This Saturday, April 11, live Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) makes its highly anticipated return to SHOWTIME with a five-fight telecast. The event, which airs live at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast), will originate from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. In the main event, MMA pioneer and legend Frank Shamrock throws down against the talented and irreverent Nick Diaz.
It is the first live MMA telecast from SHOWTIME Sports since it announced a multi-year agreement with world champion MMA event producer Strikeforce on Feb. 5, 2009.
Versatile play-by-play broadcast veteran Gus Johnson will call the action from cageside with MMA expert Mauro Ranallo and MMA superstar Pat Miletich, who is making his network debut, serving as expert analysts.
Days away from the initial SHOWTIME-Strikeforce event, the announce team weighs in on the main event and more.
“In all my years, and all the sports that I’ve broadcast, I have never worked with someone in the announce booth that has gone back into the field of play to compete again,” said Johnson, referring to Shamrock and their work together on CBS Television’s previous MMA broadcasts. “So this is going to be weird to see Frank get in the cage and fight. He’s my boy. He’s taught me so much about the sport in the past year. But, you know, he is in the hurt business.”
Johnson joined SHOWTIME Sports in January 2009 as the lead play-by-play announcer on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING. A practicing mixed martial artist who studies Shing Yi Kung Fu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing, Johnson has worked at CBS Sports as play-by-play announcer for the network’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championships (since 1995) and the National Football League (since 1998).
“Shamrock-Diaz is an incredible fight,” Johnson said. “It’s like a young lion versus an old lion. Frank’s getting older. He’s had injuries. Diaz is hungry and hot and as good on the ground as Frank is on his feet. Nick is tall, long and has some power. It will be a major challenge for Frank, but we are talking about Frank Shamrock; A legend and master strategist who’ll push Nick like he’s never been pushed before. He’s so smart, I expect Shamrock to physically take away some of Diaz’s advantages.
“Frank is nasty in the cage. He’s kind of a mad scientist when it comes to this beautiful sport. He’s going to try and punish Nick and prove that the old lion still runs the pack. With this fight in San Jose, the neighboring town for Nick and the hometown of Frank, it is going to be an electric atmosphere.”
Said the renowned Ranallo, a colorful Canadian who previously handled the blow-by-blow for EliteXC and ShoXC telecasts on SHOWTIME and served as an analyst on the CBS broadcasts:
“The main event is indicative of the kind of bout Strikeforce will endeavor to deliver on SHOWTIME — two preternaturally talented warriors willing to give it everything they’ve got to entertain the fans. Whether standing or on the ground, Shamrock and Diaz should deliver an instant classic.
“I’m also really looking forward to Cris Cyborg vs. Akano Hitomi. I’ve been fortunate to provide the soundtrack to myriad battles involving the women athletes and the ladies almost always steal the show. I’m excited about the future of female MMA.”
Always quick with a quip, Ranallo will do the play-by-play for SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers series (for up-and-comers) on SHOWTIME that begins on Friday, May 15, at Fresno, Calif.
Miletich will be making his SHOWTIME announcing debut.
“Both Shamrock and Diaz have specific things they need to do to be successful,” said Miletich, the founder of Miletich Fighting Systems, a premier MMA training academy in Bettendorf, Iowa, and a third degree black belt in Shuri-ryu karate who has fought professionally since 1995.
“Frank needs to stay completely out of Diaz’ range and use explosive entry on all his attacks. Hanging out at the end of Diaz’ long arms is asking for a long night. I would also suggest Frank use low kicks to take away Nick’s reach advantage while dealing with Nick’s busy style of striking.
“Diaz, on the other hand, needs Frank at arms’ length and should try to frustrate him with his reach. I think it would be wise for Nick to take Frank down if the opportunity presents itself. While both seem adept at scoring takedowns, I also see both guys having difficulty stopping them. The guy that controls this fight on the ground has the advantage.”
On Scott Smith vs. Benji Radach (a middleweight matchup, one of five fights on the telecast), Miletich added, “Scott Smith has heavy hands and always has a chance to knock someone out, but Benji is a very seasoned and smooth veteran. I think Benji is better in all areas except power. Power could be the equalizer in this one, but he has to hit Radach solid which might be hard to do.”