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Ben vs. Ben: The Elite XC Argument


Remember when you were a kid and your parents would argue and it was really loud and you got scared so you went to hide under the bed and cry until it was over? This is kind of like that. Except instead of your parents it’s Ben Goldstein and Ben Fowlkes, the two editors of Cage Potato, and we actually care about you. We’re still not coming to your Little League games, though.

Could James Thompson rain on the Kimbo Slice hype parade? If so, what then?

Fowlkes: Look, we all know Elite XC didn’t make this fight because they want to be in the James Thompson business. They brought him in because he’s knockout fodder, and also because he’s big and scary looking and to the average sports fan he seems like a monster. Kimbo beats him, then they sell Kimbo as a monster slayer. That’s their plan, no doubt about it.

That said, a guy like Thompson should never be completely counted out. He hasn’t looked good lately. This much is true. But when you’re 6’5″, and hovering in the 265 region, you’re never more than one good punch or knee away from victory. Even so, I have hard time imagining him winning this. His flash chin, his reliance on aggression over technique, that spells trouble.

If he were to win, well, Gary Shaw would cry. That’s the first thing that would happen. Then Elite XC would immediately begin hyping a lukewarm rematch. Basically, they’d lose a lot of steam. Almost all their steam, to the point where their steam levels would be dangerously low. Which is why Shaw will do anything short of leaping into the cage himself to stop it from happening.

Goldstein: It’s kind of a moot point considering there’s absolutely no way in hell that the Colossus will win this fight. MMA pundits talk about Thompson’s need to take the action to the ground against Kimbo — but since when was Thompson ever skilled on the ground? Just because Slice is a novice in MMA, it’s automatically assumed that Thompson’s jiu-jitsu is far superior? His brief stint at Xtreme Couture gave us hope that he’d be rounding out his game, but now he’s back in his comfort zone, working out at an outfit with the sadly appropriate name “London Street Fighters.”

I’m convinced that no fighter will beat Kimbo Slice with brawling alone. We don’t know much about Kimbo’s chin, other than that one YouTube video where Kimbo invites his opponent to haul off into his face — the opponent complies, twice, to absolutely no effect, and gets his right eye knocked out as a result — but we’ve learned enough about Thompson’s chin to know that standing within haymaker range of Kimbo and exchanging bombs will be a guaranteed losing strategy. If Thompson goes with a different strategy, it’ll be one that he’s never tried before, and it’ll likely blow up in his face.

As Kimbo said, “I’ve got a hammer, a tape measure, a screwdriver, a glue gun. Now I’ve got some tools in the belt.” Thompson, on the other hand, has one of those shitty screwdrivers with the interchangeable heads that always go missing.

Will CBS make us proud to be MMA fans with their presentation of this show, or will we see some kind of bastardized oddity?

Goldstein: It depends on your definition of “bastardized,” I guess. Certainly EliteXC’s usual garish blingy-ness and runaway-train qualities — the booty-shaking girls, Mauro Ranallo’s oddball metaphors, Bill Goldberg’s consummate unprofessionalism — will be nixed, but that’s a good thing. CBS is surely more concerned with presenting a palatable product for a mainstream audience rather than pleasing hardcore MMA fans. And that’s also a good thing.

We already know that Busta Rhymes is basically opening the show, awards-ceremony style. I’d also expect to see short documentary-style clips being shown before each fight, introducing viewers to the fighters on a personal level, rather than UFC-esque shots of each fighter simply talking shit about the other in front of a black backdrop.

Also, I’m predicting less nü-metal riffage, no Gladiator intro, and no lingering shots on ring girls’ asses. I’d keep the last one if it were up to me, but overall, this could be the first MMA broadcast that simply focuses on what the fans are really there for — the fights.

Fowlkes: I’m sorry, but did you really say you thought CBS would nix the “garish blingy-ness” right before you mentioned that Busta Rhymes would open the show? I don’t know if you’re familiar with Mr. Rhymes and his work, but garish pretty much sums it up. He hasn’t gotten this far based on his lyrical genius.

I think you’re right when you say that CBS will be focused on appealing to the mainstream and not the hardcore fans, but I’m not sure that will result in an increased focus on the fights. That’s what hardcore fans would like. It’s very possible that CBS thinks the way to broaden the appeal is to play up the things that aren’t fighting, such as, I don’t know, Busta fucking Rhymes.

