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Islam Makhachev holds a record of 22-1

5 UFC fighters who may have better grappling skills than Islam Makhachev

Islam Makhachev's most recent performances in the UFC are great examples of why many believe him to be the best grappler on the roster. Neither Dan Hooker nor Bobby Green were able to get in any meaningful offense due to the overwhelming pressure from the Russian native. However, there are a few UFC fighters who may have better grappling skills than him.


Makhachev is currently on a ten-fight winning streak in the UFC. During this run, he has established himself as one of the best grapplers in the entire roster. His ability to manhandle opponents only seems to be increasing and one could certainly argue that he has the best grappling skills in the entire organization.

Never forget Islam Makhachev telling DC how he would beat Jordan Burroughs in a wrestling match if it happened at AKA
8:45 AM · Feb 25, 2022

Makhachev specializes in combat sambo and is a world champion in that field. This is just one of the many forms of grappling we see in the UFC today, including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

While Makhachev's skills in sambo are clearly of the highest level, there are other incredibly talented grapplers on the roster as well. These athletes are also among the very best in the field and may have their own case to be made as the best grappler in the sport.

Here are five UFC fighters who may have better grappling skills than Islam Makhachev.


#5. Mark Madsen - UFC lightweight

Mark Madsen holds a record of 11-0

Mark Madsen may not be a big name in the sport, but he is one of the most decorated grapplers on the roster. Prior to taking up MMA, Madsen was a world-class Greco-Roman wrestler and even won an Olympic silver medal at the 2016 games.

The Danish fighter has made the transition to MMA seamlessly and is yet to taste defeat in 11 professional fights. Despite his grappling skills, Madsen has also shown impressive striking and secured a stoppage win in his UFC debut against Danilo Belluardo via punches.

Olympic Silver Medalist Mark Madsen makes his UFC debut this week in Copenhagen.

Place your picks
10:51 AM · Sep 23, 2019

Madsen may be 37-years-old but his Greco-Roman wrestling is so strong he remains one of the best grapplers on the roster. While his style of wrestling may be different to that of Makhachev's, his Olympic medal suggests that he might have a slight edge over the Russian in grappling.

#4. Colby Covington - UFC welterweight

Colby Covington holds a record of 16-3

Colby Covington does not have an undisputed UFC title or Olympic medal to his name, however, he has beaten some of the best names in the sport thanks to the elite level of wrestling he possesses. Covington was also an All-American during his collegiate wrestling days.

Congratulations to Colby Covington, who is a 2011 All-American! He defeated Patrovich of Hofstra, 3-2, and will wrestle again tonight!
5:37 AM · Mar 18, 2011

When transitioning to MMA, Covington paired his wrestling skills with an underrated striking game. He is also known for his ridiculous stamina in the octagon, which just might be his greatest weapon. These assets have allowed the American to become one of the most successful grapplers in recent history.


Covington's elite wrestling was on full display when he defeated Jorge Masvidal in the main event at UFC 272. He was able to take 'Gamebred' to the ground repeatedly and utilized this to his advantage for most of the fight.

This performance was a perfect example of why he is one of the best grapplers in the sport.

#3. Khamzat Chimaev - UFC welterweight

Khamzat Chimaev holds a record of 10-0

Khamzat Chimaev has been freekishly dominant since his debut with the UFC in 2020. While he has proven he has the striking skills to knockout elite fighters, the strongest aspect of his game appears to be his wrestling. Chimaev is a three-time national freestyle wrestling champion in his home country of Sweden.

His strength in this area has allowed him to physically dominate his opposition in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions. We are yet to see anyone come close to matching Chimaev's grappling skills in the octagon as none of his fights have reached the end of round two.

Wrestling remains the most important MMA discipline, by far. A great wrestler is truly unstoppable in this sport. @MAKHACHEVMMA and @KChimaev continue to prove that! #UFCVegas49
6:37 AM · Feb 26, 2022

This could suggest that there is a very real possibility that Chimaev is a superior grappler when compared to Islam Makhachev. He had a closely-fought, grappling-heavy fight with Arman Tsarukyan back in 2019. No-one has come that close to being Makhachev's equal thus far.

#2. Charles Oliveira - UFC lightweight

Charles Oliveira holds a record of 32-8 (1 NC)

Charles Oliveira's grappling skills have taken him all the way to the UFC lightweight championship. While Oliveira specializes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu instead of Makhachev's sambo style of wrestling, one can argue that the lightweight champion has the superior grappling.

Islam Makhachev predicts Charles Oliveira to choke out Justin Gaethje in the second or third round at #UFC274

Islam believes he'll put the pressure on Oliveira and he's a better grappler.
7:01 AM · Feb 26, 2022

Oliveira's elite level grappling has gotten him out of some dangerous spots. In particular, in his last fight, the Brazilian appeared to be outmatched in the striking department against Dustin Poirier. Ultimately, the champion's grappling proved too strong for the American and he submitted him in the third round.

The argument here is largely based off of the fact that Oliveira's skills in the grappling department have taken him further than Makhachev. He has won gold, beaten higher-ranked fighters and is an all-round better competitor than the Russian.

#1. Kamaru Usman - UFC welterweight

Kamaru Usman holds a record of 20-1

Kamaru Usman may be the most dominant force in all of MMA. He is currently the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, and his biggest strength is his wrestling. With this in mind, it is tough to suggest that there is anyone on the roster with better grappling skills than 'The Nigerian Nightmare'.

242 fighters in UFC history have spent at least 1 hour grappling

Only two have spent at least 97% of their grappling time in control positions:

Kamaru Usman (97.45%)
Khabib Nurmagomedov (97.40%)

#UFC268 @USMAN84kg
7:29 AM · Nov 1, 2021

Usman's collegiate wrestling days saw him become a three-time All-American and he even won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2010. He became even more of a prospect after transitioning to MMA and has not lost a single bout inside the octagon.

His wrestling prowess was overwhelmingly apparent throughout the early stages of his career. At that point, he regularly demonstrated his ability to take his opponent to the ground. However, more recently, he has proven to be equally-skilled in defending opponents' takedowns, as we saw in his two wins over Colby Covington.

In recent fights, Usman has showcased a more versatile skill-set and has begun to finish his opponents via striking. With that being said, all this is made possible only due to his exceptional grappling abilities which forces his opponents to try and engage with him in a different manner.

Edited by
Allan Mathew
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