Mailbag: Kimbo a proven drawing card

Kimbo Slice is for real.

Well, it’s still not clear that Slice, the Internet street-fighting sensation who has turned to mixed martial arts, can defeat a legitimate fighter. Beating Tank Abbott, as he did Saturday on an Elite XC show in Coral Gables, Fla., is kind of like making a big deal over Duke defeating Alcorn State in college basketball.

Slice still has a lot to prove as an MMA fighter. He wouldn’t last a round at this stage against any of the world’s elite heavyweights.

That’s not to say, though, that Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, won’t some day become a legitimate world-class fighter.

But Slice is the real deal now in terms of fan interest. He, along with female fighter Gina Carano, may be single-handedly keeping Elite XC afloat.

The company doesn’t have a deep roster and has few fighters who could be or have been ticket sellers. But Slice has the power that interests fans and the charisma to attract them. If the company is around five years from now, it will have Slice to thank for that because every time he fights, it’s going to be an event.

The trick for promoter Gary Shaw will be to match him appropriately. A couple of quick losses to top heavyweights would quash the mythology that surrounds Slice.

But if he’s paired with guys who can make him look good—and those guys get incrementally better each time out—he could pull the daily double and become the rare guy who is a good all-around fighter as well as a ticket-selling attraction.

We’ll move on to the weekly mailbag and answer questions on a variety of topics impacting MMA. Please remember that I will no longer consider questions without your first and last name and your hometown. As always, my responses to reader questions are in italics:

HUERTA’S TITLE CHANCE

When do you think Roger Huerta will get his shot at the UFC lightweight title? The poor guy has done a lot for the UFC.

Salvador Gomez
Sutherlin, Ohio

I ran into Huerta at UFC 81 in Las Vegas. He told me he won’t be fighting until September at the earliest because he’s taking a break to finish school and let his body recover from the grind he’s been in. He’s also filming a movie, “Tekken,” which is based on a video game.


HENDO HAS A SHOT

Anderson Silva is great and deserves to be the top guy in MMA, but I feel he has not fought any other elite guys. That is no fault of his own. I believe Dan Henderson has a great shot at beating him, but no one is talking about it. What kind of shot do you give Henderson at pulling out a win? If Henderson cannot beat him, no one will. It just seems like everyone assumes Silva will take Henderson with no problem.

Joe Ravizza
Clovis, Calif.

If everyone is assuming Silva will beat Henderson with no problem, then everyone is wrong. Silva may win, but it will be with plenty of problems. Henderson is one of the great fighters in the world and has the style to beat Silva. The ‘X’ factor in this will be how Henderson responds to dropping back down to 185. He looked very comfortable at light heavyweight in his last two outings. If he makes 185 comfortably and is still strong, I think we could have an upset at UFC 82 on March 1.


BIGFOOT’S WIN

What does Antonio Silva’s victory over Ricco Rodriguez say about his position in the heavyweight division? A win over a former UFC champion is great to have on your resume, even if it’s a split decision. On the other hand, it is still only his first victory over notable competition. How would you compare him to the heavyweights in the UFC? I don’t agree with the praise of Gary Shaw proclaiming him as the best in the world, but how close is he to being a top 10 fighter?

Vincent Abrego
Chicago

I was disappointed by Silva’s performance in his win over Rodriguez. Rodriguez is just a shell of the fighter he was when he held the UFC belt and he still managed to push Silva to the limit. Silva’s loss to Eric Pele is also troubling. I don’t think he’s a top 10 fighter now, based on that. He has the skills to become one, but he’s not performing near that level at this point. I think Randy Couture would beat him senseless.


KONGO FAN
I agree with 90 percent of your columns, but your response to my question about Cheick Kongo last week surprised me. Frank Mir looked impressive against Brock Lesnar and has shown again that he can make an impact in the heavyweight division. But the guy has won three fights in three years against some young fighters. Kongo’s last two wins are over some pretty established veterans. If he beats Heath Herring next week, I think that speaks volumes.

Mike Bedard
Boston

Kongo is a good fighter, Mike. I just believe he needs to put a couple of wins over higher-rated fighters than he has done to this point. I’m not dogging him by any means, but I don’t think wins over guys like the late Gilbert Aldana, Christian Wellisch and Assuerio Silva should get one the next shot at the belt. If he beats Herring and then someone like Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski or Mir, I’d say he deserves it. Until then, I think others are ahead of him in line.


BEATING FABER

What will Jens Pulver need to do to beat Urijah Faber? If he does not stop his takedowns, will it be the B.J. Penn II fight all over again? How much does Jens have left?

Terrence Burks
Columbus, Ohio

The WEC is going to try to promote the Pulver-Faber fight as a big threat to Faber, but I don’t see it. Faber is awesome. He’s one of the top 10 fighters in the world. Pulver, who is on the down side of a good career, doesn’t have the tools to beat Faber unless he lands a lucky punch.


McCULLOUGH IS TOUGH

Where would you rate “Razor” Rob McCullough with the other lightweights in the world? It doesn’t look like he gets a lot of respect. He would have destroyed everyone on the The Ultimate Fighter5.

John Osorio
Long Beach, Calif.

Despite losing his WEC lightweight title last week to Jamie Varner, I like McCullough as a very good lightweight. The problem is, that division is stacked. The loss to Varner definitely dropped him several notches, but he’s a good enough fighter that he can get back.


CRO COP’S UFC FAILURES

Why do you think (Mirko) Cro Cop wasn’t as successful in the UFC as he was in PRIDE? What are the chances he’ll be a success with his new promotion in Japan?

Mike Abrego
St. Cloud, Minn.

Others may have a different opinion, but I think a lot of Cro Cop’s failures in the UFC stemmed from motivation. He didn’t seem to train as hard as he once had—he admitted that he hadn’t trained in a cage, which made no sense—and he seemed to me to be satisfied with what he’d accomplished. He is talented and with the right attitude, can still be a factor in MMA, regardless of which promotion he fights for.


OKAMI UP SOON?

Since joining the UFC, Yushin Okami has racked up a 5-1 record, with his only loss coming to Rich Franklin. If he is victorious over Evan Tanner, who is a former middleweight champion, at UFC 82 next week, does he deserve to be next in line for a title shot?

John Tate
Billings, Mont.

A win over a quality fighter like Tanner would definitely help. He’s getting close, if he’s not next.


PRIDE-UFC

With the departure of Cro Cop from the UFC and most of the former PRIDE fighters having trouble making the transition to the cage, I think it would be interesting to see a “PRIDE: Where are they now?” column. My intentions for this column aren’t without bias. I’d really just like to see all these PRIDE fans that riddle message boards with how great Fedor is have it all on one page how everyone from that organization has had trouble with the talent of the UFC.

Forrest Wright Glendale, Ariz.

You’re in luck, Forrest. We’ve already done such a column. My colleague, Dave Meltzer, did exactly such a thing earlier this month, which was broken into two parts. You can find his excellent pieces here and here.


DROP TO 205

Why doesn’t Cro Cop cut weight? He is not at all a big heavyweight and could clearly make 205. Bigger guys can just manhandle him in the UFC, which we saw when he fought Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo. With his two losses and subsequent contract release, do you think he may start cutting?

Kevin Stianchi
Bridgewater, N.J.

He’s been fighting around 230. It would be a big cut for a fighter of his age. If he felt he could do it and retain his strength and power, I’m sure he would. That he hasn’t indicates he probably doesn’t believe he can.

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