Quality Night of Fights — From top to bottom, the Elite XC were almost entirely a success. Looking at the event from a strictly fight perspective, it was an incredibly successful night for the organization. Aside from the main event, every bout lived up to expectations, if not surpassing them, and contained thrilling action. The telecast was smooth and made effective transitions between commercials, commentary, and the actual fights. Elite XC announcing team was solid, despite it being their first event together. Despite too much conversation by the announcers, extremely long walk outs, bad cheerleading dancers, and some controversial stoppages, the fights itself redeemed the less than stellar presentation. The entire night was exciting and certainly helped to establish the legitimacy of mixed martial arts.
Jon Murphy’ Future Looks ‘Grim’ — As expected, the fight between Jon “The Man of Faith” Murphy and Brett “The Grim” Rogers was not very technical. None the less, it was entertaining and fast paced. Rogers is massive and has bricks in his gloves. Murphy got caught with several huge haymakers and was KO’d with a flush shot to the chin. Rogers’s stock is on the rise and he will be one of the driving forces in Elite XC’s heavyweight division. This is critical, because the lack of talent in that division is apparent and the organization will need marketable big men down the road. Lastly, as I state in my preview for this event, Rogers would have been a viable opponent for Kimbo Slice and could be in the future. As it turns out, Kimbo and Rogers exchanged heated words and had to be held back at the post fight press conference. Turns out, fans might not have to wait too long for that fight.
Another key reason which made this fight great, was the ring entrance of Rogers. He walked out to a flow spit by rapper Busta Rhymes who was making a cameo appearance. Always charismatic, Rhymes got the crowd riled up as Rogers entered the arena. Secondly, after the fight Rogers was accompanied in the ring by “Big Black” (from MTV’s show Rob and Big). That Big Black appearance was classic. It was awesome to see that hilarious character “doing work.”
Villasenor Just Too Bad Ass — Phil Baroni started the fight off quick but his night was ended early. His flashy entrance lasted longer than his fight did. From the opening bell, Joe Villasenor found a comfortable range and was able to connect with hard left hooks. Villasenor exhibited quality jiu-jitsu, while locking on a standing, front guillotine, which was reminiscent of Baroni’s fight against Frank Shamrock, where he allowed Shamrock to lock on that exact move. Like the Rogers fight, the bout ended in the first round, but was action packed until it was stopped.
Carano in a Thriller — Gina Carano once again proved that women’s MMA can be just as fun to watch as men’s. Against Kaitlin Young, Carano met a very game and capable opponent. There were some fantastic exchanges and both fighters held nothing back. Carano seemed tired and gassed midway through the fight, which could be due to her lack of training before it. Still, Carano put on a great performance. By the fights conclusion, which was stopped after the second round, the tough as nails Young, was left battered. Carano busted her open with a deep gash and pounded on her seriously swollen face. Carano was able to consistently land an effective front kick (most under utilized technique in MMA) to create distance, in order to land her rocket over hand right. Carano’s right hand was the determining factor in the fight. When she connected it had devastating effects. Although not in peak shape, Carano and Young performed at a very high level and could have stolen fight of the night honors.
In pre-fight interviews, Robbie Lawler stated he wanted to, “break the fighter down, then wear them out.” Lawler claimed he was not the same over zealous, unfocused fighter he once was. He continually raved about his training and desire to stick with his designed game plan. Surprisingly, the fight began slow, with both fighters seemingly content to wait for their openings. As the fight progressed though, Lawler continually improved, looking great in doing so. For the most part, he was elusive and patient. When he saw a potential opening, he turned on the heat and picked up the tempo. The fight was slow in spots with sudden bursts of explosive action. At one point, Lawler was landing bone crunching body kicks that left Smith’s ribs crushed and bruised. Robbie Lawler’s maturity was evident in his strategy, patience, and evolving skills. The second and third rounds saw back and forth action, with both fighters taking turns dominating. But in the third round, Lawler’s jab started to land at will as he found a rhythm. Smith became tentative, looking to land the big shot, as the tension for a stunning finish began to build. In the midst of the action, Lawler incidentally poked Smith’s eye, at which point the controversy began. After the ringside doctor looked at the unnerved Smith, she deemed him unable to continue. Incidental eye pokes are not uncommon in MMA, but ending a fight because of it is. It was unreasonable for the fight to be stopped without giving Smith his due five minutes of rest. Smith was distraught over the ruling and Lawler looked furious as well. Despite the booing of the crowd, the fight had some great back and forth action. But, the controversial and seemingly unnecessary stoppage was a major downer and created an anti-climactic, disappointing finish.
