Monday, May 26, 2008

WEC and EliteXC Preview

Welcome back everyone to my famous preview edition of MMAdness! This week we'll be covering the coming weekend's two big events. The first prime time network television live airing of an MMA event with EliteXC's Saturday Night Fights, Saturday May 31st at 9 on CBS. Also, this weekend is WEC 34 on Sunday June 1st at 9 pm on Versus. Let's start with the WEC. While I cannot comment on every fight on the card as honestly I haven't seen all the competitors fight, I will comment on all the important fights on the card of which I see four. This card will showcase 4 of the best Featherweights and Bantamweights in the world (as WEC is now focusing on lighter weight classes as very few other promotions spotlight these). Let's break them down:

Chase Beebe v. Will Ribeiro: Beebe is returning to the cage after losing his Bantamweight title to Miguel Torres (who many people consider a top 10 P4P fighter) back in February. Beebe is an incredibly strong fighter and a prolific wrestler. He is 11-2 with nine wins coming by submission. I don't see Ribeiro giving him many problems so my prediction here is Beebe gets back on track with a submission in the first round.

Rob McCullough v. Kenneth Alexander: "Razor" Rob is also trying to bounce back from losing his lightweight title in February. Rob is a good stand up fighter who is 15-4 (although all four losses came in bigger promotions against tougher competition such as UFC, PRIDE, and WEC) but 12 of his wins have come by stoppage. He is 6-2 in the WEC. My pick here is also for Rob to bounce back with a TKO win in round one.

Miguel Torres v. Yoshiro Maeda: The first of two title fights pits the top Bantamweight in the world Miguel Torres against a tough competitor but relatively unknown fighter in the US in Maeda. Torres is 33-1 with 27 wins by stoppage and 2-0 in the WEC. He is a great grappler and even though I expect Maeda to put up a fight I see Torres ending the fight in the 2nd round with a submission.

Urijah Faber v. Jens Pulver: This is being billed as the greatest featherweight fight ever and I think it can actually live up to the billing. Faber is a top 10 P4P fighter and Pulver (although he's looked shaky at lightweight over the past couple years) is undefeated at 145 and looks to have found a home in this weight class in the WEC. Pulver is 22-8-1 with 16 wins by stoppage. He is 6-2 in the UFC but was the UFC lightweight champion for about a year. He went 2-2 in PRIDE and is currently 1-0 in the WEC. Pulver has great stand up but is a well rounded fighter and very experienced having fought some of the best in the world in two weight classes. Faber is 20-1 with 17 wins by stoppage. He is 5-0 in the WEC and has held the featherweight title for almost 2 years since its inception. He is the face of the division and the face of the WEC. This status is well earned though as he has steamrolled the competition and Pulver looks to be his toughest test yet. Faber is a great wrestler with strong ground and pound. He is competent on his feet and in BJJ but those are not his strengths. I think this really will be a great fight but I don't expect it to go to a decision as I don't believe Pulver can go five with the champ. I'm picking Faber here to win by submission in the second round. I think Pulver has some good years left in him but I don't think he can hang with one of the best fighters in the world. Pulver came to the WEC to fight at 145 but unfortunately he came too late as Faber looks to be the champ for a long time to come. A move up to 155 would be an admission of failure but after this fight he may not have any options.

Now on to EliteXC as this is the biggest moment in MMA history. Do I agree with making Kimbo the face of MMA? Absolutely not! Do I think people will want to watch him and is it a great marketing move for EliteXC? Absolutely! I'm not saying Kimbo can never be a good mixed martial artist. Right now he is just too raw and untested to be considered a true contender. Yes he is big, strong, scary, exciting, all the things promoters love. However, even having trained with Bas Rutten for a little while he should not be the face of MMA because he is not a true fighter yet. He is still a brawler to a certain extent. Does EliteXC really have anyone else to put into the main event though on national television? Sadly, probably not. That is why the UFC really missed out by passing over deals with CBS and HBO. They could've put the best fighters/product in the world of MMA on display for everyone to see how real mixed martial artists look and how real fights go but instead they chose to be greedy and passed up on what I think was their best shot at mainstreaming the sport. Instead they thought they could hold out for more money by staying on the fringes with PPV and Spike and let the advertisers come to them (which they have) but they passed on a great opportunity to grow the sport. I understand this is all a business but I think White and the Fertittas really went too far here and instead they sit there and bad mouth EliteXC for showcasing Kimbo when they had every chance in the world to showcase BJ Penn, GSP, Anderson Silva, Rampage, and Minotauro. So I say props to EliteXC for getting the job done and I look forward to watching Kimbo fight for the first time but I wish things had worked out differently. Anyway, on to the fights. Again, I'll only be commenting on fights with fighters I've actually seen (with the exception of the Kimbo fight).

