Monday Morning Reverie: How Do You Spell “Anticlimax”?

By Mike Sloan Feb 12, 2007
It was supposed to be a memorable and unforgettable evening on Showtime for the inaugural EliteXC event. But sadly, the most important battle was nothing more than, well, forgettable.

Frank Shamrock (Pictures), hailed by the some mixed martial arts experts as the greatest fighter in the sport’s young history, lost for the first time in a decade. What was even worse, though, was that the loss came via disappointing disqualification after a rather uneventful seven minutes of fighting.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way, that’s for sure.

Shamrock was set to return to past glory by walloping Renzo Gracie (Pictures) and rekindling the magic that made him, when he was tearing up the UFC, a one-of-a-kind fighter.

In today’s age of Internet message boards, MMA reality TV shows and major fight organizations routinely pulling in tens of thousands of live fans plus hundreds of thousands of pay-per-view buys, the name Frank Shamrock (Pictures) elicits a terrific and sentimental tintinnabulation.

Today’s pimple-faced baseball fan only hears stories of yesterday’s greats like Ted Williams and Lou Gherig. Football fanatics are told of the legendary Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Young NASCAR followers are doused with folkloric tales of Richard Petty. And hoops junkies know Oscar Robinson and Michael Jordan by name alone.

It’s likely that much of Generation TUF has not seen Frank Shamrock (Pictures) in action, and at best knows him as the “better Shamrock.”

Campfire tales have been told regarding Frank’s mythical battle with Tito Ortiz (Pictures), and his subsequent early retirement. Shamrock, it turned out, became MMA’s version of Brown and Barry Sanders, a man who walked away from a sport far too soon and didn’t achieve everything he easily could have, should have and would have.

Since Shamrock retired from the UFC after forcing Ortiz to tap in the fourth round, he has tormented us all with hints of actually un-retiring and picking up where he left off. But, sadly, we were “treated” to showcase fights against Elvis Sinosic (Pictures), Bryan Pardoe (Pictures) and Cesar Gracie (Pictures) … each three years apart.

Nevertheless, Babe Ruth was scheduled to climb back into the batter’s box on Saturday night with a chance to clear Yankee Stadium’s right field roof — and Shamrock’s pre-fight insistences suggesting he was back for good appeared to foretell glory days’ rebirth.

That was, of course, until Shamrock landed two illegal knees to Renzo Gracie (Pictures) that forced at first a point deduction during an injury delay and then, inevitably, a disappointing and anticlimactic disqualification.

Hit first behind the ear and then near the back of his neck while controlling from side-mount, Gracie tumbled off Shamrock while clutching his face and signaling that his vision was blurred as pain sheered through his brain.

An incredulous Shamrock strolled around the cage, cynical as to whether Gracie was faking. After several minutes of deliberation, referee Herb Dean (Pictures) ruled it a DQ.

The ending left a sour taste in the mouth of many a fan that expected highlight reel fireworks, whether it would be another classic slam knockout, striking knockout or dynamic submission. Either way, Shamrock was supposed to steamroll Gracie, a terrific fighter from MMA’s most prominent family, but what occurred inside EliteXC’s cage was nothing remotely close.

In fact, it was Gracie who was winning a contest that gradually deteriorated into a rather dull affair between two world-class fighters. To put it bluntly, Shamrock-Gracie was a much bigger disappointment than Ryan Leaf’s NFL career (well, maybe it wasn’t that disappointing).

The DQ was just … post-fight attitudes weren’t

No matter how much of a loyal Frank Shamrock (Pictures) fan one might be, those strikes were blatantly illegal and the disqualification was justified.

Herb Dean (Pictures) is arguably the best referee in the sport and his sternness inside the cage during that fight reinstates my claim. He could have easily bowed down to the event’s magnitude and played it safe by not disqualifying Shamrock. But he did the right thing.

I’ve already read several online posts about how Renzo faked the injury and looked for an easy way out. I, for one, don’t buy that argument for myriad reasons.

For starters, Shamrock is an excellent striker and knees cause a severe amount of damage. Shamrock hit Gracie twice, with the second one landing awkwardly on Renzo’s head. It landed just behind and below the ear towards the back of the neck. I’ve watched thousands of boxing matches (that’s not even counting the amount of kickboxing/Muay Thai and MMA fights I’ve seen) and too often fighters get knocked out or down when blows land on that part of the body.

Equilibrium becomes hijacked and serious nerve damage occurs if the strikes are hard enough. While the knee didn’t look exactly consciousness removing, it landed in the perfect spot.

Renzo is one of the toughest cats on the circuit (just watch his fight with Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures)) and if anybody thinks Gracie was faking the injury or because he was scared, said individual should check himself into some sort of clinic. Gracie is not going to quit or fake an injury just to get out of a fight.

