Stockton, Calif. — While tomorrow’s second edition of CBS’ “Saturday Night Fights” doesn’t have anywhere near the hype attached to it as the first edition, fight fans are likely to be treated to a much better show.
Many mistakes were made during the first telecast but all indications are that CBS, SHOWTIME, and EliteXC have learned from them. ProElite chairman Doug DeLuca has promised a tighter production that will make for a better overall show and on paper that appears to be the case. The only thing left now is the execution.
While the production and pacing of the show are expected to be better, many consider the matchups themselves to be more intriguing than the first show. The May 31 card was designed with first round knockouts in mind but this time around the lineup will feature better all-around fighters such as Shayna Baszler, Jake Shields, Nick Thompson, and Nick Diaz. That’s right, the casual viewer might actually get to see some jiu-jitsu this time around!
The festivities will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on SHOWTIME, with a three bout appetizer that could be very entertaining. It’s hard not to be excited about a show that will feature Wilson Reis, Rafael Feijao, and Antonio Silva.
It’s the SHOWTIME portion of the show where we’ll kick off our seven fight preview, followed by our four fight preview of the CBS portion.
Wilson Reis vs. Bryan Caraway
Wilson Reis has four wins, all by submission. Bryan Caraway has nine wins, all by submission. So where is this fight going to be contested?
How about on the feet?
I fully expect both of these guys to try and stand with each other during the early portion of the fight in an attempt to see if a weakness can be exploited.
The problem is that Caraway is 5’8’’ and Reis is 5’6’’. Reis will simply be giving up too much reach. Eventually this fight will have to go to the ground where Reis’ superior athleticism will take over.
That’s not to suggest that Caraway is a bad athlete. In fact, he’s a good one, having wrestled in college. He is also determined and hungry, as both he and girlfriend Meisha Tate live in a R.V. parked in trainer Dennis “Superman” Hallman’s backyard.
However, Reis is just on a different level and is a very determined fighter as well. He mentioned during Thursday’s pre-fight press conference that his goal is to fight for a 140 lbs. title in EliteXC. He’s in the driver’s seat for that title shot, but in order to stay there, he has to keep winning.
I’m predicting Reis to win via submission in the middle of round three.
Rafael Feijao vs. Travais Galbraith
Since losing to Kazuhiro Nakamura, Travais (pronounced “Travis”) Galbraith has made tremendous strides in his jiu-jitsu game. However, is his ground game good enough to match up with the bigger and stronger Feijao?
To date, we haven’t really seen Feijao’s ground game, but it’s there and it’s top notch. Remember, this is a guy who was discovered by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira when Nogueira was in his hometown on business and asked locals who they recommended he roll with.
Feijao’s Muay Thai is why he’s 6-1, but he was a grappler before he was a striker.
Galbraith is tough and believes he has a gameplan to beat Feijao. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to try and give Feijao a taste of his own medicine by trying to apply strong pressure early on and put Feijao on the defensive for a change. But Feijao is bigger, stronger, and faster.
Galbraith, the King of the Cage Canadian light heavyweight champion took this fight on short notice, which is another problem for him. No matter how good your gameplan is, it’s hard to implement it against an opponent like Feijao if you haven’t had the benefit of a full training camp.
In the end, Galbraith will be no different than John Doyle and Wayne Cole: good fighters who got TKO’d in round one by Feijao.
Justin Eilers vs. Antonio Silva for the vacant EliteXC heavyweight title
Considering all the heat Justin Eilers takes from hardcore MMA fans, I’m beginning to feel sorry for the guy.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: his stint in the UFC several years ago was terrible. However, since that time he’s won 10 of 11 fights. And he’s been winning because he’s become a better fighter. The Justin Eilers we’ll see on Saturday is not the same guy we saw in the UFC. Eilers now fights tactically and has improved as an all-around fighter.
Antonio Silva is coming off a disappointing performance against Ricco Rodriguez from this past February’s “Street Certified.” But a lot of that can be blamed on two things: first, Rodriguez was a matchup stylistically for Silva. And second, Silva’s knee was in bad shape. He let everyone know about it after the fight but the injury was much more severe than he let own. In fact, Silva probably should have pulled out of the fight.
While I don’t believe Eilers is the tomato can so many people have labeled him as, he’s still a fighter that will be giving up 35-40 pounds on fight night and one that does not have the ground credentials to match up with Silva on the mat.
Silva is probably just as quick as Eilers and will have more power in his punches. I see Silva knocking down Eilers in the second round and then following him to the ground, where he’ll finish with a rear naked choke.
