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5 Oz. Feature: Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson is a rematch that needs to happen

Slice vs Thompson

James Thompson is quickly becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA; the man simply can’t get any respect.I woke up Sunday morning at my hotel in Newark and put on SportsCenter. I was delighted to see that ESPN decided to devote coverage to the festivities from the night before. There was one glaring problem though, which was that the anchor introduced the clip with a headline that read, “Kimbo crushes Colossus.”

Say what!?

Kimbo Slice no doubt inflicted a lot of damage upon Thompson that night, but from my vantage point, Thompson did his share of harm onto Kimbo as well. To claim Kimbo “crushed” James Thompson in their fight this past Saturday night was an egregious error. But then again, Thompson is not a man that was a stranger to egregious errors this past weekend weekend.

During the press conference that proceeded the debut of “Saturday Night Fights” on CBS, EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw pronounced that Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith would rematch each other in the near future following the stoppage of their fight due to an eye poke that Smith received from Lawler. That decision makes perfect sense, but what would make just as much sense would be to sign a rematch between Slice and Thompson. It’s a rematch that Thompson deserves — no, it’s a rematch that he’s entitled to it.

While conspiracy theorists have been running rampant with reckless accusations that there was somehow a fix, the reality is that while there is no hard evidence to support that theory as well as major holes in any circumstantial evidence, Thompson is still a victim of bad officiating. Having been someone who had attended more than their fair share of pro and amateur shows in the state of New Jersey, I can speak from experience that Dan Miragliotta is a very good official. However, he had an off night this past Saturday and it came at Thompson’s expense.

Much has been made about an apparent tap by Kimbo Slice during the first round of the fight. Some say that Slice was submitting while others suggest that he was offering a thumbs up. To be honest, after watching multiple replays, I still am not quite sure what he was doing. But I’ve seen nothing conclusive to make me believe he was tapping out. First, Thompson had him in a standing guillotine. Putting someone in a standing guillotine when someone leaves their neck out is fairly easy. However, getting them to tap from it is a different story. Thompson didn’t have any hooks in and was applying the choke from a flat footed position. My experience when applying standing guillotines or having them applied on me — and by no means am I anything more than just a guy who trains occasionally — is that if you don’t jump guard to get hooks in, then it’s essential to stand on the heels of your feet so that you can apply additional torque to the neck by pointing your hips to the sky.

Nobody can say for certainty what was going on except for Kimbo, but my bet is that while Kimbo was probably extremely uncomfortable, he didn’t feel like he needed to tap. I don’t profess to know Slice well, but I’ve always found him to be a straight shooter. While his word probably isn’t good enough for a lot of people out there in the overly-cynical society we live in, his word is good enough for me. So if the man says he didn’t tap, I am inclined to believe him. I am sure that last statement will generate a great deal of reaction, but I’m not worried about that. That’s how I feel. Take it, or leave it.

While I don’t buy into the tap argument, I do believe Thompson still has several other valid issues. First and foremost is what took place during the second round of the fight. We can sit here and debate whether the 20-22 unanswered strikes that were delivered by Thompson to Kimbo were love taps or not, but the operative word is “unanswered.” Slice did not improve his position and was not intelligently defending himself.

I’ve seen fights stopped for much less but I also have seen much worse where fights were allowed to continue. It all comes down to the discretion of the referee. Some referees are more liberal than others. They aren’t robots so there is no way to enforce a specific standard when it comes to such a gray area of a fight. All that a fighter can ask for is consistency. And if Miragliotta was going to give the fighters a long leash in the second round, then he should have applied the same standard in the third. To not stop the fight in the second after all of those unanswered strikes but to then stop the fight in the third while Thompson was still on his feet and coherent just isn’t fair.

I’ve heard the New Jersey Athletic Control Board’s position on the stoppage and it makes sense. Yes, both fighters were tired and had absorbed a lot of damage, but Thompson was still standing. The fight was not over. Sure, Thompson was in major trouble and I would go so far as to say there was a 95 percent chance that he was going to knocked out. But as Thompson himself has stated, who knows that for sure?

Thompson trained hard for the fight and went in and performed the best he has in quite some time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is the best tactical fight he has fought in his entire career. And as such, I contend that he earned the right to be knocked out. That’s right, he deserved the right to be knocked out. I know how inhumane that statement sounds, but let’s remember what we’re talking about here: professional fighting. Risk, danger, and injury are inherent to the sport. Look, we’ve all seen Thompson suffer some pretty brutal knockouts, however, if there was concern over his well-being based on his past performances, then why license him in the first place? If there is a need to judge him by a different standard than other fighters, then perhaps he shouldn’t be fighting.

