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  • Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Graduating seniors who could excel in MMA

    Could Derek White become the third UFC heavyweight champion from Oklahoma State? (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The pace of former collegiate wrestlers transitioning into MMA fighters seems to have slowed, but the pipeline certainly still exists. Following the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, InterMat likes to take a look at the graduating seniors who could potentially become the next big stars in the cage. At least one All-American from every NCAA Division I tournament from 1979 to 2016 has gone on to have an MMA fight. The following are seven graduating seniors who could be next.

    Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State)

    Last year when Bresser became the first wrestler to defeat Spencer Lee (Iowa) in college, many thought that he would be the answer to a trivia question. After back-to-back All-America finishes, he has already become more than that, and he has the potential to build on his wrestling career. His athleticism is off the chart, and he has a flair for the dramatic. The tendency to put up style points is best exemplified by his flying squirrel to finish a technical fall. If he does decide to transition into MMA, he could reach out to fellow Beaver alumni Nathan Coy or Colby Covington.


    Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)

    During his collegiate career, Lizak always seemed to take some curious losses, but he turned it on at tournament time. He finished his career as a four-time NCAA qualifier and a three-time All-American. His ability to ride from the back earned him the nickname "Backpack," and it could also greatly assist a transition into MMA. Recent Minnesota graduate Logan Storley is currently competing in the sport as well as a host of other former Gophers have also been MMA fighters including Cody Yohn, Sonny Yohn, Cole Konrad, Jacob Volkmann and Brock Lesnar.

    Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers)

    Ashnault's went undefeated for his senior year and became only the second NCAA champion in the history of Rutgers wrestling. He seems to have put his injury history behind him, and he could naturally transition into MMA. Ashnault made news in the MMA world back in 2016 when he helped prepare Frankie Edgar for his featherweight title challenge against Jose Aldo at UFC 200. If he does decide to start an MMA career, he will certainly know who to call. On top of that, it is hard to see his Twitter persona not translating well to the brash MMA world.

    Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven)

    If you click around the internet enough, you can see that MMA fans have been posting on message boards about Marsteller since 2009. Ten years later, he has now exhausted his collegiate wrestling eligibility and went out with a third-place finish at the NCAAs. It has not been an easy road, but it appears as Marsteller has turned things around. He could easily end up competing on the freestyle circuit, but he could also end up stepping into the MMA cage. He style of moving forward and going for explosive techniques such as slams and throws could really transition well into fighting.

    Daniel Lewis (Missouri)

    Considering their history, this article will almost certainly feature a Missouri Tiger for the foreseeable future. Multiple former Missouri wrestlers have gone on to great success in MMA including Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley and Michael Chandler. Lewis could easily be the next one in line. His ability to ride and control from the top position could easily translate into the new sport. Obviously, there would be a learning curve in multiple areas, but he would be headed in MMA with more than a solid base.

    Bo Nickal (Penn State)

    Nickal finished his career as one of the most accomplished wrestlers of his class. However, the most decorated wrestlers do not always make the best fighters. It would be wrong to call any wrestler a sure thing in MMA, but it might be smart to make an exception in this case. Nickal is not only accomplished, but his style seems to match up well with the new sport. He often scores takedowns in the clinch and from throws. On top of that, he is improvisational, which increases the likelihood that he will be able to adapt to new techniques. If he is looking for advice, he can always reach out to former Penn State wrestlers Ed Ruth and Phil Davis, who are both currently signed to Bellator.


    Derek White (Oklahoma State)

    Considering the state of the heavyweight division in MMA, pretty much any decent college heavyweight could go into the sport and have success. This past season, White proved that he is much more than decent with a second-place finish at the NCAA tournament. As someone who has built a heavyweight body, he certainly has the athleticism and agility to become a successful fighter and possibly the third UFC heavyweight champion to come from Oklahoma State behind Randy Couture and current champion Daniel Cormier.

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