With the 2016 Summer Olympics scheduled for Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sherdog.com staff and contributors sat down to put together hypothetical MMA Olympic teams for the following countries: United States, Canada, Japan, Great Britain, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Poland and Australia. This 10-part series will map out the yellow brick road to Rio de Janeiro for the men and women who call the cage home, Zika virus be damned.
Australia has become a quiet powerhouse at the Olympics, ranking in the top 10 in the medal count in each of its last six appearances dating back to the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. That includes a 58-medal haul in 2000, with Sydney as the host city.
No Olympian has done more to put Australia on the map than Ian Thorpe, who owns nine medals, five of them gold. He was at the height of his power as a 17-year-old at the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he stood atop the podium in the 400m freestyle, the 4x100m freestyle relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay, setting world records in each event. Thorpe, nicknamed the “Thorpedo,” went on to capture two more gold medals at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece, establishing an Olympic record in the 200m freestyle.
Australia has enjoyed some success outside the pool, as well, claiming 11 combined medals in taekwondo, boxing, wrestling and judo. However, flyweight Lauren Burns remains the only Australian to strike gold in combat sports, the 12-time national taekwondo champion having done so in 2000.
Assembling a hypothetical Australian MMA team to compete at the Olympics provides plenty of intrigue, especially in the heavyweight and middleweight divisions. There, Australia-based kiwis Mark Hunt and Robert Whittaker could make substantial noise, with their native New Zealand not fielding a squad. Hunt and Whittaker have excelled in tournament formats before, the former winning the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix and the latter winning “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.”
Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans Anthony Perosh and Elvis Sinosic will handle the head coaching duties, overseeing a training staff that includes George Sotiropoulos, Soa Palelei, John Wayne Parr and Sam Greco.
2016 Australia National MMA Team• Heavyweight: Mark Hunt
• Light Heavyweight: Priscus Fogagnolo
• Middleweight: Robert Whittaker
• Welterweight: Kyle Noke
• Lightweight: Jake Matthews
• Featherweight: Rob Lisita
• Bantamweight: Michael Tobin
• Flyweight: Richie Vaculik
• Women’s Bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark
• Women’s Strawweight: Bec Rawlings
HEAVYWEIGHT: Hunt had devolved into little more than an afterthought following a six-fight losing streak between July 1, 2006 and Sept. 25, 2010, his fall reaching its low point in an embarrassing 63-second submission loss to Sean McCorkle at UFC 119. He has gone 7-4-1 since in what can only be described as a late-career renaissance. The 42-year-old Hunt has beaten Ben Rothwell, Stefan Struve, “The Ultimate Fighter 10” winner Roy Nelson, former UFC titleholder Frank Mir and onetime EliteXC champion Antonio Silva in that 11-fight run, with his only defeats coming to Brock Lesnar, Stipe Miocic, Fabricio Werdum and Junior dos Santos. Alternates: Chris Lokteff, Peter Graham
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: A national champion in judo and wrestling who has also had success in international Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, Fogagnolo has recorded five consecutive victories in wake of his only professional MMA defeat -- a knockout loss to James Te Huna in July 2009. “The Tassie Devil” owns a 10-1 record with 10 finishes, including wins over Antonio Mendes and Joe Muir. Fogagnolo last fought on May 21, when he submitted Matt Eland with a second-round keylock to claim the Valor Fight middleweight championship. Alternates: Nathan Reddy, Jamie Abdallah
MIDDLEWEIGHT: Whittaker has gone from prospect to top-10 middleweight in the blink of an eye. The 25-year-old has pieced together a five-fight winning streak that includes back-to-back decision victories over former Ring of Combat champions Rafael Natal and Uriah Hall. A black belt in karate and hapkido who also holds the rank of purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Whittaker has secured 12 of his 16 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. He has yet to lose in four appearances as a middleweight. Outside of Hunt, Whittaker gives Australia perhaps its best chance at a medal. Alternates: Daniel Kelly, Rob Wilkinson