Even if Gracie could have continued, he was already hit with a few illegal rabbit blows (Frank was warned from Dean) and then he was nailed with two illegal knees. Not saying he did, but could you blame the guy for hamming it up for the sake of having points taken away? Who wants to fight someone who continuously lands illegal strikes?

The only negative aspect of the fight was how it ended.

Nobody likes watching a disqualification and nobody wants a potentially excellent fight end with such a dud. Lousy DQ’s are worse than a fight ending early because of a serious laceration or dislocated joint. The fight was hyped up beyond belief and to have it end in such a drab manner is deflating to everybody involved.

Unless somebody put money on the fight being a DQ victory in favor of Renzo, not one person, including the winner, enjoyed the outcome of the fight and how it unfolded.

On the other hand, the only truly positive aspect of such an unfortunate and crummy conclusion is that it leaves the field wide open for a rematch. As far as I know Shamrock has to fight Phil Baroni (Pictures) next and after that, why not arrange a bad blood rematch?

There is obviously no love lost between Frank Juarez Shamrock and the Gracie clan, particularly Renzo, arguably the best of the MMA Gracies.

The event as a whole was so-so

The card was filled with interesting fights and it packed a plethora of potential, but when it was all said and done, the end result was more or less that of a Monkees album: tons of hype but severely lacking in delivery and substance.

Like most of the newfangled MMA shows that appear out of every nook and cranny in the proverbial fightsports house, EliteXC’s debut event on Showtime was nothing more than a poor man’s UFC.

But shows have to start somewhere.

There were a few good knockouts and one solid fight, but for the most part, watching the show was like eating store-brand doughnuts instead of Krispy Kreme.

The production was pretty good and the camera work and replay loops were fantastic, but everything else was just above mediocre. Not one fight left my jaw on the floor and the commentary team, for the most part, left much to be desired.

Misc. debris

The best fight of the night action-wise was the throw down between the suddenly popular Gina Carano (Pictures) and Julie Kedzie (Pictures). This little war was clearly the best women’s MMA bout I’ve seen in years and lucky for EliteXC, Carano won convincingly. Carano is, in my opinion, clearly the easiest on the eyes among all professional female fighters. I’ll leave the rest of that statement alone as my wife might become green with jealousy. …

What has happened to David Loiseau (Pictures)? This is third straight fight now where he has failed to deliver the goods. Sure Joey Villasenor (Pictures) is an upper echelon fighter, but something has happened with Loiseau. Not sure if it’s mental, physical or something else, but that burning fire and explosiveness he became known for has evaporated. As a fan of his old fighting style, here’s hoping he can regain that lost dominance. …

Is it me or is Mauro Ranallo an underrated commentator? Sure his radio voice gets on the nerves of many, but he has come a long way since his first few PRIDE commentaries. EliteXC was smart for scooping him up. I’m ready for the flame mail. …

Is it me or is Bill Goldberg, while a good, professional and friendly person, not exactly a great commentator? Well, maybe it’s not his fault, but how many times — and this includes his stint with the WFA — do we have to hear his broadcast team suck up to him and say how huge, tough, strong, dangerous, etc, he is? I am willing to bet that his teammates are wearing “I Heart Goldberg” shirts underneath their suits. …

Many people might enjoy his silly antics, but Charles Bennett (Pictures)’s Tom Foolery is beyond annoying. Sure he can scrap and the guy punches hard, but does anybody find amusement with the ridiculous gold teeth, the camera babble and utter nonsense he rambles about during pre-fight video interviews? Thankfully he didn’t use that tired and farthest-thing-from-funny “my right arm is strong because I jerk off too much” shtick he used for both King of the Cage and PRIDE. “Rampage” is funny. “Crazy Horse” is not even close. …

I could tell that promoter Gary Shaw was like a fish out of water during EliteXC’s debut card. Usually he can’t stay away from the camera during his boxing events but this time he was just floating around in the background. That’s good, actually, because since he is still a novice to the sport, he’d look like a buffoon if he tried to wax MMA experience and intelligence to the viewers. …

Speaking of Shaw, he mentioned to Carano and Kedzie that they were the first women to ever fight on a Showtime card, including boxing. He is wrong. Christie Martin fought plenty of women on the undercards of several post-prison Mike Tyson Showtime pay-per-view events. …

While EliteXC won’t be toppling the UFC anytime soon, if ever, at least with Shaw’s presence they stand a fighting chance. Shaw has promoted or co-promoted some of the biggest and best boxing events over the last 15 years, so his expertise in that realm alone will only benefit the fledgling company. We’ll see how it pans out. …

I was shocked to see that Monster Energy Drink, my personal favorite, was sponsoring the event. I literally drink a blue Monster almost every day of the week. I’m so used to seeing other drinks that I feel taste like dung sponsor the fights, so I was happy to see Monster all over the cage. …

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