EliteXC made their mainstream debut on CBS network television this past Saturday night (May 31). I was curious what changes (if any) would be in place for an MMA experience that previously was only available on the Showtime cable network. I think the sponsors will be happy with the Nielsen ratings, but there are definitely some improvements that can be made. Here’s my breakdown of the main event Saturday night:
– Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson –
Kimbo Slice has been making a name for himself on the YouTube circuit for many years now with a showcase of streetfights. Before his MMA debut on Showtime, comments were abundant about how Kimbo would fair in a true MMA arena. His first test was an unsanctioned streetfight against Sean Gannon, a former Boston Police officer trained in MMA. That YouTube video is one of the first known defeats suffered by Kimbo, however, controversy rose at the time due to Sean using his MMA skills. Brought to media attention by an online marketing machine it was inevitable that Kimbo would make his way into the MMA.
Kimbo came to this fight undefeated, a record that could be argued as being “light” in terms of competition. Listening to Pugs & Kelly (Live 105.3FM) this afternoon, it is clear that many have the opinion that EliteXC may be padding Kimbo’s fight resume, feeding the marketing machine in order to capitalize on this fighter’s story. It’s safe to say many expected this fight to end quickly, under some power-punches by Kimbo or perhaps a quick submission. Little did anyone know that James Thompson (coming off a few losses) would not easily submit the match.
In the ensuing rounds, James matched Kimbo blow-for-blow, and managed to take him down in the first round. Fans got more than they expected as most of Kimbo’s fights have been stand up affairs favoring his striking ability and power. Could Kimbo win on the ground? How would he fair in a strong MMA battle? The first round proved two things – Kimbo had worked a bit on his wrestling skills (ground game), but his conditioning needed A LOT of work.
The second round would prove to be controversial. Again the fighters exchanged blows, with Kimbo throwing more power-punches, and James trying to match. James once again took the fight to the ground, and Kimbo’s lack of MMA experience, and poor conditioning started to be painfully obvious. Even though Kimbo managed a few “pile driver” submissions, he couldn’t maintain the hold for long as James repeatedly freed himself. Towards the end of the second round, James had managed to smother Kimbo, pounding him with a barrage of elbows. In fact, with one minute & thirty seconds left in Round 2, Kimbo took roughly two dozen elbows & hammerfists to the head. If this were a UFC fight, it would have been stopped. Kimbo was doing a poor job defending, and while he may not have been hurt, he was clearly being outgunned by James Thompson.
Slow to get up after the bell, a winded Kimbo made his way back to his corner. Entering the third round, both men were tired, but Kimbo managed to get off a final assault of power-punches. James’ ear burst open, and after taking four headshots the referee stopped the fight. James was visibly upset, and pushed the referee, but the match was ended. Kimbo celebrated by laying down in the ring.
EliteXC did a lot for the sport with a network television debut. I have to agree with comments made on the Pugs & Kelly show that by running on network vs cable the fights were managed differently. I concur that the Gina Carano vs Kaitlynn Young, and Robbie Lawler vs Scott Smith fights would not have been stopped had they been shown on cable tv. Scott Smith clearly could have (and wanted) to continue, and while Kaitlynn was a bloody mess, she didn’t seem down for the count. (Gina demolished her last opponent even worse on Showtime, and that fight came to decision)
I heard somewhere that Dana White the President of the UFC stated he would pit BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (the current lightweight champion) against Kimbo if there were ever a UFC bout. After watching the match, I agree that Kimbo has a long way to go in his quest to become a respected MMA fighter. In my opinion, top on his list should be his conditioning. More MMA experience will only make him a better fighter, but I think Saturday’s fight only proved Kimbo would be vulnerable to a top-ranked MMA veteran. Brock Lesner made a similar appearance in the UFC, and lost due to his lack of complete MMA skills. While some consider the UFC the “bully in the schoolyard” I’m of the opinion that they have the best MMA brand right now. However, healthy competition from competing brands will only make the MMA fight market better.
UPDATE – Kevin Leong has an editorial on the flaws of this CBS debut, and Ben (the ultimate MMA fan/practitioner) chimes in.