I agree that they have to try and educate fans about their fighters. They also have to educate new fans about MMA, which will be somewhat annoying, especially if Mauro Ranallo gets a chance to speak (and he will). But basically I think CBS is going to be casting a wide net with this show. They’re not convinced that fights alone will draw viewers, so they’re going to build up the entertainment aspect, which includes ring girls, live performers, light shows, elephants, whatever.

All hype aside, what will be the best fight on Saturday night?

Fowlkes: Kimbo Slice-James Thompson will generate a lot of excitement no matter how it turns out, but it won’t be anywhere near the best fight. That honor will belong to Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith. They both love to bang, and they can both take a shot as well as give one.

Lawler’s one of those rare fighters whose power you can’t really appreciate until you watch him live and up close. Even when he swings and misses it makes you cringe. When he connects it sounds like someone dropping watermelons onto the pavement. He may not be the best in interviews, but he delivers in the cage.

Expect a war with a big finish in this one. It’s no great grudge match and the Elite XC middleweight title isn’t exactly among the most coveted in sports, but from a pure fighting standpoint this will steal the show.

Goldstein: I agree that Lawler vs. Smith should be the best fight from a technical standpoint, but I doubt it’ll be the fight that will be talked about the most on Sunday morning. Many first-time MMA-viewers will be tuning in to the broadcast, and when those uninitiated masses see their first girl-on-girl cagefight — for better or worse — their minds are going to be blown. After Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young is in the books, the media storm will begin.

And that’s not a bad thing, because this match has the potential to impress everyone. Young has proven knockout power, and says she wants to test Gina on her back. Carano has looked slick in all her victories, and though her stint on American Gladiators gets ragged on by MMA hardcores, it’s given her an interesting advantage — she’s now prepared for the gaze of millions.

Young, on the other hand, is a college student plucked out of complete obscurity for this match. The zap of the TV cameras and importance of the moment might give her too many nerves to handle. But no matter what the outcome, it will give women’s MMA an enormous push into the spotlight, and could be the oasis among the main-card bashfests.


Cagepotato Comments

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PotatoHead- May 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm
I'll have to agree with Ben.

Just kidding, but I love this point/counterpoint format. You guys seem to be cultivating the most articulate and intelligent audience in MMA cyberspace and this feature brings out the best in them.

Still, I'm going to have to disagree on the Slice/Thompson matchup.

Thompson is a psychotic, fully-loaded, 270 pound, musclebound brute. And despite having a chin like Cinderella's slipper, he's got enough self-pride to pay the price to look the way he does... and this is perhaps his last opportunity to change his destiny. Otherwise, he goes down in MMA history as an obscure punchline (pun intended).

Plus, Kimbo may be taking this one too lightly.
Anonymous- May 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm
James Thomson was hand picked for Kimbo because of his glass jaw and the fact that he has no ground game. JT got ktfo'd by Butterbean for God's sake. It would be interesting to see Kimbo fight someone with some Jiu Jitsu skills and see what happens. Frank Mir was absolutely getting pounded by Brock Lesnar but was able to submit him because of his savvy on the mat.
Jay- May 30, 2008 at 2:16 pm
It's London Shoot Fighters, it was transcribed wrongly in an interview so don't base part of your argument on that...
Vana White- May 29, 2008 at 10:21 pm
Not a bad argument but why the pix of the two homos?
tusker- May 29, 2008 at 10:06 pm
After watching that Elite XC press conference, and after listening to Gary Shaw go on for what seemed like 30 minutes about how Kimbo is the second coming of Muhammad "I'm-Hard" Bruce Lee, I will be cheering loud and strong for James Thompson.

If Kimbo's Tyson, Thompson's Buster Douglas. Colosus TKO round 2.
whaaa?- May 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm
This thing is gonna be chalk full of booty shaking and shots of busty young ladies from the crowd. They will be more interested in you getting to know the ring card girls than any of the fighters other than Kimbo.
Vrax- May 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm
Carano missed weight by 4 lbs. 12% of her purse to Young.
Chuck- May 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm
Waddya mean Busta Rhymes isn't a lyrical genius!? You probably couldn't rap your way out of a wet paper bag compared to him. I look forward to his sweet Haiku's.

No I don't. I'll shut up now.

Villasenor vs. Baroni could be interesting....
Jemaleddin- May 29, 2008 at 5:02 pm
Nice article. Now explain the "pressure on Carano/Young" thing to Luke Thomas cause I can't get through to him. :-P

And yeah, that's going to be the fight that people talk about - mostly because it has all the markings of a stand-up war. These women know how to bang, and I think middle America is going to be shocked to realize how tough the women of MMA are.