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Results: Cage Warriors 73


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Part One

It was a tale of three fights for Alex Enlund and Nad Narimani, and it all came down to who won the first one.

Enlund took the second and third rounds before a Narimani rally in the fourth and fifth, meaning their featherweight title fight came down to the first round – and all three judges saw it for Enlund, who won the belt in a close unanimous decision in the Cage Warriors 73 main event on the first of two main cards.

Enlund wanted to shoot a little more than a minute into the fight, but Narimani easily defended it and continued to try to push Enlund back with his jab. Midway through the round, Enlund again wanted the fight on the floor, and again Narimani defended and made him pay with a punch. But on his third try he found a little more success. After a tie up, Enlund briefly had the fight on the canvas – but Narimani worked his way up without much trouble.

Narimani looked to get his striking going in the second, but it was Enlund who found himself working on the ground as Enlund took his back and looked for a finish. But Narimani learned at that point that he could play in that world with his opponent without too much fear.

In the third, Narimani stayed careful, but got the better of most of the striking exchanges in the first half of the frame. In the latter two minutes, Enlund got off some good punches and landed solid kicks on top of them. Enlund threatened late in the round with a takedown, and then he took Narimani’s back and looked for a rear-naked choke. He got a body triangle and landed big elbows and punches, but Narimani survived the round – saved by the bell.

Narimani landed fairly consistently in the fourth round and avoided many of Enlund’s counter strikes. And while he may have sealed up the round against a visibly slowing Enlund, the question became whether or not Narimani had won one of the first three rounds to keep him from fighting from behind.

Narimani kept the fight on the feet early in the fifth, knowing an Enlund takedown would surely steer the fight away from his favor. Midway through, a big right hand landed for Narimani, and then a three-punch combination after that as Enlund dropped his hands. Narimani tried to unload in the last 30 seconds, but he couldn’t get the finish as an exhausted Enlund flopped to guard to kill time.

When the cards were read, it was Enlund with a 48-47 win on all three, making him the promotion’s new featherweight champion. Enlund (11-2) won for the fourth straight time, and had to go past the first round for just the second time in his career. He went to a decision for the first time, improving to 5-1 under the Cage Warriors banner. Narimani (7-2) had a two-fight winning streak snapped.

Ronnie Mann seemed frequently frustrated in his fight against Frenchman Moktar Benkaci, but in the end his patience paid off. Mann (24-7-1) took a unanimous decision from Benkaci (11-5). It took 12 minutes for Mann to go for a takedown, but Benkaci kept things on the feet. Mann’s win came courtesy of staying busy and having a slightly higher work rate than his opponent, who didn’t seem to open up until there were two minutes left in the fight. Benkaci landed a few solid punches in the late exchange, but it was too little, too late. After the fight, Mann grimaced as he flexed his right hand – perhaps an indication he had broken it during the fight.

Kyle Redfearn‘s Cage Warriors debut couldn’t have gone much better. Redfearn (7-5) made quick work of Leeroy Barnes (12-15), handing his fellow Englishman his fifth straight loss – and fourth straight first-round stoppage setback. Redfearn landed a big right hand early and stunned Barnes, but Barnes worked through it and answered back with some brawling leather-slinging of his own. A straight jab wobbled Barnes again moments later, and he followed it with a knee to the body. A few more right hands landed for Redfearn, who pushed Barnes to the cage and landed more knees. After considerable punishment that seemed to be just delaying the inevitable, Redfearn landed a final right hand that forced referee Marc Goddard to intervene at the 2:12 mark of the fight.

In his seventh Cage Warriors bout, Liam James (9-6) put in 15 minutes of work to grind out a sweep of Dean Trueman (4-3) on the judges’ scorecards. Trueman pushed James to the cage early, but James turned things around and eventually took Trueman’s back. But Trueman worked away from it. But after a restart, James found himself in trouble from a Trueman choke, then an armbar attempt. Trueman took James’ back and locked up a body triangle and stayed stuck on James late. In the second, James made things a little more difficult on Trueman, grinding him down on the canvas. The same held true in the final round, with James making it hard for Trueman to get anything done – while getting a few warnings from referee Rich Mitchell to get busier.

The crowd deserved a pick-me-up after a plodding opening fight, and Lewis Monarch (4-0) and Ellis Hampson (3-3) obliged. Monarch seemed to control the early range as both fighters swung away. Hampson landed a spinning kick to the midsection two minutes in, but it was Monarch who continued to lead the charge. With 75 seconds left in the round, Monarch landed in bunches and forced Hampson to bully him down to the canvas. He may have been better off on the feet. Monarch quickly locked up a triangle choke and Hampson was forced to tap with 48 seconds left in the round.

In an odd start, Ian Malone (4-2) won his Cage Warriors debut with a split decision victory over Mark Connor (8-11-1). There was little action throughout the fight. The first round featured a few kicks from both fighters and a Malone takedown attempt that turned into a sweep for Connor. In the second, Connor dragged the fight to the ground, but Malone reversed to get on top. But in the third, Malone did his best work of the fight early – then spent the last minute running from Connor, who tried to stalk him down to land punches. The judges gave Malone the nod on two cards with a pair of 29-28’s as Connor stood by in disbelief.

