Luis Cruz reporting…
Elite XC Debut Show Coverage
This is Luis Cruz reporting for MMANews.com. I just returned from covering the new Showtime MMA show, Elite XC, in Southaven, Mississippi. I had ventured off early Friday from my home in Pennsylvania with high hopes. I kept telling myself that I would be watching a part of history for MMA in more than one way. First, it would be the debut of MMA on a premium cable channel in Showtime and the second would be the first female MMA bout to take place on a major television stage. Not only were my expectations met, but they were in fact exceeded. Aside from a disappointing end to the highly advertised main event, all the fights delivered great action.
The prelims began with two heavy hitters in Bo and Percy. The stood and traded heavy shots with “Perm” landing a crushing shot that put Bo out cold. Great start to the evening and it set the tone for the majority of the night.
Mike Pyle looked impressive in his new promotion since leaving the IFL. He was able to get the rear naked choke on Ebanez in the opening round and force a tap out.
“Javi” pulled out a very close decision to hometown favorite Nasal. It was a close fight which seen the two battle standing and on the ground. While Nasal put forth a great effort and to the disapproval of the crowd, two of the three judges gave the nod to Vazquez.
In the Shackelford vs. Berto affair, it would not end without controversy. The fight had hit the ground where Shackelford’s biggest chance would arrive to pull out a win. Listening to his corner men, he committed to a kneebar while taking some shots. While trying to roll into a complete application of the kneebar, Berto grabbed the fence and started raining his free hand onto Shackelford’s head. They were clearly doing damage and a newer referee to the sport never made mention of the illegal use of the fence but instead stepped in to call a halt to the action at just 1:18 of round 1 awarding Berto the victory. Shackelford’s corner was clearly upset and yelling at the referee but was told to back away. The referee kept the decision as was, Berto the victor via TKO.
Last minute replacement Gates gave his all but was still overwhelmed by the much more experienced and skilled Fukuda who was able to stop his opponent in the opening round with a referee stoppage due to a barrage of punches.
The main card opened up with my most anticipated fight of the night and grudge match, KJ Noons vs Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett. The trash talking had reached its pinnacle at the press conference two days earlier. These two fighters did not like each other and both promise me, in a previous interview, that this fight would not go to the ground. KJ was controlling the pace of the fight and landing hard low kicks, which “Krazy Horse” acknowledged at the end of the fight that they had done damage. KJ was also landing effective strikes while “Krazy Horse” just swung wildly and missed. It wouldn’t matter in the end though, as “Krazy Horse” landed a brutal hook that hit its mark and sent KJ crashing to the mat. The real “crazy” part of this was that KJ had actually landed his own hook at the exact same moment that buckled “Krazy Horse’s” legs and sent him down to one knee. He was able to quickly recover when he seen KJ go down and he jumped in to finish the fight. He topped it off with two top of the cage back flips and a lap around the outside of the cage. It won’t surprise me to see a rematch between these two in the future.
The next fight was the fight of the night and a surprise to newer fans because it was the only female fight on the card. Gina Carano and Julie Kedzie knew they were about to make history and they fought to set women’s standards in this sport. Gina unleashed wicked strikes on Julie for two solid rounds but Julie managed to weather the storm and survive to the third round. Julie came out in the third and was able to land some good kicks and a hard right hand of her own. It wasn’t enough to deter, the future of women’s MMA, Gina. Gina fought until the final bell, even though she had the fight won on the scorecards and everyone knew it. They both showed tremendous heart and a vast amount of skills. Although she came up short, Julie has no reason to hold her head down after this fight. She fought on like a true warrior to the bitter end and we should surely see her back in Elite XC. Gina on the other hand can do the same but she can also carry the “w” with her. Gina is not only very talented, athletic, and one hardcore mixed martial artist, but she is also beautiful and the sweetest person you’re ever likely to meet. She is no doubt the future of the women’s side of the sport and a perfect role model to bring them on the same stage as the men.
Loiseau and Villasenor faced off both looking to redeem themselves from bad performances. But it would be Joey who would execute his game plan to perfection this night. Loiseau went in to the fight thinking he’d be in a standup battle but Joey had other plans and that was to take Loiseau down at will and control the entire fight. Loiseau unloaded kicks and punches in round three but couldn’t land a clean shot to end the fight. In fact, it was Loiseau who earlier in the fight would get caught with a shot. He appeared Loiseau was out cold but some how he managed to recover and keep on fighting in what was a great show of heart. Joey Villasenor must be given all the credit in the world though as he fought a very smart and successful fight and took it to the former UFC # 1 Middleweight contender.
