Tuesday, June 03, 2008

EliteXC Show Made the UFC Look Professional

As you may know, MMA isn't my forte, I love the techniques, but don't get into the sport nearly as much as Rick, and hence don't post on it. On the other hand, I couldn't help but want to watch the EliteXC show for the history (first major-network broadcast TV MMA production), and now I can't help but share my observations. Not having had a chance to read anything else on the Web yet, other than Rick's MMA Weekly Wrap-Up (of 6/2/08), I hope this doesn't just repeat what you may have read elsewhere. I also held off posting this until the Wrap-Up was up. Here are my impressions:

The EliteXC show had many components that make it appear to be more pro wrestling than serious combat sport. The UFC's productions shine by comparison.

  1. I don't think girls dancing bumping and grinding on a stage has any place in a sport that wants to be taken seriously. I don't have a problem with dancers being a part of a musical stage performance, but it actually made me cringe to think that this would be the first exposure to MMA that many people had, and it may be the last. No class.
  2. The smoke and lights as the fighters made their appearances weren't that bad, but, again it doesn't enhance the sport or the fighters. It's a wrestling gimmick. The Ultimate Fighter reality show made the fighters stars in the UFC, and made even casual fans or spouses care about the fighters and get into the "soap opera" of the UFC. The brief profiles of the fighters didn't give enough background and didn't seem balanced - as Rick mentioned, the promoters had their favorites: "The pre-fight trailers and interviews made it rather clear that certain athletes were going to be the ‘stars’ of the show; including Robbie Lawler, Gina Carano, and of course ‘Kimbo Slice’ - Kevin Fergusson. These guys were the favorites to win and no one begrudged EliteXC from hyping up their participation. -After all, EliteXC doesn’t have many big names like UFC or Affliction yet.
    What most of us didn’t suspect however, is that these same stars might get preferential treatment inside the ring."
  3. That was my primary problem with the show - the results were a foregone conclusion! Gina Carano really impressed me - her timing was excellent, nailing Katlin Young repeatedly with stop hits and straight punch and kick combinations. Carano has obvious marketing appeal and is loaded with raw talent, but the early stoppage did her and the sport no justice. Young was bloodied and swollen, but was scoring well with leg kicks, and holding her own on the ground. I didn't have a problem with the stoppage of the Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith's bout. It was a war, and, if you missed it, was stopped and declared a No Contest due to the Smith's eye injury (accidental gouge by Lawler). We can't really know if that bout could've continued, and I agreed that we should err on the side of fighter safety, especially with vision. I do know that I'd love to see a rematch of that fight - Lawler's striking was impressive - his body kicks and counter fighting style gave Smith real problems, but it was no mismatch by any means. I had no doubt that Smith was in the fight, because his bursts of offense could've spelled defeat at any time for Lawler. The most egregious decision robbery was the TKO stoppage of James Thompson by Kimbo (Kevin Fergusson). A casual fan could tell that Thompson should have won both of the first two rounds by virtue of him keeping Kimbo on his back and pounding him nearly the entire time, and he was probably due the decision as long as he didn't get knocked out by Kimbo's superior striking in the third. I have my doubt that CBS and EliteXC wanted to see their main attraction go out that way, and so it was stopped after a four-punch combination by Slice. Was Thompson unable to continue? Was he out on his feet? I'd say no to both questions. Thompson was probably going to win that fight, but we'll never know. Despicable decision by the referee, and he deserved to get the palm to the face he received from a coherent and combative Thompson. What. The. Hell? Kimbo probably knows he lost that fight, and I do hope that a rematch is in the works.
  4. Finally, the color commentator needs to learn a little more about the fight game. It annoyed me every time he called a leg kick a "cut kick." The proper term should be leg kick, as most fighters use the muay Thai style kick, but not all, and cut kick denotes a particular use of the Thai kick to the leg - under the opponent's kick as a counter. There were other examples of his ignorance, but I'll let it go at that.

In conclusion, I learned a few things from watching that production (in no particular order):

  • Kimbo is still developing, but may be a contender once he gets more technique from the bottom and near the cage. His conditioning appeared to be lacking for three-rounders, and he's not ready for five yet. He was, I think, visibly scared prior to the beginning of the fight, and I think that may have affected his endurance. With more experience those jitters will go away, and he'll have a chance. My opinion is that he's being protected and managed, but he needs more exposure to better fighters to fulfill his superstar potential. I actually root for him as a person because he's decided to do it right and has gotten competent coaching and seems to be learning. If you'd have asked me a year ago whether he could have beaten a top MMA heavyweight, I would've said no. I have changed my mind and would now say maybe.
  • Carano impressed me a lot. I think her stand-up skills are very good, and loved watching her (like Lawler) use the jab effectively. Also, her use of the front kick was refreshing. It's a perfect complement to the Thai kick from that stance, but is underutilized in MMA. She really does seem to have her head somewhere else, but I think that if she focused more on fighting, she'd be unstoppable.
  • Finally, this showed just how far MMA has come. There are no prime-time boxing events anymore on network TV, but here is MMA. It's got a chance to get even bigger, but only if it's done more professionally than Saturday's show.


Anonymous said...

There some great points Nathan and I couldnt agree with you more. How the Kimbo fight was stopped so soon really is bad.

Rick Fryer said...

Nice points Nathan.

In the aftermath of the EliteXC event, one thing that I've found interesting is that every non-martial arts person I've talked to thinks Kimbo is a 'Beast' and unbeatable. Meanwhile, every martial artist I've talked to thinks Kimbo was in big trouble and would have likely to lost the match if it hadn't been stopped early.

I'm thinking that the uninitiated must be watching the fight through the hype of Kimbo's mystique rather than his actual ability. It's funny how people choose to see what they want even when reality is obviously different.

I still like 'Kimbo', I just think we all need to keep in mind that this is only his third MMA fight... He NEVER should have been set up as a headliner - He simply doesn't have the experience or ability yet.