Slicing The American Dream
NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Dream arrived in living rooms all over
the country Saturday.
For better or worse.
CBS broadcasted EliteXC from the Prudential Center, the first live
mixed martial arts event on network television, and its centerpiece
was the most compelling sports figure of the 21st century: Kevin "Kimbo Slice"
Slice's story -- from homeless to bare-knuckled backyard brawler to
the cover of ESPN: The Magazine -- is well known by now. Depending
on point of view, Slice is either the embodiment of America or the
twisted demagogue of the quick-fix, "American Idol" generation.
Purists decry him as a marketing gimmick, but he inspires
quasi-religious adulation from young males who fall in line behind
his unique cadence. Certainly no athlete since Mike Tyson in his
prime has generated such fervor.
An announced 8,033 fans arrived early and filled most of the arena
by the third bout. By the time the CBS lights clicked on, the only
empty seats were nosebleeds and all present were standing when
their hero was introduced. Less than three rounds later, Slice
landed a haymaker to James
Thompson (Pictures)'s left ear. The fight was stopped
and EliteXC's cash cow survived for another day.
"It was definitely exciting and entertaining," former UFC champion
Mark Coleman (Pictures) said. "Kimbo works really hard
and he's improved a lot. You have to give him credit. He puts asses
in the seats."
This was by far the closest fight of Slice's fledgling career.
Thompson won the first two rounds -- including 10-8 in the second
on one card. In fact, while no grappling wizard, Thompson
outclassed Slice on the ground and pounded Slice for the last 1:40
of the second frame and the bout was close to being stopped. But
Slice's big punch in the third dazed Thompson, prompting referee
Dan Miragliotta to step in at the 0:31 mark.
"He kept me on the ground for a good little minute," Slice said. "I
was waiting for the right time to explode."
The explosions were not confined to the cage. During the press
conference, Brett Rogers
(Pictures), who won the first
televised bout, spoke about Slice's performance.
"Everybody saw the fight today," Rogers said. "A man is a man and
what I saw today was garbage."
Slice -- and his rowdy posse -- responded.
"That sounds like a challenge," Slice said as he and Rogers faced
off on both sides of EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw before calmer heads
While the event may have introduced Slice to mainstream America, no
one benefited more from Saturday's telecast than female fighters.
Buoyed by appearances on "American Gladiator," Gina Carano (Pictures) (6-0) earned a legion of fans and
a standing ovation with a doctors-stoppage win over the exciting
Carano did not make weight for the fight and had to pay Young a
reported 12 percent of her purse. They combined for the night's
best display of technical striking and perhaps the best
give-and-take. Young's striking earned her the first round on one
judge's card, but Carano landed several effective combinations, a
powerful straight kick to the body and was going for a rear-naked
choke as the second round expired. Young's face was swollen and the
fight was called before the third period due to a cut below her
"Kaitlin is an amazing person," Carano said. "I have a lot of
respect for her."
By comparison, Robbie
Lawler (Pictures)'s middleweight title defense
against Scott Smith drew
boos in just over one minute and finished to the loudest jeers of
the night -- but through no fault of the fighters. Lawler and Smith
exchanged during a classic second stanza, but the fight ended
"We went to war out there," Lawler said. "I was going in for the
kill and so was he."
In the first, Lawler (15-4, 1 NC) hurt Smith badly with two left
kicks to the body as Smith nearly fell into his corner after the
bell. But momentum swung back and forth during the second round and
most of the third before Lawler inadvertently thumbed Smith (15-5,
1 NC) in the eye. He was ruled unable to continue at the 3:26 mark
and the bout was ruled a no-contest. After the decision was
announced, Smith immediately ran over to Lawler.
"I told him I wanted to keep going," said Smith. "I didn't want to
Two judges had the fighters even through two rounds. After the
match, Smith learned he had broken his foot, but was pleased with
the post-fight finances.
"I paid both fighters a winning purse," Shaw said.
Villasenor (Pictures) (26-6) picked apart Phil Baroni (Pictures) with stiff jabs and a standing
guillotine. He landed a few more blows as Baroni (10-10) crumbled
and the bout was stopped at 1:11 of the first. Baroni stormed out
of the cage after he regained his senses.
"They don't call him 'Smokin' Joe' for nothing," Baroni said after
tearing up during the press conference. "I've been down before. I
want to fight my way back."
The victory illustrated Villasenor's well-rounded game and
pressure, but CBS likely would have rather cashed in on Baroni's
well-crafted character. In many ways, Baroni's entire career had
been building towards this moment, but on the largest stage he ran
into a superior fighter. He has always cultured a professional
wrestling-style persona -- one that is easily digestible for the
uninitiated masses. His smoke-filled, sun-glass-clad cage walks
could have garnered him more fame than his fighting prowess, but
his network debut fell flat.
In the first televised bout, Rogers (7-0) landed a short right hook
to Jon Murphy's jaw and
followed him to the mat 1:01 into the fight. Rogers' post-fight
comments were almost uniformly directed towards Slice.
"For him to come out and perform like this is unacceptable for the
fans," Rogers said.
Two notable undercard fights turned into fiascos when fighters were
unable or unwilling to continue. Former NCAA wrestling champion and
NFL all-pro lineman Carlton Haselrig (Pictures) (2-0) rode Carlos Moreno (Pictures) (5-3) for most of an uneventful
first round. His face to the cage, Moreno refused to come out for
the second, resulting in a technical knockout. The brightest moment
in the fight: Moreno nearly lost his shorts late in the first
More embarrassing was Nick
Serra (Pictures)'s performance -- or lack of --
against Matt Makowski
(Pictures) (3-0). The brother of
former UFC champion Matt
Serra (Pictures) came out strong, but faded
quickly. Makowski took control midway through the first round when
he slammed Serra (8-3) after the New Yorker attempted an armbar.
Serra clowned from the mat, but Makowski's superior striking began
to take its toll. He landed several kicks and knees to Serra's body
before the latter attempted to pull guard -- from five feet away.
Serra landed on his back and Makowski called him to his feet.
Referee Kevin Mulhall deducted a point after Serra failed to rise
in a timely manner. As soon as the fighters engaged again, Serra
attempted to pull guard again. Makowski shouted, "Come on!" and
gestured for him to rise, but Serra remained on the mat even after
Mulhall deducted another point. Serra still refused to move,
forcing the referee to make an executive decision at 3:57 of the
In the most impressive non-televised bout, Philadelphia's Wilson Reis (Pictures) (4-0) put on a grappling clinic
at 140 pounds against Justin Robbins (Pictures) (12-4-1), winning by rear-naked
choke at 4:06 of the first. Reis brought his own hype man and live
rappers for his entrance. He scored a quick takedown and quickly
moved to a deep armbar. With his arm at a severe angle, Robbins
managed to twist out of danger, but wound up in a triangle. Again
Robbins fought out of trouble, but Reis eventually took his back,
loosened him with strikes and snuck in the choke.
In other bouts, Jim Bova
(Pictures) (3-1) won the first round,
but was cut near the left eye in the second against Chris Ligouri
(9-7). The fighters traded strikes during a close round before
Ligouri won via doctor's stoppage at 4:31 of the second round. ...
Lightweight James Jones
(Pictures) (7-5) secured a rear naked
choke on Calvin Kattar
(2-1), forcing a tap at 4:49 of the first ... Bantamweight Zach Makovsky (Pictures) (4-1) relied on superior striking
and takedown defense to batter Andres Soares (Pictures) (5-2) to win a unanimous decision
with scores of 29-28 and 29-26 (twice). ... Lightweight Joe Sampieri (Pictures) (1-2) got the better of the
stand-up and finished Mike
Groves (Pictures) (0-3) with ground-and-pound at
4:58 of the first.
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