5 standout amateur wrestlers who failed to make an impact in the UFC

Can Bo Nickal (right) have more success in the octagon than Ben Askren (left) did?
Can Bo Nickal (right) have more success in the octagon than Ben Askren (left) did?

Right now, while he hasn’t even made his octagon debut yet, decorated amateur wrestler Bo Nickal is one of the UFC’s most talked-about prospects after earning a contract via Dana White’s Contender Series.

Bo Nickal has talked a good game, even claiming that he could beat Israel Adesanya and Khamzat Chimaev. However, over the years in the UFC, while some great wrestlers have made an impact, others have failed.

Only time will tell whether Nickal will join the former group, which includes the likes of Daniel Cormier, Brock Lesnar and Yoel Romero, or the latter group, many of whom have now been forgotten.

With that in mind, here are five highly decorated wrestlers who failed to make an impact in the UFC.

#5. Max Rohskopf – former UFC lightweight

Max Rohskopf lasted just one fight in the octagon before his release from the promotion
Max Rohskopf lasted just one fight in the octagon before his release from the promotion

One of the more recent standout amateur wrestlers to struggle with life in the UFC was lightweight prospect Max Rohskopf, who lasted just one fight with the promotion after signing with them on relatively late notice in 2020.

Rohskopf made a name for himself at North Carolina State, where he was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American. It came as no surprise to see him transition, like so many of his peers had done, into MMA in 2018.

However, despite impressing in his first five bouts on the regional circuit, winning all via submission, Rohskopf’s move into the big show probably came a little too early for him.

Faced with what seemed like a beatable opponent in the form of Austin Hubbard, ‘Rated R’ did well in the first round, securing a couple of takedowns and largely beating his foe to the punch. In the second round, though, he seemed to run out of steam and Hubbard began to take over, landing numerous strikes that left Rohskopf on wobbly legs.

The fight seemed to be in the balance going into the third round, but strangely, despite the encouragement of his corner, Rohskopf decided to quit on his stool, audibly stating “I don’t have it.”

"Call it.""I don't want to do this anymore!"What went down in Max Rohskopf's corner as he decided to throw in towel despite it's trainer's protestations.#UFCVegas3

The strange ending to the fight immediately went viral, and while some observers praised the former wrestler for his willingness to not take a crazy amount of damage, it seemingly didn’t sit well with Dana White and company, who immediately cut him from his contract.

‘Rated R’ has since rebounded with two wins in the Cage Warriors promotion and recently inked a deal with Bellator MMA, so we may not have seen the last of him just yet.

#4. Shane Roller – former UFC lightweight

Shane Roller suffered a number of bad losses in the UFC
Shane Roller suffered a number of bad losses in the UFC

By 2009, it was no secret that high-level amateur wrestlers could often find massive success in the world of MMA. So, at that point, a trio of businessmen decided to try a new method of potentially monetizing this success.

They formed Team Takedown, with the idea being that they’d take three top-class amateur wrestlers, move them to MMA and give them salaries, health benefits and pay for their training expenses, all in exchange for 50% of their eventual earnings.

All three wrestlers involved ended up in the WEC and eventually the UFC, but while Johny Hendricks turned out to be a huge success, eventually claiming welterweight gold, that wasn’t the case for his Team Takedown brethren.

It’s arguable that of the three members of the team, lightweight Shane Roller had the least success. A three-time NCAA Division I All-American with Oklahoma State University, Roller was already pushing 30 when he joined the WEC, but was still considered a high-level prospect.

He went 3-2 in the promotion, with his only two losses coming to Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. When he debuted in the octagon with a knockout win over Thiago Tavares, it seemed like he’d hit his stride.

However, three bad losses followed for him, with the worst being a genuinely brutal knockout at the hands of Melvin Guillard in the summer of 2011. In all three losses, Roller seemed to offer little other than his wrestling, suggesting that he simply hadn’t rounded out his skills since moving into MMA.

While he snapped his losing streak in the summer of 2012 by beating John Alessio, a final loss to Jacob Volkmann followed just months later. With that, his UFC and MMA careers came to an end, making him one of the least successful highly credentialed wrestlers to step into the octagon.

#3. Jake Rosholt – former UFC middleweight

Jake Rosholt's wrestling skills did not translate well into the octagon
Jake Rosholt's wrestling skills did not translate well into the octagon

The third member of Team Takedown also failed to make the same kind of impact that his teammate Johny Hendricks did. Although he was slightly more successful in the octagon than Shane Roller, it’s safe to say that Jake Rosholt also didn’t live up to the hype that came with him.

