Sorry for the delayed posting and perhaps outdated questions but we had some communication problems. Joining me this week is special guest and professional superstar Luke Thomas from BloodyElbow and battling him is a cohort in their blogging scheme, also from BE, Mr. Michael Rome.
Let us duel:
1. EliteXC’s network debut was a success.
Rome: TRUE. The only way to really define success is to look at the ratings. They did well enough to continue on CBS, they will get more shows, and they will go on to be a legitimate number two promotion in the United States. Even though the main event was controversial, Kimbo still won, and I think there may be even more intrigue around him now since some fans will want to see him lose. Further, Gina Carano looked fantastic in her demolition of Kaitlin Young, who is no pushover. Their top stars won, and they have a rematch on the horizon following a controversial stoppage. Things didn’t go perfectly, but it certainly qualifies as a success. Finally, the strong ratings opened the floodgates for MMA on broadcast television. I suspect that by late 2009, Strikeforce, Elite XC, and UFC will all be airing major events on networks, which can only be good for the sport. A result like that is definitely worth sitting through shows like the one on Saturday night.
Thomas: TRUE. As Michael articulates, the ratings are really what matter. Whether or not they can keep these ratings high over the long run is another matter. Anyone who remembers the XFL recalls a powerful start and whimpering finish. Let’s also not forget another key element: mixed martial arts, both the sport and the sporting world, is complicated. Dana White isn’t lying when he says there’s an education process involved when it comes to understanding the sport. What EliteXC’s broadcast allows, if nothing else, is the beginning of that discussion and education process for millions of new people. Even the detractors are doing us favors because they are forcing the issue of the debate and we know, over time, it’s a debate they can’t win. With all the facts, they can’t say these aren’t talented athletes or that the sport is more dangerous than boxing or football. So, let the chips fall where they may. All this does is get the ball rolling for our ultimate goal of making MMA one of North America’s major sports.
My Five Cents: It was indeed a success and got ratings at some points nearly twice as high as the goal. Though I am seeing alot of XFL comparisons when it comes to high debut ratings and I can’t follow that. The XFL was a league with a game each week with teams from different cities. This is fist fighting in a cage every few months. The only comparison is that they’re both technically sports.
2. The NJSAC properly handled the Lawler/Smith stoppage.
Rome: TRUE. I should qualify this response by saying that I am taking everything that Nick Lembo said to Sam Caplan was 100% true. Imagine being in a doctor’s position, working on a fighter with a broken foot, and then being told repeatedly by the fighter that he absolutely could not see, and could be knocked out. The only responsible thing to do was to stop the fight. We also now know he was still seeing double and triple well after the five minutes many fans have clamored for, so I think the stoppage is for the best. Next time we see these guys fight, they’ll both be 100%, and hopefully we’ll get a decisive finish. Of all the things to complain about, I think this complaint is the least justified.
Thomas: TRUE. If they got any of the stoppages correct, it’s probably this one. The Carano-Young stoppage was questionable and the Kimbo-Thompson stoppage was downright atrocious. But with Smith, he did, in fact, admit to continued vision problems not only in the cage but even in the locker room long after the fight had ended. Look, the fact is this: Scott Smith is tough to an unreal degree. And while we admire his heart and tenacity, sometimes fighters as tough as Scott can be their own worst enemy. Competent ringside physicians need to be acknowledged when their medical expertise and judgment are relevant. And clearly, a fighter having prolonged vision problems is a serious medical issue. Maybe the fight could’ve continued, but with preventative maintenance, Smith and Lawler will live to fight another day and will do so with their health much more intact.
My Five Cents: I was actually ready to argue with both of you but you flipped me. I’m soft like that. If he was complaining in the locker room then it should have been stopped. Actually it gives us another great bout between two guys that are 100% instead of Smith getting knocked out two minutes after this happened by an unseen hook and dropping down the rankings.
3. Thiago Alves will defeat Matt Hughes to begin a new guard in the WW division. (again, meant to be posted before Saturday)
Rome: FALSE. I suspect this match will look very similar to Thiago’s fight with John Fitch. His standup is very good, and he has strong submission skills, but I think Hughes will simply overpower him with wrestling and break him down. He’s never shown particularly good takedown defense, and I think Hughes will take a 29-28 decision on his way to the showdown with Matt Serra. I suspect Thiago Alves is the next Gabriel Gonzaga, a guy we’re all going to overrate for a while because he stopped Karo, but won’t make it up to the top of the division.
Thomas: FALSE. I want to say Alves will come on blazing and put on a Thai boxing clinic, but I just don’t see it. First, it’s not as if everyone has their way with Hughes on the feet. Hughes’ striking isn’t anything to write home about, but it provides just enough cushion for him to implement his gameplan against all but the very best. Second, if there is one knock on the fighters of American Top Team, it’s their wrestling. Yes, they are all good wrestlers there, but none are great. Alves was able to avoid the takedowns of Karo Parisyan, but those hip blocking and trip takedowns from judo. And ATT actually has really good judokas, most notably, Olympian Rhadi Ferguson (Kimbo Slice’s cousin). Matt Hughes, by contrast, has freestyle leg attacks: singles, doubles, ankle picks and high crotch lifts. I don’t think Alves has anyone to train with who can mimic Hughes’ style. And then once the fight his the floor, we all know that Hughes also has serious submission skills. So while Alves will do damage on the feet and there is peril involved in getting Alves to the floor, I don’t think that’s going to be enough to stop Hughes.
