9.02.2008

World's Most Dangerous Man, or World's Least Dangerous Can? PreView's Look at Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock

Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson’s next opponent has been named, and it’s “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”, Ken Shamrock.

But just how dangerous is Shamrock these days? Is he going to be the pushover Elite XC expects him to be? For a look at this, as well as a quick analysis of Gina Carano’s next opponent, take a look after the jump.



So – how dangerous is Ken Shamrock? First, I think you have to make that question a little bit more specific. First, how dangerous is Ken Shamrock to pretty much any Heavyweight fighter other than Kimbo? Not very. How dangerous is he to Kimbo? Definitely the most dangerous opponent he’s faced so far.

Shamrock is 26-13-2 overall, but he’s 8-2 in his last ten fights, and hasn’t had a win since 2004, against Kimo Leopoldo.

Shamrock is definitely an MMA pioneer, having fought in the original UFC, losing only to Royce Gracie. Shamrock has beaten Bas Rutten (twice), Dan Severn, fought Royce Gracie to a draw at UFC 5, and beat Maurice Smith (when he didn’t suck so bad).

Shamrock is the head of the once-famed Lion’s Den training camp which produced such fighters as Guy Metzger and Edwin Dewees, and of course, Frank Shamrock (Ken’s adopted brother).

Ken has also been an ambassador for MMA as a whole, making numerous TV appearances and testifying in front of various committees during “the dark years” when Senator John McCain campaigned against this “human cockfighting”.

Fast forward to the future, though, and Shamrock’s last fight against Robert Berry at Cage Rage 25 was a disappointing KO loss in March of this year.

Now, let’s take a look at Kimbo. As many of you probably know, Kimbo Slice rose to fame as a backyard brawler in the Miami area. He didn’t face much competition until he fought a police officer, Sean Gannon, in an underground match, the rules of which could be described as constantly changing, at best. Gannon would lock Kimbo up in the clinch, Kimbo’s people would say the clinch wasn’t allowed. Gannon would knee Kimbo, Kimbo’s people would say knees weren’t allowed. Gannon would get Kimbo in a guillotine choke, Kimbo’s people would say chokes weren’t allowed. You get the point.

So Kimbo then gets an honest to goodness MMA fight with Bo Cantrell….a former boxer. Bo Cantrell tapped after Kimbo punched him and knocked him down. Ridiculous.

Then, Kimbo got to fight Tank Abbott – more of an MMA fighter, but still primarily a puncher, really a brawler. Ten years ago, this fight might have been entertaining. However, Tank was long past his prime, and got knocked out in the first round.

Then, Elite XC, on the network premiere of MMA (on CBS), Kimbo got to fight a real MMA fighter, James “Giant awful looking cauliflower ear” Thompson. Kimbo won by TKO (ref stoppage) in the third round, although many people thought the stoppage was premature.

So there you have Kimbo. He has gained “some” respect from taking things at least semi-seriously and training with Bas Rutten (who assures everyone Kimbo is taking it seriously), but Kimbo’s still-raw image as well as his penchant for crap-talking have reassured everyone he hasn’t strayed too far from his backyard roots.

Many people wondered how Kimbo would fare in the Thompson fight. To sum up James Thompson’s background, I’ll just say that at best, he looks tougher than he is. Even that isn’t as true anymore as he came into the Kimbo fight looking rather doughy, and with a ridiculous cauliflower ear no doctor in his right mind would have not drained before letting Thompson go out there and fight.

I think the most obvious and relevant fact for purposes of this article is that Thompson is famous for KOs….as in he’s famous for being the victim of KO….as in if the “Cutman” (guy in the corner who tends to cuts, and puts Vaseline on the fighter’s face before the fight and in between rounds) who was putting the Vaseline on before the fight rubbed a bit too vigorously, it would probably KO Thompson.

However, in spite of Thompson’s obvious defects, including the fact that he’s 3-7 in his last ten fights, many people were interested to see how Kimbo would fare against Thompson, as Thompson is a more complete (frankly, younger) MMA fighter than Abbott.

Kimbo struggled. He was not able to get a TKO until the third round, and even then many feel it was a controversial stop. Thompson probably just looked in worse shape than he actually was, his cauliflower ear having burst from one of Kimbo’s punches. Also, for most of the second round, and a fair amount of the first, Kimbo was on his back, unable to do much to defend Thompson’s takedowns, and struggling to get back on his feet after being taken down. If Thompson were half as good at submissions as he is at getting knocked out, he would’ve submitted Kimbo inside the first round.

