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EliteXC: Return of the King Review

noons-vs-edwards.jpgLast night’s EliteXC “Return of the King” proved to be the “Return of the quick, one-sided fight card.”

Much like the promotion’s February 16 “Street Certified” event and its March 21 ShoXC card, last night’s show featured a multitude of lopsided fights with fast finishes. If you dislike fights that go to a decision and love brutal one-sided beatdowns, chances are that you thoroughly enjoyed “Return of the King.”

But for those who enjoy a little parity in their combat sports, last night’s event came up way short in that regard. Only one bout, the catchweight clash involving Nick Diaz and Muhsin Corrbrey, resembled a competitive fight involving give and take between the two fighters. However, as the bout went on, Diaz pulled out far ahead, leaving little uncertainty about the ultimate outcome of the fight.

Me, personally, when I sit down to watch a night of fights, I like to see actual fighting taking place as opposed to full-on assaults. However, I can’t say that the show was boring, as it did offer plenty of exciting finishes.

Hindsight is 20/20 and in the cases of two of the fights, it was hard to envision them being so one-sided going into the event. Despite being undefeated, Dave Herman had yet to be truly tested. On paper, former UFC and PRIDE fighter Ron Waterman looked as though he could serve as a real obstacle in Herman’s quest to become 11-0. Despite having top position on Herman at one point, serving as a test proved not to be the case with the fighter known as “Pee Wee” finishing Waterman in the first round with a TKO.

The night’s main event had the makings of a potential match of the year and I don’t know of anyone who believed going into the fight that it had a chance to end so early. But if it was going to end early, most people would have thought that it would have been Yves Edwards getting the better of K.J. Noons, and not vice versa.

Part of the issue with the frequent lopsided outcomes has to do with bad luck, but another component has to do with the fact that EliteXC is not bringing in a lot of established fighters as they build up their depth in each respective weight class. They are relying greatly on lesser-established fighters with the goal of making new stars. The problem is that when it comes time to put some of these fighters in a major spot, there are many unanswered questions about them and some of them simply aren’t ready for the spotlight.

A major bright spot on the show was the notable absence of EliteXC’s dancers. For over a year now, this site has been critical of EliteXC’s gratuitous utilization of scantily-attired females masquerading as “dancers” on the rampway. They weren’t involved with last night’s production and I’m not sure anyone misses them. It remains to be seen exactly why the promotion chose not to use dancers. Was it simply done as a one-time cost cutting measure or, is it in response to some of the criticism the promotion received following its May 31 debut on CBS? Only time will tell.

Another thing that was absent was audible enthusiasm from the crowd. At times, the atmosphere resembled a ShoXC event. I’m not sure if it was a situation where the crowd wasn’t mic’d properly, or if the crowd was holding in their excitement for the five fights that were scheduled after the SHOWTIME telecast that featured many of their hometown heroes.

The biggest news to come out of the show was the announcement that EliteXC will be returning to primetime network television on July 26. The featured bout for the promotion’s second-ever show on CBS will feature a rematch stemming from last month’s controversial EliteXC middleweight title match between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith. No other matches were announced for the show and there was no mention of a venue. With just five weeks until the event, the promotion will have to cram in order to get the card filled out and a venue secured so that tickets may go on-sale. As it stands, every fighter on the card will be fighting on short notice. Coming back so soon and on such short notice seems very ill-advised, but what CBS wants, CBS gets.

The time schedule for the July 26 telecast is less than ideal, but it looks like the promotion might be able to put something together. With Lawler vs. Smith anchoring the card, they could also have Antonio Silva, Jake Shields, and Shayna Bazler round out the CBS portion of the show.

Possible opponents for Silva include Brett Rogers and Roy Nelson, and the fight could be contested for a heavyweight title. Drew Fickett is competing in Canada in July so he’s not an option for Shields, but Paul Daley just might be, as could IFL welterweight champion Jay Hieron. As for Baszler, they could always match her up with Tonya Evinger, but putting Evinger on national television is a huge risk.

