Commentary

Petruzelli makes most of Slice's inexperience and Shamrock's bad luck

Who is this Seth Petruzelli? Where did he come from? And, most importantly, how did he cut through Kimbo Slice in 14 seconds? Franklin McNeil explores.

Originally Published: October 5, 2008
By Franklin McNeil | Special to ESPN.com

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Life as a mixed martial artist will never be the same for Seth Petruzelli. What he accomplished last night at BankAtlantic Center will be remembered for many years.

Petruzelli became the first man to defeat Kimbo Slice in a sanctioned bout. A clipping right hand did the trick.

The victory by Petruzelli and the manner in which it occurred, highlighted a card that was coming apart at the seams hours before its start. But what Petruzelli accomplished made this one of the most exciting nights in MMA history.

And to think it almost did not happen.

Minutes before the doors opened and fans started pouring into the arena, Slice's original opponent, Ken Shamrock, was deemed unfit to fight. He sustained a nasty cut above his left eye during a practice session earlier in the day.

To his credit, Shamrock wanted the fight with Slice to go on. The two had sparred verbally for days and were eager to settle their differences. A shoving incident during the weigh-in served to intensify the situation.

But Florida State Athletic Commission officials refused to let Shamrock step in the cage. This sent ProElite representatives scrambling to save the card and, essentially, their league.

ProElite quickly turned to Petruzelli, who was scheduled to face Aaron Rosa in a non-televised light heavyweight bout. Petruzelli had fought as a heavyweight in the past and immediately seized the opportunity.

"It was an opportunity to step up," Petruzelli said. "It was something I wanted all my life."

Once Petruzelli became Shamrock's official replacement, the crowd of 9,414 was informed and instantly expressed its disapproval.

Who is this Petruzelli guy? Very few people, if any, in attendance knew who he was.

What the fans also did not know was that Petruzelli presented the greatest test of Slice's young MMA career. Petruzelli was younger, faster, stronger and he hit harder than the 44-year-old Shamrock.

More importantly, he was not a one-dimensional fighter. Petruzelli boasts good stand-up skills and above-average wrestling and jiu-jitsu moves.

He was better than Slice on the ground and comparable to him standing up. Petruzelli is the type of fighter Slice's handlers avoided -- until Saturday, at least.

"I'm definitely hungrier than Ken and I'm younger," said the 28-year-old Petruzelli, who improved to 10-4. "I have better jiu-jitsu on the ground. I represented a tougher fight for Kimbo, which makes him a man to step-up and do it."

ProElite had no choice; its future was at stake. The show needed to go on.

And Slice, despite his physical shortcomings in the cage, has a true fighter's mindset. He did not hesitate when Petruzelli was offered to him.

"[Slice] showed heart. He showed he is a true man and a true warrior," said Jeremy Lappen, head of fight operations for ProElite subsidiary EliteXC. "He stepped up on an hour's notice. It didn't go his way tonight, but he will be back and better than ever."

Slice never saw the punch. It was short and quick, similar to the one Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) delivered against Sonny Liston during their heavyweight rematch in May 1965.

Petruzelli's punch might not reverberate through American society like Ali's did, but it should have a significant impact on his future. He is no longer unknown to MMA followers.

And Petruzelli intends to capitalize on his newfound notoriety. He wants to prove he is no one-hit wonder. Immediately after pulling off the shocking win, he expressed a desire to fight Slice again.

He will try to convince ProElite that a rematch is a fight fans would embrace. But Petruzelli is quick to point out that he will be a much tougher opponent for Slice the second time around.

[+] EnlargeSeth Petruzelli
Tom Casino/ShowtimeLet's do it again: Seth Pertruzelli, left, embraces a rematch with Kimbo Slice.
"The style match-up was very good for me," Petruzelli said. "I do very well against boxers like him who are straight forward. I have a lot of wacky angles that people aren't used to.

"I cut about 30 pounds to fight Aaron Rosa; I wouldn't cut the weight next time. If I get the rematch I would train to take him down next time. I will train for a different type of fight the next time, for sure."

Petruzelli might not have a tough time persuading ProElite that a rematch is in order. Convincing Slice's management to do the same could prove more difficult.

Slice (3-1) was respectful toward his conqueror during the post-fight presser.

"Before tonight nobody knew who this guy was, now everybody knows who he is," Slice said. "I have nothing but good stuff to say about him.

"You beat me in front of my family, man, that's [messed] up. But it's all good. And I got the first black-eye of my life."

After making his remarks, Slice refused to take questions from reporters and quickly exited the arena. That is not the action of a fighter seeking to avenge a loss.

Maybe he realizes challenging the guy who handed him his first black-eye isn't a wise thing to do. On the other hand, Slice might be having a tough time absorbing his first professional setback.

After a couple of days, Slice might put it all in perspective and attempt to persuade ProElite that a rematch with Petruzelli is best for him and fight fans.

While promoting the Shamrock fight, Slice emphasized his improved ground skills and cardio. If Slice is confident in his abilities then he will seek a rematch against Petruzelli. Silence, however, might be a sign that Slice's run has finally come to an end.

Franklin McNeil covers boxing and mixed martial arts for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.