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EliteXC-CBS Saturday Night Fights: Calling Them As We See Fit [Editorial]

EliteXC Primetime PosterI understand the title I chose for this write up seems insulting and that to the more casual viewer, last nights inaugural batch of network MMA was pretty darn satisfying. However for the true (and yes, judgmental) MMA hardcores out there the night had a serious wreak of disappointment. Why? Because something just didn’t feel right. Simply put, CBS wanted so badly for MMA’s network debut to be just perfect, that they failed to let MMA shine through in its often-imperfect glory.

The thing is, in mixed martial arts you have to let fighters take a bit of damage before calling the fight. Gees that sounds barbaric and awful. But its really not, and even the most noob of MMA aficionados knows it- because that is just how the sport is played. Regardless of who is watching and what they might think, the nature of the MMA beast cannot be tampered with without having some serious backlash from all avenues of the fight community. In my opinion, all televised bouts save for maybe Phil Baroni vs. Joey Villasenor were absolutely stopped prematurely. Was a fix in? Doubtful. But were the referees (cough Dan Miragliotta cough) instructed to step in before anything too gory or “morally horrifying” could happen? Oh yes. That is my contention and I’m sticking to it after watching the broadcast over and over again on my DVR.

The most suspicious of matches stopped last night was the heavyweight headliner Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson. The question I now ask is, was the bout stopped simply because Thompson’s ear looked uncomfortably sanguinary for network America? Or because EliteXC (Gary Shaw, cough) really did attempt to do everything possible short of a fix to help Kimbo cruise back into victory lane.

First, let me just state that I would never suggest that MMA get taken off of network airwaves. It’s such a huge step in the right direction for the sport and I will always be there to watch (or at least DVR) some free mixed martial arts. That being said, here is my official like/dislike list for EliteXC-CBS Saturday Night Fights.

Dislike: Frank Shamrock, who was very good during the fight commentary, seemed very awkward and robot-like when talking into the camera. At some point I was expecting him to say “I am currently reading copy from a tele-prompter, please look at my face.”

Dislike: Mauro Ranallo. I know Mauro has over a decade of MMA calling under his belt, but it doesn’t make his antics any more tolerable. Occasionally I will get a kick out of a Mauro zinger, but generally I think he either needs to tone it down or go back to calling professional wrestling.

Dislike: The gratuitous dancers. Yes, EliteXC, they are hot and it always helps to have eye candy when your audience is primarily male ages 16-34. However these ladies bring little, if nothing to the entertainment table and are still an unnecessary feature. Why not save the money you would spend on the dancers and maybe next year you wont have to file for bankruptcy.

Dislike: The ongoing mention of the phrase “This is Mixed Martial Arts” or “Well this is MMA you know.” We get it. There just might be some people out there watching who do not know what MMA is all about, and they just might not understand as much about the sport as some. But to keep stating “well, this is MMA” after every takedown or submission attempt is just annoying. When I watch football I don’t hear John Madden chime in after someone intercepts a pass “Well this is football you know, anything can happen Pat!”

Dislike: From a broadcast angle, I did not enjoy the two commercial breaks I was forced to endure before finally getting to the fights. I think CBS spent a little too much time introducing the show while forgetting that above all else, viewers are tuning in to watch fights. Not packages or montages, but fights. Lets keep them the focus of the program.

Dislike: Gus Johnson did not speak with the loser in certain bouts, namely Kaitlin Young or James Thompson. What in the world is that about? Would it not be helpful to get their take on the fight? I mean gee whiz, Thompson looked awfully sour and even took a semi-shot at the referee upon the stoppage, don’t you think we might want to hear what he has to say? Especially since Kimbo was gassed out and could hardly mutter a word with Gus. Give me a break.

Like: I found it very cool that on national television, the announcing team had no issue liberally mentioning the UFC or fighters in the UFC. See Dana, its not the worst thing in the world to acknowledge that another brand exists.

Like: Gus Johnson. Thank the lord, Bill Goldberg was replaced by someone competent for the big show. Johnson was spot on and did not seem to show much weakness regarding MMA knowledge. Way to go, Gus.

Like: Not breaking for commercial between rounds. Definitely a smart move, I don’t think I have to explain how annoying it is to have to sit through ad’s for second rate local MMA schools when I’m trying to watch a real MMA fight.

Like: The pre-fight packages. They look to have some legitimate production value and I enjoyed the little sparring sequences thrown in.

Like: Though it definitely felt a bit cheesy, I still liked how Gary Shaw got on the mic and stated that both Smith and Lawler would be getting their fight bonuses. Smart move on Shaw’s part to help create a positive public image of himself.

