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Dave Bautista will face Vince Lucero in MMA debut

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Former pro wrestling headliner Dave Bautista went from being slated to fight a series of men, who like him, had no pro fights. Instead, he ended up at the last minute with a 13-year-veteran with 45 bouts.

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Former World Wrestling Entertainment headliner Dave Bautista has a new official opponent just five days before his scheduled MMA debut on pay-per-view.

The 43-year-old former bodybuilder and WrestleMania headliner will face a legitimate experienced fighter, Vince Lucero (22-22-1) at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. Given the name "Real Pain," the show will air nationally in the U.S. on DirecTV pay-per-view, and stream for $29.95 worldwide at
The search for an opponent of Bautista, better known as "The Animal" Batista by pro wrestling fans over the past decade, took a number of twists and turns in the past few days.

Rashid Evans, not to be confused to Rashad Evans, a 230-pound heavyweight with a number of amateur fights, but no professional bouts, had been scheduled and announced for weeks, even though he wasn't training and was in jail at one point when being promoted. However, Evans was able to get a release to get in some training for the fight, until a probation violation after being pulled over by police and not having a valid license, landed him back in jail.

Bruno McKee, a New Jersey based fighter who had fought at both heavyweight and super heavyweight, with three amateur bouts and no professional experience, was slated as the replacement. But late last week, McKee pulled out of the fight, citing a lack of time to prepare.

Promoters were scrambling. Sources said that a number of inexperienced heavyweights in the Massachusetts area were asked as late as the weekend about taking the fight, but all turned it down, due to a lack of training time.
Promoters on Monday night announced Lucero, 40, as Bautista's new opponent. The bulky fighter who cuts to make the 265-pound top limit of the heavyweight division, has fought twice this year on Rage in the Cage show. His most recent fight was a win on April 13 over Mike Martinez via split decision.

Lucero, in 2007 was a member of the International Fight League's San Jose Razorclaws. He trained under Frank Shamrock, but was stopped in 1:55 by Ken Shamrock's heavyweight Roy Nelson, during the battle of the brothers show in Oakland. He was then cut by the team.

Lucero has been fighting for 13 years. The closest thing to a notable win would have been a 2004 win over future Ultimate Fighter participant Josh Haynes.

Besides Nelson, he has lost to a number of name fightes including Christian Wellisch, Travis Fulton, Justin Eilers, Soa Palelei, Ruben "Warpath" Villareal, Eric Pele, Brad Imes Devin Cole, Lavar Johnson, Tim Sylvia and Tim Hague.

Bautista was one of the biggest stars in the pro wrestling world from 2003 to 2010, due to his impressive look at 6-foot-3 and weighing between 280 and 310 pounds of muscle. He's cut down on the size significantly and has for years wanted to do MMA, with an attitude very similar to Herschel Walker. He has no illusions of championships, but has trained seriously with Cesar Gracie's team and, of late, has admitted taken his lumps in training from Stephan Bonnar.

He left pro wrestling in 2010, saying he wasn't having fun and didn't like the direction the business was going. Bautista as a pro wrestler was a significantly bigger drawing card than Brock Lesnar or Ken Shamrock. He has since done a number of action and martial arts movies, including working with UFC fighter Cung Le. He talked about doing MMA as soon as he was free from his WWE contract. Negotiations for a fight in Strikeforce, and on Showtime, fell through when Zuffa purchased the organization and had no interest in using him.