CBS and the Elite XC experiment
Well, did you watch it? Last night CBS boldly went where no network has gone before... and it kind of sucked. That's too bad. As someone who counts himself as a fan of MMA, I had high hopes for the big debut. But then, I knew going in that it was an iffy proposition. They try hard, but the Elite XC is still far from the cream of the MMA crop. For the prime time debut, it really would have been nice if this could have been a big UFC event. Heck, even the WEC with that Uriah Faber vs Jens Pulver (VS tonight at 6PM PST) match would have been preferable.
Despite the lack of big name talent, the show still had a shot. Great fights can make up for a lot of shortcomings, and this one had a lot of them to be made up for. To start, the production left a lot to be desired. For example, if you are promising the fans big time fighting, get to it already. It took a full 25 minutes before the first match started. Worse than that, given the way the first two matches played out, fans were left with just over two minutes of actual fighting in the first hour of the show. I was left thinking that the most exciting thing about the first hour was the commercial for Street Fighter IV. Not a good sign.
The team doing the coverage wasn't the greatest either. Mauro Ronallo, Gus Johnson, and Frank Shamrock all did an ok job, but you have to compare them to their peers. They come off as lacking when you hold them up to the dynamic that you get from Mike Goldberg, Joe Rogan, and Randy Couture.
As I said before though, good fights trump everything. If the fights were really good, you could listen to an announce team speaking in a foreign language and it would still be a great show. And that is ultimately what killed the Elite XC here. Let's take a look at the matches.
The first two were both instantly forgettable. Yeah, the occasional quick knockout is exciting, but it was exactly the opposite of what the show needed. Joe Murphy was never even in his fight with Brett Rogers. Much like Phil Baroni putting up no real challenge for Joe Villasenor. Baroni's tired entrance shtick, which looked like Val Venis, without the humor, took longer than his fight.
And then we had one of the few bright spots of the night. Surprisingly, it came from the women. Gina Carano vs Kaitlin Young was the fight I was most interested in coming into the show. For one, the women's division is the one thing that really set it apart. You just don't see a lot of girls doing MMA on the TV. Also, of course, Gina Carano is just ridiculously hot, and the fact that she's dedicated herself to being a fighter is fascinating.
The fight was better than I had anticipated. Both of them are much more powerful than I had expected, landing, and taking, some really big kicks and punches. The best part though, was that this fight finally had some shifts in momentum. Kaitlin Young wasn't just another step on Gina Carano's tour. She had her moments where she was up in the fight. And damn, the girl is tough. If you watched, you had to see that quickly expanding mouse under her left eye at the end of round two.
And then things really started to go off the rails. I didn't think much of the stopping of that fight when it happened. I've certainly seen fighters go back out with injuries worse than Young's, but I was willing to accept the doctor's decision to stop the fight there. In light of how the rest of the night played out though, it was a harbinger of things to come.
The next fight really had the makings of a signature for the Elite XC. Scott Smith and Robbie Lawler were well matched and put on a great show. Like Young, Smith can take a punch. And his ability to absorb damage and recover served him well as he and Lawler went back and forth. The first round got off to a slow start, with boos raining down from impatient crowd. After that though, it was a good match. Right up until that unfortunate finger to the eye. The stories vary, and I'm sure there is plenty of blame to be passed around, but right or not, the doctor stopping the fight right there was the worst thing that could have happened to the show. It was the big title fight, tied one round apiece and still anybody's to win, and we are left with a no contest. Ridiculous.
But wait, there was more ridiculous to come. I thought the addition of the Kimbo Slice fight was a smart decision. His internet stardom means that he is more familiar to the non-MMA fan, and could draw a crowd. With that in mind though, it probably wasn't the best idea to put his match at the end of the show. If you are asking someone new to join you in this endeavor, probably not the best idea to ask them so sit through two hours of two bad fights, and two fights with questionable endings, to get to it. I'd guess that a lot of the audience had given up by the time the 11:00 hour approached and they finally got to the main event.
The fight itself surprised me. I thought they would bring in some tomato can so as not to endanger all the promotion they have put into Kimbo. James Thompson proved himself very dangerous. He also exposed Kimbo Slice. There is much more hype than actual skill to Kimbo when it comes to MMA. At this point, he's still a one trick pony. If somebody stands in front of him and lets him swing away, yes, he's going to eventually knock them out. But on the ground, he's more than vulnerable. He needs a lot more training before he is ready to take on any of the more accomplished fighters in the sport.
While it did take a little of the shine off of Kimbo, it did make for an interesting fight. Thompson had him on the ropes and looked to actually have a shot at winning the fight at one point. But again, like the two fights before it, it all ended up going to hell. That was one of the worst stoppages I have ever seen in MMA. Sure Thompson looked like he was about to be knocked out, but he had looked like that in the round before as well. If he could have wrapped Kimbo up and gotten him to the ground again, he could have come back. I highly doubt that Big John McCarthy or Herb Dean would have stopped the fight while Thompson was still on his feet and swinging.
Even if it was a good stop, which is debatable, it was again a horrible result for the debut of Elite XC. Your two biggest matches ending with the crowd booing and chanting bullshit is not a good sign. At the end of the day, the start of this experiment was about as bad as it could get. I would probably tune in to watch it again, but it's gone from wanting to see a great show to being more like how I watched Heatstroke on SciFi last night. How bad can it get?