The cancellation of EliteXC’s September show in New Mexico allowed the promotion to move a planned Wilson Reis vs. Bao Quach fight for the vacant EliteXC bantamweight title to tonight’s ShoXC (11 p.m. ET on SHOWTIME) event, adding a lot of juice to the card by giving ShoXC its first-ever title fight.
Quach had to pull out due to injury but the promotion was able to dig into its King of the Cage promotion and find a worthy challenger in 21-year old New Mexico native Abel Cullum. Reis has received a lot of exposure in recent months and is viewed as a rising star, but make no mistake, Cullum is a strong prospect in his own right.
While ShoXC cards lack the hook of a big name to draw casual MMA fans, tonight’s show from the Chumash Resort and Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif. should appeal to hardcore fans as it is laden with prospects. In addition to Reis and Cullum, EliteXC will also be showcasing fighters such as Shane Del Rosario, Giva Santana, David Douglas, and Matt Makowski, who could all be 1-2 wins away from being promoted to major EliteXC shows.
Here’s a preview of tonight’s show with predictions.
Wilson Reis vs. Abel Cullum for the vacant EliteXC bantamweight (140 lbs.) title
Long-time readers of this site know I have a bias towards Reis and they know why. But if you’ve seen Reis fight, you know I haven’t been blowing smoke up your butts telling you how good he is. He’s just 23 and is already 5-0 as a pro and is still relatively new to MMA considering he comes from a competitive grappling background.
A lot of people were unimpressed by his standup during his unanimous decision victory over Bryan Caraway during EliteXC “Unfinished Business” on July 26 but a win is a win and while Reis relied heavily on his world class grappling skills, he was relentless every time the fight went to the mat.
Critics that say Reis needs to work on his standup don’t know what they are talking about because he has been working on it and he’s been working hard. For the Caraway fight, he trained at the same boxing gym in Upper Darby, PA that Bernard Hopkins has trained at in the past. In fact, he didn’t even train jiu-jitsu for the bout in Stockton.
For this fight, he worked more with Kru Rigel Balsamico at Daddis Fight Camps in Philadelphia. Reis’ standup is a work in progress and it will take time. But at 23, he has plenty of it.
He was tested vs. Caraway and he’ll be tested again. The more video I watch of Cullum and the more research that I do, the more I wonder why it has taken EliteXC this long to get him into the 140 lbs. mix? This kid is a star in the making and at age 21 is already 11-1 and is the current King of the Cage flyweight (135 lbs.) champion.
The knock against Cullum is that he hasn’t faced top competition, but the kid has not ducked anyone and has taken on all comers. And the level of competition he’s faced has been better than people realize. Just because you may not recognize the names on his fight finder resume doesn’t mean he hasn’t been tested. The reality is that most people can’t name five 135 lbs. fighters not in the WEC. We have some hardcore fans that read this site that definitely can name more than five, but most people just aren’t familiar with the landscape at bantamweight.
Cullum’s strength is on the ground but his standup is solid. Caraway gave Reis a lot of problems because he was 5’8” and had a tremendous reach advantage considering that Wilson is only 5’3.5”. At 5’7”, Cullum will have a reach advantage as well. But everyone who has ever fought Reis has said they want to test his standup and then they get taken down at will. In boxing, everyone has a plan until they get hit. Against Wilson Reis, everyone has a plan until they get taken down. It’s like what Gus Johnson said on the SHOWTIME telecast for “Unfinished Business,” if Reis can touch it, he can take it down.
Once it goes to the ground — and it will — Cullum will not be dead to rights. His ground skills are strong and he’s a solid wrestler. The problem is that Reis has faced wrestlers in Caraway, Justin Robbins, and Zach Makovsky, and has out-wrestled all of them.
Prediction: Maybe you should take my prediction with a grain of salt considering I train out of the same school as Wilson at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United in Jenkintown, PA, but I still believe he’s bringing the title home to Philly. But this will not be a cakewalk for him. I am very impressed by Cullum and I see this being a back-and-forth battle with Reis winning via submission late in the fourth.
Carl Seumanutafa vs. Shane Del Rosario
I’m not sure what to make of this fight between the two 4-0 fighters. Seumanutafa, a Somoan is incredibly strong and will have a tremendous size advantage on Del Rosario, who really should be competing as a light heavyweight.
Del Rosario trains out of Colin Oyama’s and his Muay Thai is outstanding. He has also made tremendous strides on the ground rolling on a daily basis with Giva Santana. That being said, he needs to keep this fight standing because if Seaumanutafa gets top position, it’s not going to be pretty.
I didn’t get a true feel for Seaumanutafa’s game while watching him win in fluke fashion over Mike Cook on the undercard “Unfinished Business” because the fight barely lasted over a minute and ended due to injury on a suplex gone awry. But I do know that Seaumanutafa needs to get the fight to the ground so he can utilize his purple belt jiu-jitsu skills because from what I hear, he doesn’t have much of a standup game right now.
I am not sure he will be able to take Del Rosario down because he has improved a lot. Del Rosario is a former high school basketball standout who has the athleticism needed to show a good sprawl. I see the fight standing and I see Del Rosario earning a lot of points with the judges through knees and leg kicks.
Prediction: Del Rosario by unanimous decision.
David Douglas vs. Malaipet Team Diamond
Lades and Gentlemen, this will be your “Fight of the Night.” Mark it down. It’s going to be a wild encounter between two aggressive strikers.
