Alvarez and Daley Anchor ShoXC Card

Jan 25, 2008
All you lucky Showtime subscribers out there will get to enjoy another night of fistic madness delivered to you by the good folks behind EliteXC.

Come Friday night at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., we'll get to see one of Britain's finest discover the precise breaking point of a TUF graduate. And, with any luck, maybe Bill Goldberg won't make an appearance.

Then again, Brock Lesnar (Pictures) will be headlining a UFC pay-per-view next week, so maybe we need to reassess where Goldberg sits on the totem pole of annoyances. Either way, read up and get set to fire off those e-mails when I go 0-5 on my predictions. The Showtime broadcast begins at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

Ross Ebanez (Pictures) vs. Eddie Alvarez (Pictures)

Thanks to Gary Shaw treating the current MMA weight classes like red-headed stepchildren, we get to see two of the newly minted "super lightweight/light welterweight" competitors match wits and fists at a catch-weight of 165 pounds.

Fighting at 160 pounds, which he will do in future EliteXC fights, is a welcome change for Eddie Alvarez (Pictures), who showed tremendous ability as a welterweight, but was doomed to run into an opponent capable of exploiting his undersized frame.

The inevitable came in Bodog against Nick Thompson (Pictures), who did his best Nelson Muntz and bullied his way to a second-round stoppage last April. Now free of any contractual obligation to Bodog, Alvarez (11-1) holds dual citizenship with EliteXC and M-1 and appears set to make an impact in both.

The first step starts with a roadblock in the form of Hawaiian brawler Ross "Da Boss" Ebanez. Tempting Tony Danza references aside, Ebanez has made a name for himself as one of B.J. Penn (Pictures)'s premier students, but he has yet to approach the success of his instructor.

Known more for his exciting slugfests than awe-inspiring skill, Ebanez (16-5, 3 NC) has been a regular in the Rumble on the Rock promotion for years, which has become more curse than blessing. Saddled with the perception of being a local gatekeeper, he has come up short in the past to the likes of Carlos Condit (Pictures) and Mike Pyle (Pictures) in potential career-changing matches.

Make no mistake, the higher-ups of EliteXC are hoping for Alvarez, from the fighting city of Philadelphia, Penn., to settle into the role of poster boy with a win over Ebanez. The style clash is certainly in Alvarez's favor. Fighting at a lower weight will allow him to make better use of his wrestling background and powerful ground striking.

While Ebanez presents a threat to virtually anyone with his power punches, he still lacks legitimate takedown defense, and his weakness has always been working off his back. Even if Alvarez obliges Ebanez's desire for a standup affair, "Da Boss" is hardly the kind of striker who will overwhelm Alvarez with ease.

Expect to see some brief fireworks on the feet before this one hits the ground and Alvarez pounds out a TKO late in the first round.

Now that I've turned all of Hilo, Hawaii, against me, you can expect me to be joining the Writer's Protection Program real soon.

Paul Daley (Pictures) vs. Sam Morgan (Pictures)

After being forced to endure more changes than Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly," British demolition man Paul "Semtex" Daley finally has a huckleberry in TUF alumnus Sam "The Squeeze" Morgan.

Having just served as the sacrificial lamb to Strikeforce's middleweight meal ticket Cung Le (Pictures), Morgan (19-9) is hoping to reverse course starting with one of EliteXC's premier welterweights.

Already regarded as one of Britain's finest mixed martial artists, Daley (16-6-2) owes his success to incredible striking skills and natural athletic prowess. However, as is so often the case with strikers, Daley's failures can be traced to his lacking ground game.

Seemingly doomed by the striker's Sisyphus syndrome, he must make headway in the division now before he becomes another anonymous kickboxer who can sell tickets across the pond. Scoring an upset knockout win over Duane "Bang" Ludwig in his last bout was a good start to Daley's quest for stateside supremacy, but the road gets no easier from here on out.

Illusions of welterweight supremacy were abruptly put to an end early in Sam Morgan (Pictures)'s UFC career thanks to a 21-second KO loss to Josh Burkman (Pictures). Since then, Morgan, of St. Paul, Minn., has become a reliable performer on the local circuit who seems incapable of raising his game when the stakes are at their highest.

Tagged as the welterweight division's Jan Van de Velde, he has been given an opportunity to not only shed that image but also resurrect his own flagging career at the expense of Daley. Lofty ambitions for a fighter known for lacking a strategy, and against Daley you'll want the entire Spy-Gate crew handling your pre-fight preparation. Considering Morgan admits to freelancing come the opening bell, don't count on Sun Tzu being in the Minnesotan's corner.

Luck won't be in Morgan's corner either. Daley takes the initiative early and overwhelms him with accurate strikes before forcing a TKO midway through the first round.

Bobby McMasters (Pictures) vs. Bao Quach (Pictures)

Another hybrid weight class clash awaits all you Showtime subscribers out there as up-and-comer Bobby McMasters (Pictures) takes on resurgent veteran Bao Quach (Pictures) in the 150-pound division. With names as cool as McMasters and Bao, this one is sure to deliver.

After a career spent hovering around the MMA equivalent of the Mendoza line, Quach (11-8-1) finds himself in the midst of a renaissance. He has won his last five bouts, including a stunning upset over Shooto rookie champion Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures).

