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Elite XC: Unfinished Business review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 19, 2009, 11:10 AM

Elite XC: Unfinished Business

Stockton, California

-This was the second of the Elite XC shows to be broadcast on CBS primetime, although the first three bouts of my review were aired on Showtime prior to the CBS broadcast. While the first CBS show, with the company’s two big draws in Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice popped a decent rating, this one was down almost 50% from the first, showing I guess the drawing power of the afore-mentioned fighters. This one was headlined by a rematch of Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith, the most exciting fight from the first CBS show that ended prematurely when Smith was accidentally poked in the eye. I actually thought this one was the better card on paper, but ah well.

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock. No Goldberg?! Boo!

Featherweight Fight: Wilson Reis vs Brian Caraway

Brazilian Reis was unbeaten at 4-0 coming into this fight and the word was that EXC were looking to push him as their probable Featherweight champion. According to the announcers he was a BJJ black belt at just 19, which is amazing. I’ve never heard of Caraway before and the announcers basically just say it’d be an upset if he beats Reis.

First round begins and Caraway looks to strike, landing some decent punches before Reis grabs a single leg and drags him to the mat. Caraway gets full guard but Reis quickly passes into half-guard. Side mount now for Reis but Caraway does a good job of pivoting and moving to guard as Reis lands some punches. Reis gets back into half-guard and lands some more punches, but as he goes for mount Caraway scrambles to his feet and separates with a right hand. Caraway presses forward and lands with some punches, as Reis looks to be a very stiff striker. Single leg puts Caraway on his back again though and he quickly moves to half-guard. Reis looks to pass to mount and this time he does it, controlling Caraway with a tight mount. Caraway gives his back and Reis looks for the choke, getting both hooks in, but one hook slips off and Caraway escapes to his feet. Combo from Caraway ends with a left hook that clips Reis, but the Brazilian secures another single leg to half-guard, and works away with elbows to end the round.

2nd round and Reis gets a single right away down to the guard, wasting no time striking. Reis immediately passes to half-guard, but a scramble sees Caraway escape to his feet. Reis shoots again, but takes a big knee to the head and some follow-up punches put the Brazilian on his back and he looks to be in trouble! Caraway avoids a leglock attempt and bombs away with punches, but Reis recovers and gets a single leg, putting Caraway on his back in half-guard again. Reis pushes against Caraway’s leg and slips into side mount, but Caraway scrambles back to half-guard. Full guard from Caraway as Reis chops away with some strikes, and then stands to push the legs aside and pass to side mount. Caraway pushes off the cage with his feet to attempt a reversal, and he manages to get to half-guard although Reis is landing a few more punches now. Crowd begin to boo but there’s plenty of action here. Reversal by Caraway gets him to his feet, but Reis gets back on him looking for another single leg. Reis winds up dropping to his back and Caraway ends up on top in half-guard, but he gets too loose with his control and Reis rolls him over into half-guard and quickly slides into side control. Scramble by Caraway but Reis spins to his back and then lands a nice jumping knee as they stand on the buzzer.

Third and final round, and Caraway presses with punches, then lands a body kick that hurts Reis. Reis manages to get a takedown to guard though and works to pass again, getting into a half-butterfly guard. Some short elbows land for Reis before Caraway works back to full butterfly guard. Reis stands and kicks his legs for a second before dropping back into the guard. Sweep attempt from Caraway is easily avoided and Reis gets into half-guard and then takes full mount, but Caraway rolls him into guard. Reis rolls and they go into an extended scramble, finishing with them coming back to their feet. High kick from Caraway narrowly misses but he easily avoids a takedown attempt. Knee lands for Caraway but Reis gets a single leg and drags him to the ground. Into half-guard for Reis and the crowd begin to boo again. Reis stands and tries a diving punch, but it allows Caraway to reverse him, and then he stands up. Ref calls Reis up and Caraway comes leaping in with a flying knee, but it gets him taken down again. They come back up quickly though and Caraway lunges in with a knee to end the fight.

