Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 58 (Part One)
By BRAD WHARTON
With the last lingering buzz of Cage Warriors’ unforgettable arena show in Liverpool still fresh in our minds, the CWFC team are mounting our final preparations for a very different animal of an event.
This week we’ve headed to Grozny, Chechnya, and, with the support of President Ramzan Kadyrov, we’re all set for Cage Warriors Fighting Championship’s first show in the Russian republic.
In MMA terms, Chechnya has gradually increased its presence on the international radar over the past few years. Mahmed Khalidov, although currently a citizen of Poland, first put the republic on the map with his exploits in Japan and beyond. More recently, Adlan Amagov has compiled a 4-1 record in Strikeforce and the UFC.
Elsewhere in the region, the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Aslambek Saidov, Adam Khaliev and Beslan Isaev are making national heroes of themselves, plying their national trades of wrestling, sambo, boxing and karate. In Both Chechnya and Dagestan (where CWFC will visit later in the year) MMA is on the up.
The republic is occasionally referred to by locals as Ichkeria; The Land of Minerals. This evening, we’ll see which of the region’s combatants has the minerals to take the fight to some of Cage Warriors’ finest. Growing up in this part of the world breeds, and requires, a certain kind of toughness. In recognition of this, CWFC has assembled a cast of characters fitting the bill, all more than ready to step into enemy territory and test the locals’ mettle.
James Brum must be feeling that it’s his time to shine. To say that he’s one of the hardest-working men in UK MMA wouldn’t nearly be doing the Gym 01 fighter justice. Currently on a six-fight winning-streak, with five of those in Cage Warriors, Brum has faced a murderer’s row of opponents in the past two years. Almost everyone ends up with a pudding or two on their ledger, but the man known as ‘Job Done’ has been earning his nickname against some of the most awkward and unforgiving opponents in Europe.
This next test will be no different. Ukrainian Ruslan ‘The Predator’ Abiltarov is an MMA prodigy. With a strong grappling base, the 21-year-old has racked up 10 wins in 13 professional outings. Incredibly, he’ll be getting his ninth run out of the year against Brum. Abiltarov is 6-2 so far in 2013, including a one-night tournament run that saw him put away three men in just three minutes and thirty-three seconds.
Brum’s mix of physical tools and one of the more rounded skill-sets in the division presents all kinds of problems to his opponents, and if there is one thing ‘The Predator’ is lacking, it’s the big-game experience of the Portsmouth fighter. Can Abiltarov shock the world, or will Brum add yet another scalp to his growing collection of European trophies?
Speaking of trophies, Pavel Kusch collects limbs like kids collect football stickers. Every single one of his 14 victories has come by way of submission, including two unique finishes in Cage Warriors last year that landed him in the final of the CWFC middleweight title tournament, at the expense of less than a minute’s work.
Things did not go to plan for the stoic Ukrainian though; he admitted after his three-round drubbing at the hands of Chris Fields that he’d massively underestimated his competition and, following another loss outside the promotion, it’s a mistake he simply cannot afford to make again.
Hoping to punch Kusch’s ticket home (quite literally) is affable Englishman Chris Scott. A prospect on the UK scene, Scott stepped up to the plate against one of European MMA’s best pure grapplers, Mats Nilsson, at CWFC 53 last April. He may have come up short on the night, but Scott went all three rounds and had success late in the fight with some sharp boxing combinations.
Not only will his performance against Nilsson have given him confidence in his ability to hang with high-level Europeans, Scott’s ability to hit hard, fast and with accuracy late in a fight makes him a nightmare opponent for Kusch. The Ukrainian’s vulnerabilities are tailor-made for his British counterpart to exploit, but Scott must not make Kusch’s past mistake of complacency.
Meanwhile, Grozny native Beslan Isaev (mentioned in the opening of this blog as one of the region’s foremost MMA exponents) will feature in this evening’s headliner. Outside of Khalidov and those contracted to US organisations, Isaev is considered to be the region’s best hope of international MMA superstardom and it’s not hard to see why.
A finishing machine, Isaev has submitted 11 and (T)KO’d 10 of his 23 wins. Already a bona fide Eastern-European hero following his regular appearances on the Pro FC circuit, Isaev will seek international recognition against Hungarian submission wizard Viktor Halmi.
Of all the mantles to have to live up to, ‘The Next Fedor’ is possibly the most intimidating. Ion Cutelaba will be hoping that comparison is more a blessing than a curse when he faces rising Polish all-rounder Michal Andryszak. Moldova’s Cutelaba, at 230lbs and just 19-years-old, certainly possesses a wealth of Fedor-like traits. Arching overhand punches, terrifying ground and pound and an other-worldly speed and power for a man of his physique, he’ll face his toughest test yet in Andryszak, a man with over three times his cage experience.
Matt Inman and Mohsen Bahari are both making a quick turnaround, having competed against each other at Cage Warriors 57 last month. They say that anything can happen in this crazy sport; still, few expected the bout between fearsome brawler Bahari and technical kickboxer Inman to end in a 44-second submission.
Coming out on the wrong end of said submission, Bahari was adamant on getting back in the cage at the first opportunity. I’d asked him how his knee was following the painful heel-hook, and was told in no uncertain terms that only his pride was hurt, and he wanted to put things right in short order. He’ll get the chance against Combat Dobro’s Alexander Voitenko, who returns to CWFC for the second time after big win over Dan Hope last year.
Matt Inman faces Dagestani submission specialist Bagautdin Sharaputdinov. After falling short in his first CWFC outing against Jack Mason, Inman will be looking for his third successive win, and perhaps to display yet another facet of his ever-expanding toolkit.
A torrid cut to bantamweight caused Alex Enlund to rethink and refocus his sights on the 145lbs division. He’ll make his return to featherweight against Poland’s Sebastian Romanowski, a hard-hitting all-rounder on a five-fight winning-streak. Speaking of moves back to featherweight, Liam James has looked reinvigorated since his. Now training at Ireland’s Straight Blast Gym, James’ belly is full of fire as he mounts an assault on the 145lbs division. He’s set his sights on another couple of wins this year, but first he’ll need to navigate the challenge of grinding Azerbaijani Akhad Mammadov.
Chechnya is a place crying out for positive global recognition. Combat sports are in the blood of the people that call this part of the world home. At Cage Warriors 58, they’ll get the chance to see where they stand on the biggest stage they’ve ever had.
The world will be watching.
Photo: Dolly Clew | Cage Warriors
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