STOCKTON, Calif. – On the second mixed martial arts show on prime-time network television, Elite XC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler finished what he set out to do the first time.
Lawler (16-4, 1 no-contest) retained his title Saturday night, beating Scott Smith at 2:35 of the second round at the Stockton Arena.
The champion's finishing flurry was precipitated by concern after Smith had opened a cut near Lawler's left eye.
"It (the cut) was spraying blood on his chest," said Lawler. I didn't want (ref) Herb Dean to see it. I kept my hands moving."
"It was a knee right to the midsection," said Smith (15-5, 1 no-contest). "I don't remember a lot about what happened. I think I got dropped twice, but I know what did me in."
The second fight picked up right where the May 31 fight in Newark ended, sans the accidental third-round eye poke to Smith that caused the doctor to stop the evenly fought battle, which was ruled a no-contest.
Both men went back and forth, connecting with strong punches as the sometimes impatient crowd of about 6,500 started to boo at first. But at that point, both started firing high kicks. Smith, usually a slow starter, connected with more accuracy on his kicks, both to the leg as well as going high as the crowd started chanting his name.
Both men were cut in the second round, when Lawler started connecting with hard knees that turned the tables against the local favorite from nearby Elk Grove.
The show was filled with high-action entertaining fights. While it isn't expected the card will do the same television rating as the first show, in many ways Saturday's action was more of a success, with better matches and all four winners looking strong.
The show opened with the creation of a new women's star in Brazilian Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, from the famed Chute Boxe Academy. Santos (5-0) connected with rapid-fire punches to Shayna Baszler of Sioux Falls, S.D., who trains out of Seattle, for much of the fight. Baszler (11-5), a submission specialist, failed on a few early attempts, and by the second round, was unable to get Santos to the ground, and couldn't hang with her standing.
Santos almost won the fight twice in a strange situation. Santos knocked Baszler down hard, turned around and jumped on the top of the cage to celebrate. The only problem was ref Steve Mazzagatti hadn't stopped the fight.
Once Santos realized what happened, she picked up where she left off. She fired more punches against the cage until Baszler crumbled to the ground at 2:48 of the second round and Mazzagatti waved it off.
Santos' striking was as impressive as any seen in a women's MMA fight on U.S. television. After she won, she was showered with chants of "Gina," for Gina Carano, the most popular female fighter in the U.S., who was ringside.
Carano and Kimbo Slice will headline Elite XC's third show on CBS, scheduled for Oct. 4 at the BankNorth Arena in Miami. A match with Cyborg would garner the most interest and would become the biggest women's MMA fight to date.
Elite XC's head of fight operations, Jeremy Lappen, indicated he was interested in such a match but wouldn't go as far as to confirm it for the next show.
Two other champions were crowned on the show, with Jake Shields (21-4-1) running through Nick "The Goat" Thompson (36-10-1) to become Elite XC's first welterweight champion. Shields, who had been groomed for the title for the past year, caught Thompson in a guillotine in just 1:03.
"There's no shame in losing to someone like Jake, but I made a mistake," said Thompson, who in a few days will take the Minnesota bar exam. "Him getting the mount was because he's that good, but the submission was because I made a mistake. Hopefully I can get some wins and have another chance."
"That was something I was training to do," said Shields. "I tap everyone in practice with it."
In a match that aired during the one-hour preliminary broadcast on Showtime, Antonio "Big Foot" Silva (11-1) took advantage of his much larger frame and weight advantage to become the company's first heavyweight champion when he finished Justin Eilers (19-7-1) with a standing flurry 19 seconds into the second round.
Silva, at 257, made Eilers, at 218, look like a little boy in comparison. After the fight, Eilers said he was going to cut to the 205 pound weight class from this point forward.
The biggest crowd reactions were reserved for Stockton's Nick Diaz (18-7, 1 no-contest), who took the measure of Thomas "Wildman" Denny (26-17) early in Round 2 in a slobberknocker.
Diaz got an ear-ringing ovation local reporters said they hadn't heard in Stockton in years. Diaz survived being outstruck early and decked Denny three times. The first two knockdowns were at the end of the first round and the bell likely saved Denny, but only temporarily. Diaz knocked him down again, and finished him with punches on the ground at the :30 mark of the round.
"We (Diaz and training partner Shields) won't lose to someone with pink fingernails (Denny) or someone who weighs in wearing women's underwear (Thompson weighed in Friday wearing a jock strap)," said Diaz, the older brother of UFC's Nate Diaz.
The win puts Diaz in line for a fall rematch with lightweight champion K.J. Noons, who was not at the show.