EliteXC: If It’s on TV, It Must Be Good!

Well, this is it, folks. After years of government and media backlash, countless steps back and some memorably disastrous runs at the mainstream, MMA finally makes its major network debut with none other than Gary Shaw leading the way.

Hard to believe but EliteXC has made its mainstream push behind an odd assortment like reformed YouTube brawler Kimbo Slice and female MMA superstar Gina Carano (Pictures). Both will be present and accounted for come 9 p.m. Saturday night on CBS and so should you if for no other reason than to see if John McCain shows up and tries to call the whole thing off. Gotta admit, it would be good for a few laughs.

Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson (Pictures)

The fact that MMA has managed to find its way on major network television is surprising enough, but the fact that the sport's debut will be headlined by an internet street fighting superstar is enough to shake anyone's faith in the laws of probability. Yet, that is the role that Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson will play when he continues his quest for bread against English brawler James "The Megapunk" Thompson in a trying to sell the EliteXC product to an audience that almost universally associates the sport with the UFC.

Just how successful that sell-job turns is up to Mr. Slice (2-0), who has developed into a legitimate heavyweight prospect under the watchful eye of Bas Rutten (Pictures), no stranger to fist fights himself. With barely over a minute of total cage time in two matches, there isn't much one can say about Slice aside from the already well known fact that he hits like a Presidential veto and his beard puts Grizzly Adams to shame.

While many of Slice's street brawls can be found with a quick YouTube search, James Thompson (Pictures) (14-8) and his past as a "debt collector" remain open to interpretation. Perhaps the only thing clear about Thompson is a go-for-broke fighting style that has won him plenty of fans and cost him more than a few fights. At bare minimum, Thompson will find himself a willing sparring partner in Slice who is still too raw to consider exploiting Thompson's ground game. Just as lacking is Thompson's conditioning which generally buckles under the weight of his colossal frame.

Against a fighter as limited as Thompson, that should be enough to get the job done as "The Megapunk" comes out in his usual hyperactive fashion and ends up walking right into one of Slice's overhand haymakers early in the first round.

How could you pick against an epic beard like that? The crowd should be forced to pledge allegiance to Kimbo's beard, that would make for some quality marketing angles.

Robbie Lawler (Pictures) vs. Scott Smith

The evening's "other" main event is a bit less Sideshow Bob, but figures to deliver the same fistic fireworks as defending EliteXC middleweight champion "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (Pictures) takes on top contender, Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith.

Smith (13-4) has been under the EliteXC banner for about as long as Right Said Fred ruled the charts. With a solid KO win over Kyle Noke (Pictures) in his EliteXC debut, Smith has been launched up the rankings. Coming out of California's ultra-competitive MMA scene, Smith was a well-regarded prospect who never put it all together in the UFC and while everyone remembers Smith's classic KO of Pete Sell (Pictures), not too many remember that was his only win in the UFC.

Not to say that Lawler (15-4) did much better in the UFC considering he came in billed as the heir apparent to Matt Hughes (Pictures)' throne. A few losses and several injuries later, Lawler began the process of reinventing himself as a middleweight outside of the organization that had tried to cultivate him into a superstar.

The transition has been seamless for Lawler ,whose only loss since cutting ties with the self-professed Super Bowl of MMA came against everyone's favorite pseudo-cult leader, Jason "Mayhem" Miller. Highlight reel-worthy wins over Frank Trigg (Pictures) and Murilo "Ninja" Rua more than make up the difference and Lawler now finds himself slotted as one of EliteXC's leading men.

Both fighters like to put their opponents away in sudden fashion. The difference is that Smith often seems puzzled when his opponents do not present him with the perfect opportunity to unload his otherworldly punching power while Lawler has diversified his game with kicks and knees.

In doing so, Lawler has become a well-rounded striker who employs sound strategy inside the cage. Expect the trend to continue as Lawler picks apart Smith early on before putting him away in the third round of a one-sided affair.

All that's left to predict is Lawler's choice of post-fight flex routine. I have good money on the Hulkamania bicep flex followed by vintage Schwarzenegger gun-show pose.

Gina Carano (Pictures) vs. Kaitlin Young (Pictures)

Continuing their trailblazing ways with female MMA, EliteXC once again rolls out their resident poster-girl/American Gladiator Gina Carano (Pictures) in the hopes of capturing the imagination of both fight fans and any male who happens to tune in.