One man who also impressed me tonight as I got to see Antonio Silva for the first time in person. It wasn’t his size, which caught my attention, it was his agility and speed for a man his size. He had great movement and controlled “Cabbage” until he was able to land a big uppercut, which rocked the Hawaiian. That was followed up with more strikes which forced the ref to stop the fight at just 3:49 of round one.
The main event was a bit of a shocker. Renzo Gracie squared off against Frank Shamrock in another saga of a Gracie vs. Shamrock. The first round seen Renzo take Frank down and control him while Frank tried to stay busy with strikes from the bottom. People were surprised to see Renzo take Frank down so easily, including myself. But in the second round, while Renzo was in top position, Frank threw two intentional and illegal knees to the side of the head of Renzo. Renzo rolled away holding his head and referee Herb Dean has to once again step into a bit of a controversy. The doctor checked Renzo and did not allow him to continue. He was sent to the hospital as a precaution and would be awarded the DQ win. Not how anyone wanted to see the fight end but there’s already rumblings about a possible rematch in the future.
Overall, a really great show. I will be watching my tivo version of this event shortly to see how well it came out on tv. My expectations aren’t high, because of the fact you cannot compare watching an MMA event on tv to watching it live in person. If you have not checked one out live, I HIGHLY recommend you make time to go. Even if you’re not sure if you’re ready to be a full fledged fan, one event and you will be, guaranteed. Elite XC will be holding their next event in May with details to come as it nears. MMANews.com will give you all the scoop as we get it.
-Former NFL great running back, Eddie George, was in attendance at the show. He sat next to me Cage side. I asked him before the main event started, if he had been to an event before. He said no he hadn’t. I asked him what his thoughts were for the first time and he said and I quote “This is great, I love it! I’m hooked already!”
-Also in attendance, either cornering their fighters or just checking out the event were, Randy Couture (who will be trying to regain the Heavyweight title in the UFC in a few weeks), Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Ricco Rodriguez, “Ninja” Rua (New Elite XC acquisition), Murilo Bustamante, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and a host of others.
-For those not to familiar with professional boxing, one of the referees for this event was Gary Ritter. You would see him regularly on Friday Night Fights on ESPN. For the past year or so, I have praised him for his work in boxing. He will not be seen or interfere unless he is absolutely needed and in my opinion the best referee in boxing. He served on this MMA card and did the exact same job he does in boxing, an excellent job. Outside of big names such as “Big” John McCarthy, not too many referees get praised for a good job only badgered when they make a mistake or appear to have made a mistake. I wanted to give props to this man and `most’ of the reffing that took place since they are under appreciated.
-Kudos to whoever put the lineup of female dancers/ring girls together as they looked unbelievable for this event.
-I ran into Jerry “The King” Lawler of Memphis, and known for his work his professional wrestling, in the hotel we stayed. I approached Jerry as he was leaving and asked him what he thought of the sport of mixed martial arts. He exclaimed that he liked it a lot and thought it was great. I asked if he would attend the event that evening and he told me if he did not have a commitment for an appearance that night, he would have definitely attended.
-Don’t forget to check out the entire gallery of my over 160 pictures of this event, just click here.
-Also if you haven’t checked out my post fight video interviews, you can get all of those at the link below.
I would just like to send some final thanks to some people.
-Gina Carano and her crew who were more than generous and great with me the entire time.
-Brandon Vera, David Loiseau, KJ Noons, and the entire City Boxing team. You can check them out at http://www.cityboxing.com/
-Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Joey Villasenor, and the entire Jackson camp who were in attendance that night. http://www.jacksons.tv/mma/index.php
-Jordan and John of Showtime for all their help.
-Last but most definitely not least, Gary Shaw, Jeremy, and Monica for making all this possible for us to be there. A big thank you to them.
-Don’t forget to visit the official website of Elite XC at http://www.EliteXC.com. Also check out the new website http://www.proelite.com where you can register an account and do all the things you do at MySpace and also interact with the Elite fighters and staff, so register today!