Oklahoma State has long been known as a wrestling powerhouse. For many, life as a collegiate wrestler makes for a natural transition into the world of mixed martial arts. We'll be highlighting each of these guys as their upcoming fights approach, but until then let's take a look at some former Cowboy wrestlers who are now fighting professionally in the UFC.
Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks
Johny Hendricks has taken over as the face of Cowboy wrestlers in MMA. He assumed that title, from Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture, after a recent run to the UFC welterweight championship. Hendricks was a two-time national champion at Oklahoma State before taking up a career as a mixed martial artist. In March of 2014 Hendricks beat Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision to become UFC champion. To go along with his elite wrestling ability, Bigg Rigg has a vicious left hook that has ended multiple opponents nights early. Hendricks has a professional record of 16-3.
Last Fight: Split Decision Loss to Robbie Lawler
In a rematch with Lawler, Johny lost a close split decision that cost him his UFC belt. Hendricks looked tired in the championship rounds, where Lawler ultimately clinched the victory. This will undoubtedly motivate Hendricks moving forward, as he is on a mission to regain his UFC title.
Next Fight: March 14 vs. Matt Brown
Instead of targeting a third matchup with Lawler, Hendricks opted to fight Matt Brown in March. Matt is a long time UFC veteran who brings a 19-12 record to the fight. Brown is a dangerous fighter who seems to always be involved in exciting fights. I would expect Hendricks to use his wrestling skills to try and best Brown.
Daniel "DC" Cormier
Cormier was an NCAA runner up at Oklahoma State and a two-time Olympian. DC started his MMA career later in life after his Olympic wrestling career had ended. He has a 15-1 professional record that includes winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Regarded by many as one of the top wrestlers in all of MMA, Cormier has used his world class wrestling to become one of the top fighters on the planet. He started his career as a heavyweight but recently cut to light heavyweight because he refused to fight his friend and training partner, Cain Velasquez, for the UFC heavyweight title.
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Loss to Jon Jones
In his last fight, Cormier got a crack at the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Jon Jones, for the UFC light heavyweight title. Cormier pushed Jones for much of the fight, but Jones pulled away by dominating the final rounds of the fight. DC may have suffered his first professional loss, but it came to the man who many consider the best fighter in the world.
Next Fight: June 6 vs. Ryan Bader
The journey for another shot at Jones starts with a very intriguing fight against Ryan Bader. Bader is on a four fight win streak and has a professional record of 19-4. Bader who was a two-time All American at Arizona State is also regarded as one of the sports top wrestlers. With both fighters having elite wrestling pedigrees, their bout has potential to become a stand up fight. DC may have to use his quick hands and boxing skills to try and secure a win against Bader.
Mark "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Munoz
Munoz was once considered one of the top middleweight fighters in the UFC. However, he has currently hit a rough patch losing three of his last four fights. All three losses came by either knockout or submission. Despite the recent losses Munoz still boasts an impressive 13-5 record. Munoz was a national champion and two-time All American at Oklahoma State.
Last Fight: Submission Loss to Gegard Mousasi
In his last fight inside the octagon Munoz was overcome by the superior grappling of Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi locked up a rear-naked choke in the first round that finished Munoz. After the loss Munoz dropped from a top ten ranking down to the 13th ranked middleweight in the UFC.
Next Fight: February 28 vs. Roan Carneiro
Munoz has been fighting elite competition recently including Mousasi, Lyoto Machida, and current middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He will take a slight step down in competition as he looks to get back on track against Roan Carneiro, who enters the bout with a 19-9 professional record. Carneiro is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt which makes him a very dangerous grappler. I would expect Munoz to use his wrestling to neutralize Carneiro's attack. Carneiro will be fighting in the UFC for the first time since 2008 so look for Munoz to apply heavy pressure in his opponents return to the octagon.
Jared "The Big Show" Rosholt
Jared Rosholt was a three-time All American at Oklahoma State and is the Cowboys all-time winningest heavyweight wrestler. Rosholt is a rising star in the MMA world, as he transitioned directly from wrestling to fighting as a professional. Rosholt has a professional record of 11-2, which included a 7 fight win streak, before a setback in his last fight. Rosholt is also the brother of former Cowboy and UFC fighter Jake Rosholt.
Last Fight: Knockout Loss to Alexey Oleinik
Rosholt was on a roll entering his last fight against Alexey Oleinik. That roll continued for the first part of the fight as Rosholt landed some big punches and looked on the verge of finishing his opponent. However, a reeling Oleinik was able to recover enough to catch Rosholt with a couple big punches and finish the fight by knockout. That is the best part of MMA, anyone can get caught at any time. Unfortunately, Rosholt was on the wrong end of that this time. Despite the loss the former Cowboy still remains one of the top young talents in the heavyweight division.
Next Fight: March 14 vs. Josh Copeland
Rosholt will look to right the ship on the same March 14th card as Johny Hendricks. Rosholt will be fighting another young heavyweight, 9-1 Josh Copeland. Copeland is a strong grappler with four of his nine wins coming by way of submission. Rosholt likes to stand and trade punches, but that got him in trouble in his last fight. Look for Jared to use his wrestling to control Copeland against the cage and unleash punches from a clinch.
What to Expect in 2015
These four former Cowboys carry the tradition of Oklahoma State wrestling with them in the UFC. As fight day gets nearer for each fighter we will be doing an in depth preview of their next fight. If Hendricks wins on March 14th, I would expect him to get another title shot. Cormier is probably two or three wins away from another shot at Jon Jones. With multiple fight win streaks both Munoz and Rosholt should find themselves in the top 10 by the end of the year. It appears that 2015 has potential to be an exciting year for Cowboys inside the octagon.