5 fighters who prove ONE Championship has the best grapplers in MMA

ONE Championship heavyweight and jiu-jitsu icon Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida (bottom) is one of the best grapplers in MMA today. (Image courtesy of ONE Championship)
ONE Championship heavyweight and jiu-jitsu icon Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida (bottom) is one of the best grapplers in MMA today. (Image courtesy of ONE Championship)
Duane Lucas Pascua

Without a doubt, ONE Championship houses some of the best martial artists in the world. With their ONE Super Series, the promotion showcases the best strikers in Muay Thai and kickboxing.

In MMA, fighters like Demetrious Johnson, Ok Rae Yoon, Adriano Moraes, Reinier de Ridder and many more prove that ONE cage fighters are competitive on a global scale.

As for grapplers, an argument can be made that the Asian organization has the best in the world, bar none. Yes, the UFC has some truly remarkable grapplers like Rodolfo Vieira, Demian Maia, Gilbert Burns and current lightweight champ Charles Oliveira.

If you look at ONE Championship's roster, however, you won't find a group of highly credentialed and decorated grapplers anywhere else. We're talking legends of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling.

Today we list down five MMA fighters who prove ONE Championship has the best grapplers in the sport. We will keep the list only for grapplers who have fully transitioned to MMA. With that in mind, ONE fighters like Gordon Ryan won't be in it as he hasn't fought in MMA yet.

With that said, let's get on with the list.

#5. Michelle Nicolini - ONE Championship strawweight

International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Hall of Famer and eight-time world champion Michelle Nicolini holds one of the best submission grappling and jiu-jitsu records ever.

Nicolini was the first female athlete to complete a gold-medal clean sweep at black belt level in both gi and no-gi at all four major jiu-jitsu championships. From IBJJF worlds to Pan Ams to ADCC, Nicolini is head-and-shoulders above the competition.

In MMA, the third-degree black belt has a 6-3 record and a win over reigning ONE atomweight champion Angela 'Unstoppable' Lee. She's never been stopped in MMA and has only lost to the best in her division.

While her stand-up game is still a work-in-progress, Nicolini's grappling assault is something not to be trifled with. She is a god among men.

Look at how she drowns her opponents in this ONE Championship highlight video:


#4. Shinya Aoki - ONE Championship lightweight

Former ONE Championship lightweight world champion Shinya 'Tobikan Judan' Aoki is a legend in the Japanese grappling scene. His eclectic grappling style, coupled with his insane flexibility and creative approach to submissions, earned him a unique spot in MMA lore.

Having fought in MMA for almost two decades now, Aoki has tallied 47 wins with 30 submissions. His wins in PRIDE, Shooto, DREAM, Strikeforce and ONE Championship earned him the monicker 'Master of Flying Submissions'.

Once he gets a hold of his opponents, Aoki uses various disciplines ranging from jiu-jitsu, judo, shoot wrestling and Eddie Bravo's 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu techniques. His utilization of the rubber guard and penchant for rare submissions like the gogoplata and hammerlock make Aoki an unpredictable grappler after all these years.

Watch Aoki's top 5 submissions in ONE Championship here:


#3. Andre Galvao - ONE Championship lightweight/welterweight

Fourth-degree blackbelt Andre Galvao is a 5-time IBJJF world champion and a 6-time ADCC world champion, having won its coveted Superfight multiple years in a row.

To say that Galvao is one of the best grapplers ever is a horrid understatement. The man is a legend amongst legends. The 39 year-old's frenetic and powerful takedown and passing game showed how competitive jiu-jitsu can be exciting to watch.

In MMA, the ATOS Jiu-jitsu leader has a 5-2 record with three submissions and one knockout. Galvao's run in DREAM and Strikeforce showed his frightening ground-and-pound and evolving stand-up game.

Although he retired from MMA in 2011, Galvao's landmark signing with ONE Championship in 2021 heralds his return to the sport. At the moment, we don't know when the jiu-jitsu ace will debut in the Circle or which weight class he will be fighting.

Whenever or wherever it is, we're sure Galvao will be a force inside the cage.

Watch his MMA highlights in this YouTube video by user HelloJapan05:


#2. Garry Tonon - ONE Championship featherweight

ONE Championship featherweight Garry 'The Lion Killer' Tonon has shown the world how to perfectly transition from competitive grappling to MMA.

The only thing missing to cap off Tonon's legendary move to MMA is a world championship; one that he might finally win this year.

Known for being a prominent member of the famed 'Danaher Death Squad', Tonon gained fame for his revolutionary use of leglocks in submission-only matches. Under the tutelage of martial arts pioneer and jiu-jitsu savant John Danaher, Tonon became a household name in grappling and has become a force in ONE featherweight.

The undefeated American has developed a sort of conundrum inside the cage. Knowing that no one would dare dance with him on the ground, Tonon found confidence to explore and experiment with his stand-up game.

This makes him unpredictable and dangerous on the feet. His opponents are always guessing where Tonon decides to take the fight. He's becoming dangerous in all aspects of the game.

With six wins in a row (three submissions and two knockouts), 'The Lion Killer' now has a complete MMA game. What's scary is the fact that this might not yet be Tonon's final form as he is still growing his MMA game with every bout.

Watch his meteoric rise in ONE Championship here:


#1. Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida - ONE Championship heavyweight

There are high-level black belts, then there's 'Buchecha'. Often considered the most accomplished submission grappler in history, Marcus 'Buchecha' Almeida has more than lived up to the mystique and hype surrounding him.

With 13 jiu-jitsu world titles and over 120 wins in submission grappling under his belt, the ONE Championship heavyweight poses the most dangerous threat on the ground. Though he only has 2 fights in his MMA career so far, both outings indicate that 'Buchecha' has the makings of becoming a star in the sport.

The man has legendary status, a face that could sell any event and a body that looks like a Greek God. From a marketing standpoint, 'Buchecha' is a goldmine. From a competitive standpoint, however, the 13-time world champion can beat anyone in his weight class once the fight hits the ground.

Yes, we said anyone. We don't care if it's a world champion wrestler or a decorated submission artist. 'Buchecha' is at a level that's reserved only for legends amongst legends.

The ONE Championship heavyweight's use of a stepping right hand en route to a double-leg takedown has been highly effective thus far. Add that to his heavy top game and developing ground-and-pound, and we might see a much larger version of Khabib Nurmagomedov.

At just 31 years old, 'Buchecha' is still improving and might surpass that comparison. We'll just have to sit back and watch.

Watch his utter decimation of Kang Ji Won in his last ONE Championship outing here:

Edited by Harvey Leonard
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