Judges score it a unanimous decision for Wilson Reis. Fight wasn’t bad by any means although it had its slow parts, but I wasn’t too impressed with Reis here as I’d heard a ton of good things about him going in, but he looked very vulnerable standing and he never really came close to finishing Caraway on the ground either. I mean, a win is a win but Reis had been calling out guys like Kid and Faber at this stage, and if you want to fight those guys you need to fight better than this.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rafael Feijao vs Travis Galbraith

Like Reis, Feijao was another Brazilian fighter that EXC were looking to push as a star on their future shows. Training out of the same camp (Black House) as Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and the Nogueira brothers, etc, he had looked fantastic in his two previous outings, stopping both opponents quickly with strikes, and Silva himself had talked him up as a major talent. Galbraith is perhaps best remembered for his PRIDE outing against Kazuhiro Nakamura, exciting fight that was, but personally I always remember GSP bashing his head into the mat in their fight. How the guy ever made 170lbs I do not know.

We begin and Feijao presses forward, landing a low kick early. He’s wearing similar trunks to Anderson Silva too. Lunging right hand into a clinch follows, but Galbraith forces him into the cage. They exchange some low knees and muscle for position, before Feijao breaks off. Overhand right misses for Feijao but he grabs a plum clinch and knees the body. Galbraith gets it into a regular clinch situation, but Feijao delivers a beautiful outside trip takedown. Reversal by Galbraith and he goes for a single leg, but Feijao defends and they end up clinched again. Elbow inside for Galbraith but Feijao breaks off. Suddenly a BIG overhand right and a pair of vicious knees stun the Canadian, and Feijao follows with a brutal combination! Galbraith tries to fire back, but gets caught in the plum clinch and a series of knees drop him, and Feijao follows up for the stoppage.

Brutal finish as Feijao indeed channelled Anderson Silva with the knees from the plum, just destroying Galbraith once he got that position. Feijao looked like a dangerous guy here, but he’s since lost to Mike Kyle which sort of takes away from his lustre. Still, this was a really sweet finish.

Elite XC World Heavyweight Title: Antonio Silva vs Justin Eilers

It was only a matter of time before EXC looked to crown Silva as their Heavyweight champion, and really the question wasn’t if he’d win, it was who the sacrificial lamb in the fight for the title would be. And sure enough, Justin Eilers was fished out to do the deed. Not that Eilers is a bad fighter or anything – he’d only lost once (to Pedro Rizzo) since leaving UFC in early 2006, but I don’t think anyone was buying him as a threat to Bigfoot, particularly as physically it looks like Eilers could make 205lbs with little difficulty while Silva is HUGE.

First round begins and Silva stalks forward, landing a leg kick as it looks like Eilers wants to box. Left hook from Silva catches Eilers but he uses head movement to avoid a combo. Couple of jabs land for Eilers to no effect, and then Silva lands a left that knocks him off balance and narrowly misses with a high kick follow-up. Couple of counterpunches land for Silva and then he drops for a double leg and plants Eilers on the mat. Eilers turtles up and takes some punches from behind as Bigfoot takes an over/under, and they’re really heavy, brutal-sounding punches. Couple land to the back of the head though and Herb Dean steps in and calls the stand-up, taking a point away from Silva too. Don’t get that as like always, it wasn’t like the guy was aiming for the back of the head. At least warn him first. Anyway, we restart standing and Silva lands a low kick before knocking Eilers off balance to the ground. He tries to get on top but Eilers scrambles, and so Silva grabs a front facelock. Silva looks to spin to take the back again, but Eilers pops up to his feet. Combo from Silva into the clinch and he forces Eilers into the fence. Silva knees the body, and then lands a combo that rocks Eilers as they break off. More punches are exchanged and the round ends there. Silva’s round but it’s 9-9 due to the point deduction.

