MMA’s primetime network television debut is only a day away, when EliteXC takes center stage on CBS with ‘Primetime.’ The event will air live on CBS at 9PM ET/6PM PT. The entire preliminary card will be streamed live on ProElite.com and CBSSports.com starting at 7PM ET.
Before I get to the picks, I have two quick updates from fiveouncesofpain.com to pass along. In a press conference today, Gary Shaw stated that “roughly” 7,000 tickets have been sold for the event. Also, the second CBS show will take place sometime in the late summer or early fall, in lieu of the originally speculated date of July 26. This is a very smart move considering the promotion’s lack of depth in its roster.
The ratings for this event are perhaps more compelling than the fights themselves. I truly believe this show is going to be a hit with Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice on the card. These two are attracting more attention than Chuck Liddell. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding it—some good and some bad—but like they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. All the people condemning it will still be watching.
I think it’s going to be a home run.
8.5 million viewers
Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson
This fight has caused more controversy than any I can remember. Few could argue that Kimbo Slice deserves to be in the main event of such an important and historic card. The controversy stems from the potentially negative impact the former street brawler could have on the public perception of the sport. People can argue all they want that Kimbo is bad for the sport, but the reality is that those same people, and likely millions more, will still tune in to see him come Saturday night. That reason alone is why Kimbo is being seen everywhere from the cover of ESPN The Magazine to the Country Music Awards, and why he is headlining this card.
The UFC could have been the ones, but they turned it down. Whether it was a good or bad decision on their part is irrelevant now. EliteXC seized the opportunity and we’re getting an MMA event on live network television. Why complain about it? It’s what we’ve always wanted, isn’t it?
Beggars can’t be choosers. Perhaps it will be a vehicle that gives the top fighters a chance to fight on network television in the future.
As for the fight, there’s no Machida-like mystery to this one. Regardless of relative inexperience, Kimbo has serious knockout power in his fists. James Thompson is the owner of an infamous glass jaw. It’s not difficult to figure out how this one will likely go. However, let’s not automatically write Thompson off in this fight. He’s still a dangerous opponent that brings a world’s worth more experience to the cage than Kimbo does. He’s fought all over the world and won’t have the weight of a promotion riding on his shoulders. He’s beaten better competition than Kimbo has ever even faced.
One would think that Thompson should have recognized by now how weak his chin is and not stand in front of Kimbo and trade punches. Hopefully he and his team have developed a game plan that entails getting Kimbo to the ground. Kimbo’s stated that’s where he wants the fight to go to show the world that he’s not a one-dimensional fighter. I really hope that’s what happens here. Not only would we get to see how he has developed as a mixed martial artist, but it could also help dispel the notion that Kimbo is nothing but a street brawler. How crazy would Kimbo pulling off a submission be?
Even though Thompson does present a threat to Kimbo, I think I would be giving Thompson too much credit to believe he is going to sit back, pick his shots, and take Kimbo down when the time is right. I really want to see this fight get out of the first round, but it’s unlikely.
Kimbo Slice by KO in Round One
Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith
Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith are two more that are bound to stand and trade blows until one of them falls. Lawler is the more technical of the two but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a victory. Smith has recognized how big this fight is for his career and will undoubtedly look to take advantage of it. Lawler, the defending EliteXC Middleweight Champion, is clearly the favorite here and deservingly so, but he could easily be caught by Smith’s heavy hands. Lawler should win, but Smith is so fired up about this fight and the exposure that comes with it, I think Smith is going to come in and give it everything he has and more. I’m going with the upset on this one.
Scott Smith by TKO in Round Two
Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young
This may very well be the fight of the night.
Gina Carano is coming into this fight surrounded by a ton of media exposure and hype. With a win, she may even steal Kimbo Slice’s thunder and emerge the star of the show. However, getting that win is not going to be as easy as some may think.
Kaitlin Young is a dangerous opponent for Carano. In a Hook n’ Shoot tournament last November, Young brutally knocked out three opponents in the same night in less than two minutes—combined. She’s young and relatively inexperienced in MMA, but she’s working her ass off at the Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy and API to help make up for it.
Conversely, Carano has had a short training camp due to her role as ‘Crush’ on American Gladiators. She’s been distracted by all the media commitments surrounding the event, and her training has likely suffered because of it. I can’t fault her for doing those things as she has every right to do everything she can to build a career, but at the same time, I think this match becomes more evenly matched with Carano not having adequate time to prepare.
We’ve all seen what happens when the better fighter isn’t fully prepared—Shogun comes to mind—and I think this is going to be the deciding factor. I’m going with the upset on this one, too.
Kaitlin Young by decision in a show-stealing battle
Phil Baroni vs. Joey Villasenor
This is another match that was made to be a stand-up war. See the pattern?
Both fighters like to stand and trade. The difference here is that Baroni is notorious for going for the home run early and when he doesn’t get it, he gasses out—hard.
Villasenor, a Greg Jackson student, is going to be prepared for the initial onslaught, especially after seeing what happened to his teammate Keith Jardine last Saturday night. Luckily for Villasenor, Baroni, while dangerous, isn’t quite the killer that Wanderlei Silva is and should be able to survive the first round. Villasenor should be able to pick apart a gassed Baroni in the second and third rounds with a likely TKO coming from it.
Joey Villasenor by TKO in Round Three
Brett Rogers vs Jon Murphy
Brett Rogers is a big, strong and imposing fighter. He was able to handle James Thompson fairly easily when they fought back in February. Thompson is nothing if not big and strong, so for Rogers to be able to get right back up after Thompson took him down says a lot. He knocked Thompson out in that fight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much since almost everybody does. That’s not to say he doesn’t have power in his hands though. Jon Murphy may be the smaller, quicker heavyweight who likes to let his hands fly, but I’m not sure it will be enough to overcome Roger’s size and strength.
Rogers by TKO in Round One
It certainly isn’t the dream card that we would all like as the first MMA event on network television, but let’s just be happy that we finally have an event on network television at all. If all goes well, which I believe it will, it will open the doors for the fighters who should be on TV to have the opportunity. You’re going to watch it, so you might as well enjoy it for what it is—a night of entertaining fights.