Saturday night, Mixed Martial Arts made its primetime network television debut at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. And a memorable debut it was.
The main event pitted undefeated Kimbo Slice against James "The Colossus" Thomson. Slice, a former high school football player and porn company bodyguard, came into the fight undefeated at 2-0. Thompson was 16-8 prior to Saturday night's action.
Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, is built like a rock, and his powerful hits have made him a YouTube sensation. After defeating former heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medalist Ray Mercer and gracing the cover of ESPN the Magazine, the hunger for more Kimbo Slice among MMA fans and sports enthusiasts has grown. He displayed his incredible strength Saturday night.
The three-round bout ended in a TKO victory for "the man they call Kimbo," as announcer Gus Johnson called the fighter. The scene was at times hard to watch, as Kimbo inflicted significant damage on Thompson.
Thompson entered the fight with a cauliflowered ear swelled up to the size of a golf ball. Still, he lasted two rounds of Kimbo's forceful hits before the fight was stopped after Kimbo popped the ear.
Slice's perfect record was never in jeopardy. In the second round, Slice landed a serious of vicious blows to Thompson's face and ear that left him bloodied. Thompson somehow managed to bring Slice to the ground after the beating, where he kept him for the final two minutes of the round. Fatigue and artful blocking by Kimbo prevented Thompson from doing much damage to the eventual winner, however.
Only 30 seconds into the third and final round, Kimbo delivered a ferocious combo that burst Thompson's swollen ear. Clearly dazed, Thompson took a few more shots to the head before the referee stepped in to end the fight.
Slice immediately collapsed onto his back with his arms above his head in relief and triumph.
Afterward, Kimbo appeared humble and content, complimenting the referee and his opponent.
When asked about the decision to end the fight, Slice expressed his approval. He said he would have just continued to punish that ear.
Throughout the fight, the aggressive style of gold-toothed brawler brought the crowd to its feet. His post-fight interview cast him in a positive light. For a sport just bursting onto the scene, a must-see star is just what the doctor ordered.
Kimbo Slice punched his way to victory in his primetime debut. Those powerful fists might have just broken down the wall separating MMA from the mainstream sports world in the process.