Weight Problems? — As a professional athlete, one is held to a certain level of accountability. Although the rigors of making weight are well documented, it is in-excusable that Gina Carano missed her target weight of 140, by four pounds (144). Not only did she have to relinquish an estimated 12.5% of her purse to her opponent, but it is a slap in the face to the fans, organization, and most importantly, the sport. If Carano wants women’s MMA to be viewed, treated, and criticized the same as men’s, then hopefully she realizes how unprofessional she was in coming in overweight. It shows a lack of proper training and carelessness that should never take place at this level. Her performance certainly made up for this lapse, but it was disappointing to see it happen at this juncture in her career.
Kimbo Wins Ugly — Hands down, Kimbo Slice is an intimidating looking individual. His pre-fight stare down was unflinching and menacing. But his performance lacked that same ferocity. James Thompson tried to outwrestle Kimbo by forcing the majority of the fight to the ground. Numerous times, Thompson had Kimbo in precarious positions. During the last two minutes of the second round, Slice was virtually defenseless, taking a lot of uncontested elbows and punches. At that point, there was a strong case for the fight being stopped and when it wasn’t, it drew strong reactions and cries of “fixed fight,” from those who watched the fight around me. Although Slice displayed some decent reversals, he was clearly uncomfortable and inexperienced on the ground. Another startling display, was the lack of conditioning from both fighters, especially Slice. Midway through the second round, Slice’s hands were dropped and he was breathing heavily from his mouth. On the ground, Slice could barely muster a scramble attempt because of his exhaustion. It was a lackluster performance and Kimbo was close to losing to a very mediocre competitor. As the face and future of the organization, this was not a promising showing. By the end of the fight, the popular Slice was being booed by the audience for such an unimpressive fight. Lucky for Slice, he has atom bombs as hands. Slice has one punch knockout power and throws heat seeking missiles. As the third round commenced, Slice caught Thompson with some insanely hard punches. An uppercut jerked Thompson’s head back and was followed by two maniac hooks, that busted Thompson’s mangled ear open in a grotesque display. While the ending to the fight was sensational, albeit controversial (the clearly dazed and hurt Thompson was still on his feet when the fight was stopped and was so angry over the stoppage he face pushed the referee), Kimbo did not look good. As a whole, the bout was a disappointment and was not without controversy. Fans looking for Kimbo to silence his critics with an overwhelming performance did not see that happen. Instead, a relative newcomer to the sport was exposed as being inexperienced and far from elite. Still, Kimbo has potential and room to grow. What will now be interesting is whether all of Slice’s appeal will remain after a let down of this magnitude.
Quote of the Night:
There were two sound bites from the event that were deserving of recognition. The first, was a comment made by Brett Rogers in his pre-fight build up. In explaining what he does for a living, Rogers stated, “I mirk and beast people!” What a hilarious and ferocious comment. Caught the viewer’s attention and also drew applause and laughter from the crowd who was watching around me.
The second quote was made by one of the announcers during Kimbo’s entrance. It was incredibly high on the unintentional comedy scale (a Bill Simmons line) and came out sounding awkward and forced. As Kimbo strolled to the ring with music blaring, the announcers stayed silent allowing the unfolding events to do the talking for them. All of a sudden, as the camera zooms in on Slice, one of them blurts out, “not so long ago this man was homeless!” Everyone in the room began laughing uncontrollably at the hilarity and absurd timing of the comment.