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Editorial: Read Between the Lines

This probably isn’t the first article you’ve seen about EliteXC’s show last weekend, so you’re probably wondering why it’s being scrutinized so heavily? 4.5 million viewers is why. With their prime-time CBS contract, EliteXC is an extremely high profile venue for Mixed Martial Arts and is successfully reaching out to the curious MMA fan who isn’t sure what to make of our sport just yet. The UFC is bigger, but their ratings on free TV pale in comparison to EliteXC’s. That makes EliteXC the more influential promotion for the fence-sitting crowd who aren’t interested enough to drop $45 on a pay-per-view, but will watch it when it’s free and in high def.

So how did they do?

The undercard delivered. Benji Radach and Ninja Rua got into a brawl that was easily the fight of the night while Gina Carano and Kelly Kobald proved women’s MMA is no joke. Jake Shields showed why ground skills are critical in a fight and the world learned of the Pitbull’s prowess. There were three KO’s, one submission, one decision, and 4.5 million viewers so EliteXC showed a huge prime time audience what MMA can be. That’s the good news.

The bad news was the main event. The legend was medically disqualified and Slice not only didn’t deliver, but got KO’d by a guy who would normally be in his entourage at a Miami throwdown. Ironically he handled it well, shaking Seth Petruzzelis hand and saying he was simply a better fighter than himself that night. That’s more professional than most fledgling fighters who would have postured up and found someone or something to blame. That’s why I love MMA-if you lose there are no teammates or equipment to blame it on. It’s two dudes in shorts-the rawest form of competition with the least amount of room for external error. The only outside influence in an MMA match is the ref and each one of them have varying standards like courtroom judges. So let’s talk about him for a moment.

When Slice fought James Thompson, his head resembled a volleyball for most of the second round. Thompson had Slice pinned and was pounding him relentlessly for several minutes, yet Dan Miragliotta refused to stop the bout. This past weekend was the complete opposite end of the spectrum when referee Troy Waugh stepped in to “save” Slice way earlier than he needed to. Slice was nowhere near as discombobulated as he was in the Thompson fight and even wrapped his arms around Waugh’s legs to attempt a takedown after it was stopped.

So what the fuck? Are there any standards for these refs or are they able to interpret “intelligent defense” individually? If it wasn’t for EliteXC VP Jared Shaw screaming at Slice to get up I would think his dive…I mean KO…was planned and the stoppage pre-determined. I hate to see guys taking shots on the ground when they can’t defend themselves and even wrote a piece on it here. But stopping a fight too early is a crime that’s just as insidious. I don’t think for a moment Slice was unable to defend himself and Waugh’s stoppage was certainly premature. Any way you slice it up (pun intended) it was a mixed bag for EliteXC. They had good undercard fights, but their star pupil is now in the corner with the Dunce cap on his head. Now they’ll have to rely on legitimate MMA fighters to push their brand, a tactic they haven’t embraced yet or we’d be seeing Jake Shields on CBS commercials.

Shields is the most technically proficient fighter in EliteXC with a world-class ground game that he displayed against Paul Daley. The smack-talking Briton learned a valuable lesson that all kids who dream of surviving a schoolyard brawl should know-all fights end up on the ground sooner or later and striking skills are for naught when it does. Shields doesn’t pack a mean punch when he gets the mount, but he doesn’t have to either. A few peppering shots are all he needs to set up a submission and walk away victorious.

For EliteXC and CBS-good show overall, but will it help their cause?I would give them a B- because the undercard was solidly entertaining even if the main card fizzled. The real question is can they capitalize on it? Their next show on November 8th (just four weeks away) only has a couple of official fights announced and only two worth watching. If they’re not careful they’ll fall into the same hole the UFC did in 2005 when it failed to maintain it’s TUF momentum and continually showcased rematches, like Ortiz-Shamrock 3, Sylvia-Arlovski 3, and Liddell-Couture 3. Slice-Petruzzeli 2 and Lawler-Smith 3 isn’t something I’m interested in seeing especially if it’s the only fight millions of fence-sitting MMA fans tune into because it’s free. That’s the last thing I want them to think MMA is about.

I’m just sayin.

P.S. Is anyone reading this? I haven’t received a single email, positive or negative, since starting this column five weeks ago. Email me at and tell me I’m full of shit or the best columnist in MMA who’s inspiring words you can’t live without. I’ll send an autographed copy of my book to the most interesting email I get.

Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book “Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts” which you can purchase by clicking here. Contact him through his website at