It’s been about 26 hours since I entered the Prudential Center Arena for the premiere of EliteXC’s Primetime on CBS. The reviews across the internet are as varied as the show was, but after taking a day to digest it, these are my observations from a live observer point of view. I have not had a chance to review the tape of the event, so I will not comment on the actual CBS broadcast and how it was presented.
I have been to a variety of MMA events, including two UFC PPVs, two WEC events, two IFL events, and a few small show such as Battle Cage Extreme, and Reality Fighting. Far and away, this may have been the worst live MMA show I have ever attended. Read on for my reasonings why.
Let’s start with the very first two undercard fights. While they were pretty good fights between very inexperienced fighters, EliteXC did not bother to put the fights on any of the big screens. Despite the fact that the fighters had a good following from each of their respective camps, anytime the fights went to the ground, there was little way to really get to see the action. Additionally, there was no round clock to be seen, so the crowd had no idea how long was left in a round. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have shown those two fights on the big screens. That’s simply lazy.
The rest of the undercard proceeded nicely with very good pacing. Seven fights occurred within two hours, including one decision. Then some very dubious decision making occurred. After the end of the last preliminary fight, the sparse crowd in the upper deck began to disappear. Suddenly the bottom bowl’s aisle’s were filled with people coming down and filling in the thousands of empty seats. While I understood why EliteXC did this to make the crowd look bigger, many in the crowd were upset. People who paid $18-$28 were being allowed to move down, event to the floor seating, in lieu of people who had paid a good deal more than that for the better seats. There could have been a better way, like announcing to the crowd that anyone could move to better seats rather than just letting the cheap seats down. Attendance was announced at the post fight press conference as a little over 8,000. I actually thought it was closer to 9-10,000. But this had to be considered a pretty big disappointment. The IFL last summer brought in over 7,000 to the IZOD Center in Jersey. UFC 78 put 14,000 in the Pru Center.
At about 8:50pm, they started showing the Nick Diaz-KJ Noons fight on the big screens to amp up the crowd for the live broadcast. That’s an interesting choice in fights to show. Instead of showing a fight featuring one of this night’s participants, such as Kimbo vs Tank or Gina Carano vs Tonya Evinger, they pick Nick Diaz. Due to time constraints, they only showed the first round up until the fight was stopped to check Diaz’s cut. Maybe this was an omen of things to come (doctor stoppages), but this fight did nothing to hype up the crowd. It was turned off and everything was silent. Finally, with no prior warning (unlike UFC or even WWE events), the dancers started up again and it was assumed the show was live. There was never any guidance as to what was going on and the crowd began to get restless. Finally, Brett Rogers and Jon Murphy entered the cage, over 30 minutes since the end of the last prelim fight. For some reason, they never really dimmed the lights in the general crowd.
The pacing of the live event was at a snail’s pace compared to most shows. Five fights with not one going to the decision took almost three hours. It was brutally slow at times with no guidance from the ring announcer whatsoever. The IFL’s last event at the IZOD, also shown on live TV (HDNet), utilized ring announcer Tim Hughes to let the crowd know what was going on between fights. Here, the crowd was simply left to wonder when the next fight would finally come on.
Something really needs to be looked at for the sound system that is used for the post fight interviews at the Pru Center. These interviews were very difficult to understand in the crowd, mimicking the same problem the UFC had last November. The IFl at the IZOD as well as UFC events in Las Vegas have much better in ring sound. This was not EliteXC’s fault, but something worth noting as it did affect the viewing experience.
As to the fights themselves, I came away with these random thoughts without rehashing what everyone saw.
* As the Robbie Lawler-Scott Smith progressed, one thing became very clear. There is no way I can put Robbie Lawler in my top 5 middleweights as some rankings have placed him. I kept envisioning whenever Scott Smith locked Lawler into a Muay Thai clinch, what would happen if that clinch was from Anderson Silva?!? I’ve always been a huge Lawler fan, but he was a bit slow and predictable last night. I could easily see Silva, Henderson, Franklin, Misaki, Filho, Okami, Kang, and Marquardt defeating Lawler. He looks a bit small for midddleweight. Unlike many in the crowd, I liked the Lawler-Smith fight but came away unimpressed with Robbie.
* As all have said, the Carano-Young fight was easily Fight of the Night. It was great. I can’t help but think that Young would have been allowed to continue if this was a male fight not on broadcast TV. And she certainly seemed upset in the ring that the fight was stopped initially. Carano took some big shots and kept coming, showing no ill effects from the weight cutting issues from the day before.
*The best thing for EliteXC was not showing the Nick Serra undercard fight. It was absolutely awful and embarassing. It was a back and forth fight in the first round with not a terrible amount of punishment delivered by either fighter. Serra completely gassed in the second round and despite the wailing of his brother Matt from cageside, Nick simply gave up. Though he tried to jump guard, he ended up just falling backwards onto his back. At one point, he refused to get up and was docked a point. Though he stood for a few seconds, he once again tried to fall backwards into a guard position. Despite his opponent taunting him to get up, the Mad Monkey refused to get up. He was docked 2 points and finally the fight was waved off 4 minutes into the second round Matt Serra entered the ring with a look of embarrassment, for it was truly a terrible performance from his brother.
* Everyone has their opinion on Kimbo. We all know why he was given the opponent. The overwhelming support in the arena was for Kimbo. EliteXC even organized the various dancers to hand out “Kick Ass Kimbo” mini posters to anyone in the crowd that wanted them. They did everything they could to stack the odds against the Collosus. Then the fight progressed and the tone of the crowd began to shift. Especially after the fight hit the ground, it dawned on the spectators that Kimbo was not all that he was built up to be. I’ll admit it, I started an “overrated” chant that went over very well with nearby fans. And I am a fan of Kevin Ferguson. It was simply more that I really dislike Gary Shaw and his comments from the weigh-ins that he would “hang himself” if Kimbo lost was certainly behind my rants. After the stoppage, which I was really okay with, it was semi-embarrassing that Thompson easily walked around the ring complaining about the stoppage while Kimbo laid on his back for an extended period of time as if he was the one knocked out. This may have been a blessing in disguise as Kimbo was certainly exposed some and EliteXC cannot put all their promotional powers into a guy that limited in skill at this point. Future rumored opponents of Roy Nelson or Brett Rogers would be bad matchups for Slice at this point. The best move EliteXC made was pulling the rumored contract Ron Waterman was offered to fight Slice on this card. I have little doubt that Waterman would have also gotten this fight to the ground and unlike the brawler Thompson, Waterman is a wiz on the ground and likely would have choked out Kimbo.