Where do you go when you leave the WWE at the top of your game in your 40s? Well of course you enter the world of small-time MMA. Dave Bautista, formerly Batista made his MMA debut on Saturday night and while he was no Brock Lesnar, he can now officially join the ranks of MMA pros.
Bautista had signed to fight Rashid Evans several weeks ago. Less than two weeks before the fight Evans was sent to jail on a probation violation. Scrambling to find a new opponent, the promoters wound up signing Vince Lucero to fight Big Dave. The big difference between Lucero and Evans? Evans had three pro fights under his belt, making his matchup with the debuting Dave somewhat fair. Vince Lucero on the other hand had 40 pro fights under his big belly.
What I find interesting here is that the odds were against Big Dave coming into this fight. His nerves had gotten so bad that he started cancelling interviews last week. The interesting part about this is that we are a month out of the UFC 151 debacle. Here you had Jon Jones refusing to take a fight on eight days notice that he was highly favored to win. Big Dave on the other hand could have said no but instead took the fight with little notice against a guy he had every right to lose to.
The scene for the fight was something else. Here you had Big Dave who while still cut out of a bodybuilding magazine, looked much smaller than his WWE days against Vince Lucero who made Tank Abbot look fit. It looked like something out of a fictional tough man competition in a Hollywood movie. So while I am pumping up Vince Lucero’s record, let’s be clear here in stating that he wasn’t anywhere close to the shape that Bautista’s original opponent would have been in.
They opened up with Lucero swinging hard at Bautista who had his hands down. Bautista clinched and was pressed into the cage. While Big Dave’s defense was terrible it was impressive how well he took punches. I would expect most guys to drop getting hit that hard in their first fight. Even more impressive was the fact that he kept his composure. Once they broke he actually threw a leg kick. Big Dave looked to me like a fighter without much of a plan in there. I can’t stress how bad Bautista’s striking defense was here. He had his hands down practically the whole time. Bautista’s punches didn’t look that great quite frankly.
At around 2:27 of the first round Dave shot in for a takedown and got it. Wow! Not that Vince Lucero is anything special but that was impressive to takedown a guy who has had over 40 pro MMA fights. He got Lucero’s back at about 1:46 and dropped some right hands. He landed some lefts on the ground and was working for a rear naked choke. He dropped an onslaught of punches with about a minute to go, the referee stopped it, and Bautista went 1-0. An interesting post-fight was Lucero and Bautista yelling and having words with each other. Once cooler heads prevailed they shook hands and all was forgotten.
The most impressive thing about Bautista’s debut was his composure. He kept his composure throughout the fight which I have to think is almost impossible for someone getting hit for the first time in an MMA fight. I was surprised after the fight in the post-fight interview when Bautista said how nervous he was because again, he seemed pretty damned disciplined in some tough moments.
Big Dave told UFC fighter Joe Lauzon after the fight that he wants to fight again. He said it was good to get the first one out of the way. I should point out that Bautista was breathing really heavy during the interview. Dave definitely looked smaller than his WWE days but he could have been in trouble if it went to a second round. Not that Vince Lucero appeared to be the picture of cardio fitness either.
I don’t know what kind of career Big Dave has getting into MMA at his age. He is certainly a draw due to his WWE fame. There is also going to be a little bit of hype coming out of this with the storyline that Big Dave took a fight with a guy who had over 40 pro fights with a week or so notice and yet won. What could Dave had done if he prepared? I am not buying into it but it is certainly a selling point.
Batista vs. Brock Lesnar WrestleMania 29/30 anyone?