It’s finally going to happen.
After signing with the promotion at the tail end of 2014, former WWE superstar CM Punk makes his MMA debut against rising prospect Mickey Gall at UFC 203 this upcoming weekend (Sat., Sept. 10, 2016).
After two separate injuries derailed his debut, the wrestling alumnus will make his presence felt on a stacked main card that includes a heavyweight championship battle between champion Stipe Miocic and Dutch veteran Alistair Overeem, as well as Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne and Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera.
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, will step inside the Octagon in front of a raucous crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH, aiming to prove his detractors wrong. Brooks, who left WWE abruptly in early 2014, has never taken an MMA fight prior to this one. While his coaches and teammates at Roufusport in Milwaukee are quick to speak of his talents, it seems as if the entire world (including plenty of UFC fighters) are counting him out.
His foe isn’t all that experienced either, but Gall does have one UFC bout under his belt, which wasn’t much of a contest after he demolished Mike Jackson in the latter’s professional MMA debut in less than a minute. Both Punk and Gall are equally confident of their abilities, yet we’ve got more questions for Punk than we do for the 24-year-old New Jersey native. Gall’s fame rose to prominence after appearing on Dana White’s web show Lookin’ For A Fight, where the UFC President travelled across the country in hopes of finding stars on the regional scene. After finishing his opponent in less than three minutes, Gall called out the man he will be standing across on Saturday night, earning an opportunity to welcome Punk to the world of MMA.
Can we expect pure massacre, or are we going to be surprised?
4 Striking Abilities
When footage of Punk sparring surfaced on television and the internet, everyone nearly blew a gasket trying to take him seriously. While Punk has recently admitted that we shouldn’t judge him based on those videos, it still raises a serious question – is he ready for an MMA striker, and one whose been doing this for a living?
While Duke Roufus boasts an incredible roster of competitors, including former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, wrestling standout Ben Askren and current UFC welterweight titleholder Tyron Woodley, it would be a far stretch to say Punk is anywhere near the level of a UFC-caliber fighter (or any MMA fighter, for that matter).
With that said, Punk isn’t completely new to MMA; he’s trained for years, but it’s hard to say how competitive he’ll be this weekend. His opponent, on the other hand, has been training and competing for six years, so it’s clear that Gall has the edge.
Punk wasn’t even training full-time when the company announced his signing, and to top it all off, he was in the midst of choosing a gym to train at. It’s not like he was pummeling through days of rigorous training, and that may prove to be costly when he enters unknown territory.
2 WWE/UFC Crossover
While the sport of MMA and professional wrestling will always be linked (hence how they borrow from each other, not to mention the business tactics), there’s no question many wrestling fans will tune in to see how Punk fares in the first bout of his multi-fight contract.
With Brock Lesnar being a part-time WWE talent who can allure wrestling diehards to watch combat sports, Punk is in a similar position, as the “Cult of Personality” can surely bring some of WWE’s most dedicated viewers along for the pay-per-view ride. From a business standpoint, this is a win-win situation for UFC, who has also benefited from having Lesnar, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, compete at UFC 200 while still being employed by WWE (even though Lesnar’s inclusion was quite controversial).
1 Can He Hang With The Best?
We may not know too much about Punk, yet it’s not like Gall is some type of seasoned veteran, either. He’s 2-0. Should Punk beat Gall in any way, shape or form (barring a controversial decision, of course), this will open many eyes and simultaneously drop a few jaws, too.
Brooks may not be the fighter he thinks he is in the minds of his naysayers, but proving everyone wrong in his first fight will do wonders for his upcoming bouts after Saturday. By the same token, should he lose in devastating fashion, Punk’s UFC career could be one and done, seeing that the promotion may not want to put him in another fight. The days of believing that UFC is home to the best fighters on the planet may be over (considering Bellator’s rise, the prospects in ONE FC and UFC’s decision to put quantity over quality these past couple of years), the promotion is still the ultimate proving ground. If Punk can prove his worth by defeating Gall, it could all go uphill for the Chicago native in his fighting future.