Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 56 (Part Two)
By BRAD WHARTON
Last week, in the run up to Cage Warriors 56, we talked a lot about opportunity here on the blog. On Saturday night it knocked repeatedly, and there were a couple of surprises when it came to who answered.
Bola is back
If ever there was an apt time to use the idiom ‘Strike while the iron is hot’, it was for Bola Omoyele’s main-event clash with Vincent del Guerra. Bola’s MMA career is just a few years old, but at 31-years-of-age, his fighting prime is upon him. After things did not go his way on The Ultimate Fighter, nothing less than a career-best performance would have sufficed in the CWFC 56 headliner. It’s a tired cliché, but it was a fight he simply had to win.
The iron was hot, and Bola struck it. Repeatedly, with elbows. It wasn’t plain sailing, but then that’s the thing about Cage Warriors; if you want a gift, you’re fighting on the wrong show. So while Bola immediately set the tone for the bout, del Guerra quickly proved that he wasn’t simply there to make up the numbers.
If anything, del Guerra’s brief rally made Omoyele’s eventual victory all the sweeter. Beating a fighter who is overmatched may look impressive to the untrained eye, but destroying a fighter who can, and has, hit you back? That’s impressive.
Going back to the theme of opportunities, one sign of a great fighter is the ability to sniff them out and capitalise during a bout. When he felt the first shot hurt del Guerra, Bola smelt blood and was relentless in his attack. The dull thud of leather on ribs, intertwined with the sharp crack of elbow on skull, and Omoyele rained down fistic hell just inches from my face at cage side. He wasn’t going to stop and the fight was called. Opportunity taken.
‘The Flame’ still burns
It was the result that many expected, but it was not the performance that Robbie Olivier had hoped to deliver. ‘The Flame’, now known as much for his coaching duties with the likes of the Maguire brothers and Luke Barnatt, as his days as a UK MMA pioneer, stepped into the Cage Warriors cage for the first time in 10 years, but a knee injury seemed to dampen the occasion for Cambridge man, if his post-fight interview is to be believed.
Nevertheless, his performance was nothing short of a complete shut-out against a young, athletic and tough opponent in Patrik Berisha. Injury or not, Olivier clearly has miles left on the clock, and a point to prove to the featherweight division. The fight also provided one of the night’s more surreal moments at cage-side, with Olivier being coached and cornered by some of his Tsunami students. Speaking of which…
Young guns have all the fun
Tsunami fighter Fabio Ferrari scored an emphatic victory in his Cage Warriors debut, toppling the tough-to-beat Brett Sizeland. Talk to anyone who’s rolled with Ferrari and you’ll quickly get an idea of how menacing he is on the mat. It was a wide, powerful hook that put Sizeland down – but not out – and Fabio went right back to his A-game, taking the back and securing a tight rear-naked choke for the win.
Arnold Allen and Sean Carter of BKK Fighters, occasional training partners of the Tsunami squad, also made huge statements on Saturday night. Allen fought a fast and furious contest against Andy Green, culminating in a textbook rear-naked choke. Carter faced the physically imposing Adam Boussif, stopping him with an arm-triangle in the second. If any doubts remained, the BKK boys erased them. Allen and Carter are legit, and both will cause serious problems in their respective divisions in the coming months.
When you watch Paddy Pimblett fight, it’s scary to think that he won’t be in his physical prime for perhaps another 10 years. To the untrained eye, when ‘The Baddie’ faced off against London Shootfighters’ Florian Calin, it looked like a boy taking on a man. Those fears were soon quelled when the bell rang, and the 18-year-old gave as good as he got against an opponent 11 years his senior. It took the judges to separate the two, but Pimblett’s victory was never in doubt.
Turning back the clock
It wasn’t just the youngsters making the most of their opportunities on Saturday night. Denniston Sutherland fought the perfect fight against Brett Bassett; get into the wheelhouse, avoid the big punches and dirty box the night away. The gameplan really come good in the second, with Bassett wilting under a series of knees and punches, eventually being saved by the bell.
Sutherland ditched his laid-back demeanour as the final frame started, roaring across the cage and putting it on the still-dazed Bassett for a quick TKO stoppage. He may be in his 40s, but after continually proving that age is just a number, only a fool would write ‘Mad Max’ off against any middleweight in the UK.
The art of matchmaking
Ever heard the expression records are for DJs? It’s true. Many people raised their eyebrows when the 5-0 Nad Narimani was paired up with 29-fight veteran Graham Turner (both pictured). That’s where the true art of matchmaking comes in, and Cage Warriors’ Ian Dean painted a masterpiece.
Turner and Narimani were almost inseparable for the vast majority of their bout; a striking clinic if there ever was one. Even the judges were split, but in truth the loser was always going to feel hard done by, whoever it was, such was the quality of performance turned in by the pair.
Don’t touch that dial
So there it is, another Cage Warriors in the books. For a card that didn’t perhaps get the recognition it deserved in the run-up due to the monster on the horizon that is CWFC 57, number 56 certainly delivered the goods. Hungry fighters, great matchmaking and the desire to seize opportunities turned a sweltering London night into an evening of fight sports to remember. Now we set our sights on Liverpool, perhaps Cage Warriors’ biggest effort to date. Nothing needs to be said for the self-evident quality of the card. Turn up, or tune in…you will not be disappointed.
Photo: Dolly Clew | Cage Warriors
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