Former WWE star Lashley in no-win situation against no-hoper Sims
Former WWE star Bobby Lashley is 4-0 since making the transition to MMA
Lashley has yet to fight a credible opponent and remains an unknown entity
Against a no-hoper like Sims, Lashley can't afford not to dominate on Saturday
You can blame Brock Lesnar. He's the one who gave us these unrealistic expectations. He's the guy who went from the WWE to the UFC and became heavyweight champ in his fourth pro fight. He's the guy at least partially responsible for the flak Bobby Lashley is taking for approaching his MMA career with a more conservative attitude. The rest of the blame? That you can save for Lashley, who still isn't in any hurry to fight someone credible, and still doesn't seem to think it's a big deal.
Heading into this weekend's Strikeforce event, Lashley is 4-0 against opponents who are either completely unknown or known mostly for losing. Like Lesnar, he was a decorated amateur wrestler who found fame and fortune in the theatre of pro wrestling before trying his hand at unscripted combat. Unlike Lesnar, we still don't know for sure whether he has what it takes to compete with MMA's heavyweight elite, because he hasn't given himself the chance to find out.
That's a trend he'll continue Saturday night when he takes on Wes Sims at Strikeforce: Miami. On paper, it doesn't look so bad. At 6-10 and usually hovering right at the upper limit for heavyweights, Sims at least looks like an imposing figure on TV. He did a brief, winless tour in the UFC back in 2004, and appeared on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he failed to earn himself another go in the Octagon. He's got almost 40 fights under his belt, even if he's never beaten anyone worth mentioning.
But for the purposes of this bout, Sims is TBA. He's the fighter to be named later. In this case, later means just slightly more than a week out from fight night, and only after a couple of other potential opponents were either turned down by the athletic commission or written off after closer examination. Those of us hoping to finally find out what Lashley is made of are just going to have to keep waiting, it seems.
"I just want some of these critics to let me know who I'm supposed to be fighting," Lashley said in a recent interview with The Sporting News. "Right now I'm 4-0, so who am I supposed to be fighting? What level am I at?"
It's a fair question, but one he's not trying to find an answer to. True, most 4-0 fighters wouldn't catch heat for fighting the Jason Guidas and Bob Sapps of the MMA world. They also wouldn't be making the kind of money Lashley is, nor would they be featured on the main card of an event on Showtime. That's a result of his pro wrestling fame, not his fighting prowess.
For Strikeforce, it all makes sense. Putting Lashley on the televised card gives it a chance to draw the pro wrestling fans, and matching him up against Sims all but ensures that his perfect record will still be intact by Sunday morning. It's a smart move from a promotional standpoint. It's also very boring.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Lashley were another Kimbo Slice -- long on hype and short on talent -- but he's not. From what little we've seen of him, he appears to have the potential to make something of himself in MMA, at least if he decides to give it all his attention and leave pro wrestling in his past, as Lesnar did. But whether you're 4-0 or 24-0, fighting a guy like Sims on a week's notice is always going to send the same message. You want a win, and you want it fairly cheaply.
Matchmaking is a game of risk and reward. The more a fighter has at stake, the more he gains with a victory. Sims is a no-win opponent for Lashley. The betting odds peg him a 12-1 favorite, which means that even if he destroys Sims in a single flawless burst of offense, he'll only have met expectations rather than exceeded them. If he struggles to win, or even manages to lose (this is a fight, after all, and four-ounce gloves ensure that there are no guarantees inside the cage), his stock will plummet.
The funny part is, in MMA a loss is not necessarily a kiss of death. Again, just look at Lesnar. He lost his UFC debut via submission to Frank Mir, but because he was facing a former champion and not a handpicked, last-minute opponent, he didn't suffer too much for it.
While Lesnar could afford to lose that fight, Lashley can't afford not to dominate this one. That's because, for the fifth time in five fights, he's facing someone who was selected for his ability to make him look good. If Lashley really wants to know who he should be fighting at this point in his career, allow me to volunteer an answer. How about someone who actually stands a good chance of beating him? Then we might learn something about him. Who knows, maybe we'd even get a decent fight out of it, too.