Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 55 (Part Two)
By BRAD WHARTON
AT ABOUT five past nine on Saturday night, I tapped into my somewhat legendary sense of humour to tweet this gem: “Much like Phil Collins, I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Something special is going down at Cage Warriors 55”. Bad jokes aside, little did I know how right I’d be. There was something in the Dublin air, much like our last trip to The Helix on New Year’s Eve; perhaps even more so. When all was said and done, some fantastic stories had been told.
Twitter and Facebook critics had not been shy about their displeasure at Che Mills missing weight ahead of his main event clash with Cathal Pendred. But regardless of what the ‘experts’ thought, the fight was still, for my money, one of the biggest non-UFC fights in European MMA. In many ways Mills’ hiccup on the scales made things even more interesting; with Pendred favoured to win on points, would the change to three rounds alter the dynamic of the fight? How would it affect either fighter’s mental state? What would happen if Che won?
In the end it would be Pendred answering all the questions with a textbook performance. If I had to choose one word to describe ‘The Punisher’, I’d go with ‘efficient’. He did exactly what he needed to do in the time he had to do it. What more can you ask for? Cathal has faced criticism on social media for not being as flamboyant inside the cage as stable-mate Conor McGregor, but he’s not Conor McGregor; he’s CathalPendred, and he’s a brilliant fighter in his own right. Mills was out-worked and taken out of his comfort zone, and - suspected shoulder injury aside - was made to look a little out of his depth. But that’s not necessarily a knock on Che; it’s more a case of that being the great thing about Cathal; he’ll make anyone look bad.
The ‘Rocky’ story is one of the biggest over-used clichés in combat spots, wheeled out for any fighter who came from nothing, or was able to turn around a patch of bad luck. With that said, for me, Neil Seery has exclusive rights to the use of ‘MMA’s Rocky story’ from this point forward. Here is a man who nearly walked away from MMA, only to turn it around, win the big one and make history along the way.
The incredible Irish crowd stomped, clapped and chanted Seery on from bell to bell. Despite a couple of hairy moments, the home fighter bossed the action on the feet, battering the younger, (and supposedly) faster, stronger and better Mikael Silander (pictured) from pillar to post. As the fight wore on, I realised that this could be the special moment I’d predicted earlier in the evening. I wasn’t wrong.
The noise as Seery secured the fight-ending submission was deafening. The crowd reaction wasn’t the near-riot that occurred when Conor McGregor punched his ticket to the UFC; it was different, like a warm, joyful glow enveloping The Helix. In that moment it was simply impossible not to feel good for Seery, and as we joined in the standing ovation with our polite, yet impartial applause, knowing smiles of ‘well done that man’ were exchanged between the Cage Warriors team. As Neil said in his post-fight interview, he’s the first ever Cage Warriors flyweight champion, and no matter what happens next, nobody will be able to take that away from him.
Chris Fields’ bout with Norman Paraisy was a nerve-shredding affair. Everyone agreed that round one went to France and round three went to Ireland, but a close second period and a point deduction muddied the waters. Paraisy proved that he did have heart, and while the bout was ruled a draw, Fields’ dominant third round saw him take home the moral victory, if not the actual one.
Paul Redmond gave us all a feeling of de ja vu, submitting Marc Allen with a second round toe hold in a moment eerily reminiscent of his last trip to the Helix. Redmond is perhaps one of the most underrated up-and-coming lightweights in Europe, but with a five-fight Cage Warriors winning streak to his name, people will have to start taking notice of the Team Ryano prospect.
Speaking of prospects, Jean N’Doye is a fighter who continues to go from strength to strength under the Cage Warriors banner. We’ve seen him grow from a terrifying striker to a rounded martial artist who’ll pose some serious problems to anyone at his weight. With the possibility of a bantamweight tournament being held later this year, N’Doye is making all the right noises. Perhaps more importantly, this a kid who is clearly loving what he’s doing, and is happy and proud for the opportunity to compete for the promotion. You can see it on his face before and after his fights, and you can’t help but be infected by it.
But what of those who didn’t see the results go their way? Che Mills will need to go back to the drawing board and reasses. Once he’s done that, and put this fight behind him, he’ll no doubt be straight back in the hunt. Mikael Silander fought a great fight, but Anderson Silva wasn’t taking that W from Seery on the night. Silander is young, and has plenty of time to make his mark. Neither Marc Allen nor Steve McCombe looked bad in defeat.
My final task of the week was a post-fight interview with Cathal Pendred. It was clear to anyone who saw his in-cage interview with Josh Palmer what was on his mind, and the subject obviously came up with me too. But then something happened that was different from his speech on the broadcast. Pendred turned away from me and looked straight down the camera lens. He thanked Cage Warriors for everything, and then he made a plea, for any young fighter in Europe with ambitions to make it to the top of the sport, to sign with Cage Warriors as the ultimate test and the ultimate platform. The words stuck with me, and as I look down the cards for Cage Warriors’ return to London on July 6 and beyond, I can’t help but wonder who’ll be the next young fighter to take the bull by the horns at Cage Warriors.
June 1, 2013, in Dublin was a truly magical night, but there are many, many more to come.
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