I wasn’t able to see the entire replay last night on Showtime Extreme because I was helping host the Dan Henderson chat at UFCjunkie.com but I was able to tune in just after the start of the second bout on the card between Hector Urbina and Ray Lizama.
First, I felt the production took a step backwards. The volume on the pre-match promos was a little off. With the sound quality, it sounded like some of the guys were whispering. I’m also not a big fan of the small background set they’ve used for the first two shows. They need to come up with something that is a little more impressive. I realize that it’s not easy because unlike big shows, the promos they tape with the ShoXC fighters are done on location a day or two before the fight but it might be worth trying to come up with something a little different. Hell, interview the fighter in the lockerroom a few minutes before he goes on.
The producers also need to help Mauro Ranallo out. There was a lot of uncomfortable silence between bouts. There’s not much Mauro can do in that situation besides talk to himself since Stephen Quadros has to head up to the cage and interview fighters. With Quadros in the cage, there’s nobody for Mauro to work off of. Now I understand why the UFC has so many pre-recorded spots so that they can address the lull between fights when Joe Rogan is not around for Mile Goldberg to work off of.
Without Quadros there, the easy answer is to just run more promos. I think they could have promoted the 9/15 card a lot better (I almost felt like they promoted the October ShoXC a little more, but maybe I’m wrong?). Why not show some outtakes from the upcoming barker show and give us a sneak peak at what Robbie Lawler or Ninja (via a translator) had to say? Why not some comments from Nick Diaz? Why not some Jake Shields highlights? They could also fill time with some ProElite.com promos. A lot of money is being pumped into the site so they might as well they and maximize their traffic output. Bottom line, they need better filler between bouts.
I’m also not a big fan of shows in non-MMA hotbeds like Mississippi. They were at a small arena yet it felt like the crowd was miles away from the cage. One of the big advantages of having smaller venues is the intimate feel but I didn’t get that impression last night. I remember hearing a lot more catcalls for the ring girls than I heard cheers for the fighters.
I’m probably wrong though because promoter Gary Shaw has been doing live events for years now and he probably ran at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez and in Vicksburg over the weekend because he has good relationships with the people in charge and can keep overhead low.
In general, finding good locations must be tough because you can’t run shows in fighting cities like Philly, New York, or Boston and you can only promote in California so much. There’s always Vegas, but unless you’re the UFC it’s really hard to get people excited about MMA on a large scale basis there. In Vegas, the UFC is kind of considered the hometown sports team. A lot of hardcores also travel out there for shows that might not be eager to travel for other promotions. I still think EliteXC should look into doing shows in Atlantic City. AC has been on the comeback trail for a long time and it’s a great location for drawing fans from New York and Philly. Cage Fury Fighting Championships did a strong crowd for their last show featuring Kimbo Slice vs. Ray Mercer.
I also thought the trophy presentations afterwards came off a little campy. It kind of reminded me of the inter-school Smoker matches I used to fight in at Philly MMA. Smokers are low-level amateur bouts so I don’t think they want to give off that vibe to the audience. Yes, I realize Pride used to make awards presentations after bouts but they gave out serious hardware in front of tens of thousands of fans so it had a different feel. It was cool though to see Turi Altavilla on camera. Altavilla has a great reputation in the industry and did good work for Pride. It’s just strange to see him on camera considering Pro Elite never did send out a press release formally announcing his hiring. His hiring is something an MMA company should tout because he’s the kind of guy who could work for any promotion he wanted to.
One thing I’d also like to see the show focus on is what exactly is at stake for fighters. For example, before the fight between Jon Murphy vs. Dave Huckaba it would have been cool if there was some conversation about how there really is no heavyweight division in EliteXC right now. It would have been interesting if they mentioned that Jon Murphy is on a three fight contract with the company and what a win would do for his stock in the company (could he be someone that is a contender for a title shot if the division gets built up?).
Or, in regard to Seth Kleinbeck, who dropped from light heavyweight to middleweight, what does his second consecutive win in EliteXC do for his career? Might he be a future contender for Ninja Rua’s EXC middleweight title?
Also, what about Hector Urbina and Umar Love? Are they under contract to EliteXC? If not, do their wins guarantee them another match with the promotion? Where does Brendan Tierney go following the first loss of his pro career? Did he show enough for a second chance? And what will be the repercussions of Ray Lizama’s lackluster effort? Is it back to the local shows for him?
The concept of the show is to create new stars and to be a proving ground. Well, what do wins by Umar Love, Hector Urbina, Jon Murphy, Seth Kleinbeck, and Victor Valenzuela prove? By breaking down what a win or a loss for a fighter means, it adds a lot to the drama of the outcome. If someone doesn’t know who Murphy is, they know enough to be happy for a guy who has overcome a lot of personal problems and now can move onto bigger things in his career after a big win.
