The Washington Times - June 1, 2008, 12:36PM

Those who tuned in last night to watch CBS’ Elite XC Saturday Night Fights witnessed one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the history of organized competition.



Ok, there were brief moments of compelling action. But overall, it’s hard to say that mixed martial arts’ first entry into the world of prime time television was anything more than average. 

It’s not CBS’ fault, but two of the four fights were relative disappointments, another was one-sided and essentially meaningless, and the fourth merely exposed Kimbo Slice, MMA’s biggest star, as a work in progress. 

We’ll find out in the next couple of days what CBS grabbed in terms of ratings, but one can imagine that there weren’t too many people who sat through the entire two-hour broadcast from start to finish. Slice against James Thompson was the main event, and they didn’t square off until 10:30 p.m. In between there were too many lulls in action, and the mini-profiles of the fighters were not exactly in-depth or illuminating. 

The first televised bout of the night featured Joey Villasenor winning by TKO over Phil Baroni with about one minute left in the first round. Hard to draw in viewers with a fight that’s over that quick. Later, in an all-female bout, Gina Carano dominated Kaitlin Young in two rounds, but the big story there was how Carano would be forced to share 12 percent of her winnings because she came in four pounds overweight. 

The middleweight title bout between Robbie Lawlor and Scott Smith had promise, but was stopped and ruled a no-contest in the second round after Lawlor inadvertently poked Smith in the eye. Fans in Newark had some colorful things to say about that decision. (How ironic would it be if CBS got fined by the FCC not for the violence of this event, but the profanity coming from the crowd?)

As for Kimbo Slice, well, he won using his fists, as many predicted. But he spent a lot of time lying on his back in the cage, which is not a familiar place for him. It was plainly obvious that Slice has not yet acquired the necessary skills to win a fight on the ground, and he looked like he had the stamina of Nel Carter running a marathon. The final minute of the second round basically consisted of Thompson pinning Slice against the mat the cage wall, elbowing him in the head over and over.

But Slice was saved by the bell and nailed Thompson with a couple of huge right hooks, including one that caused his ear to explode with blood.The fight was called a few seconds later.

CBS’ Gus Johnson was his usual wound-up self, and kept calling the decision to stop the fight “controversial” but there was really no controversy. One could argue that Thompson could have fought on, but one more punch to the head by Slice would have ended it. (And I’ve never liked the idea of announcers referring to something as “controversial.” Very rarely is anything truly controversial.)

It will be very interesting to see how CBS does with these MMA events moving forward, particularly if they lack a high-profile fighter like Slice. Will people tune in to see guys they never heard of?