Complicating matters is the fact that Thompson wasn’t just a victim of bad officiating, but also poor judging. While the scorecards never came into play, judge Eric Colon scored the second round 10-9 in favor of Slice. Sometimes rounds are not easy to judge and they can go either way, but round two was not one of those rounds. There was no gray area in this case; Thompson won the round. He did so in such a definitive fashion that judge Douglas Crosby felt compelled to score the very same round at 10-8, in favor of Thompson.

But the scoring issue is a reminder that Thompson was leading the fight until the stoppage. If he gets knocked out, the fact that he was winning the fight on the scorecards is a moot point. However, when a fighter is a victim of an early stoppage, it becomes a major sticking point.

Throughout his entire time in Newark, Thompson was treated as an afterthought. The main event from this past Saturday wasn’t promoted as a fight between Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson, but simply as a fight featuring Kimbo Slice. All Thompson did was go out and give a gutsy performance. Was it a masterpiece? No, but as stated earlier in this article, it was the best performance we’ve seen from him in quite some time. So why should the man be penalized for it? Will he be sent back to the UK left to rot away until he’s disappeared from the public’s conscious? Or, will he receive his just due and be embraced for his effort? Considering that EliteXC is in dire need of new stars, the promotion should be rallying around Thompson.

During early part of his tenure in PRIDE, Thompson was seen as someone that had a lot of potential. He was a powerful man with a marketable look. The problem was that Thompson would win fights when he was expected to lose and lose when he was expected to win. Such an inconsistent track record makes it difficult for a promotion to put any kind of real marketing push behind him. Yes, he’s the same guy who holds wins over Don Frye, Hidehiko Yoshida, and Dan Severn. But at the same time, Thompson is still the guy who got knocked out by Butterbean just 43 seconds into round one [EDITOR’S NOTE: this is a stoppage that many have questioned as being early as well] in February of ’07 and the same guy who got knocked out in ten seconds into the first round last July against a then-unknown Neil Grove. But what if? What if Thompson can build on Saturday’s effort and turn the corner? What if he can show the chin he showed Saturday night as opposed to the soft one he’s shown for much of his career? The popularity of combat sports is growing in the UK, and after seeing the groundswell of support that Ricky Hatton has received from British fans, what promotion, whether it be boxing or MMA, wouldn’t want a viable British heavyweight with charisma?

While Thompson was an afterthought leading up to the fight, he shouldn’t become one in its wake.

The point here isn’t to suggest that Thompson is the savior for EliteXC, but that the promotion could put itself in a win/win situation by building to a Thompson vs. Slice rematch. If Slice wins, it helps put Saturday behind him and allows him to move forward. If Thompson wins, it wouldn’t be the end of the world and could be a sign that a promotion could once again put a little faith — i.e. money and marketing — behind Thompson.

One aspect that has not been addressed is that Thompson wasn’t the only victim of the early stoppage. Kimbo was also hurt by it. Just as Thompson deserved the right to be finished by a knockout, Slice deserved the opportunity to finish his opponent in such a manner. An enormous amount of responsibility was placed on his shoulders heading into last Saturday’s show. He was asked to carry the company and as a result, many expected him to perform like a world champion in just his third official fight. What we saw from Kimbo on Saturday was not the performance many expected, but he delivered his fair share of punishment to Thompson and while he absorbed a fair share of his own, he never once quit or took an easy way out. After a terrible second round, he rebounded in the third and was on the verge of delivering the highlight reel knockout that so many people were looking for. Slice has received a lot of flack since the fight on Saturday and had he been allowed to knock Thompson out, he wouldn’t have to be dealing with anywhere near the amount of criticism he’s currently receiving.

When a lot of people heard that Slice and Thompson would be fighting, they asked why? But when it comes to the possibility of Slice vs. Thompson II, the question we should all be asking is: why not?

  • Jackyl says:

    I think the drama of this fight definitely makes a rematch marketable. Hell, for the next CBS card why not do Kimbo vs Thompson 2 and Lawler vs Smith. Throw in Bigfoot Silva or cross promote with Strikeforce and get Cung Le. They have an opportunity to answer the criticisms and correct their mistakes. Face it, MMA fans, hardcore or not are going to watch good matchups if they are available. A card of this nature could bring in the hardcore fans, while also catering to the casual. They need another fight to hype up for another ratings push and this would be a good one. The other would be to do a rematch with Kimbo and Gannon. This could be marketed like: “The only man to defeat Kimbo Slice in a street fight” that could do well. I think if they can do one or two “circus” matches, along with a couple of good matchups like Shields vs Fickett, maybe Bigfoot Silva vs Brett Rogers, and they could have even better success.