Part Two

After splitting a pair of decisions against the man who has become his MMA nemesis, Stevie Ray wanted to put an exclamation point on a fight with Curt Warburton for once. With a second-round rear-naked choke finish, he did just that. Ray defended his lightweight title with the tapout win in the main event of Cage Warriors 73’s second main card.

Warburton clinched up right away in the first and looked to land elbows on the fence before going after a takedown. Ray tried to turn him around, but they stalemated in the tie-up. After 90 seconds there, they were put back in the middle, and Ray looked to land kicks to the body while Warburton went with kicks to the legs. Midway through, Ray changed things up and landed a smooth takedown and jumped to side control. They both attacked with heel hooks at the same time. They traded elbows and punches on the ground to wind the clock down on the frame.

After some early feeling-out in the second, a huge left hand put Warburton on the canvas, and Ray dove in to look for the finish. While Ray landed punches, Warburton went for a desperation leg lock. But quickly, Ray had him mounted. Then he took the back and looked for a rear-naked choke. He got it, and Warburton defended it for as long as he could. But that wasn’t that long; he soon had to tap.

The end came at the 2:00 mark of the second round. The win gave Ray the 2-1 edge in their trilogy. He lost to Warburton by unanimous decision in March 2013. They met again in June, with Ray taking the vacant belt at Cage Warriors 69 by split call. With the win, Ray (16-5) now has two in a row and four wins in his past five fights. Warburton (13-6) now has back-to-back losses to Ray and setbacks in three of his past four.

It wasn’t judo that did the trick for “Judo” Jim Wallhead (26-9). It was good old-fashioned boxing. Wallhead drilled Juan Manuel Suarez (15-7) a little more than 90 seconds into their fight. When he saw the Spaniard drop to the canvas, he immediately jumped in and landed several punches on the ground to get the stoppage. The knockout win came at the 1:49 mark of the first round. That got the Bellator veteran, whose resume includes wins over UFC vets Che Mills, Frank Trigg, and Matt Veach, back on track after a May loss.

It was a back-and-forth fight, but not one that featured major momentum shifts. But in the end, Shaj Haque (6-1) spoiled Damien Rooney‘s (10-4-1) drop to flyweight. Haque got off the crisper strikes just a little more often than the taller Rooney and worked his way to a unanimous decision win, taking all three rounds from all three judges for a trio of 30-27 scores. Rooney had his moments in the fight, but Haque was able to have just a few more of them in each round, and it was Rooney who looked more visibly marked up by the time things were done.

Once Lewis Long (9-3) got his fight with Matt Inman (13-7) to the ground, it was game over. After some feeling out and mutual swinging, Long tied Inman up and slammed him to the canvas. Inman looked to tie up a leg, but Long threw bombs to defend. Inman tried to work his way back to his feet, but Long continued to throw heavy hands. Then he took Inman’s back with 75 seconds left and threatened with a neck crank. With a body triangle on, Long searched for a choke and got it. Inman grimaced and wanted to push through, but had no choice but to tap.

Marcin Lasota (8-1) went to work in a big way on Brett Caswell‘s (6-1) leg in the third round, but that was five minutes too late. Caswell dropped the third round, which was spent fighting off various leg submissions, but his work in the first two frames was enough to get him a unanimous decision and hand Lasota his first career loss. Caswell controlled things in the first two rounds until Lasota threatened with a guillotine choke in the second round, but Caswell fought it off and worked his way back to his feet. Once there, he was able to set the pace, and those first two round wins wound up giving him the fight.

Paddy Pimblett (7-1) got clipped early by Stephen Martin (3-3). But for Pimblett, it wasn’t how he started, but how he finished. Pimblett ate a massive left hook from Martin in the first 20 seconds of the fight, and he hit the canvas. But somehow, Pimblett recovered and held on to Martin’s legs looking to regain his senses. The two were split up with less than two minutes left after a long stalemate, and that was great for Martin – who again landed a big left. But at the very end of the first round, Pimblett landed an absolutely brutal right elbow and sliced open Martin’s forehead in a big way above the left eye. In between rounds, the doctor decided the cut was too big for Martin to continue.

Cage Warriors 73 results:

Stevie Ray def. Curt Warburton via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:00 – to defend lightweight title
Jim Wallhead def. Juan Manuel Suarez via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:49
Shaj Haque def. Damien Rooney via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Lewis Long def. Matt Inman via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:16
Brett Caswell def. Marcin Lasota via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Paddy Pimblett def. Stephen Martin via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 1, 5:00
Danny Suter def. Michael Abbott via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 3:09
Irene Cabello def. Vanessa Reinsch via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 0:53
Alex Enlund def. Nad Narimani via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) – to win vacant featherweight title
Ronnie Mann def. Moktar Benkaci via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kyle Redfearn def. Leeroy Barnes via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:12
Liam James def. Dean Trueman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Lewis Monarch def. Ellis Hampson via submission (triangle choke) – Round 1, 4:12
Ian Malone def. Mark Connor via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Photo: Stevie Ray and Alex Enlund (Dolly Clew | Cage Warriors)

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