Starring: Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson, Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith, Gina Carano vs. Kaitlyn Young
As quickly as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was ushered into the primetime spotlight, it will be sent packing back to the cable doldrums of Spike, Versus, and Mojo. CBS and Elite XC teamed up to bring this controversial sport to the masses in an attempt to create a new, broader following. What they did, was completely turn off every possible casual fan while creating a laughable event night for the committed followers. If not for a surprising gem brought to us under the guise of a chick-fight, it may have even spelled the end of MMA altogether.
I am one of those casual MMA fans, maybe a little more into it than the average Joe, but I don’t follow the guys overseas and how they would be able to compete on the top levels. I could, however, tell you that this event was a mockery – neh, a traveshamockery, to the sport of MMA. In equal parts WWE, XFL, and minor league anything, CBS and Elite XC’s groundbreaking foray into primetime was nothing more than a publicity stunt gone bad, with its star leading the charge of overhype.
The night started off on a sour note with CBS amping up the fights as if they were a showdown of the all-time greatest in the sport. With more background and storylines than even Bob Costas could dream up, we barely saw any actual fighting for the first two hours of the program. The initial fight featuring heavyweights Brett Rogers and Jon Murphy was entertaining, but you got the sneaking suspicion that you were witnessing the “B squad” of fighters. For anyone that follows the UFC or even just watches its PPV fights, it was clear that this night was going to be about the flair rather than the competition. Rogers and Murphy looked like they could probably be the toughest guys in a neighborhood bar on any given night, but certainly not elite athletes. If it wasn’t for Murphy stepping into a flailing right hook by Rogers, these two Pillsbury dough-boys would have continued throwing haymakers that K-Fed could have dodged. Rogers got the chance to be the first victorious voice that the fans heard, and in Commander-in-Chief grammar, he responded, “This is what I does. This is what I do’s.” What a tremendous spokesperson for the sport.
Fight night then crawled along to what I thought was the spectacle of the evening. As I heard the matchup announced, I found myself uttering, “So that’s where Phil Baroni wound up.” It soon became clear that Elite XC was merely a graveyard for the careers of UFC fighters. I was wondering if Jose Canseco was on the undercard at this point. Baroni was slated to take on some dude named Villasenor, who at least appeared somewhat legitimate. It wasn’t until seeing Baroni, who probably self-named himself “The NY Badass”, parade into the ring in a manner that would have made Apollo Creed in Rocky IV blush, that I decided this was not about fighting at all. Baroni held a meak 10-9 record coming into the fight and didn’t take long to show people he did not belong in a ring anymore. Villasenor worked quickly and took out Baroni effortlessly. Here’s to hoping “The NY Badass” goes back to picking fights in Long Island bars for the rest of his life. He just may have a shot of being better than a .500 fighter there.
Next came what I felt was the fight of the night. Gina Carano took on Kaitlyn Young which turned out to be a bout of two qualified, tough, and hungry fighters. I had never heard of Carano before, but I have a feeling she will get the lone benefit of CBS’ exposure. Watch for her career to explode after this. Different than the Anna Kounikova’s and Danica Patrick’s of the sporting world, her talent backs up her looks…and then some. It is a pleasant surprise to see a woman athlete who can actually live up to their image. If Elite XC was smart, they would ditch all their Kimbo promos and stick Carano’s face on everything. They may even be able to carve out a niche in the women’s MMA field. Needless to say, this match overshadowed the rest of the night.
The program then drudged on to feature yet another recycled UFC fighter in Robbie Lawler. The difference between him and Baroni is that he actually has talent. While he still wouldn’t be a star in the UFC, his skills looked sharp and he may be able to compete there again in the future. His opponent, Scott Smith, was an entertaining adversary who looked like he came to compete. The fight started out slow and it didn’t take long for the restless NJ crowd to start raining down boo’s, but the two fighters quickly picked up the pace from there on. It was a tough, entertaining fight on the whole between two legitimate talents, although this would have been about the fourth undercard on any UFC PPV event, not the title match. I would have been more excited about this fight if it wasn’t for Gus Johnson repeating over and over what an “instant classic” this was going to be. Seriously Gus, how many MMA fights have you ever seen? To really make things worse, the fight was stopped due to an accidental eye gouge (I wasn’t kidding about the WWE references) by Lawler which rendered “nobody-in-particular” as the victor. The crowd certainly was not pleased now and began to get restless. Was it a good stoppage? I’m not a doctor so I don’t know. One thing I do know is that if this “event” was on the UFC or PPV there would not have been as many early stoppages as there were last night. It’s as if CBS wanted to showcase the brutality of the sport without really showcasing it. Out of the 5 fights on-air, I felt that 4 of them were stopped too early. The only reasonable stoppage was in the girl fight when Kaitlyn Young’s face looked like Sloth from The Goonies.
Finally it was time for the main event, albeit much later in the evening than was anticipated. For those that stayed awake, it proved to be an empty promise on everything it was intended to deliver. It goes to prove a point I had long before Kimbo was the second-coming of the MMA world: he would get his ass beat by 90% of the UFC heavyweights right now. It became clear why he signed on to Elite XC and not the UFC…he has no business fighting anyone even remotely talented. With a fast-track career that has already been mapped out for him, he struggled immensely with the sack of meat they threw in front of him last night. This Thompson guy was hand-picked by the promoters as someone Kimbo was guaranteed to beat to a pulp. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were times it looked like Thompson was actually trying to throw the fight. Instead, it was just a testament to how bad a fighter he really was. Yet Kimbo could not put him away and was in serious danger of not only losing the fight, but his entire manufactured career. Kimbo was bailed out by a right-hand that exploded Thompson’s “alien life-form” ear (one of the only entertaining moments from the announcers). The thing was beckoning for a pin prick to release the gallons of fluid buildup, but perhaps the promoters made him keep it that way to serve as a Kimbo life-raft: “punch here in the event of an emergency”. I was convinced the fight promoters and Elite XC were praying for this sort of finish so they would not have to give Kimbo an undeserved win by decision to carry on the illusion of his invincibility.
Even though I was never on the Kimbo bandwagon, I am officially calling his career a joke. If he did anything last night in front of a national cable audience, it was prove that real MMA athletes are much more than just street-fighters. Kimbo unintentionally lended more credibility to this sport by displaying his own lack of credibility. Go back to wailing on turd-sacks in Miami for a few bucks Kimbo, because as quick as your day has come…it has just passed.