  • Andrew says:

    Sam, in fairness to James Thompson, the lost to Butterbean was terrible stoppage. If you go to the youtube and plug in Thompson’s fight against Butterbean, you’ll see he took a clip to the nose, and fell down, he ducked a punch from Butterbean while he was on the ground and then he started dropping some fists where he protected himself enough. The ref stopped the fight and Thompsen immediately went after Butterbean not knowing the fight stopped. It was ruled a knockout. If you see the replays, it will clearly show that it was a clip to the nose. The commentators even said that the ref got it wrong.

  • recently.reaped says:

    “Kimbo crushes Colossus.”

    FYI, in case you don’t follow other sports.. ESPN ALWAYS misrepresents big news items and most hardcore fans of any sport (say basketball) are alwasy incensed or have given up on ESPN and their ‘news reporting’ and ‘journalists’ who know 3 shades of jack squat about the sport other than cursory info it seems.

    in other words, take their reporting with a grain of salt.

  • Jez says:

    I genuinely have no interest in seeing that match up again. All Drama aside, it just wasn’t a good fight.

  • Gygax says:

    Good job once again, Sam. In fact, a rematch with Thompson might be just about the only option for a legitimate opponent for Kimbo. Its obvious he can’t take on a more skilled opponent. Thompson took him down rather easily, something James has never done before. Gary Shaw has already ruled out Brett Rogers, instead slating him for Junior. Jon Murphy would be too dangerous because he’ll take the fight to the ground right away. Previously rumored opponent Ron Waterman would destroy Kimbo on the ground. And Sean Gannon status in MMA is still way up in the air. Personally, I have little desire to see any sort of rematch with Gannon. With the skill level of each, that fight is better off back on YouTube.

    A Thompson rematch is the best bet. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t give the Colossus much of a chance with the chin he has exhibited. But as much as I enjoyed his performance, I ended up looking at it as more of an indictment of Kimbo’s skill level than Thompson’s ability. The Frye and Severyn wins are not impressive to me at all at this point as boith were well past their primes. Frye was 42 and Severyn was 50 when they fought Thompson! The Yoshida win is the only big win IMO.

    Come on Gary Shaw, make the rematch happen! Somehow I don’t think it will though. Shaw made that snide remark at the presser that Thompson would be lucky to be with the company in the morning.

  • D says:

    Saturday Night Fights 2: The Rematches 😉

    I’m definitely not feeling all the hate that’s being directed at EliteXC, but I’m also not a fanboy. They need to right the wrongs of the first SNF and move on.

  • J says:

    Could not agree more. Props for sticking up for Thompson and for what is right. Things like this needs to be corected imediately otherwise the sport will lose all its credibility.

  • woooburn says:

    #4: take it for what it’s worth, but apparently kimbo did a radio interview yesterday saying he’ll be fighting rogers in october.

  • Wu Tang says:

    While the James Thompson did hold his own in the fight, many fails to realize that James was ‘expected’ to lose. Many claimed him to be a ‘can,’ so what do you think it does to James mentaility? To go into a fight with the expectation to lose vs a fighter who was 2-0, AND a favorite versus James? James fight alot of fighters, so why wasnt he the favorite? He fought the likes of brother of Fedor, Alex, Yoshida, Frey, ect ect, but did this deter Thompson to not train, to not go in and give it his all? No. And the result was his left ear, which he trained constantly on the ground, knowing that is Kimbos’ only weakness.

    As for Kimbo ‘crushing’ Thompson…. It is just a ploy to get people interested in this fight, so that it will support the hype machine that is behind Kimbo. But do you really think that Kimbo is just riding on his hype and with a big ego to trounch all opponents that he fights on his sheer natural talent? No. Because Bas and his team is training Kimbo, i seriously think that Kimbo is taking this hype behind him personally and knows where he needs help, so that he can improve. Why else would he go out there and get Bas to train him? Bas is a great trainer who trains only the best, not with skill, but with potential and heart and Kimbo has that, which no one sees because the mystic behind Kimbo is the youtube videos, the ‘street thug’ credibility and 20 plus people taht is behind him. At the end of the day, Kimbo will look back and probably say ‘i need more training,’ which is what we all need.

    He (Kimbo) just recently started training ground game, it took me about 4 years to get my blue belt in bjj (on and off training), but with the drive i had, purple belts had trouble with me about 1.5-2 years of training. I am not a great grappler now, but if Kimbo has that drive, that will and that mentaility that will not surrcomb to negitivity, external forces or anything that is outside of him, then he can succeed at ground game. He will not be a Jacare, Roger Gracie or Terrere, but with Bas helping help with his technique, Kimbo will be something on the groung. If a man knows wheres hes weak, then he will work at it endlly, while kimbo, who use to live in a car, will work his ass of on the ground… With Bas helping him out (Bas is feared on the ground more than he is than in stand up!).

