Elite XC "Saturday Night Fights" is set to go off live from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., this Saturday, May 31 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. To get us prepared for the historic event, we plan to showcase a daily feature for each main card fight leading up to the historic mixed martial arts debut on network television. These features will include information on the fighters, predictions, as well as training notes and quotes from each fighter.
The second fight set for the televised main card of the night is a middleweight showdown between Phil "The New York Badass" Baroni (10-9) and Joey Villasenor (25-6).
Here's a little background on each fighter:
Phil Baroni -- At 32 years old, Baroni has been around the block in the fight game in nearly a decade competing in the sport. He's definitely had his share of ups and downs. Perhaps his lowest point came last June when he tested positive for two types of anabolic steroids immediately following a second round submission loss in a Strikeforce and Elite XC co-promoted fight against Frank Shamrock.
While Baroni was beat pretty soundly by Shamrock, he still showed a lot of heart. Enough, in fact, for Icon Sport -- a sister company of Elite XC -- to grant him a shot at their vacant middleweight title against Hawaiian, Kala Kalohe Hose. Again, Baroni showed the heart of a lion -- albeit in defeat once again -- as Hose ended an absolute war with a fifth round technical knockout.
It's no secret that Baroni's game is to stand and bang, and that usually makes for an exciting fight whether he wins or loses.
He has notable wins against Ryo Chonan, Dave Menne and Yuki Kondo, as well as notable losses to Matt Lindland (twice), Evan Tanner (twice), Shamrock and Kazuo Misaki.
Joey Villasenor -- Villasenor is also 32 years old and has been around the block himself in the mixed martial arts scene. While more than half of his professional fights have been for King of the Cage (KOTC), he has fought in eight different MMA promotions, including two fights under the Pride FC banner.
Villasenor was the KOTC middleweight champion and at one time reeled off 15 straight victories. That impressive feat earned him a berth in the prestigious 2006 Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix in June of that same year. However, he lost in the first round to Ryo Chonan via split decision.
The eye-catching performance gained him another fight for the famed Japanese promotion, this time against cuurent Elite XC Middleweight Champion, Robbie Lawler. Villasenor was caught by a flying knee less than 20 seconds into the fight. Since then, he's made his home in Elite XC where he's 3-1.
He has notable wins against David Loiseau, Jorge Santiago and Riki Fukada, as well as notable losses to Chonan, Lawler, "Ninja" Rua and David Terrell
Training notes and quotes from each fighter:
Phil Baroni -- Baroni used to train out of Team Hammer House, but now trains with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) -- home to three of the UFC's top welterweight contenders, Josh Koshcheck, Mike Swick and Jon Fitch.
The camp has a lot of success in taking accomplished collegiate wrestlers like Fitch, Koscheck and Baroni and helping them develop into better all around fighters. Baroni, in fact, used to train at AKA during his Pride days, and he says he's undefeated when training out there.
Here's some quotes from Baroni during a conference call for this event earlier last week:
"I would fight the winner of Smith and Lawler. Isn't the plan to beat the champion? I was just listening to Smith. He said he can knock out anyone. I don't get knocked out. Smith won't knock me out. So, that's a fight. If he wins, I'll be there in the center of the ring. We can go toe-to-toe and trade. I don't lose those fights. I'll be watching that fight after I put Smokin' Joe Villaseńor on ice. "
On his ground game:
" It f***ing blows, and it is not going to the ground. Who cares about the ground game? Smokin' Joe tries to stand and trade. You saw his last fight. He likes to bang. So, this is going to be a great fight. That's why it's on CBS. It is going to be two guys in there and throwing down for another exciting fight. Villaseńor is not going to leave until he's carried out on a stretcher. My ground game doesn't make a difference. Who cares about a ground game anyway? Nobody wants to watch that s**t."
And one more snip:
"Guys like me and Lawler have been fighting for a long time. We were in the UFC when no one knew what the UFC was. We've been fighting for chump change. We're fighters. That's what we do. Yeah, it's great to be on CBS, but when we got into this sport it wasn't even on pay per view. So, it's great to be on CBS and it's great to have all that exposure and everything else. But, I didn't get into fighting because I wanted to be a rock star, and neither did a guy like Lawler. That's not why we did it. I don't really give a sh**t about Gary Shaw's watch or his Ferrari. I do it for pride, and I do it to set high goals and accomplishments. Six million people in the world and there's only one world champion. Lawler is that guy right now. So, I really don't think it matters to him or the real fighters about fighting on CBS. "
Now that's a fighter.
Joey Villasenor -- Joey trains with one of the premiere camps in all of MMA, the Greg Jackson camp out of Albuquerque, alongside Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt and UFC Welterweight Champion, George St. Pierre.
Jackson's fighters are always known to have great cardio, training in the high altitude in Albuquerque and spending a lot of time running in the mountains. Sparring with other great fighters can only be doing wonders for every part of Villasenor's game.
Here's some quotes from the conference call from Joey:
"Come on, this is ‘Phil the Mouth' Baroni. Hands down, he is going to beat me in a words war, but he definitely has to deal with a lot of heart. I know I'm going into enemy territory, which totally gets me pumped. I know Baroni is going to have some family members there, and I'm excited, man. I'm actually shaking in my pants right now. I'm a little nervous right now, and Baroni has quite the mouth. I am not going to talk much. I respect Baroni. I respect the power. But, he says he doesn't get knocked out. We'll just have to test that out."
And on Baroni's all around game:
"I think Baroni is right. His ground game does suck. I'm sure that's what he wants, for us to bang it out where he has an opportunity win. I hope he doesn't go down form shock because I'll have to have to choke him out like Shamrock did. I think my overall game is improving daily. I have power with movement. It's about executing. Overall, we all know that Baroni has stand‑up power, but I'm going to try to expose him with my movement. So, it's just all about executing."
How the fight will go:
This one isn't hard to figure out. Both guys usually prefer to stand and trade strikes. And both have really good boxing and knockout power. This fight is definitely going to be a stand up war.
Like Villasenor said, I look for him to use a lot of movement at first to avoid Baroni's early attack. Baroni always comes out like a bat out of hell and looks for the knockout as early as possible. He has a lot of power, especially during his early runs, and Villasenor will have to weather that storm.
While Baroni's first round onslaughts are always exciting and sometimes lead to early finishes, he always wastes a lot of crucial energy in that first round. If Villasenor can use some head movement and footwork to avoid Baroni early, he'll probably be able to use that same movement and footwork to out box him late, possibly even earn a knockout.
Here's what I see happening:
Baroni will come out swinging for the fences and the two will trade some early blows. Villasenor, however, will frustrate Baroni with his boxing and he won't be fazed by the early charge from Baroni. He'll stick to his gameplan of good footwork, head movement and boxing.
Even though Baroni has the edge in power, I don't think he is a better technical striker. I can see him getting picked apart in this fight. And unless Baroni gets a big knockout early, I think he's in trouble.
The longer the fight goes, and the more tired Baroni gets, the more he's going to get frustrated with Villasenor's boxing and more importantly his cardio. We know those Greg Jackson guys are always in great shape. I think it'll be the difference in this fight.
I say it ends in the third round. Baroni won't have enough left to be doing anything more than throwing lazy haymakers and shooting for half-hearted takedown attempts.
The fresher Villasenor will still be executing his gameplan of outboxing Baroni, and Baroni is going to be vulnerable to a knockout late. His hands will be down, his chin will be up and he'll lean right into a Joey Villasenor knockout punch.
Joey Villasenor via third round knockout.
Check back in tomorrow as we go in-depth with a look at the ladies, Gina Carano and Kaitlin Young.