But Kimbo prevailed, and although he was barely able to breathe at the end of the fight, he was able to stir up a fair amount of crap at the post-fight press conference where he was called out by Brett Rogers (another Elite XC Heavyweight), who basically said that Kimbo sucked, albeit in much more colorful terms.

Kimbo responded, and what has since ensued has been a ridiculous display of trash-talking between two fighters who were seemingly being set up for an entertaining Heavyweight clash – what would surely be the main event of Elite XC’s next events. The Scott Smith and Robbie Lawler rematch was the main event for the second CBS-televised event, and October 4th was then set as the date for the next Elite XC event on CBS.

Many of the viewers who were excited to see Elite XC do a better job on their second TV outing thought the third time truly would be the charm, with a potential fight between Kimbo and Brett Rogers, and what could easily be a co-main event between Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos who was fresh off a decisive TKO win over Shayna Baszler when Carano (watching in the audience) said they should fight. But as it turns out, that’s not the case…or cases, as it were, since Carano won’t be fighting Santos either.

Instead we have Kimbo facing Ken Shamrock and Carano facing Kelly Kobald, out of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy (where former UFC LW Champ Sean Sherk, and UFC HW fighter Brock Lesnar train), who is 0-2 in her last two fights, but 16-2-1 overall.

So, why did Elite XC, which is $55 million in debt (as of their last required SEC filing) foregoing two potentially major fights for the two they’ve scheduled?

There are a couple of possibilities here, both of which I feel are valid concerns on their part. First, ratings. While the first two network outings of live MMA did fairly well on CBS, even though the second one had a much better production value than the first (see Puddin’s were those dancers), the second one had lower overall ratings, leading many to speculate it was because Kimbo and Carano weren’t on the card. Furthermore, while Elite XC has enjoyed an exclusive deal with Showtime since their inception, the rumor is that Elite XC will be foraying into the Pay-Per-View world in early 2009, in hopes of raising their revenue. So, since Kimbo and Carano are both on the October CBS card, the ratings won’t suffer, and they can reserve the two marquee matches for their PPV debut. A fairly plausible explanation.

Second, Elite XC cannot afford for either Kimbo or Carano to lose right now. Kimbo is arguably their biggest draw, but is definitely the fighter that has the least experience of anyone in their entire organization. Carano, on the other hand, has been billed as the face of Women’s MMA, and in addition to her undefeated MMA record, 6-0, it doesn’t hurt anything that she’s easy on the eyes, especially when compared to Cristiane Santos, who….well, she is ripped, and could probably beat up both Puddin’ and I at the same time, but….let’s just say she’s no Gina Carano.

Possible opponents for Kimbo’s next matchup (prior to Shamrock being announced) were Brett Rogers, and Sean Gannon (see above). Gannon’s financial demands were apparently too ridiculous, and I think Elite XC thought Rodgers would beat Kimbo, and they didn’t want to take that chance. Kimbo is their poster boy right now, and everyone has speculated that he doesn’t have the experience or skills to face up against a true MMA fighter, and a loss would prove that point.

Given the fact that Kimbo struggled against someone he should have KO’d in the first minute of the first round (Thompson), Elite XC is worried, so they figure they’ll feed him Shamrock, who has lost his last five fights by KO or TKO, two of them to Tito Ortiz, and I think even Puddin’ would say that if Tito Ortiz can TKO you, you should think about hanging up your gloves. Add to that the fact that Shamrock is 44 years old, and I think it’s apparent the years are catching up to him. Don’t get me wrong, he deserves to be in the UFC Hall of Fame and he is both a pioneer and ambassador of MMA, but the harsh reality is that he is past his prime. So Elite XC thinks that they can throw yet another “can” to Kimbo who will KO Shamrock, and then they can set up months of trash-talking between Kimbo and Rogers to hype their inaugural PPV.

