<
>

Enter the Octagon: What current SEC players would thrive in UFC?

There are rules against many types of fighting in college football: holding, spearing, etc.

But at the end of the day, what does a typical battle in the trenches look like? It’s football players crashing into one another, dragging one another down and generally beating one another into submission.

So it’s no wonder the sport produces such good fighters.

Former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley didn’t have a lot of success in the win-loss department during his time in Knoxville, but he saw the similarities between football and fighting well enough to green-light an MMA cage as part of a $45 million football facility that was built in 2012. “So we can go in and fight and all that stuff,” Dooley explained to a local newspaper.

You have to wonder what that would have meant to Ovince Saint Preux. The former Tennessee linebacker is riding back-to-back knockout wins and is 18-6 in MMA and 6-1 in UFC. According to UFC.com, the 32-year-old is ranked sixth in the light heavyweight division and could see his standing rise with a win on Saturday against Glover Teixeira. (Former LSU fullback Shawn Jordan is a veteran UFC heavyweight, too.)

But that got us thinking: What current SEC players would make good UFC fighters once their football careers are over?

Here are eight we could see stepping into the Octagon:

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: So what if he doesn’t have an NBA-like reach? At 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Chubb has a center of gravity that’s nearly impossible to disrupt. Just ask all the SEC linebackers who tried unsuccessfully to tackle the 1,500-yard rusher last season.

Chubb came to Athens a readymade physical specimen. Just look at this photo:

And this one:

Only a true sophomore, there’s no telling how much bigger and stronger Chubb will be by the time he leaves Georgia.

Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M: Like Chubb, you would have thought Garrett spent every waking hour in the weight room prior to arriving at Texas A&M as a freshman last year.

#dlinegoons #wrts @myles_g15 #whosnext #aggiefblife

A photo posted by AggieFBLife (@aggiefblife) on

But did we mention that the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Texas native is also sort of athletic? In an offseason tweet (since deleted), Garrett said he ran a 4.46 40. In an Instagram post that was also later taken down, he showed off his 40-inch vertical with a video of an impressive dunk.

Keanu Neal, S, Florida: Neal packs a lot into his 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame, and he can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range. He’s the closest thing you’ll find to a linebacker in a DB’s body. But what makes the true sophomore a potential beast in the Octagon is his effort. According to one coach, he’s the most intense player he’s ever been around. A heavy hitter from his safety position, he explodes into ball-carriers. Just ask the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Alabama running back Derrick Henry, whom he leveled in a game last season.

Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss: He’s nearly 300 pounds and reportedly has 10 percent body fat. Think about that for a second. The man has six-pack abs, for goodness sake.

The former No. 1-ranked recruit is as athletic a big man as you’re likely to find in any sport. In fact, Nkemdiche's high school coach used to play him at running back, where he ran for 10 touchdowns as a senior. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze liked the idea so much he gave the then-freshman the ball five times where he gained 36 yards.

Nkemdiche hasn’t run the ball since then, but he has emerged as arguably the top defensive line prospect in the SEC, if not all of college football.

Braden Smith, OL, Auburn: Smith could bring some flair to UFC with his many colorful monikers: Drago, The Hulk, Terminator. At 6-foot-6 and 286 pounds, he’s what you call, “country strong.” When he was on a recruiting visit at Auburn, one player thought he was a prospect’s dad. Said coach Gus Malzahn: “He’s super strong, there’s no doubt about that.” According to Auburn’s strength coach, Smith was topping 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press as a freshman. Compare that to former Miami tackle Ereck Flowers who set the high bar at this year’s NFL combine with 37 reps.

Dalvin Tomlinson, DE, Alabama: Knee troubles have hampered Tomlinson early in his career at Alabama, but good luck finding anyone in the SEC who is a more well-rounded athlete at his size. In high school, he was obviously a standout on the football field. But the 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive end was also a two-time Georgia state wrestling champ and soccer player. When it comes to the use of feet and kicking in UFC, he already has that base covered.

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas: The shifty running back doesn’t look like much in a T-shirt and jeans. But his 223 pounds are packed onto that 6-foot frame. The Arkansas strength staff has transformed his body over the past few years. He can do a rear foot elevated squat of 455 pounds -- on one leg. With a closed grip on the bench press, he’s churned out 20 reps of 225 pounds. His broad jump is 10-feet, three inches, and his vertical is 37 inches. A pure athlete, he’d be awfully hard to handle in the cage.

Owen Williams, DL, Tennessee: A nose tackle in the purest sense, Williams is an absolute load at the point of attack. The redshirt senior is obviously big at 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds. But the work he’s done in the weight room would make him a terrific fighter. According to the Vols, he can squat 710 pounds, bench more than 500 pounds and hit 36 reps of 225 pounds. All that and he can get his nose tackle body 30 inches in the air.

Next four in the cage: