Cage Warriors 92 #SuperSaturday: The Review

Cage Warriors brought a sold out show to the London Indigo 02 Arena, with Cage Warriors 92: #SuperSaturday. A blockbuster event with two main cards, three title fights and a host of interesting match-ups. The last #SuperSaturday card was put together back in 2014 held in Kentish Town, London. Notable names including Stevie Ray, Jack Hermansson, Jack Marshman, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rosi Sexton, Arnold Allen and Darren Stewart, names that have not only progressed onto the UFC and other promotions, but have also helped take the Cage Warriors brand into the 02 Arena, into the mainstream and showed the admirable grass roots approach that makes Cage Warriors such an important staple of UK and European MMA.

The card itself was great, with 13 fights, 8 finishes, 4 decisions – 2 of which were absolute wars. Cage Warriors lived up to their promise of delivering a stacked card, it was a hallmark showing of where UK MMA is right now, and again showing Cage Warriors as a top tier, regional promotion. As a sidenote, I really enjoy how open they are about building fighters, and having them then move on “to bigger and better things” as CEO Graham Boylan mentioned a few times in regards to Mauro Cerilli and Nathaniel Wood.

As a fan, and frequenting Cage Warriors shows often in London and Liverpool, I think it pertinent to mention some of the finer points of the live shows. For instance, the pacing. The pacing of the show is excellent, whilst they do often have an interval between prelim and main cards, whilst fights are rolling they really do roll and its a nice switch-up from UFC event pacing. They have two of the best referee’s managing the card, two excellent commentators and bringing in Dan Hardy for analysis and exposure is genius. They put on meet and greets with various fighters and guest DJ’s during intervals, which certainly helps pass the time. If I had a chance to change anything I would tighten up the transitions between filler music and hearing the fighter introductions/interviews post fight and the analysis with Dan Hardy, but this is only a fault with the live product which may not even be noticed by many fans.

Onto the fights!

Main card 2:

Nathaniel Wood vs Luca Iovine (Bantamweight Title)

The reigning and defending Cage Warriors Bantamweight Champion was looking to make this the second successful defence of his title, and to improve his current win streak to 5-0 when he took on Italian prospect Luca Iovine, who was riding a 8 win streak himself. Local fan favourite and long time Team Titan member Wood, had his last outing with Welsh fighter Josh Reed placed in Fight Of The Year contender conversations, and many expected this to be just as explosive.

It was always clear who was going to be the home favourite was, but when Wood walked out, and the crowd exploded you saw his star quality, he seemed at ease with the occasion and the fanfar and after receiving his traditional pre-fight slap from coach Brad Pickett he entered the cage to meet Luca, both men looking ready and focused.

The fight began with Wood landing a couple of hard low calf kicks which seemed to affect Luca immediately, as he seemed unable to check them and looked uneasy on his lead leg after that. Possibly looking to get revenge for the damage, in almost the first meaningful in the pocket exchange between the pair Wood threw a 4 punch combination, the last of which being a left hook off a head roll, which connected absolutely perfectly on the chin of Iovine and sent him crashing unconscious to the canvas floor, met by jubilation from both Wood and the crowd.

Whilst the fight didnt last longer than 50 second, the two big takeaways from the fight were the genuine star quality that you felt from the walkout, from the crowd reception and from the way Wood operated in the cage. Not many fighters are so confident in their combination fighting, but Wood certainly is and its paying off.

A sidenote, at the side of the stage I caught a glimpse of teammate and newly crowned Flyweight champion Nathan Greyson jumping for joy on his own as Wood was handed back the belt, this was lovely to see.

Craig White vs. Alex Montagnani (Welterweight)

This co-main event saw a welterweight bout bringing together a well versed grappler with an experienced stand up fighter. Many fans, along with White himself, campaigned to have this fight for the vacant Welterweight title, which was vacated after Karl Amoussou left CW following a split decision to Dominique Steele (Steele not eligible to win the belt due to missing weight).

It would have been justified too, given the fighters current records: Craig white (13-7) running a 3 fight winning streak, Montagnani (10-2) running a 4 fight win streak, whilst it didnt end up being contested the belt due to contract issues, the fight still went ahead and it was a good one.

Round 1 began with Craig White showing his game plan early and intelligence to stick to it, by choosing not to stand with striker, Montagnani. Forcing him into wrestling exchanges against the fence, working his take downs and his active closed guard, threatening twice with triangles that whilst Montagnani worked out of, ate plenty of elbows in the triangles for his trouble.

The second round looked much the same. Starting with Alex landing in the standup exchanges, catching White with some clean shots, and seemingly hurting his opponent to which White quickly responded by pulling guard and wrapping up a tight triangle. This time there was to be no escape for Montagnani who was forced to tap.

Craig White calls again for the title shot in his post fight interview, laying out his claim well. He will be pleased that such a claim was cemented when CEO Graham Boylan agreed in an interview later on. His opponent has yet to be named but I am glad to see White getting the shot.

Jack Shore vs Vaughan Lee (Bantamweight)

This was as described in the build up, a rising star in Jack Shore, undefeated, and  looking to follow fellow Welshmen Brett Johns and Jack Marshman into the UFC fighting an 8-fight UFC veteran in Vaughan Lee, Lee riding a 4 fight losing streak, has dropped recent fights to names like Paddy Holohan, Iuri Alcantara and Nathaniel Wood – whilst no shame in dropping bouts to those gentleman, he went into this fight needing the W to turn his career back onto the right track.

Both fighters came out and gave a good account of themselves, it was a close fight overall. In the initial standing exchanges Vaughan Lee looked good. Jack Shore quickly looked to implement his wrestling, working well up against the cage and landing some wonderful foot stomps to accompany his dirty boxing, scoring a couple of takedowns and landing some good follow up shots on the ground, round one was a close affair, but due to the takedowns, and the work on the ground I scored it for Shore.

Round two brought a largely standing affair, Lee growing again into the stand up exchanges, at one point threatening with a jumping RNC, but Shore defended well and quickly scored the take down and landed some excellent elbows whilst in the guard of Lee. I think that was a good round for Shores career, he was shown that down at Bantamweight the striking exchanges are much different to that at Featherweight. I scored this round to Lee, making it 19-19.

Round three, Shore kicked on. Probably noticing that round 2 was a closer affair due to the large portions of standup and wanted to make a statement in this round. He did just that for me, taking two minutes into the third, he scored another takedown and spent a good amount of time controlling Lee and landing more elbows, more ground and pound and more significant strikes. Lee did manage to work his way back to his feet briefly before being taken down once again. Shore ended that round with three takedowns, and the round.

Shore came out with a 29-28, 29-28 and a 30-27 scorecard, I dont agree with the 30-27, but the right result was given on the night. A great fight and a well measured performance by Jack Shore, progressing to 8-0. Vaughan Lee did not look like a fighter now riding a 5 fight losing streak and I do expect to see him back in the cage, preferably in Cage Warriors.

In the post-fight analysis, Dan Hardy mentioned he would like to see Tom Duquesnoy vs Jack Shore in the UFC, I am very much interested in this bout.

Corrin Eaton vs. Dean Trueman (Featherweight)

This could very well be a Fight Of The Year contender. The pre-fight promotion showed a veteran in Dean Trueman, fearless and by his own account, ready to put a beating on his opponent. That opponent, a highly touted up and comer in Corrin Eaton was promising controlled aggression and a finish.

Round 1 begin with a measured start. I got the feeling that when the cage door closed, both of these fighters were well aware of what was about the happen, and the feeling out process was an abundance of nervous energy. Eaton shot in and scored early with a TD, Trueman lands in guard and immediately begins to threaten an omoplata, which Eaton defends, only for Trueman to immediately wrap a tight triangle, landing heavy elbows and causing a cut to open in the crown of Eaton. In his escape attempt, Eaton gave the arm, which Trueman nearly snaps in the process of his escape. In fight I thought the arm had broken given the angle it moved too, the replays showed it must have been close to breaking. Not only did Eaton continue with whatever injury he picked up with the arm, but somehow escapes the triangle. They scramble and Eaton takes the back for a short time, before they eventually return to the feet. He then gets a body lock takedown and moves into half guard landing ground and pound late in the round. Eaton was landing some lovely knees to the ribs and the body whilst on top. All in all a crazy, crazy round. I had it 10-9 Trueman for the submission attempts, the elbows during the triangle attempt, and cumulative damage.

Round 2 saw both fighters pick up where they left off at the bell. Equally as frantic and equally as fantastic a round. Alot of this round was contested with work on the ground, most controlled by Trueman, punishing Eaton with some nasty ground and pound, you could feel the angst and almost the anger in the angles and blows in his shot selection. He chose to go for some lovely knees to the body in the same fashion Eaton did in R1. The highlight of the round for me: in an attempted transition to the back from Trueman, Eaton shot for a rolling knee bar, not something you see often in MMA and almost outlandish given the heat of battle, the damage Eaton had sustained, but to have the sense of thought and creativity to go for it was incredible, a scramble was his reward.  The close of the round was met by blood pouring from Eaton thanks to the sustained blows in R2, and the elbows from R1. Again, I gave this round to Trueman. 20-18

Round 3. Both men deservedly battleworn, but the grit and determination to not show a spec of it to each other was the tale of this round. Maybe in attempt to show his creativity after the audacious knee bar attempt in the previous round, Trueman throws and misses a round kick, immediately spinning and connects with a hook kick, landing flush on the head of Eaton. The fight from this point is absolutely mental. A guillotine attempt from Eaton proves unsuccessful but as Trueman escapes his head to the side, Eaton takes the opportunity to land bountiful hard back elbows. Trueman comes on top and punishes the  submission attempt with more ground and pound, the most notable strikes being elbows to further open the cut. The end of the round, and fight came from both fighters working from half guard (Trueman trapping the arm under the knee from the top very well) and back to the foot. More takedowns to scrambles followed. The clapper sounds, both men exhausted, standing, watching each other, seemingly telepathically agree to stand in the middle throw the last of their exhausted punches in each others direction.

After that contest, when the fighters embraced, there was almost a collective sigh. Everyone was in a state of exhaustion, respect and awe for the spectacle that we had just witnessed. Both men put absolutely everything they had into that 15 minutes and showed everything that is wonderful about MMA, heart, skill, will and a passion and belief in themselves that rises above almost all other things in sports. I cannot explain the respect that I have for both men.

Cameron Else vs Thomas Terdjman (Featherweight)

This fight was originally scheduled for earlier in the night, but ring master Andy Friedlander announced that this would be a “bonus fight” during the interval. Strange to title it a bonus fight, given that it was scheduled already but it was a great fight nonetheless.

Cameron Else was returning to Cage Warriors after appearances in UCMMA and BAMMA. Holding wins over the likes of Paddy Pimblett and Dylan Tuke, his record doesnt really speak to his ability (5-4). His opponent in Thomas Terdjman, recently turning pro with a record of 1-1 was coming in looking to build his winning record.

This was another crazy fight from the first bell, neither man wasting any time in exchanging hard blows early. We saw both men rocked within the first two minutes, Cameron rocked first, having seemed to signal that he had been struck by a low kick, the referee didn’t agree and the fight continued, Terdjman coming in and landing hard, dropping the England representative. Cameron did very well to survive and referee Marc Goddard was right on top of the action, giving Else plenty of warnings that should he not try to improve his position he would stop the fight. Else made it to his feet and started to land his own knees and rocked his opponent right back.

Else then shoots a takedown to mix things up, and falls into a triangle in Terjdman’s guard, he manages to escape, and begins to work on his own anaconda submission. Terjdman defends, and in the process gives his back to his opponent, who gratefully fives on the opportunity and works quickly to sink in a deep rear naked choke and get the tap at 4:27 of R1.

A great back and forth fight, and a great showing of all round MMA. It was also nice to see that Else gave shout-outs to almost everyone in his camp, of which included Greg Jackson, of Team JacksonWink.

Main card 1:

Mauro Cerilli vs Karl Moore (Heavyweight Title)

Tons of hype going into this one, Karl Moore came in looking to become the first two weight world champion, since his fellow Irishman Conor McGregor, and finally earn his spot in the UFC, possibly on the upcoming UFC Liverpool card. Mauro Cerilli however, came in after winning the heavyweight title in very dominant fashion in his last outing against Nills Van Noord and was confident that he would be more than able to derail that hype train.

The fight in itself, was 15 seconds of chaos. Moore started by landing some good strikes, in response all 260 pounds of Cerilli rushed in with strikes of his own, pushed Moore to the cage, landed a solid right hand to rock the Irishman, two knees and then a huge bomb of an overhand right, and that was all she wrote.

You have to feel both sorry for Karl Moore, working so hard to get this opportunity and not being able to showcase more of his skills, and exceptionally impressed by Cerilli, the vast underdog who came in and bullrushed his opponent. Boylan, post fight mentioned that now is the time for Cerilli to move on, and I would have to agree. Karl Moore, however will be back and most likely to defend his Light Heavyweight title.

Sam Creasey vs Nathan Greyson (Vacant Flyweight Title)

This was a fight that I was very much looking forward too. Creasey, a quintessential martial artist. Greyson, a formidable, ferocious and hungry fighter. Greyson, (team mate of Nathaniel Wood) was coming into this Cage Warriors title affair on the back of a 2 win streak. Creasey, running his own 2 fight winning streak is a staple of Cage Warriors, having his previous 5 fights with the promotion.

Dan Hardy gave the best pre-fight analysis to this, Greyson would look to come forward and be as aggressive as possible, looking to put Creasey under pressure, and out at any moment with heavy hands and pressure. Creasey would try to counter that pressure using his slick movement, and footwork to out game his opponent, land takedowns where he can, and look for his route to victory that way.

The fight played out almost exactly as per Hardy’s analysis, no motion to touch gloves at the start of the fight proved Greysons intent and Creasey reacted accordingly.

R1 began with Greyson pressuring early, Creasey working his combinations and staying light on his feet, going to his wrestling and takedowns early, securing one of many bodylock takedowns during the contest. Greyson worked back to his feet eventually, and did well to nullify much of the offence coming his way from Creasey whilst he was on the bottom. I scored the first round 10-9 Creasey for the effective grappling, and good footwork.

R2. Greyson forces the action, visibly frustrated at the gameplan of Creasey which made for an explosive beginning to the round. Creasey weathers the storm and finds the bodylock, securing a takedown via trip. Greyson worked back to his feet and some clinch work against the cage ensued, plenty of reversals, underhook swaps and dirty boxing showed the variety in both mens games. Creasey did eventually get the fight back to the ground before Greyson scored a lovely sweep to land on top, landing some strikes of his own from the guard. As the round draws to a close, Creasey threatens a heel hook late on, but didn’t have enough time to finish.

R3. Fast hands from both men, Creasey looking like he was starting to tire, the task of holding down the powerful and athletic frame of Greyson taking its toll. Creasey again goes back to the well with the bodylock takedown, (something I am sure that post fight Greyson will look to work on) before Greyson sweeps again, forcing the standup. Creasey lands a beautiful spin side kick, which proved to be one of the last exchanges, as the fight quickly found its way back to the ground, Greyson in the open guard of Creasey, he then landed some serious elbows and some follow up shots before forcing the referee to step in and stop the bout. Greyson wins via TKO in stunning fashion.

A final note on the fight, after the win it was really heartwarming to see Greyson jump the cage and celebrate with his family and the crowd, whether there is animosity between fighters, its always nice to see elements of backstory to these fighters.

Jamie Richardson vs Sam Boult (Welterweight)

A grappler vs striker matchup was the tale of the tape in this one. Jamie Richardson, a striker full of confidence coming off a highlight reel finish of Hakon Foss in his last bout. Across the octagon would stand Sam Boult, a late replacement grappler, and having only fought a few weeks prior, was making his Cage Warriors debut at Super Saturday.

Sam Boults grappling really did show why wrestling is such an important part of an MMA fighters arsenal. Whilst Richardson started strong, landing well in the exchanges and proving to be a problem on the feet, Boult quickly moved into chaining takedowns together, using his oppressive top game to keep Richardson down, and utilising small details, like knee position to trap free arms, or heavy shoulder pressure to allow him to land his own offence from the top. Late in R1, Richardson recovered guard and threw on an armbar, but there was not enough time to truly threaten Boult.

R2 and R3 were much of the same, Richardson starting well on the feet, but ending up either in the guard or on the bottom of Boult’s ground game. He fought valiantly to get back to his feet, but on the night, Boult was able to implement his game and ran out a 30-27 UD winner. I liked Boult’s heavy use of crucifix and arm trapping, small wrestling details that really allowed his ground dominance to shine.

Mehrdad Janzemini vs. Brad Wheeler (Welterweight)

Another hometown favourite in Brad Wheeler stepped in against Cage Warriors debutant in Merhdad Janzemini. 22 year old Janzemini is known for his submission skills but didnt show any of them in this one. Another extremely fast finish of 31 seconds with what was the first strike in the fight.