One of the most promising rookies in his class, Fujimiya was caught off guard by Quach's improved striking and dropped a split decision that simultaneously knocked his career off course while turning Quach into a top-flight featherweight.

Next up for Quach, fighting out of Huntington Beach, Calif., is another MMA whippersnapper, Bobby McMasters (Pictures) (7-1), who racked up an undefeated record competing in local shows before making his EliteXC debut against Muhsin Corbbrey (Pictures).

As far as debuts go, McMasters' was like Tony Romo's first foray into the playoffs: Everything started well enough but ended in disaster at the last possible second. Trapped in a deep guillotine choke, McMasters was forced to submit with all of one second remaining in the first round.

Tangling with Quach won't make his life any easier. Boston's McMasters must keep his far more experienced opponent from controlling the tempo, and above all he must push the fight and overwhelm the physically smaller Quach.

That plan won't come to fruition, though. Quach will seize the initiative standing while frustrating McMasters on the ground on his way to a unanimous decision win.

A few more fights like this and the rankings will have to start playing by Gary Shaw's rules.

Julie Kedzie (Pictures) vs. Tonya Evinger (Pictures)

Continuing its commitment to feMMA (read: giving Gina Carano (Pictures) the biggest push since Hulk Hogan), EliteXC is rolling out a 140-pound matchup between two fighters that have fallen to Carano and are looking to regain their footing.

While Carano is likely to remain the division's figurehead for some time -- assuming she can make weight -- both Kedzie and Evinger have an opportunity to carve out a niche for themselves and escape the local shows that so many female mixed martial artists, regardless of skill, are forced to compete in.

Having spent the last four years plying her wares on those local shows, Kedzie (8-6) has no interest in returning and is desperate to prove she can win when it counts the most.

There certainly is no shame in losing to the likes of Tara LaRosa and Amanda Buckner (Pictures), but Kedzie, of Albuquerque, N.M., is rapidly becoming feMMA's Dan Marino. Not quite the distinction that Kedzie was looking for upon embarking on an MMA career.

Distinction has been nonexistent for Evinger (5-3) thus far, having lost the two biggest fights of her career and back to back no less. First was a quick submission loss to Vanessa Porto (Pictures), immediately followed by an only slightly longer submission loss to Gina Carano (Pictures).

Whether Evinger, of Reno, Nev., is doomed to engage in the MMA equivalent of a Marx brothers sketch will depend largely on her performance against the more experienced and savvy Kedzie.

Despite having lost twice by submission, Evinger would be best served avoiding Kedzie's striking, which is surprisingly strong. The problem with taking Kedzie down is that she is a solid wrestler and is likely to gain top control on Evinger, who rarely does well off her back.

Short on options, expect Evinger to go for broke early before Kedzie takes control of the bout and works her way to a methodical unanimous decision win. If that doesn't sound exciting to you, try imagining that both contestants have beards. It helps, trust me.

Kala Kolohe Hose (Pictures) vs. Frederic Belleton

If the quality of a fighter's name determined the quality of his matches, the matchup of Kala Kolohe Hose (Pictures) and Frederic Belleton would have been declared the fight of the year weeks ago. As it stands, we're still all but guaranteed a quality middleweight tear-up.

After being denied a shot at Robbie Lawler (Pictures) twice due to injuries sustained by the Iowa brawler, Hose (4-1) is simply looking for a warm body on which to unleash his Hawaiian fury. Save a debut loss to Reese Andy (Pictures) as a light heavyweight, he has been making good use of his power, having racked up four straight stoppage wins in the middleweight division.

The path has been nearly identical for Belleton (5-1). He lost his second professional bout before embarking on a four-fight win streak of his own, with every fight ending before the time limit.

With that said, Belleton, of Stoughton, Mass., is not quite the headfirst brawler that Hose is and can work a more varied game plan than most would expect. Keeping that in mind, Belleton's best hope would certainly be forcing Hose to work off his back, where the Waianae-based fighter's striking would be about as useful as Britney Spears enrolling in a self-help program.

Grounding the fight will be a tall task, though, considering how physically dominant Hose is and Belleton's lack of strong wrestling credentials. Expect to see Belleton go for the takedown early before being forced into one exchange too many. Hawaii's newest favorite son takes this one via KO midway through the first round.

Afterward expect Robbie Lawler (Pictures) to announce that he has temporarily lost his extremities and will have to postpone his bout with Hose until further notice.

Bout Order
Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) (164.9) vs. Ross Ebanez (Pictures) (164.8)
Paul Daley (Pictures) (171.1) vs. Sammy Morgan (171.4)
Bobby McMaster (151) vs. Bao Quach (Pictures) (151)
Julie Kedzie (Pictures) (139.7) vs. Tonya Evinger (Pictures) (140)
Kala Kolohe Hose (Pictures) (184.6) vs. Frederic Belleton (184.3)
Drew Puzon (170.3) vs. Charlie Brenneman (170.9)
Zach Makovsky (139.3) vs. Wilson Reis (138.6)
James Jones (155.6) vs. Mark Getto (160.9)
Sergio Vinagre (183.6) vs. Brett Linebarger (185.1)
Joe Shilling (169) vs. Matt Makowski (170.9)
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