Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 60 (Part One)
Cage Warriors tournaments are, it seems, like buses; you wait for ages for one, then two come along at once. Not even a calendar month removed from Cardiff’s epic 135lbs one-nighter, we’re back to slake your lust for tournament action as four lightweights - and, as Cardiff taught us, two alternates - vie for the right to be called the CWFC lightweight world champion.
If Cardiff’s field was wide open, then London’s is a pick ‘em. Jason Ball (20-12), Ivan Buchinger (23-4), Stevie Ray (12-4) and Mick Sinclair (12-3) all have a very real chance of walking out of London with a few pounds of shiny metal holding their trousers up. Let’s take a look at Cage Warriors 60’s unusual suspects…
The Comeback Kid: Mick Sinclair
For Burnley’s Mick Sinclair, Cage Warriors 60 sees a career that started back in 2006 come full circle. It was a very different CWFC back then, but nonetheless a 24-year-old Sinclair laced ‘em up an let ‘em go, stopping his opponent in the first round and earning the first of his 12 professional wins. Finishing was a habit that would stick with ‘The English Bull Terrier’, as he proved time and time again that his moniker was earned, not chosen.
That Sinclair is competing in the tournament at all will go down as a small victory for an industry that had seemingly lost him nearly two years ago. Back then, he was adamant that his time in the sport was up. The fun had been sucked out of fighting by outside pressures, and if it wasn’t fun, then what was the point?
Thankfully the itch has returned. Sinclair, married with a young family, is not here to fight for fame or notoriety, but because he loves it. It’s why he got into the sport in the first place, and what makes him so dangerous.
The Prospect: Stevie Ray
Just three years into his MMA career, Scotland’s Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray has been racking up the accolades. Once dubbed Scotland’s top welterweight, Ray dropped to 155lbs to win a British title and is currently ranked 13th in the division. For a 23-year-old, Ray has already tousled with some fearsome opposition; losses to the likes of Curt Warburton and Assan Njie are nothing to be ashamed of, and served as a valuable learning curve for the young Scot.
Speaking of learning, there are few places better to learn your trade in the MMA game than Montreal’s Tristar Gym. The facility has a reputation that precedes it, and rightly so. It has been in Montreal, far away from the distractions of home, that Ray has sharpened his mind and body ahead of Saturday’s tournament, alongside his preparation with Scotland’s Dinky Ninjas. The payoff? A spot in the UK’s top ten, and what he hopes will be the first of many big gold belts.
The Bookmakers’ Favourite: Ivan Buchinger
If you’re perusing the odds for tonight’s tournament, don’t be surprised to see Slovakia’s Ivan Buchinger as a slight favourite. The 27-year-old has ample big-fight experience, and has clocked up a jaw-dropping 23-4 record in a little over five years. Crucially, he’s a proven finisher, with only three of his wins being awarded by judges. If there is a cookie cutter template for success in tournaments it’s to get in, get the job done and get out as quickly as possible. ‘Buki’ has that down pat.
Odds aside, Buchinger is still perhaps the man with the most to prove. MMA is often a cruel mistress, and one man’s fortune can be the albatross around another’s neck. The clip of his KO loss to Conor McGregor became a YouTube sensation, and for many casual fans of the sport it was their first look at Buchinger. Tonight he’ll be fighting not only for the CWFC world title, but to prove that his career will not be defined by that one moment.
The Wildcard: Jason Ball
Jason Ball is that type of fighter that will beat you on his best day. On his worst day, he’ll make you fight tooth and nail for every precious second if you want to snatch a victory from him. The most experienced fighter in the bracket in terms of both his years in the game and the fights on his ledger, there’s little that will surprise Ball when the cage door locks.. And that’s not just some tired cliché; Ball has alredy gone three rounds with both Sinclair and Buchinger.
Some might see that fact as cause to lower Ball’s standing in the tournament pecking order (he came out on the wrong end of both decisions), the more cautious may surmise that his experience only makes him more dangerous should he make the final round; after all, the weight of expectation won’t be on his shoulders. Style is everything in the tournament format, and Ball’s mixture of high-percentage striking and suffocating grappling could well punch his ticket to championship gold.
But that’s not all…
Once again, with a bracket so colourful, it’s easy to overlook the rest of what has shaped up to be a very intriguing CWFC 60 card. The evening’s non-tournament main event is a good old-fashioned domestic welterweight clash (there’s been a few of them on CWFC over the years, don’t you know) between Aaron Wilkinson and Bola Omoyele.
Omoyele exploded onto the Cage Warriors scene after a stint on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes. His debut was ferocious and unforgettable, and showed a much more aggressive, advanced and improved Bola than the one who stepped on to that plane to Australia last year. Omoyele will be looking to keep that momentum going as he climbs the ladder towards the CWFC 170lbs title.
Vying for the same rung is Irlam’s Aaron Wilkinson. A fellow TUF veteran, Wilkinson has gone 4-2 since his time on the show, including a split pair of bouts on Cage Warriors. What Bola has in sheer athleticism and aggressiveness, Wilkinson will balance with technique and experience. Again, like the vast majority of Cage Warriors fights, it’s very, very difficult to separate the pair. I’ll leave that to the men themselves.
Elsewhere on the bill from London’s Kentish Town Forum, Leeroy Barnes sneaks onto the card at the eleventh hour against Polish prospect Kacper Karski. Leeroy has made no secret of the fact that he was unhappy with the outcome of his CWFC 57 bout against Norman Paraisy in July, and has vowed to give Karski (and the judges) an early night.
Also tonight, Muay Thai world champion Amanda Kelly makes her pro MMA debut against Hannah Stephens, while unbeaten prospects Arnold Allen and Athinodoros Michailidis put their records on the line against Declan Williams and Nad Narimani respectively. Flyweight veteran Spencer Hewitt takes on up-and-comer Bryan Creighton in the evening’s other televised main-card bout, while those of you lucky enough to have a ticket will see the likes of Paddy Pimblett, Sean Carter and Kris Edwards in preliminary action.
There are other places to go, people to see and things to do on Saturday night. But all the cool kids will be right here at Cage Warriors 60, and you’d be rather silly not to join them.
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