10 College Wrestlers That Could Dominate MMA

Dustin Myers

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It’s no secret that wrestlers dominate MMA at every level, from the regional amateur scene to the UFC and every promotion in between.  The skill set, toughness and work ethic of an elite wrestler translates perfectly into MMA and serves as the best base for an up and coming fighter.  While there are plenty of examples of MMA champions who were also household names in wrestling - Daniel Cormier, Lance Palmer, Henry Cejudo, etc., there are even more examples of college wrestlers who were “average” in the NCAA, only to excel inside the cage.  Don’t believe me?  Look up the college wrestling resumes of Franky Edgar, John Jones, or Stipe and you will see that being a multiple time NCAA champion is not necessarily a prerequisite to MMA success.

Now that’s not to say that just any wrestler could be a UFC champion, as there are some who’s skill set and demeanor would transition better to the cage than others.  Here are 10 current college wrestlers that I think could make a good living beating people up on PPV:

Nick Suriano (Rutgers, 133)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Super jacked? Check.  NCAA champion? Check. Mean and tough Jersey to the maximum? check.

Dom Demas (Oklahoma, 141)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Dom has a super explosive style and is very dangerous in any upper body situation due to his elite Greco background.  Add in that he grew up training BJJ and a little Muy Thai (and his brother Josh, former OSU wrestler, is now a fighter) and you can see why he’s on this list.

Tariq Wilson (NC State, 141)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Tall, lanky and explosive, Tariq would be a force at either 135 or 145 in the cage.  I’m not sure whether he has any striking background but his frame is perfect for kickboxing, plus I’m bet that growing up on the mean streets of Steubenville (my home town) he had to throw some hands a time or two.

Sammy Sasso (Ohio State, 149)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Wait a second? What’s a redshirt freshman doing on this list? Watch Sasso wrestle this year and you will see.  Mean with a killer instinct that can hurt you when he is most in danger and a great gas tank.  This guy would be an assassin in the cage.  Need a comparison?  Imagine if Nate Diaz was actually an Italian kid from PA that could wrestle.

Ryan Deakin (Northwestern, 157)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Strong with a big frame, Deakin would be an absolutely massive 155lber should he choose MMA.

Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech, 165)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Last years 165lb NCAA champion was just a freshman but is the type of explosive athlete that could excel at any sport.  He has that rare combo of super fast twitch but also great endurance coupled with talent and a mean streak.  Teach this kid some kick boxing and get him on the next UFC Fight Night asap.

Alex Marinelli (Iowa, 165)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Iowa style wresting basically involves banging on your opponents head the entire match and Marinelli looks like a boxer to me.  He would be a little short for 170 but he is incredible strong with a great gas tank and some heavy hands.

Zahid Valencia (Arizona State, 184)

Why he would dominate MMA:

See my description of Lewis, but with even greater wrestling talent.  Out of all the incredible wrestlers on this list, Valencia would possibly find his way to MMA stardom the quickest.

Kollin Moore (Ohio State, 197)

Why he would dominate MMA:

The returning 3x All American has everything you would look for in an elite upper weight wrestler turned fighter.  High offensive output, great motor, strong and physically tough.  Did I mention mean?  From OSU assistant coach J Jaggers: “I always choose Kollin first when we play any pick up game - basketball, spike ball, etc.  Not because he’s our best athlete but because I don’t want to deal with him trying to fight me the whole game”.  Teach Kollin to box and you got the next big thing at 205.

Gable Stevenson (Minnesota, Heavyweight)

Why he would dominate MMA:

Last years NCAA runner up has elite athleticism and size for a heavy weight, coupled with a fighters mentality and a very “rough you up” type of style on the mat.  If he decides to choose MMA I think Gable’s skillet and ceiling would be much higher than a certain other Minnesota heavyweight that was once UFC (and WWE) champion.