Slice unimpressive in victory

Jun 1, 2008 - 4:39 AM Anthony Malakian PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEWARK, New Jersey (Ticker) - The real story of Saturday's EliteXC card wasn't so much the main event, featuring Kimbo Slice, but about the event itself.

The sport of mixed martial arts needed Saturday to be huge. It was the sport's first appearance on network television but, sadly, the results weren't that great.

Slice, whose birth name is Kevin Ferguson, had to battle through several firsts against former Pride heavyweight contender James Thompson.

It was Slice's first time past the first and second rounds; his first time having to fight off his back; his first time having to battle through submission attempts; and his first time having to show heart.

Yes, Slice passed all those challenges, but it wasn't pretty.

"James (is) a very tough opponent," an exhausted Slice said after the fight. "I didn't underestimate him, but I didn't know he would be that tough on the ground. I got a lot to learn, a long way to go."

That assessment is an understatement. Thompson (16-9) has lost six of his last eight fights and is an extremely limited brawler with little technical skill, whether standing or on the ground. He looked like an expert against Slice, though.

In the first round, Slice fought off his back and survived a guillotine choke by Thompson. The two continued to change position on top and bottom, but Slice ended the round with a nice scissor sweep off his back to get into half-guard.

The two threw wild haymakers in the second round, but it was Thompson who had Slice trapped in the crucifix position at the end of the stanza and was raining down elbows and punches, although he did not have much power behind the strikes, allowing Slice to survive the round.

Both combatants were visibly spent as they came out for the third and final round. Slice landed several big blows that wobbled Thompson and referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in and stopped the bout, just 38 seconds into the round.

Thompson - and the crowd, for that matter - clearly was not happy with the stoppage and appeared to take a little swipe at Miragliotta.

EliteXC president Gary Shaw said this week that the organization will create a championship in the heavyweight division and that Slice, along with Brett Rogers and Antonio Silva, will be in contention for the newly created title.

After this fight, don't expect to see Slice (3-0) fighting for that belt anytime soon.

While the Slice fight was sloppy, the co-feature was scintillating. In what was the only title fight on the card, Elite's middleweight champion Robbie Lawler retained his belt against challenger Scott Smith.

Unfortunately, though, as good as the back-and-forth action was between the two warriors, the fight came to a very unsatisfying conclusion. In the third round, after two brilliant stanzas, Lawler tried to back away from a Smith punch and in the process accidentally poked Smith in his right eye.

Lawler immediately acknowledged the infraction and Miragliotta stopped the action to allow Smith to recover. The ringside physician came in to check the eye and apparently didn't like what she saw and heard before stopping the fight at 3:26 of the third round.

Since the championship fight did not go the full three rounds, the bout was ruled a no contest.

New Jersey Commissioner Nick Lembo said that Smith told the ringside doctor twice that he could not see, thus he could not continue and the fight was stopped.

Smith disagreed with the decision.

"I could've continued," Smith said. "They said I have five minutes. I said, 'I can't see now, give me my five minutes,' and they didn't like that. I would've rather been knocked out rather than have the fight stopped like this."

Even though Lawler keeps his belt, he was not satisfied with the stoppage, either.

"I'm just disappointed and sorry we couldn't finish this for the fans," Lawler said. "We'll just run it back and do it again."

The officials' decision had the crowd chanting obscenities.

Fortunately, though, the earlier fights on the card had the fans on their feet.

Rising heavyweight contender Rogers got the televised festivities off to a good start against Philadelphia's Jon Murphy.

Rogers (7-0) was slightly staggered by a punch early, but the Minnesotan recovered and tagged Murphy square on the jaw with a sweeping right-hand cross.

Murphy (4-3) fell face forward on all fours. Miragliotta immediately stopped the fight at 1:01 of the opening round, saving Murphy from any further punishment.

Joey Villasenor and Phil Baroni kept the action going in the second fight of the telecast. The middleweight fight was expected to be explosive and quick. And it was.

Baroni came out strong, hurting and taking down the Albuquerque, New Mexico native. But anyone who has ever seen Villasenor fight knows that it takes a lot to stop him.

Villasenor (26-6) recovered, rocked Baroni and locked in a guillotine. Baroni survived the submission attempt but a powerful right-left punch combination had the New York fighter slumped against the cage.

A couple of follow-up right hands had Baroni (10-10) on all fours, much like Murphy in the fight before. And just like the Rogers-Murphy fight, Miragliotta stopped the fight at 1:11 of the first round.

Then came the women. Gina Carano, who is the face of women's MMA fighting and who came into the fight 4 1/2 pounds overweight, and 22-year-old Kaitlin Young put on a show.

From start to finish the two swung and kicked for the fences, throwing knockout-caliber blows with nearly every strike.

The first round was even, with both scoring takedowns and trading strikes. But the 144-pound Carano was too strong for the 140-pound Young.

Carano wore down Young in the second round, beating her from fence-to-fence. Carano almost stopped the fight with a rear-naked choke submission, but time ran out in the round.

Young, though, suffered a tennis ball-sized hematoma under her left eye from the battering, forcing the doctor at ringside to stop the battle at the conclusion of the second round.