Punk And History: How Wrestlers Have Fared In MMA And What It Means For UFC 203

Tonight, CM Punk enters the octagon for the first time, leaving pro wrestling behind.

Punk walked out on WWE before Monday Night Raw on January 27, 2014 in Cleveland. Roughly 957 days later, he will return to Quicken Loans Arena, to fight Mickey Gall at UFC 203. The building where he ended his WWE career, will also be where he starts his UFC one. Now instead of being on posters alongside John Cena, he shares that marketing space with Stipe Miocic.

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A lot has been said about the matchup of Punk and Gall (2-0). Gall is a tough, young kid from Jersey. Punk is an aging former pro wrestler, who’s taken bumps for the better part of two decades. Experience and age aren’t exactly on the 37 year old WWE star’s side.

But let’s put all of that to the side. Punk isn’t reinventing the wheel.

He’s reinventing himself.

Other athletes have already made the leap from wrestling to MMA, and vice versa. The history of wrestlers entering the octagon and fighters gracing the squared circle is decades long. With that in mind, looking at the records and performances of cross over athletes may give a better perspective on the debuting Punk and what he’s up against. I looked at top guys in wrestling who have fought at a similar age to Punk, in an effort get comparable data.

By the numbers

Ken Shamrock, Age: 52
Height: 6’0’’ Weight: 210

Former WWF Intercontinental Champion and King of the Ring Winner Ken Shamrock was one of the first two inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame (Royce Gracie being the other). Shamrock holds a 28-17-2 MMA record while competing in different promotions. Between the ages of 30-38, he had a record of 20-6-2, with 19 fights happening in the first two years of that span (age 30 and 31). In relation to Punk, he was 1-0 at age 37, fighting Sam Adkins in his mid-30s at the time. At 38, Shamrock was 0-2, losing to both Don Frye (mid 30s) and Tito Ortiz (mid to late 20s). That last bit doesn't bode well for Punk, who turns 38 on October 26.

Bobby Lashley, Age 40
Height: 6’2’’ Weight: 270

Current TNA World Heavyweight champion Bobby Lashley has spent a good bit of time in the octagon and is currently signed to Bellator. He’s a force in the TNA ring, but just as much if not more of one in the octagon. Lashley is 14-2 in MMA and hasn’t been defeated since May 2012. While he is bigger than Punk, his record from age 36 to 38 is 6-0. Lashley defeated Tony Melton, who was in his early 30s, when he was 37. At 38, he went 3-0 and defeated the likes of Dan Charles (late 20s) and Josh Burns (mid to late 30s).

Brock Lesnar, Age: 39
Height: 6’3’’ Weight: 265

The Beast Incarnate is one of the top guys, if not the top guy in WWE. He was on his way to doing the same in UFC, but got popped for a failed USADA test. Regardless, Lesnar is 5-3 in fights after he turned 30. He won his last fight by decision over Mark Hunt at UFC 200. Of the wrestlers already mentioned, Lesnar might be a good middle ground, between Shamrock who struggled in his late 30s and Lashley who seems unstoppable regardless of age.

Josh Barnett, Age: 38
Height: 6’3’’ Weight: 255

Having spent time in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Josh Barnett is one of the less common athletes who started in MMA and then made a pro wrestling run. Barnett currently has a record of 35-8 in MMA. In his last two years of fighting (age 37-38), Barnett is 2-1 and has faced competitors in their mid to late 30s.

Out of range

Dos Caras Jr. (Alberto Del Rio), Age 39
Height: 6’5’’ Weight: 235

Caras Jr. is 9-5 overall in MMA. The former WWE World Heavyweight Champion is 6-1 when he fought in his early 30s (age 30-32). He has not fought since 2010, when he was TKO’d by Yamamoto Hanshi at Cage of Combat 4: Spanish Bombs in Madrid, Spain.

Shinsuke Nakamura, Age: 36
Height: 6’2'' Weight: 220

The King of Strong Style is 3-1, 1NC in his MMA career. Although he might be the most similar in size to Punk on this list, his time in the octagon came in his early 20s, and was not very applicable in regards to age.

One and done

Some sports entertainers only had one fight in them, or perhaps things changed. Here are a few:

Dave Bautista (Batista) 1-0

David Cash (Kid Kash) 0-1

Scott Bigelow (Bam Bam Bigelow) 0-1

Keiichi Yamada (Jushin Thunder Liger) 0-1

The Finish

It seems that individual wrestlers / fighters have their own patterns to victories and losses. But generally speaking, as a fighter gets older, the more likely they are to lose, with the exception of Bobby Lashley. Josh Barnett had faired well, but perhaps has the pedigree for MMA. Lesnar and Shamrock seem to be a more accurate representation of aging fighters, with both of their records in their mid to late 30s. 

There you have it. A speculative breakdown with statistical backing to predict Punk's debut at UFC 203. If you want to see who the Fightful staff picked for UFC 203, check out our picks here.

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