Second round and Eilers comes out and wings a big left hook, but gets countered with a right and he’s hurt badly, mouthpiece gone and everything. Silva quickly closes in with a big knee and a combo, opening up with brutal punches as Eilers turns his back, and then Justin collapses to his knees and takes more punches for the TKO.

Fight went basically as advertised, although personally I didn’t expect Eilers to make it out of the first round. Eilers’ boxing looked a little crisper but he was never able to hurt Silva and once he got caught with a big shot from the big man, it was basically all over. Post-fight Silva apparently tested positive for steroids, but he’s always claimed innocence and well, it’s the California State Athletic Commission so who really knows? Now EXC’s dead, once his suspension in the US is up I really hope UFC bring this guy in as can you imagine him against the likes of Velasquez, Lesnar, Mir, et al?

Women’s Fight: Cristiane Cyborg vs Shayna Baszler

Odd choice to televise this over the HW Title fight, but I guess finding Gina Carano a suitable future opponent was probably the smarter decision in terms of future ratings and what-not. Cristiane is the wife of Chute Boxe’s Evangelista Santos (sharing the same ‘Cyborg’ nickname) and she’s probably the most terrifying-looking woman I have ever seen in my life. Seriously. Afraid I’ve got no information whatsoever on Baszler outside of the fact that checking her record, she seems to have lost to all of the women I’ve actually heard of (Tara Larosa, Amanda Buckner, Kelly Kobold). Hey, I just don’t really follow Women’s MMA, sorry. Pre-fight package shows Baszler coming out for a fight with an electric guitar on her back which is pretty cool. Apparently Cyborg is 23! That’s insane as she looks a lot older.

First round and Cyborg comes right out with a wild combo and then grabs the plum to deliver some knees. Baszler gets a takedown off that and then goes for a kneebar, but Cyborg manages to hold on and lands some punches to the head. Cyborg breaks free and takes top position in half-guard, but Baszler sits up and gets full guard back. Cyborg stands over her and takes a couple of upkicks, and then Baszler grabs a leg and tries to pull Cyborg down into another leglock. They go into a weird position with Cyborg’s leg twisted at an odd angle, before she turns into Baszler and ends up in the guard. Few punches land for Cyborg to end the round.

Second round begins and they TRADE WILDLY from the off, and although Baszler slows Cyborg down for a second with a body kick, the Brazilian comes firing back and gets the best of the trade. Baszler goes desperately for the takedown, but can’t get Cyborg to the mat, and some BIG PUNCHES followed by a vicious knee stuns Baszler. Baszler looks exhausted now and is basically covering up, and a combo looks to have her out on her feet. More punches drop her and referee Steve Mazzagatti appears to be stepping in, causing Cyborg to climb the cage in celebration. Apparently the fight’s NOT OVER though as Mazzagatti hasn’t stopped it! The HELL?! Cyborg looks confused – as you would be! – and then starts wailing on Baszler again, before Baszler pulls guard. Cyborg chooses to stand, calling Baszler up, and once again Cyborg just punishes her with punches until she goes down for the stoppage.

Cyborg fought a great fight here and the Cyborg-Carano fight should be quite a thing, but for me the story of this fight was the shameful, shameful performance from Steve Mazzagatti. I mean, Baszler was clearly done when she was dropped the first time, so why the hell make Cyborg beat her some more before stopping it? That fight was OVER and yet The Mazz basically let Baszler get KOd twice. How this guy still has a refereeing job I don’t know. Someone is eventually going to get hurt in a fight that he’s refereeing and that is a scary thought.

-Frank Shamrock runs through the basics of MMA, for new viewers I guess, and thankfully Frank knows what he’s talking about and the video doesn’t set the sport back or anything, even if I can’t see it as being helpful for total newbies as while Frank is explaining how stuff like the rear naked choke works, he’s throwing in terms like “getting the hooks in” without explaining them too. Well, I guess it’d be hard to explain stuff properly in like, the two minutes the video lasts for anyway.