As a collegiate wrestler, Rosholt had been fantastic, winning three NCAA Division I national championships with Oklahoma State University, essentially making him one of the most highly credentialed wrestlers of all time.

However, his WEC debut, which came after he’d beaten four overmatched opponents on the regional scene, was worrying to say the least.

Rosholt eventually stopped Nissen Osterneck after taking him down and punishing him on the ground, but he was struggling greatly in the standup and didn’t seem comfortable at all.

Three months later, he moved to the UFC and instantly suffered his first defeat, being choked by a guillotine from opponent Dan Miller. Essentially, it looked like both his submission and standup skills just weren’t up to scratch to compete in the octagon.

Rosholt did defeat Chris Leben in his second bout with the promotion in a somewhat impressive showing, but to be fair, ‘The Crippler’ was past his best at that point. When the wrestler then fell to Kendall Grove, who submitted him with a triangle choke in the first round, his octagon career came to a swift end.

Following his departure, Rosholt continued to fight on the regional circuit until 2012, but never saw any real success. His younger brother Jared, on the other hand, joined the UFC in 2013 and did well for himself, climbing into the heavyweight division’s top 10 before his 2016 departure.

#2. Kevin Jackson – former UFC middleweight

Kevin Jackson was one of the greatest wrestlers to ever set foot into the octagon
Kevin Jackson was one of the greatest wrestlers to ever set foot into the octagon

Purely based on credentials, it’s arguable that Kevin Jackson is the greatest wrestler to ever compete in the UFC on more than one occasion.

Jackson won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling in 1992, claimed four more gold medals in the World Championships and Pan-American Games, and was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American with Louisiana State University and Iowa State University.

After picking up one MMA victory over longtime veteran John Lober, Jackson entered the UFC in 1997.

It was an era in which other monstrous wrestlers such as Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr and Dan Severn had become dominant. So when Jackson won UFC 14’s middleweight tournament, it was hard to believe that he wouldn’t be just as imposing.

However, when he came up against Frank Shamrock in the promotion’s inaugural middleweight (now light heavyweight) title bout, he was not only beaten, he was embarrassed. Shamrock essentially allowed Jackson to take him down, and then caught him with an armbar and forced him to tap – all in just 16 seconds.

Frank Shamrock vs. Kevin Jackson (Olympic Gold Medalist)…

After following that defeat with another armbar loss to a better-rounded foe in Jerry Bohlander a few months later, his tenure in the octagon was over. It didn’t take him much longer to hang up his gloves.

While Jackson was definitely not successful in the octagon, whether that would’ve been different had he arrived in a different era remains a question mark of sorts to this day.

#1. Ben Askren – former UFC welterweight

Despite arriving with a lot of hype, Ben Askren struggled in the octagon
Despite arriving with a lot of hype, Ben Askren struggled in the octagon

Okay, so it’d be unfair to suggest that Ben Askren, one of the most highly credentialed amateur wrestlers to ever put on a pair of 4oz gloves, was a complete failure in MMA.

Askren won two NCAA Division I national championships in his collegiate days, won a gold medal in the 2005 Pan-American games, and was part of the US Olympic team in 2008 before switching to MMA in 2009.

‘Funky’ famously won Bellator MMA’s welterweight title, defeated some genuinely talented fighters like Douglas Lima and Andrei Koreshkov, and went unbeaten for nearly a decade, putting together a record of 18-0 before joining the UFC.

However, when he did arrive in the big show, it’s safe to say that things were not exactly plain sailing for him.

After joining the promotion from ONE Championship in a much-talked about trade that saw former flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson going the other way, he faced former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in his octagon debut. He was badly hurt before recovering to win in semi-controversial fashion via bulldog choke.

Unfortunately, Askren’s next fight saw him face Jorge Masvidal. The bout ended in just five seconds when ‘Gamebred’ knocked him silly with a flying knee, setting a promotional record for the fastest KO in the process.


When he was then outgrappled and choked out by Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia in his third octagon bout, he decided enough was enough, and retired from MMA.

Would ‘Funky’ have been more successful in the octagon had he joined the promotion earlier? It’s a fair question, but many would argue that Askren never truly rounded out his skills, and would always have struggled against the world’s best.

Either way, Bo Nickal will hope that he doesn’t follow in his footsteps when he makes his own octagon debut in the near future.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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