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Brad on the Blog: CWFC Fight Night 9 (Part One)

23/10/2013

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By BRAD WHARTON

When I was 13, I moved with my family to Holland. I was lucky enough to attend a private British school over there and about a month before I was due to start, we went on a tour of the place with the headmaster. As he was showing us around, he wowed me with tales of all the cool school trips I’d get to go on: Switzerland, Italy, France, Russia…not bad for a lad from Manchester who’d only been abroad twice before. It was two months in when I found out the destination of my first school trip – Poole, in Dorset, England. I’m pretty sure I swore a lot that day.

Fast forward about fifteen years; I’m on the phone with Cage Warriors’ CEO Graham Boylan and he’s offering me a job. I’d be joining the team for events in the UK, Europe and all over the Middle East. The prospect of soaking up some top-quality MMA and culture in all these weird and wonderful places was too good to turn down, and I was dusting off my passport before I’d even put the phone down.

“When do I start?” I asked, with a bottle of sun cream in my hand. “London”, came the reply. Funny how life works out sometimes.

To be fair, though, the London show was awesome. I knew my way around as I’d spent plenty of time in the city filming an MMA TV show that year, and I’ll never forget the experience of working my first CWFC show. But what happened next was truly special. So at 3am, with just an hour’s sleep, I boarded a four-hour coach to Heathrow for a flight to Jordan, for what would turn out to be a remarkable five days. This week, I get to do it all over again.

Jordan really is something else. The hotel we use is probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed and, in such beautiful surroundings, the sting of paying £25 for a burger and a beer is somewhat dulled. A short coach ride away is the King Hussein Youth City Boxing Arena, which firmly entrenched itself in my ‘top three places to watch MMA’ list, right behind the Rotterdam Ahoy and the MEN in Manchester. Imagine a mini-arena custom-built for fights, and you’re half-way there.

The Jordanian fans are equally special. I popped outside about 20 minutes before showtime for some fresh air, and was stunned to see about a thousand fans queued up around the block. When the doors opened, it was all but a stampede to get in. The venue was packed and the crowd were on fire from the first bout until the last.

I’m obviously very popular in Jordan, as people were grabbing me for photographs for a full 30 minutes after the event…although this could possibly have had something to do with the fact that I was walking around with a camera pointed at me, with a big, white CWFC microphone in my hand. Who knows? Joking aside, it was cool to walk through the City Mall with commentator Josh Palmer the next day, and have a bunch of kid stop us and ask about the show. And at the end of the day, the show is what it’s all about. Cage Warriors have played a blinder this year with some incredible events, and Friday’s looks set to continue that trend.

Top of the bill is a mouth-watering welterweight tilt, pitting former champion Gael Grimaud against perennial top contender Bruno Carvalho. The bout is a grappling fan’s dream; both men have forged a dangerous reputation on the mat. Both too have an underrated stand-up game, as well as an imposing physical presence. It’s easy to break out the ‘unstoppable force/immovable object’ cliché, but it’s difficult to pick out an area in which either Carvalho or Grimaud have a distinct advantage.

Our co-main event is another ‘pick-em’ fight, and poses some interesting questions. Will Che Mills be able to retain his speed and dexterity at middleweight? Will Faycal Hucin’s power and aggressiveness be enough to overcome his opponent’s technical edge? Where will the winner land in the middleweight title picture? For Mills, this is very much a crossroads fight. After losing in his CWFC debut earlier this year, the Trojan Free Fighters product has rolled the dice on a move up to middleweight. Another defeat would leave him in limbo, while a win throws him right back into the mix. For Hucin, it’s a chance to notch his third straight win in the division and make a second run at the gold after losing out in the semi-finals of last year’s middleweight tournament. 

Ronnie Mann looked ferocious in his last outing for Cage Warriors, demolishing Jose Luis Zapater in a shade over three minutes. Surging Russian prospect Marat Pekov poses a different set of problems though; the 25-year-old Combat Sambo prodigy has finished eight of his 10 defeated opponents - all by submission.

Jack Mason will look to get back on track against late replacement Vladimir Opanasenko. Disappointed at letting his July clash with Ali Arish slip away from him, a refocused Mason is looking to kick-start another run at the top of CWFC’s stacked - yet wide open - 170lbs division. Leg-lock specialist Opanasenko may be giving away a bit of size and weight to ‘The Stone’, but the Ukrainian-born fighter has a surprisingly effective submission game from the guard that will no doubt keep his English counterpart guessing.

If you’re after a reason to tune in - or rather log on - to the preliminary portion of the card, then look no further than the flyweight opener between the unpredictable Paul Marin and undefeated 22-year-old Shaj Haque, a suffocating wrestler with the ability to nullify many an opponent’s offensive capabilities. In Marin, however, he’ll be up against a master of throws, transitions and reversals, with a wicked right hand to boot. Keep an eye on this one for a real back-and-forth chess match, which has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it.

Elsewhere on the card, the always exciting Jean N’Doye faces Combat Dobro’s Sergei Grechka; Piotr Ptasinski returns to the site of his 2012 ‘Fight of the Year’ with Mohsen Bahari when he takes on Lee Caers; and Ryan Roddy returns from a long injury lay-off to tangle with Fernando Gonzalez. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Cage Warriors show in the Middle East without hulking violence machine Mohamed Ali. The hugely popular Egyptian takes on Frenchman Prince Aounallah, a one-hit KO specialist with a penchant for wild brawls.

CWFC Fight Night 9 marks the first of four events in Cage Warriors’ 2013 home stretch. Friday’s card is indicative of the fact that, rather than jogging home, we’ll be sprinting for the finish.

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