The latest unknown lined up to try and disrupt Carano's mojo is none other than Kaitlin Young (Pictures) (4-1), who finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to recover from her first professional loss while preparing for the most important match of her career. An unenviable task since considering Young appeared to be in need of some seasoning when she dropped her bout with Sara Schneider (Pictures) and now must take on one of the very best female mixed martial artists today.

But Carano's commitment has been questioned lately, thanks to her appearances on American Gladiators and troubling habit of coming in overweight for fights. Regardless of the bad press that has been thrown her way, Carano (5-0) maintains she is up to the task of being female MMA's leading lady and a strong performance on national television would surely silence the naysayers.

That strong performance is well within reach for Carano if she can find a way to juggle her myriad side jobs and show up to this fight in shape because there is no question that from here on out, Carano will have a bullseye on her back the size of Terrell Owens' ego.

The upside of facing Young is that she prefers to keep her bouts standing which plays to Carano's strengths as she has far more experience as a kick boxer. That won't do anything to deter Young as her loss exposed the holes in her ground game while Carano has actually shown a solid grasp of grappling.

With the deck stacked against her, Young will put on a valiant effort worthy of a "Rocky" style video montage but Carano simply has too much for this overmatched newcomer and takes a TKO win late in the first round. Expect a hearty cheer to rise from the testosterone laden audience assuming they prefer actual competition over the sideshow that is American Gladiators. Seriously, anytime Hulk Hogan is the expert commentator you have a problem.

Phil Baroni (Pictures) vs. Joey Villasenor (Pictures)

In what is likely an elimination bout for the EliteXC middleweight title, top contenders Phil Baroni (Pictures) and Joey Villasenor (Pictures) will match wits and fists with a title shot waiting on the horizon.

Not that the prospect of gold is anything new to either man. In fact, Villasenor (25-6) was once thought to be a surefire bet to hold the EliteXC strap after besting David Loiseau (Pictures) in his debut with the promotion. Despite notching the win, Villasenor appeared listless and kept up the trend in dropping his bout with eventual title challenger, Murilo "Ninja" Rua. An upswing in effort has landed "Smokin' Joe" back in the good graces of Gary Shaw.

The same applies for Baroni (10-9), whose entire career has been nothing but wasted opportunities -- whether his maddeningly inconsistent runs in the UFC and Pride or his recent slip-up against hated rival Frank Shamrock (Pictures).

Tracing the source of Baroni's struggles is deceptively simple: cardio, stupid. Baroni seems incapable of showing up to his fights in the sort of condition necessary to get past the opening stanza and that is why he has yet to cash in on his talent. Opportunity will come knocking again for Baroni but Villasenor isn't going to give him a two-minute war. He prefers a more methodical, close quarters approach. Should Baroni close the gap early and try to force Villasenor into a slugfest, he'll have to land with more accuracy than usual because he's likely to end up in the clinch or on his back.

At this point, it's hard to imagine Baroni changing his stripes and until he does, he'll keep losing to opponents with superior conditioning and strategy. Villasenor happens to have both of those categories in his pocket and he'll take a comfortable decision win.

With that out of the way, who told Villasenor he could steal Joe Frazier's nickname?

Brett Rogers (Pictures) vs. Jon Murphy

Opening the evening's action is an interesting heavyweight tilt between undefeated Brett "The Grim" Rogers and the always entertaining Jon Murphy, albeit entertaining for the wrong reasons.

For the uninitiated, Murphy(4-2) made his EliteXC debut against Dave Huckaba (Pictures) in a bout that could be charitably described as sloppy. A more incisive stance would likely end in me being pilloried. Not everyone is destined for MMA greatness and if Murphy has that goal in his sights, he'll need to improve by leaps and bounds in his conditioning and overall technique. The athleticism and gusto is there, but this is a sport that doesn't forgive much.

Equally unforgiving is Rogers(6-0) who seems to have no desire to be anyone's neighbor. In fact, most of his neighbors moved away after realizing the red stripes on his cardigan weren't stripes at all. The moniker of "The Grim" is certainly well earned as Rogers' bout with James Thompson (Pictures) proved. Completely unshaken by Thompson's pre-fight show, Rogers came out and proceeded to pound Thompson's face into a fine paste. With the prospect of a high profile bout with Kimbo Slice possible, the stakes are high.

While Murphy will certainly try and make a show of it, Rogers is simply too much for the overmatched Wildman and should have no problem finding the obvious holes in Murphy's less than airtight defense. Once that happens, the countdown to the departure of the KO train begins. The train only fits one and the lone seat is reserved for Mr. Murphy. I bet he'll be wishing he had a neighbor to accompany him on the ride.
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