Institutions of Higher Learning
Another college wrestling season is in the books, which means that MMA will receive a fresh crop of grapplers eager to learn the ways of the ground-and-pound. In MMA’s short history, several universities have served a shotbeds of future champions and breakout stars. However, when it comes to pure production, these five colleges are fabricating fighters that are a mark above the rest.
5. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – COLUMBIA, MO
Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, Michael Chandler
With a 19-0 record amongst them, these Tigers are poised for a bright future in MMA. Ben Askren, an Olympian and two-time NCAA National Champion, already secured the Bellator Welterweight Championship with a decision win over Lyman Good in 2010. Tyron Woodley is quietly sneaking up the Strikeforce welterweight rankings, while Michael Chandler has finished all five of his pro fights with a combo of submissions and TKOs.
4. UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA – MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad, Jacob Volkmann
The Golden Gophers have produced two of the biggest (gross tonnage) fighters in MMA, with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and Bellator Heavyweight Champion Cole Konrad. Sandwiched between that heavyweight hoagie is lightweight Jacob Volkmann, who has strung together three straight UFC wins—and a little controversy via a presidential comment.
3. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY – EAST LANSING, MI
Rashad Evans, Gray Maynard, Nik Fekete
The Spartans don’t mess around in the cage. Evans burst onto the scene via TUF 2 and parlayed that exposure into the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship by pounding out Forrest Griffin. Undefeated Gray Maynard flirted with the UFC Lightweight Belt in a hard-earned draw against Frankie Edgar in January, and the two will lock horns again in May. “Machete” Fekete is hoping to continue his perfect record as he enters the Bellator Lightweight Tournament.
2. OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY – STILLWATER, OK
Randy Couture, Muhammed Lawal, Mark Munoz, Johny Hendricks, Shane Roller, Daniel Cormier, Jake Rosholt
The Cowboys on this list have secured six NCAA Championships and 18 All-American honors. UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture headlines a Stillwater contingency that is on the verge of making title runs in multiple organizations at varying weight classes. King Mo is almost healthy enough to be back in the Strikeforce light heavyweight hunt,while Cormier is working his way up the heavyweight rankings. Roller, Hendricks, and Munoz are making waves in the UFC at 155 lbs, 170 lbs, and 185 lbs.
1. ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY – TEMPE, AZ
Dan Severn, Dan Henderson, Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson, C.B. Dollaway, Eric Larkin
The Sun Devils have the greatest wrestling-to-MMA converts on the planet. UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn has won everything under the sun (including going 5-0 in 2010), while MMA legend Dan Henderson is the only man to simultaneously hold two Pride titles. Velasquez secured the UFC Heavyweight Championship with a beatdown of Brock Lesnar in October, and Simpson, Dollaway, and Bader are working their way up the UFC ladder in their respective weights. Meanwhile, undefeated Eric Larkin is a force to be reckoned with in the Bellator Featherweight Tournament.