Alright everyone it's time to go over what just went down not twenty minutes ago. I have to admit I was thoroughly entertained but I'm not sure how much this actually did for the sport of MMA. However, after reading today that DREAM and EliteXC have joined forces I'm not as worried as I was that EliteXC might've literally gone out of business if tonight was not a smashing success. There are some general themes I'd like to discuss about the presentation before heading into the fights. First off, they treated the show like wrestling which I think is going down a bad road. I know this worked for PRIDE but that was a different country, a different culture, and a different audience. In the USA anything that reminds people of professional wrestling is not a good association for the sport of MMA to have with the audience. All the lights, dancers, rapper cameos (Busta Rhymes? Seriously??), and worst of all pyrotechnics gave me a sort of queasy feeling about the whole thing. I was glad to see Mauro Renallo, (who gave a great shout out to Bas Rutten!) the later voice of PRIDE, back at ringside as I always liked his commenting style. Frank Shamrock I could've gone either way on but he is very knowledgeable and is an established name in MMA. Why Gus Johnson was even there I don't know besides the fact that CBS wanted a company man there. He was basically a glorified Joe Rogan with a suit and less MMA knowledge. Thank goodness Frank and Mauro carried the broadcast. On top of that I was actually somewhat impressed with CBS' approach to explaining the basics of MMA for all the first time viewers, not only the rules but some of the basic terms and strategies as well. I give them a thumbs up for that.
My next opinion should be shared by any true fan of MMA. The audience in attendance had to be the most ignorant and classes group of bloodthirsty animals ever assembled. I haven't seen/heard a more clueless audience since literally the first handful of UFC fights where no one really knew what they were seeing and just wanted blood. If these are the fans EliteXC draws in then MMA may set itself back 10 years if they keep showing EliteXC fights on prime time network television. Case in point was the constant booing of Robbie and Scott during their bout. Those guys were fighting a very technical fight and really showed some great heart and people were booing because no one was knocked out inside of 30 seconds. A truly pathetic showing by the "fans" in attendance.
Last but not least I think it was sad that Gary Shaw was butting his head in everywhere. Many people may find Dana White totally obnoxious but the one thing you can't deny is he never sticks his nose around the octagon unless it's to present a title belt. Gary Shaw needs to stay ringside where he belongs. Okay with all that said let's break down the fights:
Brett Rogers v. Jon Murphy: Both these heavyweights came out swinging and Rogers simply got the better of the punches and dropped Murphy forcing the ref to stop the fight. Rogers looked sharp with powerful hands but I'd like to see him in a fight where he's tested a bit more before passing any judgment on him as this was the first fight of his I've seen.
Phil Baroni v. Joe Villasenor: Well I called the winner correctly but not the result. I would've thought that Villasenor would've wanted to take the fight to the ground where Baroni is less dangerous but he proved me wrong standing toe to toe with Phil and looking like the better striker before knocking him down causing the ref to stop the fight. Baroni's attitude is ridiculous and he's lost his last 3 fights in a row. This very well could be the end for the New York Bad Ass. However, even though this was the first time I saw Joe he looked like a promising fighter who I'd like to see more of.
Gina Carano v. Kaitlin Young: What a great fight! This fight gets my pick for fight of the night (I would've given it to Lawler v. Smith but we'll get to that). Carano came in sloppy, overweight, and out of shape but still pulled off a TKO. I was very impressed. Kaitlin took the fight right to Gina. Kaitlin's stand up looked crisp but not very heavy as Carano looked unscathed at the end of the fight. On the other hand, Kaitlin looked like a slab of beef after Carano was done with her. Carano might've been sloppy but boy does she hit hard. They went after each other for two rounds but (and in my opinion this was a bad decision) the doctor called a stop to the fight in between round 2 and 3. Although Kaitlin looked busted up she looked clear headed and not seriously injured. Obviously the doctor saw something she didn't like but I wasn't a fan of the decision. I would've loved to see those girls finish the fight. I would like to point out that I picked this fight right on the nose - Carano by TKO in round 2.
Lawler v Smith: This fight would've been my pick for fight of the night had it not been a NC. These guys came out swinging. Lawler had very crisp boxing and heavy hands dazing Smith a few times in round 1 (I thought the ref could've stopped the fight in between rounds if he really wanted to). However, Lawler seemed to gas a little and Smith made a come back in round 2 utilizing his more complete stand up game with kicks and knees along with punches to hurt Lawler. Round 3 was really a toss up although it felt like Smith had the momentum before the eye poke that caused the ref to call the fight. While I agree that the safety of the fighter is paramount I was upset at the decision simply because I don't feel they gave Smith enough time to recover before making that decision. I'm glad both fighters will get paid in full for a great fight and hopefully they can get back in the cage soon and finish what they started.
Slice v. Thompson: I was totally wrong about this fight. I thought Thompson was a total patsy. I was also under the impression that he had a glass jaw. Both of these impressions were way off. Thompson came out and really took the fight to Kimbo. Kimbo certainly had the better stand up catching Thompson a few times but Thompson was smart to get Kimbo to the ground a couple times. Kimbo obviously has no experience on the ground but was able to use some brute force to move Thompson around and get out of trouble as Thompson didn't look like a world class grappler either. However, I thought Kimbo could've been in real trouble at the end of round 2 but he was saved by the bell. Both fighters were totally gassed by the time round 3 came and Kimbo just let his fists fly and caught Thompson on what used to be his ear (What the hell was that thing?? That was the worst cauliflower ear I've ever seen!) and then jacked him up a few times before he couldn't protect himself anymore and the ref had to call the fight. I did call the winner and I did call how it would end I just didn't get the round right in this one. After the stoppage Thompson took a shot at the ref (that the announcers tried to play off as "instinct" but we all know better) and Kimbo literally collapsed. It seemed as though the crowd was upset at the ending but I thought that was a fair stoppage. Kimbo was finally put to the test and I think everyone can see that he isn't for real just yet. His ground game is pathetic and his cardio needs a ton of work. He could get there but he's not there yet. It's for these exact reasons that I was so against having Kimbo be the main event and the "Face of MMA". However, I will say that Kimbo does have the "it" factor and I think Frank Shamrock put it best as to why he's such a sensation - Kimbo has a look in his eyes that just says he's way too comfortable with violence.
Overall the night was entertaining and I enjoyed the first 4 fights (even though the Lawler fight was anti climactic). However, putting Kimbo in the main event and trumping up the show like a wrestling event made me seriously consider what path this is leading MMA down. Obviously the UFC is still light years ahead of EliteXC in the way of competition but at least all the fights tonight were competitive and all of them ended by stoppage. I just don't think this show was the ambassador to the sport to get people to see it as more than the stereotypes people have created in their head or see in the media. While I don't think tonight was a step back I didn't see it as a step forward either. Carano and Slice (EliteXC's two biggest draws) both struggled and the championship match was a questionable NC. I would watch another free show if EliteXC can put together another show on CBS (I don't know what that contract looks like nor do I know EliteXC's current financial situation) but I would never pay to see such a spectacle that was so garish and over the top and cannot compete with the talent of the UFC. Alright folks that's it for now but stay tuned on Monday for my recap of the WEC card tomorrow night. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...
P.S. I'm not alone in my sentiments. Kevin Iole who I respect as an MMA journalist wrote this: