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MMA Analytics 03.31.08: EliteXC/Strikeforce Thoughts
Posted by Leland Roling on 03.31.2008



Strikeforce's co-promotional event with EliteXC at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California on Saturday night could go down as one of the better fight cards that we've witnessed early in the year. Although the undercard and main card battles weren't filled with spectacular names, the battles finished quickly and impressively which was able to lead us right into one of the best main events we've seen this year. Cung Le and Frank Shamrock went to war, and Frank kept his promise to try to defeat Le with his own striking skills. Unfortunately, Cung was much more dynamic and powerful with his kicks, and he was able to stop Frank after a third round that saw Shamrock's forearm break due to a high head kick. Regardless, both fighters created an unbelievable matchup that turned out to have the perfect mix of skills, hype, and the Frank Shamrock ego that sold many fans to see the event.

Frank Shamrock delivered the crowd, Cung delivered the kicks

Shamrock may have lost the battle, but he may have ultimately won the war when it comes to pure profit and money. Although Shamrock had a poor gameplan and tried to outstrike the dynamic Cung Le, his ego and hype tactics during the weeks leading up to the fight likely added to the excitement surrounding the entire event. The atmosphere was explosive as the main event was announced and the fighters entered the cage. The anticipation was unbearable as Le landed kicks and Shamrock wound up for the counter. The arena exploded when Frank caught Le and Le scrambled to avoid the oncoming onslaught from Shamrock. Overall, mission accomplished by Frank Shamrock and Cung Le as one of the most interesting matchups outside of the UFC.

Love him or hate him, Frank Shamrock delivered this matchup on a silver platter for the fans. His Tito Ortiz-like ego and attitude created a love/hate relationship for fans. Fans either wanted to see him win or get crushed, but regardless of what the fans wanted, those fans tuned in for the event. That's what Frank Shamrock can do for a promotion, and he'll continue to do it for years to come. Ortiz vs. Shamrock could potentially be the biggest mixed martial arts fight of the year if both egos are in full force.

What's next for both fighters? The post-fight press conference suggest Kazuo Misaki as Cung Le's potential next opponent. Misaki recently signed a deal with Strikeforce, and he could prove to be a formidable opponent for Le. I'd suggest some tests to his ground game as well. Frank Trigg anyone? Many people love to hate him, but his wrestling ability is dangerous on the ground. What about Jorge Santiago? He's been rolling since his move to American Top Team, and his explosive striking could end a fight with Le quickly. It looks like Le has some good talent ahead to take on, so get ready for some interesting matchups for the dynamic striker down the line.

Shamrock will likely take a lengthy break after sustaining the broken arm injury. The potential bout with his brother Ken will probably not take place due to Ken's destruction at the hands of Robert "Buzz" Berry in Cage Rage, but a move by Tito Ortiz to EliteXC/Strikeforce will probably set up a 10 year anniversary bout between the two. Both have huge egos, a flare for talking smack, and could present a good matchup stylistically. The fight itself could prove to be the biggest fight of the year if both fighters really turn on the charm leading up to the event.

Other action from the main card...

Gilbert Melendez absolutely crushed Gabe Lemley as expected. Melendez worked an impressive takedown game with increasingly destructive ground and pound until the fight ended in the second round. It wasn't exactly a threatening matchup for Melendez, but his next few matches could prove to be challenges. The post-fight press conference suggested Josh Thomson or Jorge Masvidal as potential opponents, but Thomson is still nursing a shoulder injury and won't be ready till late in the year. Melendez mentioned taking on KJ Noons in EliteXC to unite the belts, and that would definitely be the toughest matchup for Noons to date. Noons wouldn't stand much of a chance against Melendez.

Mike Kyle was quickly submitted after taking on up-and-comer Wayne Cole. Kyle had the distinct size advantage, but Cole quickly transitioned to an armbar early to win the bout in quick fashion. Kyle told the media after the event that he didn't get ample time to warmup due to his cornermen helping out Cung Le instead. We could see a change of teams from Kyle. Regardless of his past, Kyle still has awesome power and the potential to change the outcome very quickly with it.

Joey Villasenor proved that his hands still have big power to put down opponents. He went head to head against an able opponent in Ryan Jensen, but Jensen never had an answer for Villasenor's power. Look for Villasenor to begin making another run toward a title shot.

Fickett absolutely dominated the "Korean Icepick" in Jae Suk Lim. He forced the clinch and climbed into a standing guillotine choke that forced Lim to the ground. It was over quickly once the choke sank in. Fickett could be a real test for Jake Shields after he heals his injury. Shields and Fickett squared off in the post-fight interview, and Fickett spoke in his best Pro Wrestling impression.

Other post-fight conference news...

Gary Shaw made an idiot out of himself to an extent in the presser after the event. He stated some comments regarding rankings and MMA writers not giving his fighters the credit they deserve. Here's the problem, Gary. MMA writers can't rank Cung Le as high as "you" want them to because he will likely never fight the UFC's top middleweight talent in the next couple of years. Frank Shamrock wasn't a top 10 middleweight, and neither is Cung Le. Put him up against Kazuo Misaki, and you can make the claim. For now, lay off the MMA writers because they're laughing at the assumptions you've been making.

Diaz says he will be fighting in Hawaii on June 14, but no opponent has been named yet. Nothing was mentioned regarding Diaz's inability to battle on the card as I expected. Diaz is usually good for making a huge scene when something has went awry regarding his marijuana use. Diaz was not allowed to fight at the event due to his medicals not being turned in on time, but Shaw stated it was likely due to his medical marijuana card as Diaz had the physicals and paperwork done two and a half weeks ago. A legal battle has been rumored to be in the works between Diaz and the CSAC.

Overall thoughts

The main event propelled this bout to epic levels, but the undercard battles weren't the greatest matchups on paper. Although we had some quick finishes, the fights didn't prove anything that we didn't already know. Wayne Cole was the only real surprise, but even his win wasn't absolutely out of the question. The fight of the night was by far Shamrock vs. Le. It had the added hype of being a battle between two San Jose residents, and the ego of Frank Shamrock only made it a better fight. The crowd was absolutely engulfed in the excitement, and it translated to an exciting atmosphere for the fans watching.

It wasn't the greatest event of the year, but it ranks up there as having one of the best headliners so far this year. The undercard wasn't overly impressive, but it was good enough to provide the crowd with quick finishes that led up to the main event. Overall grade: B - due to an impressive main event.

Sources: Sam Caplan's post-fight press conference notes

Leland Roling is the editor-in-chief of MMA-Analyst.com





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