After fighting only twice between March of 2005 and June of 2008, Douglas, 5-1, now finds himself fighting for the third time in three months. He took fights on short notice in non-televised bouts during the undercards for “Unfinished Business” on July 26 and the August 15 ShoXC that featured Jared Hamman vs. Po’ai Suganuma II.
An aggressive striker, the Cesar Gracie disciple jumped on Marlon Mathias and finished him in just 12 seconds during his EliteXC debut at “Unfinished Business.” “Tarzan” (and if you don’t know why he has that nickname, you’ll see why tonight) came back just 20 days later and jumped on William Jacobson, prompting Jacobson’s corner to throw in the towel at 1:12 of round 1. Just like that Douglas had two wins in 20 days in just a total of 1:24 seconds of actual fight time. Having more time to prepare this time around, he’s ready.
“Malaipet is highly regarded and most will say he’s the favorite, but these are the kinds of fights I want and the reason I got into MMA,” Douglas said during a pre-fight press conference on Thursday. “I really appreciate the opportunity EliteXC is giving me. I am ready for a war. I’ve had my last meal. I hope he’s had his.’’
Malaipet, 3-2, is a Thai native and began training Muay Thai at the age of 6 after being sold to a camp by his family because the camp could provide a better life for him. By age 8, he was competing as a pro. A little known fact that he also competed on the Thailand national boxing team. He never made the Olympics, but was involved in Olympic qualifiers.
His cut kicks are nasty and his hands are a lot better than he’s shown. Yet for all of his striking ability he still finds himself needing to redeem himself after a disappointing disqualification last March against Thomas Denny after using illegal elbows.
I’ll think he’ll redeem himself here by putting on an exciting fight.
Prediction: I still have a lot of questions about Douglas. He fights at 100 miles an hour and we haven’t seen his cardio tested because he’s blown through Mathias and Jacobson. Douglas really should try to get this fight to the ground but he loves to bang. Against a more polished striker in Malapiet, I think he’ll win some battles early in the fight but end up losing the war. I expect Malaipet to win, I am just not sure how. I’ll go with Malaipet via unanimous decision.
Giva Santana vs. Jaime Jara
Jara is getting a second chance with EliteXC after putting together a three-fight win streak outside of the promotion. But which Jaime Jara are we going to see? The well-prepared wrestler who fights a smart fight; or the fighter who takes a fight on short notice and gasses early and relies too much on sloppy striking and gets caught?
By the sounds of it, the 39-year old former Gladiator Challenge welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight champion is ready for this one.
“Mentally, this is the best I’ve been and, physically, I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said Thursday. “…I have destroyed my last three opponents and I want to stay on that path. I’m a tornado right now, and everyone knows what kind of damage a tornado can do.’’
Jara might be ready to do damage, but Santana has caused a far share of damage as well, thanks to his top-notch submission skills. A jiu-jitsu instructor with Team Oyama, you’d think that the “Arm Collector” must have started training BJJ at a young age. Not so. After serving in the Brazilian army, Santana got a late start in martial arts and didn’t start training until his 20s.
11-0 with 10 submissions, the time is now for the 36-year old to win big here and advance to bigger EliteXC shows and be a factor in the middleweight title picture. The “Arm Collector” is dangerous and his standup has improved.
No matter how you look at it, this is a bad matchup for Jara. If he stands and relies on his looping power shots, Santana can do damage if his striking is precise. If Jara uses his good wrestling skills and takes Santana down, he runs the risk of getting caught in Santana’s guard and will get tapped from the bottom.
Prediction: This will be short and sweet with Santana winning via first round submission.
Erik Apple vs. Matt Makowski
Makowski is 4-0 in pro MMA, 6-0 in amateur MMA, and 8-1 in amateur Muay Thai. The kid is a blue chip prospect and at 21, he has a bright future ahead of him. I’m not sure the same can be said for Apple at this stage of his career.
At one time Apple was considered a top prospect after beginning his career 9-0. A solid wrestler, his record was built against inferior competition. He took a major step up in competition after being signed by the WEC in 2007 and competing on one of their first cards under Zuffa’s ownership. Facing Brock Larson, Apple got smashed and hasn’t fought since.
For Apple, MMA is not his full-time job. He’s a commentator for King of the Cage and also does a ton of broadcast work for networks that televise extreme sports. Makowski is training full-time and actually spent some time at Greg Jackson’s in Albuquerque, N.M. getting ready for this fight.
Makowski’s standup is deadly, as Nick Serra learned during the undercard for the first “Saturday Night Fights” show on May 31. After getting battered by kicks and punches, Serra refused to get up from a butt scoot in the second round after whiffing badly while trying to pull guard and was disqualified. It really should have been ruled a TKO because Makowski broke his will.
Makowski is well-rounded and is solid on the ground but Apple’s best bet would be to rely on his wrestling and get the fight to the floor. But if his comments on Thursday are any indication, it sounds like he wants to indulge Makowski on the feet.
“I know Matt likes to stand,” said Apple. “He has a lot of videos on the internet and I’ve never seen him initiate a take-down. He’s been real successful with his kicks. But I like to stand, too, and would love nothing more than to go Muay Thai style and go kick-for-kick with him.”
Hopefully he’s playing possum, because if he goes kick-for-kick with Makowski, he’s not only going to lose, he’s going to lose big.
Prediction: Makowski via second round TKO.