When Brock Lesnar made his MMA debut, the entire sport was abuzz. Lesnar annihilated Olympic judo silver medalist Kim Min-Soo, and though he fell short against Frank Mir in his first UFC bout, his speed, strength and wrestling pedigree had pundits predicting a title run for the raw wrestler.
Suffice to say, no one is talking about Lesnar's pro wrestling pal Dave "Batista" Bautista's potential after his first MMA bout against journeyman Vince Lucero at CES MMA "Real Pain" at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. While Lesnar started his UFC career with a former champion, Batista took on an opponent who looked like his only championship glory came in a hot dog eating contest.
The overweight Lucero ran wild on Batista, Hulkamania style, styling and profiling like an obese Ric Flair. He cracked Bautista with a hard punch and clowned for the crowd as he pushed the former WWE champion up against the cage in the clinch.
Eventually, Bautista managed to get the bout to the mat. He controlled the action but never really established a rear mount—it appeared he couldn't successfully wrap his legs all the way around Lucero's ample midsection.
Bautista started to work his punches, and with Lucero complaining of punches to the back of the head, thankfully, finally, the referee called a TKO stop to the bout, proclaiming the WWE star the winner of a fight that can be charitably described as awful. It could have only gone worse if Dave had somehow managed to lose. He had the courage to fight and pulled out a win. For that, my hat is off to him.
Batista, however, wasn't quite done. He kept after Lucero, talking trash and taunting his fallen foe. No one is quite sure what happened between the two men.
Guest interviewer Joe Lauzon did little to shed light on the situation. When he got an opportunity to talk with Bautista after the fight, he asked him generic questions about his nerves and whether he would fight again. The mystery post-fight scuffling, alas, remains a mystery, a terrible end to a rough night of fights.
For the 43-year-old Bautista, it was much ado about nothing. He has teased an MMA appearance for years, training with Cesar Gracie and Stephan Bonnar among others, attempting to convince the sports world that his swollen muscles would translate from the world of pro wrestling into a successful career of face punching.
When negotiations with Strikeforce fell through after the promotion was purchased by Zuffa (the UFC parent company), it was a dream that seemed dead. After watching his debut, we would have been better off if that had indeed been the case.
Bautista didn't come out to his trademark WWE theme music. He didn't wear the snazzy white suit that defined his days as part of the Evolution gang alongside legends like Triple H and Flair. He didn't use a single powerbomb or even give his opponent two thumbs down.
All that reminded us that this was "Batista" was his ridiculous musculature. That, and that alone, isn't going to be enough. His post-fight interview was a bore. His actual fight was abysmal. Though he pledged to fight again, I wonder how many will make the journey with him a second time?
This was Dave Bautista's chance to reinvent himself. Here's hoping he still has Vince McMahon's number somewhere, because UFC president Dana White isn't likely to be calling anytime soon.