Josh Barnett (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

What If Pro Wrestlers Were MMA Fighters? Fantasy 64-Man Tournament – Quarterfinals

What if pro wrestlers were MMA fighters? It’s a question a lot of crossover fans have probably asked themselves. Some former WWE superstars, including Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, have even provided an answer. However, we here at Combat Press are striving to provide an even more comprehensive answer to how some of the best pro wrestlers would fare against one another in a 64-man fantasy tournament.

A panel of writers from Combat Press, combined with some of our colleagues in the world of MMA and pro-wrestling media, have taken on this task. The match-ups were done based on the wrestlers’ real last names, alphabetically. The premise is simple: the fights are judged on UFC 1 rules and based on the combatant’s real-life martial-arts credentials and reputation for toughness in actual brawls and street fights. If you need to catch up, please check out the tournament’s opening-round match-ups, the second round and the third round. Now, let’s continue with the quarterfinal round of the tournament.

[Ed. Note: The number in parentheses next to the fighter’s name in the result represents the number of votes he received from our panel in his match-up.]


Brock Lesnar vs. Steve Blackman

How they got here:

Lesnar: def. “Judo” Gene LeBell, Tank Abbott, Alberto del Rio

Blackman: def. Dick Slater, Bart Gunn, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff

What the writers are saying:

Max Freedman: “Blackman puts up a tough match against pretty much everyone on this list, but Lesnar’s well-rounded skills and experience will be too much.”

Bryan Henderson: “Given his size and explosiveness, Lesnar just keeps running through people. This might be the last fight where he could do that, though.”

Riley Kontek: “Blackman is a tough out for anybody. He’s definitely a more advanced striker than Lesnar. However, the physical gifts and wrestling of Lesnar will be too much here, even for ‘The Lethal Weapon.’”

Andres Magana: “Lesnar snatches victory due to his superior size, athleticism and wrestling background.”

Kyle Symes: “Blackman would make it interesting on the feet, but I just don’t see him being able to avoid one of Lesnar’s double-leg takedowns. Once Lesnar got him down, the size and grappling skills heavily favor Lesnar.”

Rob Tatum: “Lesnar’s lack of striking prowess finally catches up with him in this tournament. Blackman overwhelms Lesnar standing and punches his ticket to the semifinals.”

Result: Lesnar (6) def. Blackman (1)

Lesnar’s path of destruction continues. Blackman’s striking would be better, but Lesnar’s quickness, athleticism and explosiveness on the shot would be too much. He’d ground a game Blackman, hit him with some big shots on the mat and eventually get the finish.

Kurt Angle vs. Danny Hodge

How they got here:

Angle: def. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, William Regal, Meng

Hodge: def. Daniel Puder, Ron Simmons, Antonio Inoki

What the writers are saying:

Freedman: “Hodge uses his wrestling defensively to stuff the fellow Olympian’s takedowns before finding the finish on the feet.”

Henderson: “Angle is a great wrestler who has even topped Lesnar in an amateur wrestling fight. He’s moving on here.”

Kontek: “Talk about a tough fight to call. Hodge has similar wrestling abilities and more of a striking acumen. However, I think the athleticism, combined with the wrestling of Angle, proves to be the difference-maker in a close showdown.”

Magana: “Angle wins a tough back-and-forth fight, with Angle’s Olympic wrestling background earning him a hard-fought victory.”

Tatum: “In a battle of Olympic medalists, it’s the boxing skills of Hodge that prove to be the difference.”

Result: Angle (5) def. Hodge (2)

Overall intensity and athleticism in the wrestling department secures the victory for Angle. Hodge would have an advantage on the feet and give Angle a go for the entirety of fight. However, Angle’s aggression and overall stronger, more evolved wrestling game would take its toll. Angle was also a cardio machine in his prime. This is the closest fight of the round and a toss up, but Angle moves on.

Josh Barnett vs. Ken Shamrock

How they got here:

Barnett: def. The Iron Sheik, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Matt Riddle

Shamrock: def. The Undertaker, Harley Race, Karl Gotch

What the writers are saying:

Freedman: “With virtually identical grappling credentials, Barnett’s better stand-up is the difference-maker in this one.”

Henderson: “Prime Shamrock was one of the best, but the skills of mixed martial artists have evolved since then. Barnett is more well rounded, plus he has size on his side.”

Kontek: “Shamrock was one of the best in his time. But it was a different time to when Barnett peaked, and, quite frankly, Barnett at his best beats Shamrock at his best.”

Magana: “Barnett beats the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’ via submission. As Royce Gracie proved, Shamrock can lose to a smaller submission artist, so imagine being pitted against an even larger man with a shoot-wrestling background.”

Symes: “The easy pick would be Barnett based on his size and grappling, but I’m feeling an upset here. Shamrock is well versed enough in grappling to avoid falling into Barnett’s traps, and I think Ken gets the W.”

Tatum: “This is the hardest pick of the tournament, in my opinion. These are two vastly experienced wrestlers and fighters with elite submission skills. The size of Barnett turns out to be the difference, as he takes out one of the tournament favorites.”

Result: Barnett (6) def. Shamrock (1)

Two of the best fighters in MMA history, and pioneers of the sport, lock horns, and the bigger man walks out the winner. Barnett has better wrestling than Shamrock, which goes well with his size advantage. Shamrock was the better striker, but not by a ton. This would be a close bout in both men’s primes, no doubt. Barnett drags Shamrock down and submits him after wearing him out.

Scott “Steiner” Rechsteiner vs. Dan “The Beast” Severn

How they got here:

Steiner: def. Jack Swagger, Bad News Brown, Bobby Lashley

Severn: def. Jack Gallagher, Rick Steiner, Lou Thesz

What the writers are saying:

Freedman: “Steiner could put the lights out early, but ‘The Beast’ will wear down ‘Big Poppa Pump’ before ultimately finding the finish.”

Henderson: “Severn’s technical skills would carry him to victory over Steiner, who is a solid wrestler but a few rungs below Severn even in that area.”

Kontek: “Call me crazy, but I’m taking Steiner here. He has similar wrestling credentials to Severn, but he has a killer instinct and mean streak that might give Severn trouble. ‘Big Poppa Pump’ moves to the final four, in my book.”

Magana: “Steiner would beat Severn due to his superior physicality and overall insanity.”

Symes: “I feel like this would look like the fight between Ben Askren and Robbie Lawler. Severn gets rocked and in trouble early, but he is able to right the ship and get the win. Severn gets a hold of ‘Big Poppa Pump’ and wears out those muscles. Steiner was never known for cardio once he bulked up, and that’ll be his undoing here.”

Tatum: “Crazy that Severn is going to eliminate both Steiner brothers. Severn can match the wrestling skill of Steiner and has far better all-around skills. ‘The Beast’ moves to the final four.”

Result: Severn (5) def. Steiner (2)

In an amazing effort, Severn knocks both Steiner brothers out of this tournament. Severn and Steiner have similar wrestling credentials, but Severn’s mat game is more rounded due to his judo and sambo skills. Steiner’s cardio was not on Severn’s level, and when you combine that with Severn’s immense MMA experience, “The Beast” bests the “Genetic Freak.”

The panel for this tournament consists of the following members of the media:

Shawn Bitter (Cageside Report), Max Freedman (Cageside Report; The Body Lock; Breakdown Podcast), Bryan Henderson (Combat Press), Riley Kontek (Combat Press; MMAintel), Andres Magana, Kyle Symes (Combat Press), Rob Tatum (Combat Press)