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Herschel Walker and 25 NFL Legends Who Could Have Been Great In MMA

Trae ThompsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 25, 2011

Herschel Walker and 25 NFL Legends Who Could Have Been Great In MMA

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Herschel Walker is headed back into the cage.

    The former NFL running back, now 48 years-old, will face Scott Carson on Saturday night in his second professional mixed martial arts bout; the fight will be carried on Showtime.

    Walker said he hopes to show fans how much he's improved from his first fight early last year when he beat Greg Nagy by technical knockout.

    In some ways this isn't completely foreign: Walker learned Tae Kwon Do in high school, and fought while playing at the University of Georgia.

    "I've watched the MMA for years, even back when it was kind of a like a tough man contest," Walker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Now, since they have rules and stuff, I fell in love with it."

    Walker's participation in MMA brings up a fascinating thought: Are there other NFL players who could succeed in the sport?

    Let's put aside the specialties that fighters train in, and just focus on the basics. It would require an athlete with tremendous agility, strength, power, stamina and a bit of a mean streak. On just that alone, I think there would be some great fits.

    Here are 25 NFL players who could have been great in MMA:

25. Mike Alstott, Tampa Bay

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    At his peak, the former Buccaneers running back was a solid 250 pounds and knew how to inflict and take punishment.

    From a toughness standpoint, thumbs up with Alstott. I think he could've done great fighting.

24. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta

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    He's got both the size and strength, but the Falcons tight end stands out for his athleticism and crazy agility he's displayed throughout his career.

23. Mike Singletary, Chicago

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    The former 49ers head coach and legendary Bears linebacker became known for how his eyes would light up and how intense he would get during his playing days.

    His physicality and aggressiveness would have made him pretty good, I think, as a fighter.

22. Bill Romanowski, Oakland

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    A former player I know told me about the time during his rookie year when he was going full speed on a play and how he ran into Romanowski at fullspeed.

    Romanowski didn't budge. 

    He played fast, hard and violent throughout his career, but I wonder if Romanowski could've stayed clean if he entered the cage.

21. Zach Thomas, Miami

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    The former linebacker entered college and the pros as one of the more undersized players at his position, but was relentless in his work ethic and conditioning.

    Thomas, in a way, reminds me a lot of a Matt Hughes or Forrest Griffin.

20. Shannon Sharpe, Denver

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    The former tight end had all the intagibles to be a great fighter, and his mouth would have helped him be a perfect fit too.

19. John Lynch, Tampa Bay

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    I remember the first time I saw Lynch thinking that he'd get slaughtered on the field.

    Then I saw him deliver one of the most violent hits I've ever witnessed on a receiver, and my opinion changed immediately.

    Lynch had the makeup, both physically and mentally, to be great at MMA.

18. Kevin Greene, Pittsburgh

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    The former linebacker was an absolute menace when he played, and seemed like he enjoyed the violent nature of football.

    Greene's attitude and talent made him a rockstar to many fans and no doubt would have translated the same in the cage/ring.

17. Bruce Smith, Buffalo

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    As massive as Brock Lesnar is, could you have imagined what it would be like to see Smith in the octagon?

    The former defensive end was 6'4'', 262 pounds and used to torch offensive tackles like nobody's business.

16. Charles Haley, Dallas

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    Whether you watched him in San Francisco or with the Cowboys, you'll remember Haley was one of the meanest and most vicious players in the NFL.

15. Christian Okoye, Kansas City

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    There's a reason he was nicknamed "the Nigerian Nightmare."

    At his peak, Okoye was one of the most physical, dominating runners in the NFL.

14. Bart Scott, New York Jets

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    Scott is aggressive, he loves a challenge, goes nonstop the whole game and definitely doesn't pass up the chance for a little trash talk. 

13. Jared Allen, Minnesota

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    I think Allen could take a punch, but dish it out just as well.

    He's shown plenty of elusiveness and agility throughout his career, too, and his nature would make him a great fit in MMA.

12. Jack Tatum, Oakland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The legendary Raiders defensive back—nicknamed "The Assassin"—played hard, hit hard and never apologized for it.

    "I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault,” he wrote in a 1980 book called "They Call Me Assassin."

11. Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay

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    Like many of the others on this list, Brooks had the perfect blend of size and speed and seemed to thrive off the physical nature of the NFL.

    When they got going, Brooks and Warren Sapp made Tampa's defense virtually unstoppable.

10. Julius Peppers, Chicago

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    On size alone, he would be a force.

    The 6'7'', 283-pound defensive end moves more like a linebacker and his physique isn't huge and bulky like a tackle's.

    He's also a tremendous athlete: Peppers also played basketball while attending North Carolina.

9. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh

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    Can you imagine seeing him, and his hair, in the Octagon?

8. Brian Urlacher, Chicago

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    I could see him being able to trade with another fighter and not even blinking an eye.

    Urlacher would be an incredible mixed martial artist, and I bet he could even pull off a triangle choke.

7. Ronnie Lott, San Francisco

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    Anyone who would willingly chose to have the top of their finger amputated, then go on to have a Pro Bowl season the following year could have a chance as a mixed martial artist in my book.

6. Jim Brown, Cleveland

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    He was an All-American in both football and lacrosse at Syracuse, and one of the most physical runners in NFL history.

5. Bo Jackson, Los Angeles

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    He was a freak in baseball with the Royals and football while playing running back for the Los Angeles Raiders.

    Why wouldn't it have been the same for him in the cage with some gloves on?

4. Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants

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    LT was a little off when he played for the Giants.

    The intimidation factor with him would have been unreal. 

3. Derek Thomas, Kansas City

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    The late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker could hurt teams crashing through the line or with his tremendous lateral movement.

    Even if you tried to go away from him, Thomas always seemed to be the first to the ball. 

2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh

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    James keeps getting fined for his illegal hits.

    I think he could relax and be more of himself in the octagon. It may even be a perfect fit.

1. Ray Lewis, Baltimore

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    He's remained at the top for 15 years, still has the passion and still is one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL.

    Just like in MMA, Lewis also has just the size to have been a great heavyweight boxer.

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