CBS Saturday Night Fights
Cristiane Cyborg vs. Shayna Baszler
This is the fight I am looking forward to the most. I have seen so much of Cristiane Cyborg on YouTube and in watching her, I see the female version of Wanderlei Silva. She is powerful, quick, and aggressive.
But unlike Silva, Cyborg is also untested. Her first win came against Vanessa Porto, who is a highly-respected fighter. However, Cyborg was clearly the bigger fighter yet was unable to finish her. After the Porto fight, she accumulated wins against inexperienced fighters.
In this fight, I’m not sure how much of a size advantage she’ll have. In her videos, she looks huge, like someone who fights at 150. However, seeing her in person at the pre-fight press conference, she looked like a fighter that didn’t need to cut to 140 pounds.
Cyborg’s striking is what has gotten so many hardcore fans exciting. But she’s also a purple belt under Cristiano Marcello at Chute Boxe. That said, I still believe Baszler will have the advantage on the ground. Cyborg relies heavily on her strength when the fight goes to the mat while Baszler is a technical wizard who is constantly mixing in unconventional submission attempts.
Baszler has a distinct advantage on the ground, but she needs to get the fight there quickly in order to have a chance to win. Her standup is solid, but she doesn’t want to get into a striking war with Cyborg.
I see Baszler taking a ton of punishment in this one but in the end, her technical superiority will prevail. I believe she’ll win via third round submission in yet another female fight that steals the show.
Jake Shields vs. Nick Thompson for the EliteXC welterweight title
Both fighters are similar in a lot of ways: two former college wrestlers who have good jiu-jitsu with striking skills that have made tremendous strides in the past few years.
But in every category, I see Shields as having the advantage. His wrestling is better. His jiu-jitsu is better. And his Muay Thai is better.
This will be a strong fight because Thompson is no joke and will hang. However, at a certain point, Shields will be able to pull away and take control.
The one thing to watch out for is the size difference. I’m not so sure that Shields couldn’t compete at 155 pounds if he wanted to. As for Thompson, after he re-hydrates, he could weigh as much as 195 lbs., which is insane.
Thompson could pull off the upset if he catches Shields in the right spot with a punch, but I don’t see that happening and I see Shields winning via third round TKO (ground and pound).
Nick Diaz vs. Thomas Denny
This is a huge opportunity for Thomas Denny, who has been fighting for close to ten years now and has never broken out on the national scene. He’s been in some big fights in Japan, but he’s never fought under such a big spotlight before.
Added attention is not something that will have an effect on the charismatic Denny. However, Diaz’s superior ground skills and boxing skills will be two factors that in the end will be too much for Denny to overcome.
Despite the fact that these two California-based fighters have been scheduled to fight each other two previous times, I didn’t get the sense that there is much of a grudge that exists between the two.
Denny has been extremely vocal about Diaz not being on weight for his June 14 fight against Muhsin Corbbrey, but those words likely motivated Diaz to make sure his weight was where it needed to be. In seeing Diaz as the pre-fight press conference on Thursday, he looked like a fighter who didn’t need to cut much, if at all, to make 160.
Anytime you have Diaz in California, you’re never certain he’s going to be able to fight. However, he looks healthy, focused, and on weight so I have little doubt that this fight is going to go off. And when it does, Diaz will prove to be too much for Denny and he will win via second round submission.
Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith for the EliteXC middleweight title
While speaking at the press conference yesterday, Robbie Lawler addressed the media simply by saying “Weigh-ins are tomorrow at 2 p.m., I’m happy to be here.” And that was it. Lawler really does not like all of the pomp and circumstance that is attached to big fights. He just loves to fight.
Scott Smith is also someone who enjoys fighting and that is a big reason why the two had such a strong fight in their first encounter on May 31.
The initial bout between the two was ramping up to be a true classic until it had its legs chopped from underneath when Lawler hit Smith with an accidental eye poke.
The two now have a chance to vie for “Fight of the Year” honors by adding the conclusive finish that the action-packed first chapter lacked.
In that fight, Smith clearly won round two after losing round one. However, in round three, Lawler started to pull away and it looked as if Smith was on the verge of being finished. As good as Smith looked at times during the fight, it was still painfully obvious that Lawler was the better fighter.
It was just less than two months ago when these two last fought and I don’t see anything changing in that time that is going to make a huge difference. As such, I see a rematch on Saturday that will look eerily similar to the first fight with the major difference being that Lawler wins this time via third round TKO.