Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 57 (Part One)
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it” - Moliere
By BRAD WHARTON
On 31 March, 2013, some interesting news filtered through the blogosphere: Cage Warriors had answered the prayers of Liverpudlian MMA fans. Ever since the UFC returned to these shores in 2007, residents of ‘The Pool’ have been crying out for a big fight card. They’ll have one this weekend in the shape of Cage Warriors 57.
It was clear from the outset that this couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be just another card, even by Cage Warriors’ high standards. Liverpool is a city with a rich history of trend-setting. It is England’s most successful city in footballing terms, and holds the record for being home to the most artists to score number one singles in the UK. This one had to be special.
The anticipation for the region’s first arena MMA show is such that it presented a significant obstacle for the promotion; get it wrong on such a grand stage, in front of such passionate fans, and you’ll never live it down. But as Moliere inferred in the above soundbite, to pull it off would be glorious. And by Jove, I think they’ve done it.
Paul Daley’s return to Cage Warriors may be fleeting, but that doesn’t dampen its significance. ‘Semtex’ cut his teeth on the CWFC of old, and it was one of his final stops before heading stateside in 2008. Now, with a return to Bellator imminent, Daley will once again make a flying visit to the promotion where he started to build his reputation as one of the sport’s most fearsome strikers.
Don’t write off Poland’s Lukasz Chlewicki as a parting gift for Daley though. It’s an oft-heard refrain that there are no easy fights on Cage Warriors, and the 34-year-old Krakow native is no exception. A powerhouse welterweight, Chlewicki has tasted defeat only twice. One of those was a submission loss to Demian Maia; hardly the most embarrassing blot to have on your copy book.
While some shows may have been content to hand UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Daley a walking punchbag, Cage Warriors matchmaker Ian Dean put it best: “I had to find an opponent that I felt good about putting in there with him”.
Still, public opinion drastically favours Nottingham’s Daley. In a way, that’s what makes this such a huge fight for ‘Semtex’; it’s an old cliché, but there’s no opponent more dangerous than the one with nothing to lose. Thankfully for all involved, Daley has never taken a fight lightly, even when he’s been heavily tipped to have his hand raised. All the components are there for a spectacular main event.
Another international-level fighter returning to these shores on Saturday is Ronnie Mann. A 10-year veteran with 28-fights to his name, Mann is no stranger to the spotlight. After earning his reputation on the UK circuit, Mann packed his bags in search of pastures new. A brief stop-off in Japan followed, before Mann ended up in Bellator, splitting six contests during his stay.
With fight opportunities not exactly flowing like water in Bellator, Cage Warriors stepped in to buy out Mann’s contract and allow him to return to his old stomping ground. The Thai-born, Cheltenham-raised scrapper now begins his phase two: an all-out assault on the Cage Warriors bantamweight division.
Thirty-six-year-old Catalonian Jose Luis ‘Titin’ Zapater has the unenviable task of welcoming Mann back to the UK. A 28-fight veteran himself, Zapater has the tools to test Mann in all areas. While many will see the bout as Mann’s homecoming, if ‘Titin’ were to upset the applecart it would truly turn heads on the European stage.
Jack Mason has been on a tear – I’ve written that line about the BKK Fighters product before and I’ll no doubt do it again, as he streaks towards title contention. Originally set for what would have been the most high-profile clash of his career against Bruno Carvalho, ‘The Stone’ now faces a very different, yet equally dangerous foe in Ali Arish.
Arish is arguably the best pure wrestler in UK MMA today. That’s not to say that he’s a one-trick pony, but if he were it wouldn’t matter; his ‘one trick’ is just about as good as they come. If there’s anything Arish’s 19-2 record lacks, it’s big shows, and big names. On Saturday night, when he faces down Jack Mason in the Echo Arena, he’ll have the opportunity to put that right.
Cage Warriors couldn’t hold a card in Liverpool without some local talent, and CWFC 57 does not disappoint. Danny Roberts has transcended the ‘prospect’ tag to become a legitimate welterweight threat. While few would have blamed ‘Hot Chocolate’ for walking away from the card after a series of late pull-outs, Roberts has shown his dedication, taking a last-minute 180lb catchweight tilt against the hard-hitting Henry Fadipe.
Coming up right behind Roberts is the undefeated UKMMA prospect of the moment, Chris Fishgold. Follow Fishgold on social media and it won’t be long before you come across the hashtag #NeverLostARound. It’s true, and the 20-year-old will be looking to use it long after Saturday’s featherweight tussle with fellow up-and-comer Marcin Wrzosek.
Another fighter competing relatively close to home is Leeroy Barnes, although – truth be told – the enigmatic Blackpool-based brawler is well-supported wherever he goes. Returning to the CWFC fold for the first time since his professional debut, Leeroy is adamant that his time to shine is now, and he’s been vocal – as usual – in his dissatisfaction with those who have suggested that Frenchman Norman Paraisy is too much for him to handle.
In the pick of the Facebook prelims, Matt Inman tangles with the returning Mohsen Bahari. Bahari’s heavy hands and rock-em-sock-em style is a contrast to the clinical Muay Thai game of Inman, who is renowned for working his opponents from head-to-toe with speed and precision. If you’re looking for a ‘Fight of the Night’ contender, this could well be it.
Also on Facebook, Liverpool’s Steve Dinsdale looks to bounce back from a tough last-minute bout with Bruno Carvalho as he takes on Dan Rushworth, while Jason Cooledge steps up on just a few days’ notice to challenge Manchester’s Saul ‘Tha Hangman’ Rogers.
Rounding out the card, Scottish pair Dean Reilly and Mark Connor take on local lads Mick Kay and Bryan Creighton respectively, while Trojan Free Fighters’ Leon Pierre tussles with another Scouser in Mick Gerrard in unaired prelims. If you’re still looking for a reason to buy a ticket, hotly-touted amateur prospect Callum Gaghan faces Jordan (younger brother of CWFC’s Aaron) Wilkinson, while the undefeated Andy Clamp clashes with the monstrous Luke ‘The Animal’ Taylor as part of our four-fight amateur appetiser.
The hype surrounding the card harks back to classic Cage Warriors events of old, when domestic tussles like Hardy versus Thorpe were the talk of the town. Add in a sprinkling of well-loved UKMMA faces like Daley and Mann, a dash of up-and-coming domestic talent, a twist of CWFC’s modern-day international flavour and cook for three five-minute rounds.
It’s taken a titanic effort and there have been plenty of obstacles to overcome, but all the ingredients are there for a glorious night of mixed martial arts this Saturday.
Roll up, roll up…this is the big one.
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