(Different crumpled body, same end result on Saturday night?)
It’s Friday, there’s an event tomorrow (which we’ll be liveblogging, of course), and questions abound as to Elite XC’s long term viability and Ken Shamrock‘s short term punchability, so that means one thing…it’s Ben vs. Ben time. In this edition, we talk Kimbo Slice, underdogs, co-promotions, and other stuff. We argue, we call each other names, we reconcile, we hug (just playin’, we don’t hug…anyone…ever), and in the end we arrive at few, if any, conclusions. But it’s about the journey, man. Not the destination. So without further ado…
Assuming we agree that Kimbo Slice will be victorious over Ken Shamrock, how and when will it happen? What’s next for Ferg?
Fowlkes: If this were five years ago I’d take Shamrock over this strange Kimbo character and I wouldn’t think twice about it. But it’s not five years ago, alas, so Shamrock is in for yet another disappointing performance in a career that has seen too many of them lately.
In his more lucid moments, Shamrock knows he needs to get this to the ground in a hurry. He should also know that his forty-four-year-old legs don’t have too many explosive shots left in them, so he has to be smart and make his takedown attempts count. That’s why he’ll try and trap Kimbo against the cage in a clinch and look for a throw or leg sweep – something that won’t sap too much precious energy. Kimbo will circle away from him and tee off. Shamrock will try again with similar results, but eventually a punch will clip him and he’ll go down. Then the ref will step in and Shamrock will be protesting the stoppage before he’s even back on his feet. It won’t get out of the first round or even past the four-minute mark. Thank you, Florida, and good night.
This fight will prove nothing for Kimbo’s credibility. Even Elite XC has to see that. After this they’ll load up for one big pay-per-view with Kimbo vs. Brett Rogers as the main event, figuring it’s time to go all-in. They have no choice. Antonio Silva is dealing with his steroid charges, Justin Eilers is damaged goods, and Sean Gannon wants too much money. Rogers is the only guy people will pay to see Kimbo fight. If Elite XC is smart they’ll realize they can leverage Kimbo’s stardom into a big push for Rogers, who might actually have the skills to justify the hype in the long run.
Goldstein: Dude, Ken hasn’t made it to the four-minute mark in a fight since 2002, and he’s not about to start now. I’m going to bring your estimate down 90 seconds and say The Miami Pound Machine finishes The World’s Most Glassiest Chin within the first 2:30. It’ll start with Kimbo knocking Shamrock down after about a minute-and-a-half. (No more than one shot will be attempted by Ken during that time.) The ref won’t stop it right away. Kimbo will get on top of Shamrock and punch him out on the ground. People will say “wooooo!” And the broadcast will immediately end because they’ll already be over their timeslot by like a half-hour.
(Quick rant: To be honest, I think Kimbo has a better chance of finishing Shamrock via leglock than the other way around. Whoever thinks Shamrock can surprise Slice with a submission has been mislead by hype and nostalgia. Ken Shamrock has nothing to offer in the cage anymore. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING.)
I certainly hope that Kimbo gets Brett Rogers next on an EliteXC pay-per-view show, but as for your statement that “Rogers is the only guy people will pay to see Kimbo fight,” I disagree, and I bet the heads of EliteXC would as well. If they can find someone that would be a bigger draw than Rogers — who, by himself, is worthless as a PPV headliner — they’ll shaft The Grim once again. Fingers crossed, it’s Tito Ortiz. But I hear Don Frye is coming out of retirement, and I won’t be surprised if EliteXC picks up the UFC pioneer as Slice’s next challenge.
Who has the biggest chance for an upset: Roy, Ken, or Kelly?
Goldstein: Christ, are those are my only options? Shamrock is getting knocked out in the first round, and Nelson will probably hang tough for a while before being overwhelmed by Arlovski, so I guess I’ll go with Kelly Kobald by default. Carano vs. Kobald may turn out to be a squash match as well, but Kobald brings assets to the table that shouldn’t be overlooked. She’s the first opponent that Carano has faced in EliteXC who won’t be at a size disadvantage (word is she’s coming down from 160 pounds). Kobald also has an impressive amount of experience — 18 pro MMA fights in total — even if most of those matches were against cupcakes.
There’s also the benefit-in-disguise that Kobald has in losing her last two fights. By now, she knows what mistakes lead to losses. Carano has been lucky enough not to learn that lesson yet. Plus, Kobald has vowed to “fuck [Gina's] shit up.” Confidence has to count for something in this game, and Kobald’s strong hands could surprise the poster girl.
Fowlkes: Kobald’s not a bad underdog pick, especially when you consider how much more training you can probably squeeze in when you’re not appearing in video games and on late-night TV shows and explaining (between photo shoots) how you’re totally not trying to be the sexy female face of MMA.
