Yesterday I posted a piece about Oklahoma St University, and the amount of MMA talent they are producing on a regular basis. Arizona St University is another programs quickly becoming linked to some of the best MMA talent. Let's take a look at the wrestlers who have gone through ASU, and then moved into MMA. There are a lot of MMA, and UFC victories on this list.
Dan Severn - Severn was a multiple time All American at ASU, and then coached at the school during the 1980's. During the 80's he was active in international wrestling, competing in both Greco Roman, and Freestyle. Severn entered the world of MMA at UFC 4, and just retired in early 2013, with a MMA record of 101-19.
Don Frye - Frye was coached by Severn at ASU from 1984-1987, before he transfered to another MMA factory Oklahoma St for his Senior season. He launched his MMA career at UFC 8, and rushed out to a 15-1 record, with the only loss in that time coming to Mark Coleman in the finals of the UFC 10 tourney. His final MMA record was 20-9.
Dan Henderson - Henderson is an undisputed legend in the sport of MMA. After winning the UFC 17tournament, he became a champion in Pride and Strikeforce. Henderson also has challenged for UFC Middleweight, and Light-Heavyweight Gold. During his time at Arizona St. he was an NCAA tourney qualifier, before moving on to become a 2 x Olympian in Greco Roman wrestling. 29-10 MMA.
Erik Larkin - Larkin was a 4 x All-American, winning the NCAA title, and Dan Hodge trophy for most outstanding wrestler in 2003. He then coached at ASU from 2005-2009, while failing in a bid for the 2008 Olympics. Not starting MMA until age 30, his career was only 4 fights, where he went 3-1, with his last fight in 2011 for Bellator.
Cain Velasquez - The Current UFC HW Champion has been a force of nature since joining the UFC in 2008, only 2 fights into his MMA career. After a stint in Junior College, Cain was a 2 x Division 1 All-American in at ASU. His MMA record stands at 12-1.
Ryan Bader - Bader broke into the UFC by winning TUF: 8. He was a 2 x All-American in College, many thought that Bader would someday be a title contender. To this point he has fallen short in his bids to earn a title shot, but is a solid top 10 fighter, who has wins over Lil' Nog, and Rampage Jackson to his credit and a 15-3 MMA record.
John Moraga - Moraga will be the next challenger for the UFC Flyweight title. He wrestled four years at Arizona St., qualifying for the NCAA Tourney once. The general lack of depth in the UFC FLW division has allowed Moraga to go from almost unknown regional fighter to unknown UFC fighter with a title shot after two stoppage victories in his first two UFC fights. Moraga’s record stands at 13-1.
CB Dollaway - Much like Bader, Dolloway used TUF to find his way into UFC. Dollaway was an All-American at ASU, and had a ton of hype when he brought an undefeated record onto the reality show, but was submitted not once, but twice by Amir Sadollah. He has a 13-4 MMA record, and is 7-4 UFC record.
Aaron Simpson - Wrestling for and becoming an All-American at Arizona St. was not enough for Simpson, as he then returned to the school to become an assistant coach for 9 years, and coaching guys like Moraga, Dollaway, Bader, and Velasquez. He has said in some interviews that it was the success and persuading of his former athletes that helped talk him into getting serious about MMA in 2007. Simpson has a 12-5 record in MMA.
Clifford Starks - Another ASU wrestler who reached the UFC level is Starks. A MW in MMA, Starks spent time wrestling as a HW at ASU, and had a 3rd place Pac-10 finish to his credit. Stark's run in UFC started well, but followed with two straight losses and was cut from the roster. His MMA record stands at 8-2.
Bubba Jenkins - After a good run at Penn St., Jenkins transfered to ASU where he won an NCAA title in 2011. Combine that with his even more impressive Junior World Freestyle Wrestling title, and Jenkins is considered one of the best young prospects in MMA. He MMA record stands at 3-0, and he will be making his debut with Bellator on July 31st.
Kyle Kingsbury - Kingsbury was never an ASU wrestler, but he was a member of the ASU Football team in 2003-2004. Kingsbury made his way into UFC through the same TUF: 8 season as Ryan Bader. His MMA record is 11-5.
Who might be the next guy in the pipeline? If an ASU wrestler is going to move to MMA, it is likely he will be training in one of the three places. Arizona Combat Sports is the place where guys like Bader, Dollaway, Simpson, Moraga and Starks got their starts. When Bader Dollaway, and Simpson became successful at the UFC level they broke away and started their own camp, Power MMA & Fitness. The third location is American Kickboxing Academy, where Cain Velasquez, and Kyle Kingsbury have trained since the start of their career. The MMA Lab located in Phoenix, AZ is another nearby option for ASU students who want to pursue a career in MMA. It is the home to UFC LW Champ Ben Henderson, and several other quality MMA fighters. John Moraga has trained there at times in the past, but to this point, none of the guys from ASU have made it their main training camp.
A couple of the better wrestler who finished up their ASU career this year are?
Levi Cooper - Wrestled at Heavyweight for ASU from 2010-2013, and garnered an 8th place finish at the NCAA Tournament in 2011, making him an All-American. He qualified for the NCAA tournament his last two seasons at ASU, but came up short of repeating as an All-American.
Jake Meredith - A former PAC-10 Champion, and two time NCAA qualifier. He wrestled at 184 lbs early in his career, before finishing at 197lbs his senior season. He was ranked in the top 10 Nationally at times during his senior year. His linkedIn profile list him as an Intern at PowerMMA & Fitness the gym owned by Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway, and Aaron Simpson, so seeing him make the jump to MMA would be very easy.
Cooper and Meredith are the two most well know, but there are many wrestlers in the ASU wrestling room who could emerge as the next top talent coming out of ASU.