Former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Bobby Lashley experienced some growing pains in his second appearance as a professional mixed martial artist.
The muscular 32-year-old smothered journeyman Jason Guida in the clinch and on the ground, landed nearly all of the significant strikes and settled for a valuable but unspectacular unanimous decision victory at Square Ring Promotions' March Badness on Saturday at the Pensacola Civic Center in Pensacola, Fla.
Lashley (2-0) dominated much of the bout, though his overzealousness nearly resulted in his succumbing to a third-round guillotine choke. Guida, 32, trapped Lashley in the middle of a double-leg takedown and tightened his grip around Lashley's neck.
Lashley seemed in trouble for a time but popped his head free roughly a half minute later.
"A hold like that is so tight that you've got to make a decision whether or not you want to be a champion or just another MMA fighter," Lashley said. "I had to dig deep."
Guida (17-20, 2 no contest) accepted the fight on short notice after UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, Lashley's original opponent, was suspended for suspected steroid use in California. He stayed competitive but absorbed a number of heavy punches and a powerful second-round slam. Ultimately, the judges sided with Lashley by matching 30-27 scores.
Faced with an enormous strength disadvantage, Guida taunted and baited Lashley during the brief buildup for their match, mocking his professional wrestling background. His tactics worked, and Lashley vouched for their effectiveness afterward.
"I came in here in the wrong frame of mind," Lashley said. "This is a sport, and we're gentlemen. We're going to go back, and we're going to train."
In the co-main event, Jeff Monson won a controversial decision from former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson. Scores were 29-28 on all three cards.
Nelson (13-4) mounted Monson in the first round and took him down twice with trips in the second, but he failed to capitalize when he had the tattooed veteran on his back. Monson escaped from underneath the 260-pound fighter numerous times and carried his weight for much of the match. He peppered Nelson's soft midsection with knees from the clinch in the second round, which may have turned the tide in the judges' eyes.
"I wanted to go to the ground," Monson said. "I couldn't move him. We just fought a tough fight."
A decorated grappler with roots at American Top Team, Monson wobbled Nelson with a left hook in the first minute of the final round but did not follow it with anything of consequence. The two heavyweights spent the closing moments in the clinch, then traded blows during the final 10 seconds.
Monson (27-8), once a challenger for the UFC heavyweight championship, has quietly pieced together a four-fight winning streak since his decision loss to Josh Barnett at Sengoku "Second Battle" in May.
"This is a big win," Monson said. "Roy's a tough guy. It could have gone either way."
Brian Knapp covers MMA for Sherdog.com.