Elite XC World Welterweight Title: Jake Shields vs Nick Thompson

So Shields finally gets the chance to fight for the title that he should’ve won almost nine months beforehand against Mike Pyle, before that fight was unfortunately changed to non-title due to Pyle refusing to sign a contract extension. Shields was faced with a tougher opponent again here, in Nick ‘The Goat’ Thompson, whose only loss at 170lbs had come at the hands of Karo Parisyan. Thompson in fact was on a massive twelve-fight winning streak here, and the argument for this being a fight between the best two Welterweights outside of the UFC at this time could easily be made, although I would’ve gone with Shields vs. WEC’s Carlos Condit if we’re talking about that sort of stuff. Thompson is sporting the WORST BEARD EVER here, literally, as he has no hair on his chin but a ton on his neck. Why would you do that?

Round One begins and Shields pushes forward as Thompson hangs his hands low, perhaps trying to bait Jake into striking. Single leg attempt by Shields and he gets Thompson down and immediately takes full mount! Thompson swivels around and tries to escape, and then uses the fence to push off and reverse out. He leaves his head wide open though and Shields immediately clamps on a guillotine and mounts with it locked in for the tapout.

Wow, did not expect that to go so quickly. Thompson is a very good grappler and Shields just tooled him down on the mat. Thompson was literally never in the fight and to put away a fighter of his calibre in a minute is very, very impressive. Thompson got humbled here as Shields showed once again why he’s the best Welterweight not currently in the UFC.

Post-fight Shields calls out the winner of GSP-Fitch. Uh, dude, you know those guys fight in the UFC right?

Lightweight Fight: Nick Diaz vs Thomas Denny

Diaz had already bounced back from the upset loss to KJ Noons with a pair of wins, but to tell the truth he never looked truly comfortable at 160lbs like he had at 170lbs and you have to wonder how much the weight cut was taking out of him. The colourful Thomas ‘Wildman’ Denny was a clear sacrificial lamb for Diaz I would say, as despite having about a decade of experience and fights against a ton of top guys, he’s never really broken into the top level. Massive pop for Diaz, naturally, as this is his hometown.

Bell sounds to get us started and they exchange some early strikes before Denny takes Diaz down, and in an odd moment Diaz turns his back and gets hit a couple of times before lurching back to his feet. Diaz looks fine though and they trade off with some punches before Denny goes for another takedown. Diaz locks up a kimura on the way down though ala Karo Parisyan, and then turns to an armbar as Denny escapes, but Denny spins to avoid and ends up behind Diaz with an over/under. They come back up and now Diaz goes for a single leg, but Denny avoids and they trade with punches again, but neither man seems to have heavy power and they both look okay. Diaz is landing the better shots, but doesn’t seem to be really hurting Denny. Into the clinch now and Diaz marks the Wildman’s face up with some short punches inside. They break off and continue to exchange, and now Diaz looks to have him stunned with some good combinations. Denny keeps firing back though, landing a decent superman punch. Into the clinch and Diaz works him over with punches to the body, and then they break off and trade. Diaz staggers him with a left hand and then hilariously Denny throws a low kick before feeling the effects of the punch and falling down. Diaz closes in looking to finish, landing a flurry, but Denny somehow fires back and they end up in the clinch again. These guys are trading mad sloppy punches but its fun at least. Diaz continues to rock Denny, and the buzzer sounds there, basically Denny was saved by the bell. Uh, buzzer.

Round Two and they carry on where they left off, trading before Diaz hurts Denny with a combo and begins to taunt him. He closes in with another flurry and Denny’s covering up now, and finally Denny collapses after a left hand. He looks done, but referee Josh Rosenthal waits for Diaz to follow up before he steps in.

Well, that was fun as hell if totally sloppy. Not so much on Diaz’s part as he did use his crisp punching style, but he doesn’t have that one-strike knockout power and it was more an accumulation of abuse that put Denny away, and Denny for his part just stood and windmilled at Diaz. Not a FOTYC or anything but hey, I would pay to see Nick Diaz fight each and every time.

