Thoughts on EliteXC: Street Certified
Well, well. Just a couple of days ago, I wrote that the WEC is this country's No. 2 MMA promotion. Not so fast!
EliteXC held its latest event last night in Miami (dubbed "Street Certified") and the promotion appears to be improving with each event. Now in its second year, EliteXC appears to be doing a number of things right and it's starting to show in these events. So here are my thoughts on the event in general, some of the fights, and some of the fighters.
The event itself
Positives: Last night's event was marked by smart matchmaking, the appropriate choice of venue and location, and good use of local fighters. As long as the UFC continues to ignore the East Coast, this remains a major market still in play for other promotions. Last night's event was the second Showtime/Pro Elite venture to the East Coast this year and the live attendance was quite impressive.
In addition, Showtime appears to be televising a minimum of one MMA event a month right now (with two scheduled for March) and this is a very good thing for fans and EliteXC alike.
As far as I can tell, EliteXC is really working to build its heavyweight, middleweight, and 160-pound divisions. Last night illustrated that these are their deepest divisions. I don't know if the promotion is ignoring the welterweight and light heavyweight divisions on purpose or if that's just where talent acquisition has taken them, but I don't see too much of a problem with the way they are building up their roster. It's better to be able to create a lot of good matchups in a few divisions than to say you have a couple of decent fighters in a lot of divisions.
Negatives: The rapping interlude must go! Much like the dragon, Pitbull had no business being on the live portion of the card. Stick these acts between the dark and live portions or before or after the event. But, don't waste viewer time with them.
The dancers still don't add much to the event production. And, they may be turning off potential viewers who see EliteXC as a gimmicky promotion. One, maybe two, ring card girls should be enough. In this case less is more.
So far, EliteXC President Gary Shaw is using Kimbo Slice well. Despite his training, Slice is probably not ready for good fighters yet. So, Shaw is building him up by pitting him against big-name fighters who are past their prime and who match up stylistically. Slice gave the fans what they came for in his performance against Tank Abbott last night and is now the streetfighting king of MMA. It wasn't even close.
Slice looked very confident as he knocked down Abbott at least three times, finishing "Tank" off with a straight right. Slice's posture and stance reminded me very much of the way he looked on his YouTube videos -- aggressive and mean. So, while we know Slice is quicker on his feet than Abbott, we're still not learning much about his overall game.
Enter Ken Shamrock. Speculation last night centered on a potential matchup against Shamrock for Slice's next fight. Again, Shamrock is past his prime but his name-recognition and skill set make this a very good bout from a variety of perspectives. Shamrock can not only stand and bang but he can work on the ground as well. He's a crafty veteran and would be a formidable matchup for Slice. Like Abbott, however, Shamrock is over 40. The benefits of being younger should be Slice's main advantage. But, this is certainly no gimme.
Antonio Silva-Ricco Rodriguez: This bout was a step up for Silva. While Rodriguez is far removed from his days as a UFC heavyweight champ, he's a skilled fighter with a lot of experience. If Rodriguez continues to work on his game and conditioning, he's young enough to still be a factor. Silva claimed after the fight that he hurt his MCL two weeks ago. Maybe that explains his performance or maybe he had a bad fight or maybe he found out he has to step it up as the competition gets better.
Either way, I think it was a close fight and strangely enough I could see all three judges being correct in the split decision verdict. I had Silva winning round two and felt that rounds one and three were close.
Yves Edwards' Flying Knee: Edwards' flying knee from the leg hold of Edson Berto towards the end of the first round was an amazing, athletic move (similar to something Urijah Faber tried in his last fight.) That's three wins in a row for the former UFC and PRIDE veteran. The 160-pound division is deep in EliteXC but Edwards should be a player now.
Hands of steel indeed: Scott Smith brought his exciting brand of MMA and heavy hands to his EliteXC debut last night. The former UFC fighter joined a strong middleweight division and showed he belongs by tattooing Kyle Noke with a straight right to begin the second round. Smith isn't ready for a title shot against Robbie Lawler but he may be one fight away.
Other impressive performances: Brett Rogers looked good against the hard-charging James Thompson, knocking him out in the first round. Rogers showed good defensive wrestling and used a knee to set up his finishing flurry of fists.
In the undercard, the first round between middleweights Yosmany Cabezas and Jon Kirk may have been one of the top rounds of 2008. Light heavyweight Rafael Feijao looked impressive in his debut against John Doyle. Feijao was cornered by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Anderson Silva and displayed some of Silva's standup skills. And, heavyweight Dave Herman showed promise with his knees and takedown defense against Mario Rinaldi, whose only strengths appeared to be a strong chin and persistence (and his only offensive weapon the single leg takedown.)
Again, great card and very good talent in this event.