Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Elite XC/Strike Force Shamrock v Baroni on Extreme Sports - TV Review

This past Saturday the Extreme Sports channel here in Britain, a channel I had never actually watched before, gave mixed martial arts fans a treat, albeit a rather late treat, by broadcasting Elite XC/Strike Force: Shamrock v Baroni. However, the broadcast was not without it’s problems. Having edited it down into three, one hour blocks, so they could broadcast these blocks on separate nights, Extreme Sports then proceeded to show these blocks in the wrong order. So, having no wish to review this show in the wrong order, I edited my review copy so the segments were in the correct order, with the main event, Frank Shamrock versus Phil Baroni, taking pride of place in the final segment.

So we begin with part one, the matches that weren’t shown on the original pay-per-view, beginning with Sam Spengler facing Seth Kleinbeck in the middleweight division. Round one began quickly with a clinch against the cage, with Kleinbeck unloading with a few shots to the mid-section and the head. This jockeying for position went on for some time, with Spengler looking for a take down. However, with neither fighter able to get anything done, the referee separated them. It wasn’t long before they were back up against the cage in another clinch, Once again both fighters got off some good punches and knees, with Spengler again looking for the take down. Eventually, they broke apart, when Kleinbeck connected with an elbow that sent Spengler back a little. But as the fight entered it’s last minute, Spengler once again pushed Kleinbeck up against the cage. Once again the referee separated them, and Kleinbeck showed some good boxing skills, as well as sprawling against Spengler’s take down attempt, delivering countless blows as the round came to an end.

Round two, and Kleinbeck was soon unleashing with the punches and kicks, only to be pushed up against the cage once again by Spengler. Shortly afterwards a Kleinbeck knee went a little too low. After the required rest period, the fight re-started. Spengler once again went for a take down, which Kleinbeck defended well against before scoring with a take down of his own. He then went to work with the ground and pound, and with Spengler offering nothing in reply, the referee called a halt to proceedings. Not exactly a spectacular fight, and I wasn’t really impressed with Spengler’s performance, although Kleinbeck’s defence was spot on as he earned the TKO victory.

Next up, Chris Cariaso against Anthony Figueroa in the 135 pound division. Round one saw the usual feeling out process, before Cariaso connected with a couple of good kicks, which Figueroa responded quickly to, unleashing a torrent of blows that sent Cariaso backwards a little. After a brief clinch against the cage, Cariaso took his man down to the mat, quickly taking side control, before Figueroa was able to get back to his feet. A second clinch against the cage followed, and both fighters kept busy as they tried to gain a prominent position. Cariaso tried for a guillotine briefly, but nothing came of it, so they went back to kneeing each other in the clinch. The second take down of the round followed as Cariaso scored again in the final seconds.

Round two, and Figueroa was the first man to test the waters with a kick. But Cariaso was quick to respond with a kick of his own, before a quick clinch which was quickly broken up. Figueroa then connected with a hard right as the fight continued to move along at an incredible pace. It wasn’t long before both fighters were swinging for the trees before they engaged in another clinch against the cage, working all the time with knees and punches, before they returned to the middle of the cage to trade blows once again. A brief pause followed before both men began trading again, with a clinch against the cage finishing the round.

Round three, and both fighters still looked pretty fresh. Both fighters got in some good shots to start with before another clinch against the fence was instigated. Although they both worked well there, it wasn’t long before they were back in the middle trading again. It was getting hard to tell which fighter was coming out on top, but it didn’t matter because it made for great viewing, as the remainder of the fight saw both fighters matching each other blow for blow, with a brief clinch to slow things down a little.

So with the fight going the distance, it was time for the judges to do their work. The unanimous decision went to Cariaso. Not sure if I really agree with that decision, because both fighters put in some good work here.

Then it was time for the big boys to play, with Rex Richards facing Ray Seraille in the heavyweight division. This was a quickie. It began with Richards coming forward with blows quickly, before he instigated a brief clinch against the cage which only last a few seconds. And then it happened. Richards came forward with another torrent of blows that sent Seraille down to the mat, with the referee stopping the fight when Seraille failed to defend himself from Richards’ ground and pound. Explosive stuff from Richards, but I’m not sure how to rate this fight, as it only lasted a shade over thirty seconds.