WELTERWEIGHT: Noke has become something of an elder statesman in Australian MMA. A pro since 2002, the 36-year-old Jackson-Wink MMA representative holds wins over Brian Ebersole, Chris Camozzi, Charlie Brenneman, Jonavin Webb and Peter Sobotta. Like most mixed martial artists, Noke has experienced his share of ups and downs, and he currently finds himself on a two-fight losing streak following a third-round submission loss to Keita Nakamura at UFC Fight Night “McDonald vs. Lineker” on July 13. He competed on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter” following a two-fight stint in EliteXC, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Kris McCray. Alternates: Steve Kennedy, Richard Walsh
LIGHTWEIGHT: If MMA were an Olympic sport, Matthews might have three or four appearances in his future. Just 21 years of age, he has gone 4-2 since arriving in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2014, including victories over Johnny Case, Akbarh Arreola and Vagner Rocha. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt with a high ceiling, Matthews boasts nine finishes among his 10 pro wins: five by submission and four by knockout ore technical knockout. “The Celtic Kid” last appeared at “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale on July 8, when he succumbed to first-round punches from Xtreme Couture prospect Kevin Lee. Alternates: Alex Volkanovski, Martin Nguyen
FEATHERWEIGHT: Phuket Top Team’s Lisita has a fairly significant claim to fame: He remains the only man to finish “Lion” Takeshi Inoue, having submitted the former Shooto champion with a bulldog choke in December 2013. An eight-year pro, the 33-year-old has plied his trade inside the One Championship, Australian Fighting Championship and Cage Fighting Championship promotions. Currently on a three-fight losing streak, Lisita has suffered back-to-back-to-back defeats to Timofey Nastyukhin, Marat Gafurov and Eric Kelly -- three men with a combined record of 36-5 and 31 finishes between them. Alternates: Gustavo Falciroli, Abel Brites
BANTAMWEIGHT: The undefeated Tobin has been brought along slowly, and as such, his strength of schedule leaves something to be desired. Still, there is no denying the 23-year-old Aussie’s considerable talents as a multiple-time national champion in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Tobin owns a perfect 11-0 record in MMA and has 10 submissions to his credit: four by armbar, three by rear-naked choke, two by triangle choke and one by toe hold. He has already captured titles in the Eternal MMA and Roshambo MMA organizations. Alternates: Reece McLaren, Ashkan Mokhtarian
FLYWEIGHT: A mixed martial artist who moonlights as a big-wave surfer, Vaculik was a semifinalist on “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.” He entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2013 on the strength of five straight victories but has gone a disappointing 1-3 inside the Octagon, falling to Justin Scoggins, Louis Smolka and Danny Martinez. Vaculik boasts seven first-round finishes among his 10 professional wins, including a 12-second knockout and a 96-second submission. Alternates: Charlie Alaniz, Tim Moore
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT: Clark has held titles in the Roshambo MMA and Xtreme Fighting Championship organizations, piecing together a 6-2 record in the process. Spawned by the Integrated MMA camp, the 28-year-old has yet to be finished as a pro, decision losses to Kyra Purcell and Pannie Kianzad -- the latter under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner -- serving as the lone blemishes on her resume. Clark last appeared at an Eternal MMA event on July 30, when she walked away with a three-round unanimous decision over Janay Harding. She owns a 2013 victory over Bellator MMA alum Arlene Blencowe. Alternates: Hera Tamati, Caitlin McEwen
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT: Rawlings fought Carla Esparza for the vacant Invicta strawweight title in 2013, losing a five-round decision while showing her resolve against one of the world’s best. She was later cast on Season 20 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” only to be eliminated by Tecia Torres during qualifying. Rawlings, 27, has recently begun building some momentum at 115 pounds, as she has posted consecutive victories over Lisa Ellis and Seo Hee Ham. She now trains out of the powerhouse Alliance MMA camp in California, where she hones her skills alongside UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis and others. Alternates: Alex Chambers, Claire Fryer
More Hypothetical MMA National Olympic Teams »
• United States
• Great Britain