Dave Bautista’s MMA debut at CES MMA’s “Real Pain” last Saturday didn’t turn out pretty, but he did the job he said he would do, despite a switch in opponents. Original opponent Rashid Evans got arrested five days before, making way for 300-pound Vince Lucero to fight Bautista. Though questions arose about how Bautista would handle himself in his first MMA bout, he did score a win over Lucero with 55 seconds left to go in the first round.

The training appeared to pay off for the 43-year-old former WWE star, as he took Lucero down, controlled him on the ground and eventually got Lucero’s back before finishing the fight. However, the questions he left unanswered on the feet still linger.  While he did prove to be able to take a punch, he found himself overpowered somewhat against the cage and unable to work any sort of striking game on the feet.

That said, a win’s a win. Besides that, we all should remember that the first fight is always the toughest, regardless of whether it’s the first pro bout or the debut fight in a new MMA league. If Bautista sticks with his MMA career, the big picture shows some positive for him moving forward as he improves his craft.

That said, he does need to make some offensive and defensive adjustments before he can think about continuing forward in the sport. I’ll cut him some slack because first-time jitters get everyone, which could explain why he backpedaled more than he probably should have against the heavier Lucero. However, in forward progression, Bautista will benefit from refining his striking game and improving his defenses.

Of course, it should go without saying that as Bautista advances in his career—if he does choose to stick with it—his ground game must advance with it. He will find himself having trouble finishing fights on the ground if he solely relies on ground-and-pound and trying to out-wrestle fighters. He will need to eventually show that he possesses the capabilities needed to submit opponents on the ground, or at least that he can defend submission attempts from the ground.

However, the intricacies of the fight game will come with time in the sport. The key focus of the big picture, assuming Bautista is not “one and done,” should concentrate in some regard to fulfilling his end potential. After all, he already fought once, won, and said he’d do it again, so why not keep it going until you can no longer keep with it?

For a friendly suggestion, perhaps Bautista could consider Showdown Fights. Why? Well, Bellator appears to still seem a bit out of his league, a fight in the Super Fight League or ONE FC could cause his career to get sent off before he ever gets the chance to launch it, World Series of Fighting is only now getting started, and the AXS TV organizations (XFC, MFC, Legacy FC, etc.) present similar issues to what SFL and ONE FC could present.

Showdown Fights flies under the radar as an MMA promotion, but it does deliver its share of exciting fights and it does feature a handful of rising prospects in the sport. Not only that, but its lineup of heavyweights provides as much promise as any prospect you’ll find in the sport, even though few know about them. Every fighter must start somewhere small before they hit the big time, so why not have Bautista consider a trip to Showdown Fights or somewhere else in order to turn heads and help the world see that he’s in this for the long haul?

After all, he’s already shown the drive to improve and get better with each fight—many guys quit after losing their pro debuts because they lacked that drive. Now, he simply needs to create a high demand for his fights before he can call himself the best and get the full satisfaction of the dream he currently chases. Easier said than done, but it can happen. Bautista knows how to go from a “nobody” in the regional circuits to a major superstar in combat sports because he’s seen other fighters do it before.

Now, it’s his turn to shock the world. Whether he does or not entirely lies on him. Again, though, it comes easier said that done, but if Bautista keeps his nose to the grindstone, he can do it and he can make it seem quite effortless in the process.

Photo: Dave Bautista (far left) training with the Cesar Gracie camp (Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.