Gina Carano v. Kaitlin Young: I won't lie, I have a serious thing for Carano (better known as "Crush" on American Gladiators). Yes, she's incredibly beautiful but she is also a very good fighter. The best? I couldn't say. But I've seen her fight a couple times and she looked very competent and aggressive which is more than I can say about some of the other women I've seen compete. Carano is 5-0 with 3 wins by stoppage. She is primarily a stand up fighter with a great Muy Thai background but she is becoming more well rounded. Young is 4-1 with all four wins by KO. This should be a great stand up war. However, I have to pick Carano. EliteXC is trying to showcase her as the face of women's MMA and as a face of the promotion. I can't believe they'd set her up for a brutal fight. My pick here is Carano by TKO in round two. Just as a side note, I do not have any problem with women fighting MMA. If they want to get in the cage and beat each other up they have just as much right as a man to do so.

Phil Baroni v. Joey Villasenor: Baroni is a controversial, exciting, though not a very successful fighter. He is 10-9 with 9 wins by stoppage. He is 3-5 in the UFC, 4-2 in Pride, and 0-2 in Strikeforce/ICON. He is mostly a stand up fighter but is not ignorant of the ground game. Joey is 25-6 with 21 wins by stoppage. He is 0-2 in PRIDE but 3-1 in EliteXC. He is a well rounded fighter. Even though Baroni brings the star power to the match I see Villasenor winning. Baroni is too arrogant and not talented enough to win. He will put on a good show though. Something tells me he'll make this competitive but Villasenor won't want to keep it standing where Baroni is dangerous and Villasenor will take him to the ground and submit him in the first round.

Robbie Lawler v. Scott Smith: Lawler is the ICON and EliteXC middleweight champion. Lawler is a great stand up fighter who fights out of Matt Hughes' team so he is obviously well versed in wrestling too and having trained with Pat Miletich is not ignorant of the submission game either. Lawler is 15-4 with 13 wins by stoppage. He is 4-3 in the UFC, 1-0 in PRIDE, 2-1 in ICON, 1-0 in the IFL (where I watched him knock someone out live), and 1-0 in EliteXC. He is very experienced and very tough but sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. Smith is a veteran but well traveled (in other words not good enough to stick with one organization for long). He is 13-4 with all 13 wins by stoppage. He is 3-0 in the WEC holding their light heavyweight title for a year, 1-3 in the UFC, and 1-0 in EliteXC. Smith is also a good stand up fighter. This should be a great stand up war for the middleweight title but I definitely see Lawler winning. My pick here is Lawler by TKO in round two.

Kimbo Slice v. James Thompson: Slice is 3-0 although none of these are against quality opponents. But all three did come by stoppage in the first round. As of right now he is really just a stand up brawler. However, I don't see Thompson as much of a threat. The Brit is another journeyman coming in to be Slice's punching bag so EliteXC can showcase their biggest star on the biggest stage. Thompson is 14-8 with 13 wins by stoppage. He is 5-2 in PRIDE and 1-0 in EliteXC. He is mostly a stand up fighter like Slice so this will probably be a blaze of glory fight. They'll both come in looking to KO the other one and my pick is Slice by KO in the first round.

Again, Slice is not my pick to be the face of MMA but hopefully people will watch and become intrigued and want to learn more and hopefully move on to better fights/fighters. However, I expect most people to tune in for the spectacle and the sport will be no better for having been on national network TV. The WEC fights are much more interesting to me in the way of MMA as a sport. EliteXC will be interesting because I want to see the event. I want to see how Carano fares. I want to see the show Baroni normally puts on. I want to see Lawler who I haven't seen in some time. And I want to see what the fuss is about Slice. Overall it'll make for two great days in MMA. Will the EliteXC show change people's opinion? Maybe, but maybe not. Hopefully at least more people will watch and more people will understand and at least MMA can gain something positive from the experience and stop living in the fringes and start really moving into the national consciousness the way boxing used to 20-30 years ago. That's it for now folks, stay tuned for my TUF 7 recap on Thursday. Until then,

Soccer kicks and head stomps...

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