But, in looking to find an opponent with name recognition for Kimbo, I think they might have made the bad choice in Shamrock. I haven’t forgotten all the things I just wrote, but the fact remains that Shamrock is one of the pioneers of the sport, so he has something Kimbo clearly lacks – experience. Add to that the fact that 22 of Shamrock’s 26 wins have come via submission, and Kimbo’s submission defense has never been tested, and due to the experience factor, I’m sure is lacking. Kimbo will look to jump on Shamrock quick, and Shamrock will clearly look for the submission, but one of Kimbo’s biggest strengths is his coach, Bas Rutten, who in addition to losing to Shamrock twice, has a wealth of experience. Surely Rutten is going to be drilling Kimbo on submission defense from now until the fight happens – but again, formal training can only take you so far. It was apparent that Kimbo didn’t panic too much when Thompson had him on the ground, but I get the feeling that even though Shamrock is much older, he’ll be working a lot harder to improve his position on the ground, and at that point, experience would do him more good than training, but since he won’t have the experience, he could be in some trouble.

However, Kimbo apparently hits pretty hard, and is a much bigger guy than Shamrock is used to fighting, having spent most of his career at Light Heavyweight. Look for Shamrock to go for some sort of leg/knee/ankle lock the first time Kimbo knocks him down or to try and outlast Kimbo, to win a lackluster decision.

Let’s jump back to Carano and Santos for a second. Carano trains out of Xtreme Couture, and as I mentioned before is 6-0 in her MMA career (1 KO, 2 TKO, 1 submission, 2 decisions). Santos trains out of Chute Boxe Academy and is 5-1 (4 TKOs and 1 decision win, 1 submission loss in her first MMA fight).

When Santos beat Baszler, she was a beast – transitioning from the clinch to groundwork to great striking. While Carano has attained some celebrity-like status, she has not yet proven herself to be quite as vicious in the cage, and I’m sure like with Kimbo, Elite XC was concerned their poster girl would get her ass kicked, so they’re handing her Kobald, who has lost her last two fights, expecting a win from which they can build a rivalry between her and Santos.

There are two problems with this. The first one is all Carano – she fights at 140 pounds, but has had trouble making weight in all of her fights, and in her most recent fight against Kaitlin Young at the May Elite XC event, she missed the mark by four pounds. Any fighter not making weight is a problem, both for the fighter, and for the promotion. It tells the viewers that the fighters can’t get their stuff together before a fight, or perhaps they’re not taking it as seriously as they should, and it just looks bad for the promotion. In the event that someone misses weight, their opponent can decline to fight, so there is simply no fight. Or (and this is the much more likely alternative), the opponent will accept the fight and the fighter who failed to make weight will forfeit a percentage of his or her overall purse to the opponent (generally 10-20%). In the event the fight was supposed to be a title fight, it will be downgraded to a non-title fight, both for title purposes, and timing purposes (i.e. now 3 rounds instead of 5).

The second problem is Kobald. Like with choosing Shamrock for Kimbo, I think Elite XC may have jumped the gun on giving what they feel should be an easy fight to their poster girl. Kobald may be 0-2 in her last two fights, but like I said, she’s 16-2-1 overall, and while “MMA math” doesn’t generally mean too much, for Pete’s sake, I want to mention that Carano and Kobald only share one common opponent in their professional careers – Julie Kedzie. Carano beat Kedzie by Unanimous Decision in February of 2007; Kobald lost to Kedzie by Unanimous Decision in August of 2007.

Kobald is a solid fighter. Other than one draw, she went undefeated from her first match in July of 2002 until July of 2007 when she lost by submission (armbar) to Tara Larosa. Of her 16 wins, 6 have been TKO or KO, 8 have been submissions and 2 have been decisions. Kobald stated that she thought Carano would have a hard time dealing with her as she has a different build than most of the women Carano has fought; she’s more muscular, and has a much broader torso and shoulders. But as we know, Carano isn’t just a pretty face, and she’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up. Carano is a former kickboxer, so she’s no stranger to the clinch. All in all, should be a good matchup. I don’t want to make a prediction just yet – I’ll wait until it gets little closer to October 4th – but I will say I think this fight will be much more contested than Kimbo and Shamrock. Frankly, I think that will be over in Round 1, either due to Kimbo knocking out Shamrock or Kimbo doing something stupid and getting caught in a submission.

Regardless, while Elite XC’s choices of opponents for their two biggest fighters do have some rationale behind them, Elite XC can only shield them for so long, before the questions of inexperience turn into taunts of easy matches for their poster children, while Elite XC states that Kimbo and Carano are both great fighters, but won’t put them up against anybody who could truly prove (or disprove) that.

For the record, I’d like to see Shamrock submit Kimbo and Carano grind out a tough decision.

-PreView

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