You will often hear that Steve Mocco won NCAA wrestling titles twice, and wrestled in the 2008 Olympics alongside current undefeated mixed martial artists Henry Cejudo, Ben Askren and Daniel Cormier. You will hear less often that Mocco was the greatest high school heavyweight wrestler of all time, and had he won either of the two NCAA finals matches he lost in ultimate tie breakers, he would be, at least statistically, the greatest college heavyweight ever. Also, at the Beijing Olympics, he twice came within two matches of winning a medal. Mocco casts a large shadow in the wrestling world, and now that he signed a four fight contract with the World Series of Fighting, his foreboding presence looms over the top levels of MMA.
I worry that MMA fans will not feel terribly welcome toward Mocco's personality. Generally, fighting fan favorites exhibit brutality and violence in the midst of a bout, but radiate kindness and magnanimity after their opponent falls unconscious in a pool of their own blood. While Mocco has the brutality and violence part down, his gruff demeanor never exactly exudes fluffy bunnies and rainbows. Mocco brings a high level competitive wrestler's approach to the cage. He does not fight as a means of self discovery, as a way to rediscover the long lost Platonic form of pure manhood, or as a display of devotion to some ancient warrior code; he fights to win fights. I'm certain that deep inside Mocco beats a heart of pure gold, but that heart contains little compassion for his opponents, as you can see from the documentary clip below from Mocco's freshman year of college.
Mocco took some flack after looking less than impressive in his third pro fight against Lew Polley, but in his last outing, he showed great improvement. He still appears a bit unnatural on his feet, and only throws one punch, a right cross, with any comfort. He would behoove himself to develop his jab, at least as a means of punching his way into grappling range.
I can't get over how small Mocco looks in the cage. For a guy that weighed around 300 pounds during his dalliance with college football at Oklahoma State University, he seems pretty trim now. He will never bristle with beach muscles, but he has become svelt to the point where his MMA version appears compact, perhaps even a bit stubby. His lack of length hurts his ability to use his wrestling in open space, which means that we will see Mocco regularly bull rush opponents backward into the cage, and snatch single legs. Though deadly in close to an opponent, Mocco remains vulnerable on the outside, and needs to continually close the distance. While he possesses surprisingly quick feet, Mocco will need to figure out clever ways to get inside against better strikers, without taking too much damage.
Accused of an inactive, blanket-like top game in his fight against Polley, Mocco's ground fighting appeared far more dynamic in his last fight, against Alonzo Roane, as he transitioned between dominant positions, and attempted a variety of submissions.
In the most promising development of his last fight, Mocco's displayed his patented foot sweep. This bodes well as heavyweights, more than any other weight class in MMA, benefit from a reliable take down method which does not involve taking a shot and attempting to grab and lift massive thighs. Watch Mocco sneak in the sweep with his left foot.
Now, watch him use this technique in a freestyle wrestling match against some giant German they flew in for him to beat in front of nutty Hawkeye fans in Iowa City.
Mocco brings his nasty disposition, dangerous ground game, heavy hands and tricky footsweep to the WSOF, and soon, a TV near you, all in beautiful HD.