Jared Rosholt has arrived in the UFC, and he brings a good bit of promise with him. In the past, I've written similar posts about decorated wrestlers when they announce their entry into professional fighting. Rosholt, however, presents a slightly different situation, as he already has nine professional fights under his belt, so we have some idea about what he brings to the table, as well as his potential for the future. Even with this in mind, in light of his entry into the UFC, I will take a look back on Rosholt's wrestling career, and then use his career as a basis for predicting how he might fare as a fighter.
Jared Rosholt's College Wrestling Career
One of Rosholt's career distinctions I hear repeated over and over again is his status as the winningest heavyweight in the history of Oklahoma State University. This sort of fact could potentially mislead. After all, Rosholt started all four years and wrestlers in the modern era wrestle far more matches than wrestlers of bygone years. Rosholt's winningest status does not make him the best heavyweight in the history of a college wrestling's most storied program, but it makes him pretty damned good. Since the 1970's Rosholt can claim to be Oklahoma State's second best heavyweight wrestler to Steve Mocco (if he were to wrestle Tom Erikson or Alan Gelogaev, I would pick both to win, but Rosholt owns a more impressive resume).
During Rosholt's time at Oklahoma State, I watched a great deal of his wrestling, and for some reason I don't recall his time as a college wrestler with a terrible amount of fondness. When I looked back and watched video of Rosholt in the process of writing this piece, I realized that whatever negative feelings I harbored for his wrestling were a bit unfair, and probably based on a small number of his more boring matches. Rosholt may rarely have lit scoreboards on fire, but he did usually provide an entertaining brand of wrestling for a heavyweight, and by the end of his wrestling career he outright dominated most opponents.
When we look back at Rosholt's wrestling career, we should remember him not only as a three time All-American (4th, 3rd, and 2nd place in the NCAA as a sophomore, junior, and senior respectively), but as someone who legitimately could have won national championships in his final three years, and who was picked to win it all by a substantial percentage of knowledgeable wrestling fans in his last two years. We should also remember that even though Rosholt never won an NCAA championship, he had multiple wins over three different NCAA champs during his career, as well as a sizable number of wins over other All-Americans. When we evaluate Rosholt's wrestling record, we should not focus on the quantity of his victories, but their quality, as well as the scarcity of his defeats throughout his final three seasons.
Some time ago, when Henry Cejudo announced his entry into MMA, I formulated a six factor evaluation with which to predict the success of a decorated wrestler in mixed martial arts. Below, I will apply this to Rosholt even though this evaluation fits imperfectly as he already has a substantial track record as a fighter.
At 27, with a decent number of fights under his belt, Rosholt still has the youth to really accomplish a great deal in MMA.
This factor looks at the way a fighter wrestled as well as his approach to the sport.
I take this into account despite the fact that I am becoming increasingly unsure about how much wrestling style actually matters in predicting MMA success. In Rosholt's case, he usually scored enough to win tough matches, but rarely ran the score up too high, as is understandable when dealing with giant humans. When he did score, he showed a propensity to score with variety of methods. Most of his offense came by way of fairly explosive leg attacks, like this knee-pull single to cut-across double on Lehigh's future national champion Zack Rey.
He could score from finesse, like with this fairly sweet low poke single he hits on Mark Ellis off one of Ellis's feints (Oklahoma State wrestling epitomized).
He also scored a good bit off counters, particularly this Russian spin he employs against Central Michigan All-American Jarod Trice to earn a takedown off a head-inside single situation.
If wrestling styles make fighters, Rosholt's style should translate well into MMA. He displayed a well-rounded wrestling skill set with a combination of explosiveness and slickness. He also demonstrated the mentality of a fighter on the wrestling mats, embracing the combative and physical elements of the sport. Watch this match against Missouri's National Champion (former MMA fighter) Mark Ellis to get a sense of the almost brawling quality of Rosholt's wrestling, a quality, I'll add, which is fairly universal among elite Division I heavyweights in general.
The possibility exists that, at times, Rosholt was more than merely aggressive, and that he crossed the line into the inappropriate, as you will see below. In his defense, however, this sort of stuff does happen in college wrestling quite a bit. Unfortunately, he was just one of many offenders.
Evidence of Growth-
This factor operates under the assumption that if someone continues to steadily improve throughout their college wrestling career, then this trend ought to continue in MMA.
Rosholt came to Oklahoma State as a blue chip recruit, but he wrestled in the 215 pound weight class in high school, and he required time to grow in wrestling skill and in physical size. He red shirted his first year at OSU, and then stepped into the starting lineup the next year, he improved his finish at the national championship each of the remaining years of college, all the while growing from an undersized kid to a full-sized and powerfully built competitor in the 285 pound weight class. As physically big as he can be, I believe his ideal fighting weight rests somewhere in the low 240's.
Experience in Other Martial Arts-
This does not really matter in Rosholt's case as he already has competed as a professional mixed martial artist for some time.
Level of Achievement-
It stands to reason that if someone has what it take to rise to the top of the wrestling world, then that person is more likely to have what it takes to rise to the top another combat sport, such as MMA.
Rosholt came within a whisper of winning an NCAA title as a senior, losing 3-2 to his arch-rival David Zabriskie of Iowa State in the national finals as a senior. Though he never achieved his ultimate goal in college, he spent a great deal of time competing in college wrestling's brightest spotlights and consistently performed up to expectations.
Though this factor comes last, it outweighs all the others in importance. Combat sports requires athleticism, generally speaking, the more athleticism one has, the better he or she will be at MMA.
Rosholt possesses a pretty good level of overall athleticism. He could execute complex wrestling techniques with a fluidity and quickness not possessed by most big men. If you have been around wrestling long enough, you probably have heard the well worn cliche that x standout big man moves like a middle weight, or light weight. I would say that Rosholt could and did move like a much smaller wrestler, if only in fairly short spurts. To illustrate, check out Rosholt's sweep single below.
This is a smooth shot and finish for a heavy, particularly against a behemoth like Jarod Trice. It sums up Rosholt's level of athleticism, a level which sat above most of his competition, but not quite high enough to cause eyes to pop and to inspire awe.
Factgrinder Final Analysis
Jared Rosholt parlayed his fairly generous physical abilities into a career as an elite college wrestler, he had a great run, and just barely missed standing atop college wrestling's summit. I suspect that when his MMA career has ended we will speak about it in much the same way, he will rise to stand among the best in his division, but probably not make it all the way to the top.