Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris: Who would win?

Chuck Norris is the Total Gym-peddling karate master and a subject of a thousand memes (well, "Facts") who wields the combined power of beards and roundhouse kicks. Bruce Lee is, well, the first name most people think when the subject of greatest martial artists in history comes up. So, which of these two would win in a fight? 

It's not as simple as you'd think! While that introduction might make this face-off seem like a total curb stomp, Norris is actually a hyper accomplished martial artist and a multiple-time karate champion who can more than hold his own in a fight. In fact, the two have even met in a heated onscreen battle in The Way of The Dragon. If that magnificent fight is anything to go by, their real-life encounter would be long, and involve a whole lot of power posing and mutual respect. Ultimately, a regretful Lee would finish the defiant, yet defeated Norris and his magnificent mane of chest hair in one of the most respectful neck-breaking scenes in history. Would that play out in real life? Let's see!

Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris would be a battle of legends

Bruce Lee, as you might have heard, was a hard man. Apart from being extremely agile and fast, he sculpted his body to be so strong and explosive that he could unleash his tremendous power like a coiled spring, which enabled his famed one-inch punch and probably didn't hurt the lightning-fast kicks his movies were famous for. 

Chuck Norris, as anyone who has seen the famed fight scene between the pair knows, is slightly larger and more fond of spin kicks, yet considerably less toned and more furry. What he is above all those things, however, is a fighter. A ruthless, borderline invincible fighter who made his name in official martial arts competitions. Norris started out as a bit of a punching bag and lost his first ten bouts, but as Vintage News tells us, he got his act together circa 1968. After that, his fight record was an unbelievable 168 wins and two ties. While those ties almost certainly weren't because he fought himself to a tie twice, it's suddenly a lot more understandable why they're called Chuck Norris Facts and not, say, Steven Seagal Facts. 

At the height of his powers, Chuck Norris might very well have beat Bruce Lee

For many people, it's borderline offensive to even insinuate that Bruce Lee might lose a fight, let alone one against the guy he once so utterly dominated on the silver screen. Still, it all comes down to sheer fighting prowess. Unless we arbitrarily time the fight at some point before Chuck Norris' newfound invincibility (in which case, R.I.P. Norris), Lee is facing an opponent who is not only ridiculously skilled, but also a much more experienced fighter. 

Despite his massive talent, training, skills and hype, Lee himself was a largely untested fighter. As Fightland tells us, he did indulge in his share of unofficial bouts. He ended one of them in 11 seconds by kicking the opponent in the skull so hard that it fractured. However, his most famous real fight, a seven-minute Kung Fu barrage against Northern Shaolin expert Wong Jack Man, saw Lee get "heavily winded" and he was reportedly able to wrap things up mostly because Wong tripped. Granted, this happened in 1964, when Norris was still looking for his invincibility cloak, so Lee had ample time to step up his game — but still, we're betting that the sheer experience and momentum of Norris during his prime competitor years would have been enough to bring down Lee, if only for one match. 

Bruce Lee would probably win in most other eras

Would a pre-1968 Norris stand a chance against pre-1968 Lee? Doubtful. If Lee would have lived and developed his craft even further, would a retired-from-the-ring 1980s Delta Force Norris have been able to overcome him? Likely not, at least unless Norris brought a bazooka. Still, for those few glorious years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the men were arguably in their prime? That match might very well go to Norris, if only because according to Black Belt Mag, the man is classy enough not to claim dominance over his long-dead friend. Instead, he answers questions about real fights between the two with a bit of Lee-themed philosophy: "Showing off is the fool's idea of glory."