Brock Lesnar (Rob Tatum/Combat Press)

What If Pro Wrestlers Were MMA Fighters? Fantasy 64-Man Tournament – Semifinals and Finals

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, the third round and the quarterfinals. Now, let’s continue with the semifinal and final rounds 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.]


Semifinal: Brock Lesnar vs. Dan “The Beast” Severn

How they got here:

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

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

What the writers are saying:

Max Freedman: “Lesnar should be able to land the big right hand on the feet and put ‘The Beast’ away in this one.”

Bryan Henderson: “Lesnar’s luck in match-ups does continue in this round after all. Severn’s a tough SOB, but Lesnar’s size and explosiveness is still going to overwhelm his opponent. Lesnar can end up on top and then destroy Severn with ground-and-pound strikes. Severn has submissions, but I doubt Severn, even in his prime, would have snagged a leg lock, heel hook or armbar, which are probably the types of submissions to which Lesnar is most vulnerable.”

Riley Kontek: “Severn was an animal in the early days of MMA, but he was very one-dimensional. He was a very good wrestler, but he lacks the explosiveness, athleticism and overall power of Lesnar. Lesnar at his best was better than Severn at his best. It’s simply two different eras of fighting. Lesnar demolishes Severn.”

Andres Magana: “While Severn may be a large man in his own right, Lesnar isn’t called ‘The Beast’ for no reason. Lesnar may struggle for the takedown initially due to Severn’s overall experience, but he gets the job done with vicious ground-and-pound.”

Kyle Symes: “Lesnar via TKO ground strikes. Big Dan might make him work for it, but I have a hard time believing Severn can keep Lesnar from getting top control. From there, it’s over from him after eating some of Lesnar’s giant fists.”

Rob Tatum: “The athleticism of Lesnar has gotten him this far, but let’s not forget about how poorly the powerful wrestler has performed in the striking department through the years. He’s going up against one of the most experienced and well-rounded members of this tournament, and this is where his road comes to an end. The real ‘Beast’ proves too wily for Lesnar and earns a trip to the finals.

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

Severn is a great wrestler and an experienced fighter, but he’s not even close to the athlete and genetic freak that Lesnar is. Lesnar is a better striker, his athleticism is on another level, and his killer instinct is far more frightening. His usual bullrush-to-smash strategy gets him the victory.

Semifinal: Kurt Angle vs. Josh Barnett

How they got here:

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

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

What the writers are saying:

Freedman: “Other than the loss to Daniel Cormier, Barnett has handled wrestlers fairly well in his career. Gimme ‘Warmaster’ to snatch a kimura and force the Olympian to tap.”

Henderson: “Wow, this is a tough one. Barnett is a catch-wrestling ace, but Angle is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler. Angle is more athletically gifted, but Barnett has a submission game and striking skills that Angle could struggle to match. Barnett, in a very, very close fight.”

Kontek: “I am going with the upset here — and the upset is Angle over Barnett. Barnett is a very good MMA fighter, but Angle would employ the same game plan that Cormier used against Barnett in terms of his wrestling attack. Disregard the shoot kimura Daniel Puder put on Angle in the WWE; he wasn’t expecting it, as it was supposed to be an amateur wrestling shoot, not a submission match.”

Magana: “While I initially thought Angle, I came to the conclusion that Barnett wins. While Angle has the wrestling experience, Barnett has the submission game to give him headaches. Much as we saw Puder put Angle in trouble, imagine what Barnett would do to him with the same positioning.”

Symes: “Part of me wants to say Barnett wins because he’d be able to catch Angle, a straight-up wrestler, with a submission. The other part of me thinks that Angle’s athleticism and cardio make him the smart pick. If these two actually fought, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Barnett win with a submission or Angle win via takedowns/ground-and-pound. In a match of strong grapplers, I’ll take the superior athlete in Angle.”

Tatum: “If this were purely a wrestling match, there would be no doubt that the pick would be Angle. However, much like in the other semifinal, there’s a one-dimensional athlete against a crafty, skilled and experienced veteran. Barnett has the advantage in the submission game, and even an edge on the feet. Look for the ‘Warmaster’ to take out Angle and earn a spot in the finals.”

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

The Olympic gold medalist’s run ends in the semifinals. His wrestling may be on another level, but it’s assumed that Barnett’s all-around prowess, experience and submission skills would be too much for Angle. He should hold his head high, though, because he won a gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck.

Final: Brock Lesnar vs. Josh Barnett

What the writers are saying:

Freedman: “I just can’t see Barnett being able to stay off his back and survive the ground-and-pound in this one. Gimme Lesnar with a late TKO.”

Henderson: “This fight could have actually happened, given that both men were active in the sport at the same time between 2007 and 2011. Unfortunately, it never did. How would it have gone? Well, Lesnar’s kryptonite is either in getting wild and falling victim to a submission or in ending up bombarded by ground-and-pound while on his back. The latter was only accomplished the very athletically gifted Cain Velasquez, and the former by Frank Mir early in Lesnar’s MMA venture. Alistair Overeem, an elite kickboxer, also overwhelmed Lesnar, but Barnett does not resemble Overeem in the cage in any way. The catch wrestler can, however, find subs or score with ground-and-pound. The real question, though, is whether he could handle someone of Lesnar’s size, strength and athletic talents. I doubt he could. Barnett’s route to victory would come in capitalizing off any mistakes Lesnar makes. That’s a lot to hope for in this one. The more likely end would come as it often does for Lesnar: with a bullrush of an attack.”

Kontek: “Watch Lesnar-Mir II. That is the map for this fight. Lesnar in his prime (pre-diverticulitis) was a monster that would mash through Barnett. Lesnar is the baddest mofo in wrestling history.”

Magana: “Two gargantuan men going at it can only mean one thing: all eyes will be glued to what’s happening on the battlefield. While Barnett has the superior submission skills and better striking, including his respectable clinch work, Lesnar’s overall edge in athleticism should net him the win. He should be wary of Barnett on the ground, but his overall grappling should allow him to fend off any submission threats and pound out his opponent for the victory.”

Symes: “Lesnar via TKO. See Lesnar vs. Mir I (before Mazzagatti done Mazzagatti’d) and Lesnar vs. Mir II.”

Tatum: “Barnett. He’s too crafty in the submission department. Lesnar has been leg leg-locked before, and it’ll happen again. All hail the ‘Warmaster’!”

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

”Ladies and gentleman, referee Steve Mazzagatti has called a stop to this contest in the second round, declaring your winner, by TKO… Brock Lesnar!” Unpopular as he may be, Lesnar is your baddest man in pro-wrestling history, as reported by the staff on this project. His animal-like aggression, freakish athleticism, dominating wrestling, ungodly power and overall prowess powered him past all, including Barnett. Barnett would give him a challenge, but in the end, “The Beast Incarnate” is too much for every man.

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)