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Brad on the Blog: Cage Warriors 60 (Part Two)

08/10/2013

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By BRAD WHARTON

Last Saturday night’s Cage Warriors 60 marked the tenth CWFC show of 2013. We’ve crammed all that into roughly seven months too, and with four more shows in as many different countries on the calendar before 2013 is done with, it’ll be a while yet before we can catch our collective breath.

People often assume that the London shows are the easy ones compared to say, Chechnya or Jordan. In some cases that’s true; the CWFC office is just around the corner and our production crew know the venue like the back of their hands.

London presents its own challenges though. In Jordan, for example, everybody is at the hotel for the majority of fight week. Whether it’s arranging interviews for the broadcast, checking a fighter’s weight or simply making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time, everything becomes a little more ‘interesting’ when less than half of the card is at the hotel 24 hours before the event takes place.

If there’s one thing I always hear from staff, fighters or coaches at their first CWFC event though, it’s that we run a tight ship. Everyone knows what’s expected of them and the job always gets done, so whether 12 or 24 of the card’s fighters are at the hotel, the biggest disaster the team usually faces is delaying our post-weigh-in Nando’s while somebody cuts that final half a pound.

Last Saturday was no different; despite some complications on the scales, all 13 professional bouts were present and correct come 6:30pm on Saturday evening, and Cage Warriors once again delivered a rather spiffing evening of combat sports. The Forum was packed-out, a testament to the quality of a card that was going head-to-head with a London-based promotion just across town.

A big part of the attraction of CWFC 60 (for me, at least) was the lightweight tournament. I’d referred to one of the participants as ‘The Bookies’ Favourite’ in part one of this blog. In truth Saturday night must not have been the most comfortable for the bookmakers who’d taken bets on the night’s action, both in the tourney and elsewhere.

Mick Sinclair was an outsider, but you wouldn’t have known that from the noise his fantastic fans made as he entered the cage for his scrap with Ivan Buchinger. You’d have believed it even less as the fight went on; had anyone been offering ‘in-play’ action, methinks the lines would have altered dramatically after the first round.

Sinclair looked like he hadn’t lost a step, and to put it in its simplest terms, he beat Buchinger up for the majority of the bout. Smashing elbows in the clinch, big power punches and a couple of nice takedowns had the Brit cruising, but ‘Buki’ reminded everyone why he was the odds-on favourite with one of the slickest finishes in recent memory; a perfectly executed hip throw, followed by a scarf-hold armlock. Imagine pulling off an Americana using only your legs, and you’re halfway there. Unfortunately a rib injury would keep Buchinger out of the finals, and while I can’t read Ian Dean’s mind, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see the Slovakian challenging for the belt at some point in the future.

On the other side of the bracket, Stevie Ray was able to shut down a very game Jason Ball for two rounds. Ball made him work for it though, staying busy with submission attempts off his back, but Ray’s wrestling and top game would ultimately win the day.

Sean Carter never expected to be fighting for a world title on Saturday night, but the unpredictable nature of tournaments saw him doing just that. Earlier in the night he’d put in a workmanlike performance against his most experienced opponent to date, Richard Griffin, picking up the win with a trademark submission. The ground-game of Stevie Ray proved to be a little too much for the BKK prospect on the night though.

Despite Carter landing first, it was Ray who did the damage early with his brutal ground ‘n’ pound attack. One rear-naked choke later, and Ray was the new Cage Warriors lightweight world champion. It was a well-deserved win for a man who’d travelled halfway across the world and back to prepare for the contest, missing his daughter’s first birthday in the process. If traveling back to Scotland without that big gold belt was simply not an option for Ray, then it was most definitely a mission accomplished.

Also ruining the bookies’ day was Aaron Wilkinson, who survived an early onslaught to put fellow Ultimate Fighter veteran Bola Omoyele away early in the second round. After starting on the back foot, Wilkinson took over late in the first round with a wild right hand and a takedown. For a moment it seemed like Omoyele wouldn’t come out for the second stanza; once it got underway, ‘The Daywalker’ made him wish he hadn’t.

A barrage of punches left the Team Titan man on the mat, with Wilkinson blasting away for the stoppage. The SBG fighter spent most of Sunday responding to tweets thanking him for their winning bets, and no doubt contemplating where the win leaves him in Cage Warriors’ stacked welterweight division.

Also causing an upset on the main card was Kacper Karski, who flew in on the day of the weigh-ins to save Leeroy Barnes’ place on the card after a series of pull-outs. The Pole wasn’t there to make up the numbers though, and when Leeroy left his neck open on a takedown after a wild opening exchange, Karski showed his mastery of the front headlock position, locking up a Brabo choke, dragging his man down and flipping him over for the finish.

One of the night’s most memorable performances belonged to Muay Thai world champion Amanda Kelly. The MMA debutant showed exactly why her style is known as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’ as she punished Hannah Stephens for the duration of their bout. Elbows crashed into Stephens’ face from all angles, while piston-like knees to the body and head took a devastating toll. A particularly hellacious knee put Stephens out with less than four minutes gone, in what was perhaps one of the strongest debut performances I’ve witnessed in many years.

The remainder of the card was chock-a-block with surprises and heartache. Super prospect Paddy Pimblett was choked unconscious by Cameron Else in what many will regard as a huge upset. If the old adage that you learn more from a loss than you do from a win rings true though, I feel deeply sorry for Pimblett’s next opponent.

UK prospects Nad Narimani and Bryan Creighton picked up wins, while Arnold Allen maintained his perfect record against an opponent with over four times as much professional experience. While it’s far too soon to be talking about title shots for the trio, it gives you a great amount of faith in the future of their respective divisions.

And when it all comes down to it, that’s what I love so much about Cage Warriors cards; they’re as much about the first bout on the bill as they are the last. It’s a tired cliché that there are no easy fights here, but it’s true. It’s not just about fights that will be fun, it’s about fights that make sense in the grand scheme of things. It’s about keeping things interesting now, and building divisions for next year, and the year after that.

If you want to see ‘knock ahhhts’ there are other places you can go. If you want to see the highest level of European MMA, both present and future, we’ve got you covered. So while everybody else takes a couple of weeks off, the CWFC team is already back at it, putting the final pieces of the puzzle together for Fight Night 9 in Amman, Jordan. It all goes down in just over two weeks’ time…sorry about the long wait. 

Photo: Dolly Clew | Cage Warriors

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