Surprises could be in store during CBS and EliteXC’s “Saturday Night Fights”

By Sam Caplan on October 4, 2008




Sunrise, Florida — While I felt July’s edition of Saturday Night Fightson CBS was a solid show, the one nit-pick I have to make was that the outcomes of the fights were all very predictable. You really can’t fault anyone for that but it’s still a development that has to be factored in when evaluating the show from an overall perspective.

I believe tonight’s edition of SNF will be different. I can’t give you a strong explanation as to why, but I just have a gut feeling that we will see a major upset or two tonight. All of tonight’s fights present an intriguing clash of styles and the underdog in each fight possesses an element of danger in regard to the favorite.

In my mind, I am convinced we will see at least one major upset tonight. This is after all MMA, where things don’t always go according to plan and to expect the favorites in all five fights to walk away victorious might not be the most realistic expectation in the world.

Even though I already submitted my predictions to last week for their “Head-to-Head” feature, I still feel a need to revise my selections and call at least one upset. But which fight will provide the upset?

Let’s take a look fight-by-fight.

First, I will omit the opener between Benji Radach and Murilo “Ninja” Rua. While I am told that Radach is a slight favorite, it’s a fairly even matchup and to claim that if Rua wins it would be an upset is kind of a reach. I do think this fight will surprise in one aspect, in that I believe it will be the fight of the night. Both fighters match up so well together and I think we’re going to see some really exciting exchanges in the standup between the two. In the end, my pick is going to be Radach because I think he has too much power for Rua.

You can never count of Rua though, he comes from a family of fighters. Brother Mauricio will be fighting in January against Mark Coleman and 22-year Marcos “Baby” Rua has been training as well and is expected to make his debut in Brazil this December. Despite being the youngest, Baby Rua is the biggest of the three. I’ve never seen the kid fight, but you’ve got to assume he’s going to be good. If I was an upstart promotion, I’d sign him sight unseen.

Next, we have Gina Carano vs. Kelly Kobold. Once again, the chips are down for Gina. I knew right away when she emerged from the staging area that she hadn’t made weight. She had a hood on and sunglasses and looked like she had just found out that someone close to her had died. Despite an applause from the crowd, she did not smile and did not acknowledge the fans right away.

On the scale, she clearly looked distressed and it looked to me that she teared up after the first time she announced her weight. Seeing her leave the hotel Friday night with Kim Couture, I didn’t see any sign of relief on Carano’s face as she walked out. She did not look very happy and part of me wonders if at some point she’s going to get sick of the fight game and walk away. I believe Carano loves to fight but isn’t a big fan of everything else that comes attached to it.

So here I am, once again focusing on the negatives regarding Gina. I did that on May 31 after she missed weight for her fight vs. Kaitlin Young by four pounds and none of it mattered because she came out and fought her ass off. In the end yesterday, she still made weight on her third try.

In my writeup of the weigh-ins on Friday I expressed confusion as to why Carano was able to make weight on her third try even though she had already been disrobed when she weighed in at 142.5 on her second try. My boss at, Denny Burkholder, e-mailed to tell me that according to Chris DeBlasio of SHOWTIME, there was a towel draped on top of Gina that was causing her to weigh-in heavy. She pointed that out and after re-adjusting the towel, she weighed in at 141.

After learning my lesson from the first edition of SNF, I am going to ignore all of the ancillary elements regarding Carano and focus on her fighting ability. When it comes to the standup game, there are only a few females in this sport that can hang with her.

It should also be noted that Carano’s opponent, Kobold, didn’t exactly have an easy cut either. Two weeks ago she informed reporters during a conference call that she weighed 160 pounds. She didn’t look to be anywhere near 160 when she arrived in Sunrise this week but she didn’t exactly look to be 140. I’d estimate that she looked to be a fit 148 lbs. Kobold was very cheery and pleasant up until Friday morning, when you could tell she was in the midst of her cut and really feeling it.

I can’t count out Carano but I can’t count out Kobold either. She packs a hell of a punch and is much more experienced than Carano. She’s going to be giving up some height and reach but she can compensate for the disadvantage should she decide to put Carano on her back and rely on her devastating ground and pound ability.

Kobold is also a very tough competitor and I just don’t see Carano being able to finish her. I am convinced that the fight is going to the judges, at which point you never know what could happen. Kobold is a very dangerous matchup for Carano but I don’t think this is where we’re going to see our upset. I think the reach advantage and Carano’s kicking ability will prove the distance.