Both men were feeling each other out when Brad threw a jab, which Janzemini returned with an uppercut from hell that put Wheeler out before he hit the floor, Janzemini rushed in to finish with further strikes but the referee stopped the fight brilliantly. An exceptional way to announce yourself into a new promotion. Watch this space with Mehrdad to see what he can do next, as he said in his post fight interview, he’s got hands.

Prelims:

Aiden Lee vs Tom Mearns (Featherweight)

What a great fight this was, high level regional MMA on show from both men. A real clash of styles also, Aiden Lee the long, rangy fighter and Mearns the relentless pace, volume man, always working to pressure his opponent to the fence and work his dirty boxing, takedowns and top game. Both men come into this with similar experience, Aiden Lee coming off the second loss of his career (5-2), with Mearns undefeated at 5-0.

Round 1 began and it was war from the first minute, both men landing. Lee with slick kickboxing from range, countering his man with combinations and landing lovely, clean body kicks and knees to finish his combos. Mearns however was as mentioned above, relentless. Ate every shot that came his way, landed his own and pressured and pressured Lee every step of the way.

Mearns, having come on strong in the latter part of R1, started as he meant to go on in R2, though Lee was landing the harder strikes, with his good mix of boxing and kicks. Mearns mixed in more takedowns in this round, plenty of work up against the cage, forcing Lee to defend the takedowns and the strikes against the fence which looked to be tiring Lee. When Mearns did get the fight to the ground, Lee had to work even harder to get up, Mearns making Lee carrying his weight well and eating strikes on his attempts to stand.

Round 3 saw both men having to dig deep into their reserves, Mearns seemingly the fresher fighter tried to push this round through with attrition and volume. Lee defended the takedown attempts well in this round, at one point reversing a position against the cage, getting a trip and landing on top, he rolled for the back but Mearns recovered butterfly guard in the scramble before himself coming on top.

I gave the fight 29-28 Lee, as I thought he won the 1st convincingly and did enough in the 3rd to take the fight. A really good, close fight from both men, and neither will walk away with any damage done to their reputations, respect to both of them.

Pelu Adetola vs. Modestas Bukauskas (Light Heavyweight)

We saw a third rear naked choke finish in this one, in quite a cut and dry affair. Pelu looked to work his wrestling and takedowns early, he shot in and caught a good double leg but was unable to progress any further on the ground, to which Marc Goddard stood both men up and reset the right. Bukauskas was then landing well on the feet, forcing Pelu to go right back to the well with the takedown attempts, this one however was reversed by the Bulgarian and forced his man to the cage, moved to his back and sunk in a rear naked choke to get the win at 4:10 of R1.

This was Bukauskas’ first fight in 2 years, so it will be good to see him back fighting more regularly.

James Webb vs Marcin Prostko (Middleweight)

This was a fight of two halves, and a really good learning experience for SBG Swords representative James Webb. Webb holding a 2-1 record going into this was looking to gain some invaluable experience from his opponent in Marcin Prostko (4-5), and in Marcin who has seen a bad run of results of late was looking to turn that around and get back in the W column.

We saw another buzzer beater in this one, and many fans were in de-ja-vu of the recent UFC London event, Marcin came out hard and fast and rocked the Swords man early, damaging his nose and drawing blood. Webb weathered the storm, and searched for his takedowns, which he landed well, the second of which he secured mount from, landed some heavy ground and pound and forced Prostko to give his back. Webb jumped on the opportunity and worked three different attempts at a rear naked choke with the final one proving too much for the Polish fighter to handle, and Webb forced the tap at 4:59 of Round 1.

Webb was also presented with his brown belt at the end of the fight, so congratulations to him for that.

Salih Kulucan vs. Darren O’Gorman (Bantamweight)

The first fight of the night saw Salih Kulucan and Darren O’Gorman square off, in a fun ground battle. Salih back in Cage Warriors after a win in Bellator, and Darren O’Gorman looking to bounce back after dropping a bout to the now highly touted Brian Bouland in his last outing.

Both fighters have good ground pedigree and it didn’t take long before we found the fight there, a really intriguing leg lock battle ensued, straight achillies locks, heel hooks and knee bar attempts flying between both men. O’Gorman found side control in a scramble, worked to a crucifix very nicely, and landed hard elbows onto his opponent forcing him to turn slightly to his back, O’Gorman then wrapped a reverse triangle and forcing the tap (via the feet) at the currently prominent time of 4:59 at the end of R1.

A good win for O’Gorman and I am excited to see where he goes next.

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