Here’s my match-by-match breakdown (sans one match):
Hector Urbina vs. Ray Lizama - This match looked like a clash between two guys who aren’t full-time fighters and simply don’t have the resources to focus on their conditioning. I was intrigued by Urbina because the kid is just 19 but I really didn’t feel like I was watching some teenage phenom. I felt more like I was watching a slightly above average fighter in his mid-20s. As for Lizama, he really had cardio issues and just couldn’t do much to push the pace and seemed like he was just trying to go the distance. I would have liked to seen a greater sense of urgency from him. Urbina tried to come on during the middle of the second round and did his best to push himself going for high leg kicks, flying knees, and superman punches so you have to give him credit for looking for the big finish. We didn’t get the finish and we didn’t get a real good match. Mauro and Quadros stood out though during this match because they had the editorial freedom that a lot of MMA announcers don’t have and were able to crap on the match. Whenever an announcer fails to point out the obvious it’s just insulting. That’s why I’ve always been a Larry Merchant fan because it didn’t matter whether the fighter was without an HBO contract or an HBO fighter with a lucrative deal; if they failed to bring it, he didn’t hesitate to rip them. It’s a lot easier to be patient when the announcers acknowledge what’s going on because it sends the message that what’s taking place is not up to the promotion’s standard and gives you hope that the next match will be better.
Jon Murphy vs. David Huckaba – In addition to being featured on our site, Murphy has gotten a lot of press recently by other outlets such as The Fight Network. He’s a good person and a good fighter so it was nice to see him perform so well underneath the spotlight. We’re going to be hearing a lot more from him in the future. He showed some nice grappling skills and even some solid wrestling. When I spoke with him he mentioned that wrestling was the biggest area where he could stand to improve. Well, he threw one hell of a modified German suplex. Murphy really put his strength on display and showed some solid boxing by working the high/low game against the cage and then putting Huckaba down. Huckaba deserves credit though because he took this match on almost no notice.
Showtime deserves a lot of credit for how they covered Huckaba’s knockout. It looked like he was hurt bad and medical officials had to be called into the cage. The camera was fixed on him the whole time he was down and they didn’t pull a UFC where they try and act like what just happened didn’t happen. Mauro and Quadros did a good job covering it like a news event and treated Huckaba with the respect he deserved (not like some disposable fighter that gets thrown away after a brutal knockout). Instead of having to wonder if a guy is still alive, you got to see him get back on his feet and walk out and it’s a much better feeling. The way Showtime covered the situation is exactly how the UFC should cover it.
Seth Kleinbeck vs. Jaime Jara - Both fighters are high-character guys so I was looking forward to this. Jara, 38, is a tough cat who has fought and won titles in just about every weight class. His plan now is to drop to welterweight and compete for a title at 170 lbs. That says a lot considering he’s a former Gladiator Challenge heavyweight champ. Jara is also a good wrestler but didn’t show it during the first ShoXC vs. Jeremiah Metcalf and didn’t show much of it vs. Kleinbeck. I know he’s proud of his improved boxing skills and from watching his last two bouts, it’s obvious he wants to put that on display. I’m just not so sure standing with Kleinbeck was a good idea in hindsight. Kleinbeck has competed a lot at light heavyweight so by fighting at middleweight, he brings a lot of power to the table. He worked some great lower leg kicks during the fight. The kicks were compact enough that it didn’t allow Jara a good opportunity to shoot for the takedown. Kleinbeck let his hands go in the second and scored a vicious knockout. It looked like Kleinbeck put him out with one punch and put him out again with the combo shot.
Victor Valenzuela vs. Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett - Bennett looked terrible. He scored a nice knockdown of Valenzuela early in the first but just came in all crazy and didn’t have the technique needed to finish a downed opponent. A guy like Valenzuela isn’t intimidated by Bennett so he didn’t panic. In fact, it made him pissed and he took every advantage of his second chance. Bennett was gassed early, even earlier than usual so I guess his training routine has stayed the same? Valenzuela took the fight to him and Bennett was so tired he wasn’t keeping his hands up. Man, if it wasn’t for that early knockdown, it might have looked like Bennett was looking to take a fall. He was just letting Valenzuela pick him a part. Even with the knockdown of Valenzuela he still looked like a guy who just wanted to pick up his paycheck and go home.
Valenzuela hit him with a combo near the cage and Bennett went down. Valenzuela had Bennett’s back and could have cinched in the choke but decided to reign in some big shots. Bennett didn’t really show a lot of heart and tapped from punches.
More credit goes out to Mauro and Quadros because they were very critical of Bennett. Promoter Gary Shaw is a big fan of Bennett’s so coming out so strongly against him might not have been an easy thing to do. I’m not saying anyone told them they had to be complementary towards Bennett on the telecast, but they still know how Shaw feels about him and they said what they felt anyway. I agreed with everything they said. I’ll take it a step further and just ask if Shaw is still a fan after Bennett’s performance? They aren’t paying the guy chump change and he really didn’t give the promotion their money’s worth. I still don’t understand what the attraction is to Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett?
I’m not sure what’s next for the 155 lbs. division in EliteXC. All the guys have kind of beaten each other. I think the next course of action might be to have Bennett vs. Edson Berto and Victor Valenzuela vs. K.J. Noons. Mauro mentioned that there’s a rematch clause for Valenzuela vs. Bennett but he asked if there was a need for the rematch and I really don’t think there is because Valenzuela beat him so decisively.