PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Oct. 6, 2012) – Now that his nerves have finally calmed, Dave Bautista can fully absorb his first victory in professional mixed martial arts.
The former six-time World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) heavyweight champion overcame a shaky start – and his own nervous energy – Saturday night to knock out veteran Vince Lucero 4 minutes and 55 seconds into the opening round of his professional debut in front of a worldwide Pay Per View audience at The Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence.
Bautista (1-0, 1 KO), the headliner of “Real Pain,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports in association with June Entertainment and 4zero1 Entertainment Group, absorbed a series of blows from Lucero and appeared dazed before scoring a critical takedown late in the round and ultimately finishing the fight on the ground with a series of unanswered strikes.
“My nerves got the best of me,” Bautista said. “He hits like a [expletive] horse.
“I didn’t have my legs under me at all coming out. I needed to regain my composure after getting rocked. For a split second, I was wondering if I’d be able to gather myself. I really didn’t gain my wits until we got on the ground.”
Lucero (22-23), who took the fight on less than a week’s notice when Bautista’s original opponent fell through, came out quick, landing left and rights at will until Bautista forced him to the canvas. Once Bautista had his opponent on his stomach, he unloaded with a series of unanswered strikes to the head before referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the bout.
“I thought I had him, but he fought back, and I respect that,” said Lucero, whose resume includes fights against former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia and former UFC heavyweight contenders Justin Eilers, Homer Moore and Christian Wellisch.
“When you’ve been in as many fights as I have, it’s about having fun. It’s too late for me to get nervous. With all of my experience, I thought it’d be enough to carry me. He’s a big, strong guy, and when he gets on top of you it’s hard to win.”
The 43-year-old Bautista made his mixed martial arts debut less than a month before the release of his latest motion picture, The Man With The Iron Fists, which hits theaters Nov. 2. He trained exclusively at his Gracie Jiu-Jitsu gym in Tampa, Fla., with – among others – former The Ultimate Fighter reality television star Josh Rafferty.
“My real accomplishment came in camp because I gained the respect of my team,” Bautista said. “I want to fight again for sure. I just had to get the first one out of the way.
“I’m better than I showed tonight.”
The undercard features 12 bout, including wins by Providence’s Mike Campbell (12-4), who defeated Gemiyale Adkins (7-4) by unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, and former UFC veterans Dave Loiseau (21-10, 14 KOs) of Quebec and Boston’s John “Doomsday” Howard (18-7, 7 KOs). Loiseau earned a knockout win over Chris McNally (5-5) when the ringside physician stopped the fight at the 2:30 mark of the first round due to a massive cut on McNally’s forehead. Howard also won by knockout, bloodying the left eye of Brett Chism (16-12) until the referee stopped the bout to unanswered strikes at the 3:31 mark of the second round.
Luis Felix (8-6) of Providence earned the second win of his career over a UFC veteran, this time defeating Marc Stevens (14-8) by unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, two years after dethroning Joey Proctor, while Boston’s Chandler Holderness (10-3, 5 KOs) stunned the crowd with a 27-second win over hometown favorite Todd Chattelle (10-8) courtesy of a series of unanswered elbows.
In a highly-anticipated bout between two top-ranked featherweights, Calvin Katter (13-2) earned a hard-fought, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, unanimous-decision win over Saul Almeida (12-3), while Tyler King (6-1) topped Josh Diekmann (12-5) by a 30-27, 29-27, 29-28 unanimous decision in a battle for regional heavyweight supremacy. Providence’s Greg Rebello (14-4) got back in the win column, forcing Chris Guillen (13-13) to submit to a rear-naked choke at the 2:26 mark of the opening round, while Andre Soukhamthath (3-1, 2 KOs) earned a knockout win over Rob Costa (2-2) when a cut on Costa’s forehead caused doctors to stop the bout at the 4:44 mark of the second round.
Also on the undercard, middleweight Brennan Ward (4-0, 3 KOs) of Providence destroyed Shedrick Goodridge (2-3), earning the win by knockout at the 2:36 mark of the first round, while Nate Andrews (2-0) of Cranston, R.I., fought back to beat Leon Davis (3-1) by submission with a standing guillotine 29 seconds into the second round. Kevin Horowitz (5-4) of Queens beat Tyson Chartier (3-3) by a 30-27 unanimous decision on all three scorecards.