Every sport has a breeding ground for its future stars. In the case of mixed martial arts, the worlds of grappling, kickboxing and amateur wrestling are most likely to spawn the next Demian Maia, Mirko CroCop or Brock Lesnar. Collectively, these sports fall under the umbrella of “combat sports.” Every Wednesday, MMA DieHards reports on the biggest happenings in each of these realms of combat.

Grappling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
by Gianni Grippo, four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion

Popovitch takes his opponent's back at the No-Gi Worlds (photo: John Lamonica/GracieMag)

With 2010 soon coming to a close, right now may be the perfect time to take a look back at the top competitors and top fights that made 2010 a year to remember.

In a vote taken on GracieMag.com to see who the fans believed were the best competitors in jiu-jitsu in 2010, the fans spoke and selected Pablo Popovitch as the leading vote-getter, with Roger Gracie taking second overall in the polls.

Pablo captured the jiu-jitsu community’s attention this year by having another stellar Nogi season, winning the Pan medium-heavyweight and closing out the Pan Absolute title with friend Marcus Bochecha. Later on in the year, Pablo captured the World Nogi title and, once again, won all his previous matches to close out the World Absolute title with Bochecha and Avengers teammate, Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu.

In the women’s voting, the clear winner was Team Alliance’s Gabrielle Garcia, who tore through all her competitors throughout the year, winning every event she entered including the Pan and World Absolute titles.

The voting also included categories such as “Best Fight of 2010,” which was awarded to Rafael Mendes (Atos) and Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles (Alliance) for their battle in the finals of the featherweight division at the 2010 Mundials. Mendes would go on to win the classic duel by two advantage points. In addition, the young Mendes was also awarded by the fans as jiu-jitsu’s most consistent athlete with Roberto Abreu coming in as the runner-up.

The fans also voted on the “Revelation of the Year” and the award was given to Atos middleweight black belt Claudio Calasans, who took the jiu-jitsu world by storm by winning the Abu-Dhabi World Pro Absolute and weight division, beating three-time World champion Braulio Estima in the process. Jiu-Jitsu’s new revelation had an eye-opening Mundial showing as well, taking the silver medal in the middleweight division, coming up short in the final against Marcelo Garcia by a tight two to zero score.

As we take a final look back at the year that was, let’s also look forward to the competitions that lie ahead including Claudio Franca’s growing U.S. Open competition scheduled to take place Jan. 29 in Santa Cruz. This competition continues to grow after each event, already drawing top names like Antonio Braga Neto, Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, Theodoro Canal and Marcel Fortuna. This next event is expected to bring those big names and even more.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

Shane Onufer helps boost Wyoming to a big win (photo courtesy of University of Wyoming)

The University of Wyoming wrestling program boosted its national reputation in a big way Sunday at a prestigious event in Reno, Nev. The Cowboys took to the mats in the Reno Tournament of Champions in an event that features some of the top teams and wrestlers from across the nation. With five wrestlers placing in the top five of their weight classes, the Cowboys scored 106 points to win the team title, edging out perennial powerhouse Boise State by 1.5 points. As a team, Wyoming went 41-20 in its matches. (In-depth Coverage)

The Penn State Nittany Lions wrestling team, under the guidance of head coach Cael Sanderson, battered visiting Ohio State 42-6 Sunday in the Big Ten wrestling dual meet opener for both teams. Number 5 Penn State won all but one bout against No. 22 Ohio State in front of yet another huge Rec Hall crowd. Over 5,100 fans cheered Penn State on as the Nittany Lions moved to 7-0 on the year.

With a starting line-up featuring five freshmen, the Nittany Lions were nonetheless dominant. Red-shirt freshman David Taylor remained undefeated with a 14-1 dismantling of Buckeye senior Colt Sponseller in the dual’s marquee bout at 157. Taylor entered the bout ranked No. 3 while Sponseller was No. 13. Taylor’s 14-1 major included 5:44 of riding time and the Lion freshman remains undefeated on the year with a 13-0 record. (In-depth Coverage)

Second-ranked Brandon Precin and fifth-ranked Jason Welch each pinned two opponents to lead a Northwestern team that improved to 10-0 on the year with shutout victories over Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Sunday. The ‘Cats blanked the Huskies, 38-0, before blowing past host SIUE, 51-0. The 51 points amassed against the Cougars mark the first time since 1986 that Northwestern has topped the 50-point plateau in a dual match. (In-depth Coverage)

Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling

1. Cornell
2. Penn State
3. Oklahoma State
4. Minnesota
5. Iowa
6. Wisconsin
7. Oklahoma
8. Illinois
9. Rutgers
10. Boise State

A complete listing of individual and team rankings can be found on The Open Mat website.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Mousasi to compete in K-1 rules fight at Dynamite!! 2010 (photo courtesy of Sherdog.com)

The kickboxing world is still abuzz after the performance of “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem at this year’s K-1 World Grand Prix just two weeks ago. K-1 parent company, FEG, looks to end the year with more fireworks, as it holds Dynamite!! 2010 on New Year’s Eve. Two K-1 bouts have been scheduled, as Tetsuya Yamato takes on Akiyo “Wicky” Nishiura and Dream light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi will match up against Grand Prix participant Kyotaro. Also on the card will be a mixed-rules match pitting Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki against Yuichiro “Jienotsu” Nagashima, with one round of kickboxing and one round of MMA. It is also rumored that Overeem will participate in the event, but in an MMA bout.

Dutch promotion It’s Showtime rounded out its year by crowning two new champions in their 70 kg (154 lb) and 77 kg (169.4 lb) divisions. The promotion recently held events in Athens and Amsterdam with titles up for grabs in both locations. As previously reported, current 61 kg (134.2 lb) champion Sergio Wielzen defeated Masahiro Yamamoto to retain his belt. Meanwhile, Chris Ngimbi claimed a decision victory over Murat Direkçi to take home the 70 kg strap. In Amsterdam, after former champion Cosmo Alexandre was stripped of his title, late replacement Artem Levin TKO’d the favored L’houcine Ouzgni to take home the 77 kg belt. In the night’s main event, Mohamed Khamal battled through an extension round to defeat Mosab Amrani in a potential fight of the year. After a busy 2010, the promotion has cemented itself as the clear-cut number two organization in the kickboxing world, and maintains lofty ambitions for 2011.

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