If they want to do something out of left field for the July show, they could go out and try to sign Jason “Mayhem” Miller to appear on the card now that he’s out of the DREAM middleweight Grand Prix. Miller could be a mega-star with network television exposure.

The undercard could also probably be put together quickly. I believe Mauro Ranallo mentioned that there will be a SHOWTIME telecast on July 26. It wouldn’t surprise me if they used the ShoXC lineup they had planned for June 27. If that is the case, we could get to see the likes of Hector Lombard and Cyrille Diabate in high-profile undercard fights.

Here’s a complete rundown of the fights that took place on Return of the King…

Rafael Feijao def. Wayne Cole via TKO at 2:47 of round one

Cole got out to a quick start but Feijao not only weathered the storm, he became the storm. Feijao just looks like a total beast and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s going to be a future top ten lightweight. If last night was any indication, his elevation could happen sooner rather than later.

If you enjoy beatdowns, the ending sequence of the opener likely had you jumping out of your seat. The end was just nasty. Going in, I thought this had a chance to be a competitive fight, but Feijao made Cole look like he didn’t even belong on the show.

Dave Herman def. Ron Waterman via TKO at 2:19 of round one

Another strong performance by Herman, who is without question a star on the rise. His aggression during his fights is surprising because he comes across so carefree when speaking. He’s also someone that really isn’t even affiliated with a major camp and based on his post-fight interview with Bill Goldberg, it doesn’t sound like he has any immediate plans to changes things. In the long run, he’s going to have to because being self-trained isn’t going to cut it against top competition.

Murilo Rua def. Tony Bonello via TKO at 3:16 of round one

I was really looking forward to this fight because I had heard so much talk about Bonello over the last year. The problem was, a lot of the talk was from Bonello himself. He entered the fight with a 16-0-1 record and some buzz. But despite having 17 fights on his record, he was still a virtual unknown. I really wanted to know whether this guy was for real and after last night’s effort, it’s plain for the eye to see that he clearly isn’t. The only thing Bonello proved last night was that he was tough and can take a beating. For a man who claims to be a black belt jiu-jitsu, we saw absolutely no kind of back game from him. Surprisingly, it was Bonello who decided to be in such a position in the first place, after he made the ill-advised choice of jumping guard.

This was one of Ninja’s better performances, who has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. But I really do not know where he goes next in EliteXC if Lawler is able to beat Smith in their rematch. I really don’t see an obvious need for Lawler vs. Ninja II, unless they feel that since they have so many new viewers from CBS that the majority of their audience isn’t even aware of their first fight.

Nick Diaz def. Muhsin Corbbrey via TKO at 3:59 of round three

I haven’t checked out comments yet, but I liked this fight. I get the feeling though that most people probably did not. Seeing Corbbrey’s head movement was unique because you just don’t see that skill often used in MMA. I thought he preformed well, given the circumstances.

I’m still not sure why Diaz was nine pounds over for this fight. I’m looking forward this week to making some calls and trying to find out exactly what happened. Yes, we know that both sides agreed to the catchweight before the weigh-ins, but “before” could mean many different things. Are we talking five minutes or five days before? I can understand Diaz not being able to make weight having just fought several weeks ago in DREAM. He stopped and started the dehydration/re-hydration process before leaving for Japan, and that can wreck havoc on someone’s body.

To have to come back down just several weeks later is a lot of stress to put on one’s body. I couldn’t imagine doing it. But the word is that Corbbrey at one point weighed 158 pounds before the weigh-ins. Unless he had advanced warning, the weight difference was not fair to Corbbrey. Not by a long shot. A lot of this nonsense regarding fighters not making weight could be avoided if EliteXC would just do away with its special weight classes and recognize the unified rules of MMA. If you look at Gina Carano, they made 140 for her and she can’t make it. In regards Diaz, I think he could have legitimate reasons for not making 160 lbs., but he’s planning on doing more fights at 170 lbs. in Japan and as such, what happened this week might not be an isolated incident if he ends up being as active as he’s intending to be.

