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Who Are the Best 'Ground and Pound' Fighters in the UFC?

By Cliff Montgomery,
In the last article, we dealt with those Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters who are textbook examples of the "sprawl-and-brawl" fighting style; We'll now take a look at three classic examples of the grueling, tenacious "ground-and-pound" style.

The three meeting our standards as your perfect ground-and pounders? The UFC's Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, and PRIDE's pride, Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi

Matt Hughes has often been called "one of the toughest guys on the planet"--for good reason. He captured the welterweight title at UFC 34, when he defeated then-champ Carlos Newton by KO in 1:27 of round 2. He's successfully defended his title against such talented opposition as top striker Hayato Sakarai. Fighting out of Hillsboro, IL., many call Hughes the modern UFC's "champion of champions."

Those who watch closely must have noticed that Hughes' greatest strengths are his powerful takedowns and tremendous body slams. With the wrestling chops in place, Hughes now completes his skills with Miletich Fighting Systems. For Matt this means training with UFC great Pat Miletich, not to mention a team including Jeremy Horn, Robbie Lawler, and Tim Sylvia. Matt's been working with Miletich on the best ways to improve his punching abilities. And it's worked: Miletich has pretty clearly made Hughes a more finished fighter.

Randy Couture earned the nicknames 'The Natural' and 'Captain America' by making many of his hardest-fought victories appear effortless, as well as being as well-respected outside the ring as he is within it. Randy's particularly effective ground-and-pound style first earned him the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship, then its Heavyweight Championship twice over--making Couture the first fighter to hold championship titles in two different UFC weight divisions. Before his recent retirement, he was rightly considered "the UFC's most ingenious fighter."

Couture wrestled throughout high school; this earned him a state championship in his senior year, and deepened his respect for both the technical and competitive aspects of the sport that someday would carry him to prominence. In 1982, Couture enlisted in the U.S. Army, which gave the eager Couture a place to study Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as his first real taste of boxing.

Randy liked to keep the other man on the ground as much as possible. A wrestler by nature, ground-fighting was Couture's greatest strength. Forcing the opponent to play to his strength as he purposely exploited the opponent's weaknesses was perhaps the principal element to Couture's amazing success in the fighting arts.

Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi (born September 22, 1978) is a Japanese MMA fighter. He was the former Shooto Welterweight (155lb) champion and is currently fighting in PRIDE. Gomi is a member of Kiguchi Dojo in Japan.

Takanori Gomi was born in Kanagawa, Japan in 1978 as a second son. He started learning boxing at Sagamihara Yonekura gym in 1994, the same time he started attending Kanagawa Prefectural Aikawa Higashi Junior High School. Gomi was also a pitcher for his school's baseball team. He dropped out of high school in 1996 after failing to pass on to the next grade. Perhaps because of this, Gomi began his wrestling studies the same year.

In 1997, Gomi transferred to the official Shooto gym and began to take part in amateur Shooto competitions. Gomi made his professional MMA debut on November 27, 1998, at Shooto's Las Grandes Viajes 6 event in Tokyo, where he defeated Hiroshi Tsuruya by decision. He won his next 12 MMA matches, mostly in Shooto but also in Vale Tudo Japan and SuperBrawl.

In 2001, Gomi became the Shooto World Welterweight Champion after defeating former team mate Rumina Sato by unanimous decision. He defended his title in 2002, beating Dokonjonosuke Mishima by TKO. Gomi's last Shooto fight was on August 10, 2003, at the Yokohama Gymnasium; he lost his welterweight title to Joachim Hansen by majority decision.

Gomi made his PRIDE debut at PRIDE Bushido 2 on February 15, 2004 where he defeated Jadson Costa by TKO. He defeated Ralph Gracie at PRIDE Bushido 3 by referee stoppage due to strikes at 6 seconds into the first round, the quickest match in PRIDE's history. He stopped the next two opponents, Fabio Mello and Charles Bennett, then knocked out Jens Pulver at the Shockwave event on December 31, 2004, a joint venture between PRIDE and K-1.

He won the belt of the organization's new 160 lb. Lightweight division in December 2005 after knocking out former training partner Hayato Sakurai. Gomi is currently 10-1 in PRIDE. He lost to Marcus Aurelio by arm triangle choke in a non-title match during the first round during Pride Bushido 10 on April 2nd, 2006.

Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, and Takanori Gomi are three of the best MMA ground-and-pound fighters the emerging sport has seen in its short but exciting history. In many ways, it's the backbone of this new fighting art.

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