The third fight of the night will pit Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson. Arlovski is the big favorite but Nelson is so dangerous. I am really surprised Arlovski’s camp was willing to take the fight on short notice. People have raised questions about Arlovski’s chin at times and Nelson has one-punch knockout ability. Arlovski also has a tendency to fight tentatively against fighters that pose a threat to take him down. Nelson is very underrated on the ground, as he not only comes from a wrestling background but is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu.

If Arlovski lacks aggression in order to try and take away the takedown, Nelson could earn points with the judges if he’s the one who is controlling the tempo of the fight. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Arlovski lose a decision here. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see him get taken down at some point and take damage on the ground. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Nelson put something on his chin and finish him.

As you can probably tell, I am close to calling this one an upset but it’s important not to overlook Arlovski’s attributes. He’s an exceptional athlete for a heavyweight and his boxing has really improved. He’s also coming off a big knockout victory over another former IFL standout heavyweight this past July in Ben Rothwell. Based on that performance, I am going with Arlovski in this one.

At the risk of foreshadowing, I am going to skip ahead to the main event. Earlier in the week I was really on the fence about Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock. After seeing Slice’s lack of comfort on the ground in Newark this past May vs. James Thompson, it was obvious to me that if Shamrock gets him on the ground, he’s going to lose via submission (I’m not going to say he’ll lose via tap because Kimbo would probably allow his arm or leg to be broken before he quits).

But after seeing Shamrock at the weigh-ins, there’s no doubt in my mind who wins this fight. I really do not understand why he weighed in at just 206.5 pounds. It’s my understanding that in order to fight in a heavyweight fight, you not only have to weigh 265 pounds or less, but you have to weigh more than 205 pounds. Has a fight ever been canceled because a fighter didn’t make the minimum weight requirement? I mean, what had happened if Ken had gotten sick and couldn’t keep food down this week? Or, what if he had gone to sleep the night before without the air on?

Shamrock has good submissions and good wrestling, but he’s not a jiu-jitsu guy. If Kimbo falls on top of him with a 30 pound weight advantage, Ken isn’t going to be able to sweep him. Maybe he’ll be able to triangle him or armlock him, but that’s about all I believe he’ll have off his back.

I also don’t think pushing Kimbo was a great idea. Frank Shamrock had told me earlier in the day that Ken fights out of anger and looks for reasons to make himself angry. Only a few hours after telling me that, w saw what we saw at the weigh-ins. It was a crazy scene and word is that an angry “Icey” Mike Ember was even going to EliteXC officials talking about filing assault charges. I guess cooler heads prevailed.

It seems Ken needs an edge to fight but Kimbo already has an edge and pushing him is only getting to get him even more hyped. I believe Kimbo’s anger gives him focus while Ken’s anger has a tendency to cause him to fight without strategy or technique.

I think Ken Shamrock has convinced himself that he is going to win this fight but he hasn’t convinced me. Yes, Shamrock could win if he gets Kimbo to the ground, but to me, that’s a very big if right now. I believe that Slice wins this first via first round knockout.

That only leaves us with Jake Shields vs. Paul Daley. A lot of people perceive Daley to be arrogant. And you know what, he probably is. But I like his approach. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? This is the fight game and a lack of confidence can get your hurt.

The bad blood between the two at the weigh-ins was interesting. I’ve never seen Shields get emotional but he was clearly angry. He’s not an emotional fighter and I am wondering if we will see him fight with emotion tonight? And if he does, how well will he perform? Shields is a technical fighter and technique sometimes goes out the window when you fight angry. There might be some method to Daley’s madness. He clearly wants to turn this into a brawl. It should also be noted that the exchange between Shields and Daley continued backstage with more insults and the throwing of water bottles at each other. The two were taken down separate corridors but could still be heard arguing. One EliteXC official, speaking to me on the condition of anonymity, indicated that there was some consideration of putting the two at separate hotels to avoid the risk of another altercation.

Daley is a dangerous striker and really could cause some matchup problems for Shields. Shields works hard on his standup but he cannot afford to exchange with Daley for an extended duration. He has to get Daley off his feet and onto the ground. But because Daley is a good inside fighter, it makes things interesting. If Shields attacks the legs but telegraphs his shot, Daley could catch him with a knee to the face. If Shields tries to take Daley down from a clinch, he could get caught with an elbow if he leaves some space between the two.

If the fight goes to the floor, Shields will win in a matter of seconds. Daley will begin the fight in the position he’s most comfortable in and the pressure is on Shields to change the terms of the fight. Because of that fact, I am now predicting Daley to win the EliteXC welterweight title in my upset special of the night via second round TKO.

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