But Elite XC brought Kobald in to set up a Cyborg-Carano fight, not to be a serious challenger. For her to have a chance, they must have really missed the mark in their one-sided match-making abilities, and that doesn’t sound like the Elite XC I know.
So I’m going with “Big Country.” He and Arlovski are both taking this fight and change of opponents on short notice, and Nelson can surprise him on the ground if he has the resolve to get it there. Nelson has a good chin (he’s never been knocked out), but he’d be a fool to stand and bang. He needs to put his jiu-jitsu to work and exploit Arlovski’s rudimentary ground game, which consists of a straight foot lock and not much else. If Nelson can get him down he has a chance to at least ride to a decision and completely screw Affliction in the process.
Do Elite XC and Affliction have a chance at surviving if they don’t join forces?
Fowlkes: Long term, neither Elite nor Affliction can keep up this pace without partnering up. But partnering up might only hasten their decline if they don’t figure out some way to consolidate their power. There are already too many cooks in Affliction’s kitchen. Talking to Tom Atencio in L.A. and Michael Cohen in New York, you get the sense they have almost no idea what the other is saying. Then you add Golden Boy and Elite XC and Fedor’s management giving odd speeches about M-1 at every press conference, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This is why half-assed “co-promotions” are easy but a real joining of forces is so rare. Each side is trying to maintain their autonomy while using the other as a springboard. That doesn’t work. There’s no true cooperation, just both parties trying to leech what they can from one another. They either become one company with one president/CEO/public figurehead, or else they can’t make it work.
Goldstein: I’ll second that. The merging of EliteXC and Affliction’s fighter rosters and TV connections would be formidable, but they’d basically need to start a brand-new company from scratch, and who knows who would run it? (Hopefully not the guy who thought it’d be good business to pay Tim Sylvia $800,000 for a single fight. That guy sucks.) If Showtime does in fact buy Pro Elite, things get a little easier — they can fire all the top brass at EliteXC and that part of the equation is simplified. And what happens next? Beats the hell out of me.
Still, “EliteXffliction” is just a pipe dream, because nobody is going to willingly cede power. It’s hard enough to start a business with your friends — try doing it with your rivals. I just hope EliteXC and Affliction can figure out a way to make it happen (divine intervention, maybe) because both sides are bleeding out right now, and their extinction would be a major setback for the growth of the sport.
Assuming that they can’t rely on Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano forever, how can EliteXC create new stars?
Goldstein: Scarcity of marquee fighters aside, here’s why this is important: Every time that EliteXC books a championship bout between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith, or calls Nick Diaz a “legend” — and every time Affliction books a superfight between Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett, for that matter — it boosts the UFC’s brand as much as their own. Established fighters give fledgling organizations credibility, but it’s the kind of credibility that announces to MMA fans “our fighters have competed in the UFC before, so we’re worth watching.”
If EliteXC wants to compete with the UFC in any measurable way, they need to move beyond this situation, and stack their rosters with fighters that MMA fans only associate with them. And although poaching the UFC’s castoffs isn’t the solution, borrowing their concepts is. For the UFC, The Ultimate Fighter was the “Trojan Horse” that helped launch nearly all of their current stars; basically, EliteXC needs their own TUF.
There’s no shame in making a copycat reality show. (Fowlkes, I know you love Don’t Forget the Lyrics even though The Singing Bee came first, for example.) But EliteXC doesn’t even need to make a show about up-and-coming fighters competing for a six-figure contract. Maybe they could do a TapouT-style show, where Jake Shields and Brett Rogers go around the country looking for fresh talent. With EliteXC’s connections to CBS and Showtime, it shouldn’t be that hard to put together — but the decision-makers need to be convinced that, more than anything, a weekly TV series is what will potentially save the organization from ruin.
Fowlkes: A reality show? I know we’ve reached a point in our culture where that seems to be the solution to every problem, but goddamn, do we have to? I see your point about how difficult it is to turn UFC castoffs into legends. That was made clear when Robbie Lawler defended his title against Scott Smith with Anderson Silva in the crowd, causing us all to wonder, what exactly is Lawler champion of, because it sure as hell isn’t the world’s middleweights.
But CBS doesn’t seem committed enough to Elite XC to devote a weekly show to it, and the only thing that would be more tired than the TUF-style reality format is a TUF ripoff (for the record, The Singing Bee came first, but Don’t Forget the Lyrics scored Wayne Brady as a host, and that man is a motherfucking entertainer).
The only avenue I see for them is signing young talent that hasn’t been tested in the UFC and building them up through a combination of internet highlight reels and 24/7-style pre-fight productions. They need backstory and human interest angles, which is really what TUF provides, and if CBS and Showtime won’t help they need to get better at using viral video to that end. If I was trying to compete with the UFC, I’d exploit the internet (us, in other words) and its constant hunger for content. The UFC is reluctant to really embrace new media, and as a result has left the door open for its competitors. Now they have to stay in business long enough to walk through it.