The fights:

I will try to keep this brief. As I said earlier I think almost all of the fights were questionably stopped, starting with:

Brett Rogers vs. Jon Murphy

Rogers put Murphy to the canvas but was not given the opportunity to go in for the kill. Was Murphy completely K.O.’d when he fell? Perhaps, but…

Of course it’s doubtful, but Murphy could have caught Rogers in a submission from the bottom if in fact Rogers were allowed to continue attacking. Yes it is extremely unlikely, but that’s what those extra seconds are for. Look at a few of Minotauro Nogueira’s fights. How many times has he looked to be down for the count before going on to survive a decision or even secure a sub?

Joey Villasenor vs. Phil Baroni

Probably the least questionable bout of the evening. However once again I feel that Baroni should have been given a few more seconds to try to defend himself. Yes, Villasenor was brutalizing Baroni but lets let the man lose without a doubt, okay? Is that too much to ask? I’m all for fighters safety but in the words of Frank and Mauro “This is Mixed Martial Arts People!”

Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young

Carano probably would have won her fight as well even if it weren’t stopped after the second round. BUT, what about this fight stopping cut of Kaitlin Young’s? Was it not responding to coagulant? Was it obstructing an eye? Did Kaitlin herself say that she could not continue? Because to me the cut looked okay and Kaitlin seemed game. Of course it’s difficult to tell since the camera did not show any footage of Young’s face once the bout was called, nor was she spoken to in the post fight. Maybe CBS just didn’t want a female fighter to continue and look a mess, even though she would be willing to do so. I give credit to Gina for kicking ass, but her victory is still just a bit tainted in my opinion. I’m also kind of waiting for Kaitlin Young to come out and say that the stop was B.S.

Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith-middleweight championship bout

Why was this fight not the main event? I don’t know. Okay I do, and that’s because of the attraction that is Kimbo Slice which EliteXC feels the need to spotlight. But I still disagree with not making Lawler-Smith the main event since they were the only championship fight on the card, not to mention that Smith and Lawler are much better fighters than Slice and Thompson.

As for the stop, well you can almost blame Scott Smith for not lying to the doctor, and twice stating that he could not see out of his right eye. Scott assumed he would get the five minutes to regain some vision, and was painfully denied. So what did happen to the five minute to recovery rule? Is that no longer in play? All I can say is way to delay another title fight and disappoint fans, EliteXC.

Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson

What did we learn from this fight? Well for one, Kimbo Slice is not the wrecking machine some would have you believe he is. Kimbo is in fact highly inexperienced and seriously susceptible to cardio crash. James Thompson proved that even if you aren’t that great of a fighter in general, if you are bigger and can get Kimbo to the ground, you can keep him there and hurt him.

I am going to come right out and say it. James Thompson got robbed. Not so much when the fight was called, but when he was forced to stand up from the ground position where he had Slice. I couldn’t believe referee Dan Miragliotta actually stated twice “nothing happening, I’m going to stand you up.” Whoa there Dan, but there was actually a hell of a lot happening, and you know it. Problem is the guy EliteXC wanted to win was on the receiving end of some ground and pound and likely would not have survived very long in that position. Inside any other cage or ring in the world, and Thompson would have been allowed to continue his ground domination of Kimbo…but not on Saturday night. Now Kimbo was able to roll out and reverse once or twice, but as soon as he started to get winded and battered there was no way he was going to shake off Thompson’s top control.

As for the end of the fight, I couldn’t agree more with those who think Kimbo didn’t earn the victory. Sure Thompson could have been out on his feet after absorbing those unanswered Kimbo blows, and sure his ear looked about ready to fall off. Problem is Thompson was still standing, moving, and willing to engage.

Bottom line: Thompson still had some fight left in him when the fight was stopped. Not to mention that Kimbo was gassing so hard by this point that his punches weren’t landing nearly as hard as they were in the beginning of the fight. Would Kimbo have knocked Thompson to the canvas if Miragliotta didn’t step in when he did? Once again it’s entirely possible, but because we were not able to find out what could have been if only a few more moments were allowed to pass, the victory remains far from cemented for one Kimbo Slice.

The Final Word:

Kimbo truly was broken last night. He gassed, got outclassed on the ground, and was proven to be a fighter with much to learn, as he did humbly state in the post fight. Try as they might, I don’t think EliteXC will be able to cover the fact that Kimbo got pretty much beat down by a not so great mixed martial artist. I truly believe that Kimbo has the potential to be a great fighter, but that doesn’t mean that EliteXC should tailor-make victories for him either. Good effort Kimbo, shame on you EliteXC.

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