I just don’t see any point to having special weight classes when the two people they were created for aren’t making the weight anyway. Carano at 145 is just a better fit for her and the only reason why 170 isn’t a good fit for Diaz right now in EliteXC is because his friend and teammate Jake Shields is the promotion’s top welterweight. But if EliteXC improves its depth at 170, having the two of them in the same division isn’t as big of an issue. Look at the UFC, which has AKA training partners Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Swick all in the same division. Obviously, EliteXC is building towards a rematch between Diaz and K.J. Noons, but if Noons wins it, Diaz should go back to welterweight and the lightweight division should be re-classified from 160 lbs. to 155 lbs. This weight class stuff is becoming silly.

While the weight advantage Diaz had was something that could have been avoided, the reach advantage he had is something that would have been there regardless. Corbbrey just couldn’t handle the range and really was unwilling to pay the price necessary by trying to close the gap. When he did, he actually landed some decent shots. The problem is, as mentioned by one of the announcers, is that Corbbrey is a good combination puncher but just doesn’t throw power shots. So when Corbbrey came in, he could score points, but he couldn’t hurt Diaz.

Diaz got the finish but I really don’t know what this win does for him. The same question applies to the Katsuya Inoue fight in DREAM. The fight vs. Inoue was a mis-match and the fight we saw last night was a welterweight beating up a lightweight. I respect Diaz a lot as a fighter, but sorry, his two most recent wins don’t impress too much.

K.J. Noons def. Yves Edwards via TKO at :48 of round one

I know this isn’t pro wrestling and you can’t script a fight, but this was a letdown. I’m not blaming anyone; I’m simply saying that I expected a great fight and not one that would end so quickly and decisively.

Adam Morgan said that K.J. Noons just “might” be for real. Sorry folks, Noons is most definitely for real. His ground game is untested but his standup is strong. His problem is that it’s going to take him 2-3 more impressive wins before everyone believes that the loss in February of ’07 to Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett was a fluke. Noons is one of the best strikers in the world at lightweight. His utilization of body shots is especially impressive, as is the overall power he possesses in his fists.

The melee we were subjected to was ugly and unfortunate. Leave that crap for boxing. We don’t need it in MMA. If you have to resort to that nonsense to sell a fight, maybe the matchup isn’t that marketable? After seeing ProElite chairman Doug DeLuca get involved in breaking the post-fight altercation between Noons and Diaz up, I don’t believe for a second that the brawl itself was staged. However, having Diaz come into the cage after the fight most certainly was. What did everyone expect to happen? Surely they didn’t expect Diaz to come out and say “Nice fight, I look forward to the rematch” and then shake Noons’ hand and walk out. It was interesting to see that K.J. was the one of went after Diaz. Noons is a pretty laid back guy and Diaz really must know how to push his buttons. You can say it was unprofessional of him, but what would anyone with a backbone do if someone came in after their win and gave them the finger and called them scared in front of their father? I don’t blame Noons; I blame the promotion for creating such a situation. Such a walk-in can be a good idea, so long as you trust the fighters not to cross the line. The heat between Noons and Diaz is real.

MMA is still fighting for respect from the mainstream and last night’s little YouTube moment might help market the fight in the short-term, but it does nothing to sell the sport in the long-term. What makes this sport so great is that so many of the fighters possess a tremendous amount of class and professionalism. When I was in Newark, I saw Scott Smith and Robbie Lawler in the same restaurant just hours before their fight. They didn’t go up to each other and shake hands, but there was no ill will between either camp. You wouldn’t see something like that in boxing. But in MMA, it happens all the time and the novice fan doesn’t yet realize that. However, it will be hard to educate them if last night’s melee gets replayed over and over.

Photo by Tom Casino of EliteXC.