  • woooburn says:

    oops, meant to say #5

  • seth b says:

    Right on #3, I could not have said it any better.

  • I can’t say I’d enjoy watching a rematch, but Thompson definitely deserves it. He put in a gutsy showing when he was supposed to be decimated, so even if Slice and finished off the KO (which I honestly think was about to happen), I’d say Thompson deserves a rematch.

    And for all the comments about rigged fights/bad calls, if you look back at UFC 78 (I think that was the last UFC in NJ), the refs there seem to go for quick stand ups and early stoppages. It annoyed me then, it annoyed me in every fight on the EXC card too. Jon Murphy, Kaitlyn Young, Scott Smith, and James Thompson were all victims of bad calls in my opinion.

    As for EXC, I think they’re retarded to put Kimbo in with Rogers right now. He needs a few more lower level fights before taking on someone with Rogers’ skillset. He may be a virtual MMA rookie as well, but I think he might be able to expose Kimbo on his feet, which will REALLY destroy the Kimbo Mystique.

  • Zack says:

    Just watched the Inside MMA preview on mmajunkie and Bas is now backtracking. He says because Kimbo was telling the ref he was OK that it shouldn’t have been stopped. Like Smith said he was OK? and Kaitlin? and Thompson?

  • Brent says:

    “As for EXC, I think they’re retarded to put Kimbo in with Rogers right now.”

    This is tantamount to arguing that Hulk Hogan shouldn’t fight Andre the Giant.

  • I’m not sure that I get the analogy there.

    Rogers is not a star, and if he beats Kimbo – and I’d imagine he’d be the favourite in that fight – he won’t get that big a boost out of it. Kimbo’s mystique isn’t like a title that passes on to whoever beats him.

    Let’s not forget that Kimbo has had 3 pro fights. 3. He’s got some talent but they were doing the right thing for his career by nursing him along. Thompson was a logical step up in quality from his first two fights, and he almost slipped up. He’s simply not read to step up against Rogers.

  • truth says:

    I don’t think Dan Miragliotta had an “off night”, he was bias, was it the crowd ? was it Shaw? Dan was officiating with the mindset to put Kimbo in the best possible position for his skillset , that’s a fact. I saw this nonesense the first time I watched Iron Wing.

  • Theo says:

    Hmmmmm. Interesting points but the fact of the matter is….”Who cares”?

  • Echolocating says:

    A rematch for Slice and Thompson makes the most sense, but when has Gary Shaw ever made any sense? I’ll be amazed if Shaw even allows Thompson to fight in EliteXC again. Shaw just strikes me as a real asshole.

    There wasn’t one redeeming thing he did during the show or afterwards. How about just an apology to Thompson? Yeah, right.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    I doubt Elite will set up a rematch. I’ll bet they want a new opponent to move Kimbo along and to perpetuate the idea that he’s an unstoppable monster. A rematch suggests that his win over Thompson was something less than definitive. (Yeah, sure, I know it was less than definitive, but we’re talking PR and hype here.)

  • darkmetal says:

    Again I think you are being WAY to deferential to Geragliotta. He is one of the biggest reason for all the controversy surrounding the EliteXC event.

    If the son of the owner is yelling out orders for you from the sidelines and suddenly those same “orders” are taken, then something is wrong in my mind. Unless those pleas are within the bounds of reason.

    Standing an active fighter who has side guard and is delivering blows is just one occasion. The other is the dubious stoppage in round 3 after Kimbo landed 3-4 blows and “rocked” Thompson. As Thompson said himself (and you yourself admitted) he had been rocked earlier in the fight and powered out—Thompson deserved the chance to perform or be knocked out.

    The problem is that he was getting WAY too close to delivering Kimbo his loss and causing EliteXC to go into their death rattle. And I would sincerely like to know if anyone has investigated who was betting on this fight inside EliteXC/CBS. While it is not illegal to do so, it does call into question the multiple questionable calls throughout the night.

  • The conspiracy theories out there are a bit crazy.

    The NJ comission has a track record of having their refs make quick stand ups, as well as being extremely cautious about the fighter’s health.

    They just took it to another extreme last Saturday.

    As for the Slice stoppage, yes he wasn’t doing much at the end of the second, but Thompson wasn’t exactly doing damage either. His shots were weak to say the least, and Slice was able to say that he was ok and give the thumbs up in response to the ref. If he had of stopped it, he’d be getting shit on for that.

    The actual stoppage was a tad early, but I think the fight would have ended 5 or 10 seconds later anyways, with the next punch from Slice.

    There were no payoffs, the fight wasn’t fixed (and if it was, whoever did it did a BAD job), the comission isn’t currupt and Gary Shaw isn’t the devil…..well, maybe Gary Shaw IS the devil, but my other points stand.


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