Then it was on to part two, the mid-card, beginning with Edson Berto taking on Victor Valenzuela in the lightweight division. Another quick one here, with Berto getting off a couple of kicks, before he took Valenzuela down to the ground. It wasn’t long before Berto went for a heel hook, and seconds later Valenzuela was tapping. Quick stuff from the man from Haiti. He definitely knew what he wanted from the outset.

Heavyweight action followed, with Carter Williams and Paul Buentello. Round one saw both men swinging early, with Williams instigating a clinch seconds later, and taking it to the ground seconds after that. Even though Buentello got to his feet, Williams was overwhelming him. Slowly, Buentello began to work his way back in the clinch. Moments later the referee separated them, and both men began swinging again, before Williams went for another take down. This didn’t quite come off as Buentello went for a guillotine, which ultimately went nowhere, leading to another stand-up clinch. Buentello was now the more dominant fighter as the former K-1 fighter seemed bemused by his Buentello’s tactics. Three clinches against the cage saw the referee separate the fighters, and as the round came to an end Williams got off a couple of good shots.

Round two didn’t last long. A quick flurry from Buentello saw Williams take one to the eye, and as Buentello went in for the kill with the hammer fists the referee stepped in to call the fight, giving Buentello the TKO victory. A good performance from Williams in the beginning, but an even better one from Buentello as he overcame his early difficulties to get the job done.

Then it was time for Elite XC to crown it’s first middleweight champion, with Joey Villasenor and Murilo Rua going for the title. Round one saw the usual feeling out period, with Villasenor the first to do anything of note, rocking the Ninja, before the fight went to the ground and Villasenor went for a guillotine. After a brief flirtation against the fence, it wasn’t long before he gained side control. Rua tried to get out, but Villasenor just got him down to the mat again. However, Rua went for a leg lock moments later, before both fighters got back to their feet momentarily. When it returned to the mat Rua was in control, taking the half guard, and soon transitioning into side control. Rua was working almost constantly, connecting with knees to the mid-section and blows to the head. But it wasn’t going swimmingly for the Ninja, as Villasenor was able to get back up to his feet, but only for a few seconds as Rua took the fight back down almost instantly, taking the half guard again, centering his attack on Villasenor’s arm. But when the attempted kimura came to nothing, Rua got the full mount for a few seconds, before both fighters got back to their feet and traded blows as the round came to an end.

Round two saw Rua coming out quickly with a flying knee. Rua followed that up with more and more flurries, constantly on the front foot, although Villasenor gave as good as he got. But once again the Ninja was soon on top of things again, and a right hand saw Villasenor crashing to the mat. A brief moment of ground and pound followed, before the referee stepped in, giving Rua the TKO victory and the Elite XC middleweight title. An excellent performance from the Brazilian, one I wouldn’t mind seeing again somewhere down the line.

Britain’s Paul “Semtex” Daley was up next, taking on Duane Ludwig in the welterweight division. Round one saw Daley begin things with a high leg kick, following up with a kick to the mid-section. Things slowed down a little before Daley went for a shoot, which saw Ludwig go up against the cage before the fighters separated. Seconds later Daley went for the shoot again, which Ludwig reversed with a clinch against the fence. Moments later they separated again, before Daley missed with a right, and Ludwig connected with a blow of his own. Daley then went for another take down attempt, with Ludwig showing great defensive qualities. Eventually, a single leg sweep saw Daley take Ludwig down, but unfortunately for the Brit things didn’t stay there for long. A short time later Ludwig instigated another clinch, before both men began trading shots again in the last minute of the round.

Round two saw both fighters engaging quickly, with the fight beginning to resemble a muay thai match. Seconds into the round Daley connected with a right that dropped Daley. A few ground and pound shots later and the referee stepped in, giving Daley the TKO victory in his American debut. A very good showing from the semtex man here.

Then it’s on to part three, the upper card and main event. This part began with Josh Thomson and Nick Gonzalez in the lightweight division. The one and only round saw both fighters connecting early with the exchanges. Thomson was the first to score with a take down, as he took Gonzalez’s back, looking for the rear naked choke, synching in the body triangle seconds later. It took him a while, but he eventually synched the hold in. Gonzalez had no choice but to tap. A good performance from Thomson, and I can see why he’s regarded as one of the top lightweights in America at the moment.