Elite XC World Middleweight Title: Robbie Lawler vs Scott Smith

As I mentioned earlier, this was a rematch of their first fight on EXC’s original CBS show, a fight which had been very exciting until the anticlimactic ending that saw Smith get poked in the eye. Basically the first fight had seen Lawler stun Smith badly in the first round, almost putting him away, but in typical Scott Smith fashion ‘Hands of Steel’ had come back to stun Lawler in the second round, making the fight largely even going into the third. My pick in this rematch was Lawler, but a guy with Smith’s punching power always has a shot.

Odd moment pre-fight as the announcers spot Anderson Silva in the front row (he’d cornered Rafael Feijao earlier) and outright say he’s the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and was dynamic in his win last week over James Irvin. Can’t believe they’d even acknowledge a guy fighting for the competition like that, although when you’re trying to catch the industry leaders like EXC were you can’t really ignore them completely I guess. On a side note, Lawler is HUGE here. Unbelievable that he used to make 170lbs.

First round begins and Lawler throws a high kick that Smith blocks. Leg kick lands for the challenger as Lawler misses with a jumping kick. Combo into a leg kick for Smith and Lawler responds with another missed head kick. Smith lands another combo and this time finishes with a right high kick, but Lawler shakes his head and swings back with a powerful right hook that just misses. Lawler begins to close the distance and they end up in the clinch, and Lawler forces him back into the cage. They muscle for position and then break, and a body kick lands for Lawler before he blocks a head kick. Lawler tries to work a right hook-jab, as Smith goes to the low kicks. Good straight left from the champion and he follows with a pair of kicks to the body. Smith looks more tentative now as Lawler is establishing the right hooking jab. High kick misses and Smith comes firing back with a combo of his own ending with a head kick, and he flurries in but Lawler backs up and weathers the storm. Jabs from Lawler follow but Smith ends the round with a pair of hooks.

Second round now and they circle off, exchanging some feeler strikes before Lawler closes the distance with a superman punch and gets to the clinch. Big elbows land for Smith inside the clinch so Lawler breaks off, but he’s cut on the head. Now Lawler is ANGRY and he closes in with three HARD left hooks, but Smith fires back and lands another elbow over the top as Lawler clinches again. Lawler pounds the body this time and Smith looks a little hurt, and there is blood everywhere now. Big knees to the body from Lawler and Smith collapses to the ground, and Lawler pounds away. Smith manages to make it to his feet, but a BIG KNEE puts him back down and Lawler gets RUTHLESS!~! with soccer kicks to the body, causing Herb Dean to step in.

Decent fight if not the wild brawl like their first bout that EXC officials had hoped it would be. Lawler got off to a bit of a slow start in the first round, with Smith being the aggressor, but in the second round once he got cut, Lawler came alive with more aggression and the attack to the body did the damage. Post-fight Frank Shamrock points out that Smith looked a little soft around the midsection for this fight and that could’ve contributed to his downfall.

-Announcers run down the results and the show finishes up there.

Final Thoughts....

Well, this was a solid but unspectacular show overall. I can understand why the CBS ratings dropped as while the four main card bouts were all good, particularly Diaz-Denny, none were earth-shattering and with the lack of star names (ie, Gina and Kimbo) the intrigue for the casual fan just wasn’t there. Still, there isn’t a terrible fight on the card, Diaz-Denny is tremendous fun, and who can complain about Jake Shields and Antonio Silva killing dudes dead? Granted Steve Mazzagatti set the sport back once again with his showing in the Women’s fight, but that’s not the fighters or the promotion’s fault. Main event didn’t quite live up to the expectations set from the first fight, but it’s still a decent fight with a highlight reel win for Lawler. So thumbs in the middle, leaning up for this one.

Best Fight: Diaz-Denny
Worst Fight: Reis-Caraway

Overall Rating: ***1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-100, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: 31.
DREAM: 1-9
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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