This article was originally featured on fiveknuckles.com
Heading into the ultra-stacked Strikeforce: Miami fight card, a majority of the media buzz seems to be centered on the MMA debut of NFL legend and former Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker.
Walker is one of the greatest athletes of all time, so it certainly comes to no surprise that a cross-over from the gridiron to the cage is catching people's attention and reeling in both casual and die-hard observers, as well as drawing the interest of those who have never even watched an MMA fight in their life before, to observe the event on Showtime.
However despite all of the hype and publicity, it's difficult to deem the 47-year old NFL Hall-of-Famer a legitimate prospect in the heavyweight division. Even if Walker completely decimates his opponent, Greg Nagy , in the first round, it still wouldn't be enough to convince die-hard fans that the former Heisman winner will be able to hold a competitive candle to the upper echelon in the Strikeforce heavyweight division.
While the mainstream media is focusing all of their attention on Walker, let's not forget that a true heavyweight prospect is also making his Strikeforce debut on the same night: 260-pound undefeated behemoth, Bobby Lashley is set to make his first appearance with a major MMA organization on the televised portion of the card.
And while his opponent is still to-be-determined, rest assured Lashley is ready to take on all comers.
Much like current UFC Heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar , Lashley is an accomplished collegiate wrestling powerhouse that made his name as a professional wrestler in the predetermined world of the WWE. Lashley still dabbles with professional wrestling from time to time as he is currently under contract with TNA wrestling but his main focus is on his MMA career and becoming a champion in the heavyweight division.
Though still green in a lot of areas, Lashley is an incredible athletic specimen that continues to improve at a rapid rate each time he competes. Lashley made his MMA debut in late 2008 finishing his opponent, Joshua Franklin in the first round via doctor stoppage and has since added three more victories under his belt with wins over Jason Guida , Mike Cook , and Bob Sapp .
His massive frame mixed in with his explosive wrestling ability and sheer power can be a recipe for disaster to anyone who stands across from him inside the Strikeforce cage. As it stands now, one can easily categorize Lashley as a prospect-or an up and comer in the division but the Colorado native is determined to smash through worthy contenders and establish himself as a heavyweight dominator among the second largest MMA organization in the world.
Surely critics will argue that the former WWE superstar is nowhere near being ready to compete against the likes of Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem , and they would be correct in their assumptions.
However, those very same critics are the ones who doubted Lesnar when Lesnar first entered the UFC's octagon and they were quickly proven wrong after Lesnar captured the title from Randy Couture at UFC 91 and then unified the gold with a destructive victory over Frank Mir at UFC 100 , avenging his only career loss.
Lashley has potential to become even more dangerous than the current UFC champion because rather than jumping into the deep-end right off the bat like Lesnar did, Lashley took things slow and gained experience in smaller shows first before signing with a major promotion.
Now that he has inked a deal with Strikeforce, he will be able to test his merits against some of the top heavyweights in the sport, such as the aforementioned Emelianenko and Fabricio Werdum .
Walker's future in the sport is simply not as bright as Lashley's. Lashley has championship potential written all over him and at the rate he's progressing, it won't be long before he gets there. If Strikeforce can build him up properly, Lashley can become one of the most renowned fighters in the sport and would help elevate the California-based organization to exciting new heights.
A dominant victory over his first opponent should lead to a bout against a more recognizable name in his next trip to the cage. Perhaps if both Lashley and Walker are victorious in Miami, Strikeforce officials should look to match the two up against each other. It would seem like an intelligent business strategy considering that both are popular figures and are looking to prove themselves in the organization.
Then, after Lashley completely obliterates Walker, which is almost guaranteed to happen, pair the former NCAA College wrestling stud up against tougher competition and see how he performs against them.
After all, you don't want to rush a guy like Lashley into high profile matchups right off the bat, but at the same time you don't want to follow the same mistakes of the now defunct Elite XC organization and feed Lashley nothing but lower tier competition or "cans."
If Lashley continued his winning ways and left a trail of destruction behind him in the process, then a meeting with number one ranked heavyweight, Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko, would be inevitable.
Such a clash would generate a ton of revenue for Strikeforce, especially if the fight aired on CBS. It probably won't be as anticipated as a bout between Lesnar and Emelianenko but it would still be a huge fight and one that would have people talking about for weeks leading up to it.
So, the mainstream media can focus on Walker all they want, but Lashley is the heavyweight you should really be looking out for. Not to say that Walker doesn't deserve the attention because even at 47, he's still an amazing athlete and he may very well surprise MMA fans everywhere with his skills, but let's be realistic?he's no Randy Couture .
MMA is a completely different beast than any other sport in the world and the odds are definitely against the NFL legend.
To new MMA fans, Walker will get your attention, but Lashley will keep it.