Once again former World Wrestling Entertainment star Bobby Lashley finds himself on the main card of a Strikeforce event. Having gone a perfect 5-0 since debuting in MMA in 2008, Lashley has been subjected to a lot of criticism due to his penchant for fighting newcomers, has-beens, and never-weres. Lashley’s slow build towards legitimate competition seems best served in low-scale regional promotions, but instead, his brick-by-brick ascent to actual credibility has been broadcast on major cards from MMA’s second-largest promotion. Heading into his Strikeforce: Houston match with former IFL fighter Chad Griggs, Lashley is once again seemingly being spoon-fed an opponent. Griggs recently commented on his fight with Lashley, and while I respect the man for taking on the challenge of bringing Bobby Lashley down to earth, I have to say that I don’t like his chances.
I’ll give him this: Chad Griggs may be the toughest test Lashley has faced so far. Griggs is 8-1, has seven (T)KO’s to his name, he’s never once been to a decision, and all but two of his wins have occurred before the end of the first round of action. He’s on a three-fight first-round TKO streak. I admit that I haven’t seen all that much of him, but his status as an unknown may work in his favor. If Bobby Lashley underestimates and/or overlooks Chad Griggs, which Griggs himself claims Lashley will do, it’s quite possible that Griggs could land a good, clean shot that knocks Lashley out.
So fans may be wondering why Strikeforce and Lashley’s management team, both of whom have grown increasingly notorious due to their insistent need to coddle Lashley, would agree to a fight with a heavy-handed striker with undeniable KO power. The reasoning is simple: it’s all smoke and mirrors. If Lashley beats Griggs, it will give his team somebody to point to as a legitimate opponent, a knockout artist that couldn’t stand up against the man known as “The Dominator”. It will certainly look like Lashley is finally ready to step it up and become a serious threat in Strikeforce. If you dig just an inch below the surface, however, that reasoning begins to fall apart. Chad Griggs is not world-tested, he’s not elite-caliber. He’s 8-1 with seven knockouts, but he’s not a battle-scarred veteran used to the spotlight. If nerves don’t get the better of Griggs, his undoing will be due to the simple fact that he hasn’t competed in a professional Mixed Martial Arts fight in over a year.
It’s been proven time and time again that ring rust is very real and very prevalent in MMA fighters that take prolonged absences from the sport. It’s become the exception, not the rule, for a fighter to win his first fight back after a prolonged period of inactivity. And despite all the crap I give him, Lashley is a tough opponent even on a fighter’s best day. His power is undeniable and he has very prestigious amateur wrestling credentials. Ring rust has affected some of the biggest names in this sport: Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira…the list goes on. Chad Griggs won’t be immune to it, and Lashley will have no problem taking him out. That’s why Lashley defeating Chad Griggs won’t raise his status one single iota in my book.
If Lashley really wants to prove himself as an MMA fighter, I think the time is right to throw him to the sharks and see if he survives or gets eaten alive. Give him Shane Del Rosario and see which one is really ready for Strikeforce’s Heavyweight elite. Put him against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and let’s see just how far Silva has come from his freakshow beginnings. Hell, give him Andrei Arlovski and let’s see if “The Pitbull” can prove once and for all that he still deserves a place among the elite-level Heavyweights. But give him somebody of actual worth. Anybody.
And what do you think, fans and friends? How successful do you think Bobby Lashley has been and will be in Strikeforce?