage. I get the feeling he may want to bring a Sprawl’n’Brawl style to the cage but as long as he’s with Askren and picking up submission skills in a similar fashion there’s hope he can develop into a well rounded MMA fighter. I’d like to think he might eventually turn into a better version of Melvin Guillard, only without getting into the same sort of trouble or the penchant for placing himself into fight ending situations that favour his opponent. Of course until we see him fight we’ve no idea how he’ll look, so I’m just spitballing at this point.
Handily, Jenkins also knows how to talk and is an extroverted personality which is incredibly valuable in the game of fight promotion especially when interest in the two top lightweights Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar has been hindered by a perceived lack of charisma.
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