Who Would Have Great MMA Jiu Jitsu
With the recent rise and continued success of Jacare Souza and Demian Maia, it begs the question, who will be the next great BJJ competitor to transition successfully to MMA. MMA jiu jitsu is known for being different from traditional sport jiu jitsu, and many great competitors have failed to make the transition successfully.
Even both Souza and Maia struggled early in their careers before ascending to the top of their respective UFC divisions. Other sport greats like Marcelo Garcia and Andrew Galvao have tried their hand at MMA only to return to BJJ; due to a lack of passion for MMA alone.
It takes a special breed of jiu jitsu fighter to make the transition easily. Gone are the days of the Gracies dominating opponents with their superior knowledge. So what up and comers make the list?
Criteria for our BJJ competitor list…
Since we’re talking about the best BJJ competitors making the transition, we’ll leave off some of the top dogs currently already in the space between. This means our list will exclude guys like Rafael Lovato Jr. and Rodolfo Vieira; both of whom are already in the midst of successful transition (BTW, I think Lovato can absolutely go as far as he wants to in MMA).
Our list below includes fighters with no current MMA fights who we believe have great technique that would translate to the MMA jiu jitsu game.
Gary Tonon would give everyone fits
Gary Tonon is a handful for anyone in the grappling world (he’s constantly changing weight classes and finding success in all kinds of formats). However, he’s found success already against some high-level MMA grapplers already; including Rousimar Palhares.
However, it’s not Tonon’s track record that makes us think he’d be great in MMA. it’s his blended jiu jitsu. Gary’s game is better no gi than it is gi. He is also extremely underrated in the takedown department. He would be well at home on his feet grappling in MMA.
Additionally, although he may be known as a leglocker now, Tonon is known as the lion killer for a reason. His guillotine and choke game is among the bets in the game.
These traits together make him a favorite to success in MMA should he choose to pursue it; which we hear his is…
Marcus Buchecha could be an immediate MMA contender
Sorry if these picks are a little obvious to start with, but who doesn’t believe that in a pure grappling match that Buchecha wouldn’t absolutely dominate all UFC heavyweights? Working in Buchecha’s favor is his wrestling. Unlike past absolute champions, like Roger Gracie and Rodolfo Vieira, who largely relied on Judo, Buchecha’s takedown game is based around traditional wrestling attacks.
This style of takedown game lends itself to an easier MMA transition. Additionally, Buchecha has made the world’s best grapplers submit from the top and bottom. Although Buchecha has been more successful in the gi, he has been able to make his jiu jitsu well-rounded regardless of format. We’ve seen him submit top guys from just about everywhere.
Finally, let’s not forget just what kind of athlete Marcus is. To succeed in modern MMA, you must be “plus” athlete to find long-term success. Unfortunately, Buchecha has yet to declare any MMA plans.
Keenan Cornelius is a sleeper for MMA jiu jitu success
Keenan Cornelius is one of America’s best and most exciting black belts. A champion of both no gi and gi competition in all tournament formats, Keenan has victories over all the world’s best grapplers. However, it’s his ability to threaten opponents at all times that makes him a sleeper for MMA success.
People think of Keenan as a lanky worm guard player, but the truth is that his wrestling (especially no gi) is particularly strong. He could easily control most MMA matches on the feet with his takedown abilities. Once on the ground, he would be a nightmare for all UFC middleweights (excluding, perhaps, Jacare).
Keenan has excelled without the gi and has proven himself effective at submitting even the most skilled of grapplers. Many top guys can win tournaments but lack the prowess to submit top guys in the later rounds. Keenan is a guy that can submit anyone on any given day. This makes him a real threat in MMA competition; as successful MMA jiu jitsu means being able to finish tough opponents (see Maia).
Ultimately, I doubt Keenan has any immediate MMA plans, but who among us wouldn’t like to see him in the octagon one day?
Who would you like to see make the transition from BJJ to MMA? Who stands the best chance at success? Do you think any of our picks were bad? Let us know below.