P.T. Barnum would be proud. Between Naked-weigh ins, the intended dog and pony show, or the clown shot out of a cannon that ended up happening, EliteXC on CBS II was the biggest circus in North American MMA in quite some time.
The sad thing is that, aside from a main event that was never going to live up to the hype in the first place, and ended up rebooting the career of a middling talent, EliteXC was an enormously entertaining event, which could go far to broaden MMA’s appeal. Kimbo’s loss to a nearly complete unknown is going to hurt EliteXC massively, but some people will get the message that MMA is more than just Kimbo, and new fans will be born.
I was eagerly awaiting a Kimbo mugging of Ken Shamrock, which, even given how tonight’s fight did unfold, I still think was inevitable. I saw Seth Petruzelli’s name alongside Kimbo’s on the EliteXC after flipping back from yet another embarassing performance from the Cubs. Immediately several thoughts went through my head at once. First of all, poor EliteXC having to deal with someone as flakey as Shamrock, and perhaps losing out on their main event draw, and taking a big risk putting a live fighter in with their fragile superstar. Secondly, I died a little inside knowing that my wagers on Kimbo were all canceled (and I worried for several parlays as well, which were thankfully no-actioned only on the Kimbo fight). Then something dawned on me. Seth was a genuinely talented fighter, well-rounded, and was probably going to win the fight. Now, as it turns out, if I’d lived up to my self-promoted reputation as a gambling degenerate and rushed to the sportsbooks, the few that did open up lines on Seth had him at up to +475.
Unfortunately for me, I was being a normal person, drinking and hanging out with my friends, and (here’s some insider advice for you) I generally try to stay away from making gambling decisions after I’ve had a few. In any case, Kimbo tried to brawl with his hands at his waist, charged sideways onto a punnch that rotated his head 180 degrees, and had his ears boxed. EliteXC is going to be out quite a bit of money, although the excitement of the other fights combined with the news of Kimbo getting handled by a nobody could help them in a lot of respects. The biggest loser is Kimbo, who’s really too old to spend a long time rebuilding himself, so he’ll most likely be pushed into more fights against tough opponents, which will lead to as many losses as victories–a sad fate for a man who is, by all reports, a very good-natured and honest person underneath his bad-boy image.
The biggest winner is obviously Seth Petruzelli, leaping parkour-style back out of the obscurity of journeyman status and untelevised preliminary fights. I don’t think Seth will ever crack the top ten of any weight division, but tonight has provided him an immense measure of job security. No matter how many more fights he loses or how little he trains, he can always headlines regional shows as “the man that knocked out Kimbo”. It really is remarkable to think of the number of non-UFC fighters simply green with envy now. Do you remember how many fighters called out Kimbo and tried to start a feud, simply so they could have a chance to be the first to beat him? Kudos to Seth.
Of course, Kimbo casts a long shadow, and that kept many much higher-quality fights from getting the attention they deserved. One such was Jake Shields’ impressive tussle with Paul Daley. Shields has always had a ludicrously good control game from on top of his opponents coupled with good wrestling. Now he seems to be less conservative on top, and it’s made him a much better fighter. By seeking submissions and punches to finish, Shields makes his opponents defend themselves rather than try to work out of position, although Shields armbar from mount moves at a glacial pace, presumably out of fear of giving up position. Shields looked as expected in this fight, moving well and timing his shots well, and performing expertly on the ground. Semtex looked very sharp on the feet, and Shields seemed genuinely afraid of exchanging with him, which may have added an extra edge to his takedowns. I’d love to see Shields fight someone close to his own level of ability, but that will most likely require moving to another organization.
Speaking of other organizations, the Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson fight was hugely entertaining. First of all, it’s always hilarious to see a fat guy come in and scrap the way Nelson does. Secondly, the actual quality of the fight was very high. In my opinion it’s a win for both fighters, and both performed as expected. Arlovski looked very sharp, flashing the same controlled viciousness he used to tear Ben Rothwell down. Roy Nelson did the best he could, and showed he was the real deal by being game every moment of the fight, backing up the much sexier Arlovski at times, and beautifully reversing Andre’s early takedown attempt for some ground work. Nelson is tough and talented, but he simply didn’t have what it took to keep Arlovski from landing nasty combos, and nobody is tough enough to let Arlovski use them as a heavy bag. Speaking of bad things nobody should endure, this fight tied the women’s fights for most unacceptable moment of the night when the referee stood the fighters up from sidemount after a very brief period of inactivity. That’s simply not okay. I’m going to say that again–it is NOT OKAY to stand fighters up from such dominant positions unless the top fighter is virtually asleep.
If Andrei keeps fighting like this, the losses to Tim Sylvia will be nothing more than a footnote in a great career. Nelson, too, has a bright future ahead of him. Ideally he can truly dedicate himself to competition, slim down (perhaps as far as light heavyweight) and really make a go of seeing how far he can go in the sport.
Kelly Kobold showed great gameness/toughness/heart in getting absolutely hammered by Gina Carano. Unfortunately for fans of the sport of MMA, this fight was limited to a little-league 3 minutes a round, which is basically preposterous and ties the standup from sidemount as worst of the event. Of course, neither Gina nor Kelly made much of an argument for longer rounds, fighting at a sprinting pace and gassing in the third round. Kelly came close to winning some rounds and seemed to match Gina’s strength, but she simply had nothing for Gina on the feet. While they did exchange, Gina showed that it was truly better to give than receive, working straight punches and either took the bulk of Kelly’s punches on her shoulders or got away from them entirely. Gina looked good against an opponent she couldn’t bully who had the toughness and power to hit back hard. I still haven’t really seen Gina’s chin tested, and if Kelly could land the shots she did, I think Cyborg can land even more, and will most likely knock Gina out should they fight. Kelly should call me and I will take her out for a fine seafood dinner.
Ninja Rua continued his tradition of getting bombed with a quickness by big punchers. A disappointing fight for me, especially since Radach still looked sloppy and got caught a number of times (most notable a double near-KO that produced some hilarious groundwork), indicating he isn’t really a vastly improved fighter. Ninja, even while dazed and fighting on pure instinct, showed his fabulous ground game. I really think that fighting in the “chute boxe” style is hurting Ninja and he needs to come out and fight more like a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, and do less of the “stand in place and throw weak punches” business that is really hurting him. He fights on the feet as if he were Wanderlei, but Wanderlei hits like a gorilla, so he can afford to not concern himself with counterpunches. Ninja can’t. If Radach keeps fighting like this, he’ll do well in EliteXC but he’ll continue to hit speed bumps when someone can take or avoid his punches and hit him back while he leaves himself open. It’s how he’s lost in the past, and one shouldn’t be surprised to see him lose that way in the future.