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March Badness: Proof MMA and Boxing Don’t Mix (Editorial)

When Affliction teamed up with Goldenboy Promotions and started talking about doing hybrid Boxing/MMA events, many in the MMA world voiced their feelings that this was a bad idea. Roy Jones Jr., I guess, didn’t read about that, so he decided to have his promotional company, Square Ring Promotions, beat Affliction/Goldenboy to the punch (no pun intended) on doing a hybrid card. The event was titled March Badness and took place last night, with a few interesting MMA matchups including Jeff Monson vs. Roy Nelson, and Bobby Lashley vs. Jason Guida. The boxing portion of the card had a handful of matches, and was headlined by Roy Jones Jr. vs. Omar Sheika.

(At this point I will say, if you want a proper write up of the results, with no opinion, you are in the wrong place, and should instead go here, otherwise read on.)

On the top of my list, I wanted to see how Bobby Lashley would fair. Lets just say, he’s no Brock Lesnar. Lashley carries a lot of muscle, has decent speed and comes from a collegiate wresting back ground (prior to his WWE days), and his quick for a heavyweight, but the similarities end there. Lashley does not have the reach advantage that Lesnar has, he weighs in at fourteen pounds less than Lesnar “officially” weighs in at, doesn’t seem to possess the knockout power that Lesnar does, and frankly his wrestling was less than impressive (partly due to the use of a Boxing Ring, more on this later). Going into the fight, Guida decided he was going to engage in some trash talk, which many of us thought would lead to Lashely via murder in the first round. What happened instead was a general lay ‘n pray style unanimous decision victory for Lashley, which was very nearly stolen via guillotine by Guida in the third round. I think Lashley still has potential, but he will be well served to remain in the lower level promotions for the time being. I also think it’s a good thing for Lashley that his originally scheduled opponent, Ken Shamrock, was unable to compete, as I believe Shamrock is dangerous enough that he could have found himself on a two fight winning streak after this event.

Next on the list, there were a lot of things about this event that I found interesting, besides the fights. One was the fighting surface, which was a boxing ring. This was not an MMA style ring like you see in DREAM/Sengoku/Affliction, this was a proper boxing ring. There was little room for the fights to take place inside the smaller ring, causing a lot of action to end up in the ropes. The ropes themselves were far less firm than those you find in one of the previously mentioned promotions and really inhibited the ability of the fighters to obtain take downs, Lashley in particular. At one point during their fight, Lashley had a single leg on Guida, and Guida was basically laying back in the ropes letting them hold him up (Guida also “conveniently” got his arm tangle in the ropes). I personally am a fan of the cage over the ring for MMA anyways, but this ring was far worse than what I’ve seen in other MMA events.

The officiating was questionable to say the least. The referees they had seemed to be boxing referees and not really MMA referees. In the instance of the previously mentioned rope grabbing by Guida, the referee came over to get him to let go of the of rope, then ended up separating the fighters, despite the fact that Lashley had superior positioning, and the only reason Guida was still standing was the rope grabbing. The next questionable situation arose later in the same fight, as the referee separated the fighters and called for move out of the ropes closer to the center of the ring, literally as Guida switched his hips and threw his legs up for an arm bar, that he actually had a good chance of locking in. The final instance was when the referee for the headlining Jones vs. Sheika boxing match waved off the fight as Jones was lighting up Sheika, while Sheika was still moving forward and trying to close the distance on the longer Jones. I don’t exactly follow boxing, but I just don’t understand how a man who is showing no signs of being “out of it” and is walking forward deserves to get stopped. Sure, he wasn’t acting like he was going to do much else in the bout, but let him at least get knocked down once before you stop the fight for crying out loud.

As far as the judges are concerned, I think they had Cecil Peoples writing out all three score cards. Just before the Monson v. Nelson fight they aired a six round preliminary fight that went to a decision, which I unfortunately wasn’t paying attention to, but I determined was judged incorrectly based on the reaction of the live crowd (mostly boxing fans) as well as most people in a chat room I was following while watching the fights. Next was the Monson v. Nelson fight, Nelson dominated the first round and much of the second, before Monson got up and into a clinch and threw some knees to the body of Nelson. By my count the fight was 20-18 at this point, but I was really curious as to how the judges would score the knees by Monson. Monson took the third, but it was close, so I scored the fight 29-28 Nelson (as did some of the other members that I have talked to). Well, if you’ve read the results, you know it went 29-28 unanimously for Monson, in a Hamill v. Bisping like decision.

Now for the minor points. It really was painful to watch MMA that was taking place in a venue where the vast majority (I would venture to say over 90%) of the people are in attendance to see Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match. They booed clinch work, they booed submission attempts, they booed take down attempts, they ignored the massively impressive escape by Monson (he basically just picked Nelson up off of him with one arm to get out of side control and back to his feet), they even booed ground and pound. Granted, the event wasn’t the greatest display of the finer points of grappling, but it wasn’t terrible either. The fans in attendance were very quick to boo, and as someone who loves all aspects of MMA, it was rather frustrating to endure. It didn’t help that they intermingled the card, they had boxing and MMA on the prelims, then the majority of the MMA bouts for the main card, followed by one boxing match, then the Monson v. Nelson fight, then the headlining boxing match. It is my personal opinion that the Main card should have been separated, all the MMA bouts, then the two boxing matches.

The main announcer/commentator for the broadcast, who was present for all portions of the card was Colonel Bob Sheridan. They brought in Seth Petruzelli for his “expertise” during the MMA portions of the card, and a boxer whose name I forgot for the boxing portions of the card. During the MMA portion of the card the commentary seemed rather neutral, and Sheridan was trying “let the boxing fans knows” that the fighters were actually doing something when they were grappling. However, when Petruzelli went off mic, and it was only the two boxing guys, it was evident that they preferred boxing over MMA, and seemed to point out some of the differences between the two sports in a “boxing is better than MMA because…” kind of way.

The best thing to come out of the commentary on the night, in my opinion, came from the mouth of Colonel Bob Sheridan during the Jones v. Sheika fight. As Jones was pummeling the clearly outclassed Sheika, Sheridan made the commented that even though Sheika was losing the fight, he was still going to get paid pretty well, then he said “That’s what professional boxing is all about, making money.” A comment that sums up, to an MMA fan at least, all of the reasons boxing is dying, and why there was a pay-per-view being held for Jones to fight a clearly outmatched opponent, and somehow come away with a championship.

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