Wrestling in MMA can be broken down into three categories: Collegiate, Freestyle, and Greco-Roman. All three have distinct characteristics that make them unique to the sport and is one aspect of MMA that is used by 98.7893475723% (see what I did there?) of MMA fighters. As an MMA expert, allow me to share what I know.
Side note: anyone that says they are an “expert” at something, is not really an expert. Just allow me to boost my ego for one day, please? Anywho…
Collegiate Wrestling is practiced on the high school and collegiate level. It is very slow-paced and can be very boring, while being very simple to understand.
The ultimate goal is to pin the opponent to the mat, which results in an immediate win. When you watch a wrestling match, the stronger wrestler typically wins. Joe Rogan, UFC Color Commentator and Awesome Dude, repeatedly states that there is no better base to enter MMA than that of the high level collegiate wrestler. The simple reason for that is their mental toughness is off the charts.
Simply put, Wrestlers are SAVAGES: to keep up with the brutal wrestling practices daily, the brutal weight cutting, the conditioning, while going into a match when the opponent is just as exhausted as you are.
Examples in MMA of fighters with a collegiate background are Chris Weidman (UFC Middleweight Champ), Daniel Cormier (UFC Light Heavyweight Champ), and Cain Velasquez (Former UFC Heavyweight Champ).
Freestyle wrestling is pretty popular throughout the world and along with Greco-Roman, it is one of the two styles of wrestling contested in the Olympics. Freestyle heavily emphasizes explosiveness as throws are very common. This allows for a wrestler to attack the entire body in a variety of ways.
Examples in MMA of fighters with a Freestyle background are Chris Weidman (UFC Middleweight Champ), Daniel Cormier (UFC Light Heavyweight Champ), and Cain Velasquez (Former UFC Heavyweight Champ).
Unlike Collegiate and Freestyle, you can only attack above the waist in Greco-Roman wrestling. You cannot use the legs at all to score points, so the emphasis is on upper body strength and endurance. Most collegiate wrestlers are Greco-Roman wrestlers in practice because majority of the time, they don’t attack the legs. Greco easily translates to MMA because you can closing the close the distance easily, as opposed to freestyle when you can shoot for the takedown a mile away to grab a lower extremity (like an ankle) that can make you susceptible to get hit in the face easily, and controlling the clinch and locking the body.
Greco-Roman wrestlers also have super crazy hip explosion. Attacking an opponent’s upper body doesn’t usually use a ton of leg strength. And since punching power is completely dependent on how much force you can generate from your hips, it is no surprise that some of the more feared knockout punchers in MMA have a Greco-Roman or Collegiate wrestling background. See Anthony “Rumble” Johnson… he kills fighters with a single punch.
Examples in MMA of fighters with a Greco-Roman background are Chris Weidman (UFC Middleweight Champ), Daniel Cormier (UFC Light Heavyweight Champ), and Cain Velasquez (Former UFC Heavyweight Champ) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. See a trend here?