My Five Cents: Didn’t mean to embarrass you two fellas here. To be fair I picked Hughes too. We bloggers are experts, EXPERTS I SAY! Let’s blame it on the weight thing and feel better about ourselves.
4. I’ve said it before, Faber would defeat Kid Yamamoto in a battle for #1 among FWs.
Thomas: TRUE. Yamamoto is very talented and an extraordinarily mean fighter when competing, but Faber is too much to handle. Yamamoto isn’t big enough or strong enough to muscle Faber around and while Kid certainly has striking prowess, Faber’s overall conditioning and recent history of fighting much tougher competition make him much more prepared for the tough fights. Yamamoto has been distracted with wrestling endeavors and generally fighting less than stellar competition. A few years ago this fight could have gone Kid’s way, but not anymore. Faber is the top featherweight dog and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Rome: TRUE. Urijah Faber showed me enough against Pulver to believe he would handle Yamamoto. I don’t think Kid’s mean-spirited fighting would have much effect on the always-calm Faber, and I think he’s just too talented everywhere for Kid.
My Five Cents: I think this is the first question I’ve ever asked twice in my years of doing this. And you’re both right. Both pre and post Pulver fight.
5. UFC 85’s Vera/Werdum winner deserves the next title shot at the Nog/Mir winner.
Thomas: TRUE. Look, the UFC’s heavyweight roster is notoriously thin and while Vera hasn’t been as active as either he or the UFC would like due to legal issues, he is clearly the favorite son. He’s young, likable, a gifted striker, excellent wrestler and international BJJ champion. He has all the tools they and he needs to go places. The UFC heavyweight division, stacked just a year ago, is fractured and crumbling: Gonzaga fizzled, Arlovski is gone, Couture is gone, Sylvia is gone, Monson is gone and the list goes on from there. Werdum rebounded nicely and as aforementioned, Vera has serious star potential. Both are also legitimate heavyweight talent, something in short supply in the UFC heavyweight ranks. Lesnar could be a star down the road, but he’s not ready yet. Vera and Werdum are.
Rome: FALSE. The winner may be on his way to a title shot, but there’s no reason the winner should wait 9 months to find out the winner of Nog/Mir and then finally fight in March or April of next year. Whoever wins here needs to win one more time to get a shot. The winner could fight the winner of Herring/Brock for example, I don’t really care, but having the winner of such an inconsequential fight sit around for 9 months for a title shot is ridiculous.
My Five Cents: Luke is right in his answer and Rome is right in his reasoning. I’ve said this before, I started picking fights based on my “who does Joe Silva want to win?” formula. After Werdum/Vera that is 0-1. But I still think I’m right, they thought Vera would beat him. Crazy idea, no one wants to see Nog/Werdum II but with Werdum’s new strong standup skills could he take out Nog? I mean Nog has a chin of granite so maybe not but with the better standup and just slightly less ground game could he get a decision? I don’t know anyone that would argue that fight wouldn’t be a five round decision, exactly why Joe Silva wanted Vera to win.
6. Stopping a Kimbo/Rogers fight is protecting Rogers more than Kimbo.
Thomas: FALSE. Protecting Rogers from what exactly, a better payday and a win? While Kimbo possess clean boxing and vicious punching power, it’s clear the rest of his game is as green and rudimentary and his coach Bas Rutten admits it is. When Tim Sylvia has better and more technical escapes from side control than you, you need to seriously work on your wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Sylvia was choked by Nogueira when he hit the hip bump and rollover to attempt the escape, but ask anyone who has been training at all: at least it was the technical. Kimbo’s escapes relied on powering out of bad spots, which partly explains his fatigue at the end of the fight. But back to Rogers, he has devastating punching power as well and arguably better wrestling. He could feasibly finish the job Thompson started and do so with a lot less effort. I’m not upset with Kimbo for being where he is in the game, but when we start talking about matching him up with legitimate fighters, we have to be honest and provide sober analysis: Kimbo isn’t ready for real fighters.
Rome: FALSE. This is a joke, right? I suppose it’s possible Rogers will stand with Kimbo and make it interesting, but he can easily use his wrestling ability to take Kimbo down and pound him out. I’m shocked they are dumb enough to be considering this fight. Why? Because hardcore fans demand it? Who cares what messageboard fans think, Kimbo’s fight did over 6 million viewers, what in the world is the point of killing him? If Elite XC kills its golden goose to appease dorks online, they really deserve to go out of business.
My Five Cents: What? Brett Rogers with his zero submission wins? He has one but it was via strikes so we all know that’s a TKO despite the titling. The same way Kimbo “submitted” Cantrell. I think Kimbo will kill Rogers. Kimbo didn’t look good at all vs Thompson, I give you that, but Thompson came out as I said he would shooting for the takedown. Thompson is a better wrestler and finisher than Rogers. Rogers is a young buck and putting him in with Kimbo will only set him back. Slice, TKO, round one. Book. It.
I thank my BE brothers for participating in this DUEL. We will have another later in the week regarding the last UFC event and future events and we apologize for the delay.