Action from the middleweight division followed, with Cung Le facing Tony Frykland. Round one saw Le connecting with a couple of kicks. Frykland tried to reply in kind, but ended up missing. Le continued with the kicks, scoring with each and every one. Every now and then Le would also connect with some good combinations. It was awesome to watch. However, it wasn’t a kick that knocked Frykland down, it was a right hand, although Frykland didn’t stay on the ground for long, popping up almost instantly. Le continued to take his opponent apart with the kicks, but Frykland took everything that was being thrown at him, although he wasn’t throwing much back in reply, getting staggered after a kick to the mid-section.

Round two saw Le continue in the same vein. Frykland tried to go for a take down, but Le just pushed him away, and connected with, yep, you guessed it, some more kicks. Frykland continued to eat sole, but instead of taking the former K-1 fighter down to the ground, he stood up with him, which is exactly what Le wanted. Frykland finally managed to roll off a combination a couple of minutes into the round, but Le simply moved out of the way. As the round went on Le continued with his chosen form of attack, with Frykland managing the odd flurry.

Round three began in the same way as the previous two rounds, and it didn’t last too long. Two left kicks winded Frykland, and a few seconds later he was out of it as the referee stepped in to stop the dissection. Le had the TKO win in what could only be described as an awesome performance.

Main event time, with Phil Baroni taking on Frank Shamrock, with the Strike Force Middleweight title up for grabs. Round one began with some quick exchanges, with Baroni unloading on Shamrock against the fence. Shamrock came back strongly, only for Baroni to take him down with one arm. They didn’t stay down for long though, with Shamrock getting back on his feet immediately, and connecting with some good blows seconds later. Then Shamrock dropped Baroni near the cage, but as the Legend went in for the kill, he caught Baroni on the back of the head, which earned him a warning. When the fight re-started Baroni took Shamrock down again, taking the guard. But all Baroni seemed able to do was eat a few Shamrock fists. He got off a few shots, but nothing of significance. Moments later they stood up, only for a Shamrock knee to knock Baroni down again. Baroni grabbed Shamrock’s left leg, but held on for dear life as Shamrock rained down a torrent of blows to his ribs, reddening the skin. It wasn’t long before they were back on their feet, and once again Shamrock used Baroni for target practice, connecting with punches and knees in the muay thai clinch. Baroni began to swing a little, but by this time he looked like a beaten man just trying to survive. As the round came to an end Baroni took Shamrock down, but it was obvious that he did this just to survive.

Round two began with Baroni still looking a little stunned after the rabbit punches, but he managed to rock Shamrock a little with a left hook. Shamrock replied in kind, but Baroni seemed to have the upper hand of the opening exchanges. Shamrock wasn’t as eager in the second as he had been in the first. Baroni was getting the upper hand over Shamrock at times, but he was clearly exhausted, enough for Shamrock to rock him. Baroni grabbed a leg and went down to the mat to survive. It wasn’t long before Shamrock began to transition, taking Baroni’s back and looking for the rear naked choke. Baroni struggled a little, but didn’t tap, falling into unconsciousness as the referee stepped in, giving Shamrock the victory and the middleweight title. Despite breaking the rules in the first round, this was an exceptional display from the Legend, although I have to wonder what would have happened if Baroni hadn’t been stunned by those rabbit punches in the first round.

In conclusion - this is the first time I’ve watched anything on the Extreme Sports channel, and I enjoyed each and every fight. Although I’d heard a great deal about Frank Shamrock, I actually hadn’t seen much of him in action. The guy impressed the hell out of me, and his fight with Baroni was well worth it’s main event status. It was also great to see Paul Daley in action overseas.

But now it’s time to moan I’m afraid, not about the fights or Strike Force’s production values, but of Extreme Sports’ editing. I’ve already mentioned how they split the show into three one hour blocks, and then proceeded to show them in the wrong order. But they also cut out a hell of a lot of other stuff as well. We weren’t even introduced to the commentators (although I knew who a couple of them were). If this is the way that they treat all of their mixed martial arts shows then I may think again about tuning in.

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