by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
The latest Cage Rage card is proving to be an impressive one, headlined by Ken Shamrock, a fighter from the early days of the sport and one that is a major coup for the venerable British promotion.
Shamrock has had a rough run of results in recent times, most notably at the hands of Tito Ortiz. He also dropped bouts to Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba and former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin. In fact, his only win recently came via TKO over Kimo Leopoldo back in June 2004. Before that you have to trace back a full 7 years to view his next recorded win.
Statistically, the figures do not do Shamrock justice. He has faced top line competition in that time and there are many fighters currently competing in the light heavyweight division who would also have dropped those bouts. So what has Shamrock done to turn the tide?
The first is to find a solid home in a weight class that suits, and coincidentally, his wins have all come when he tipped the scales as a heavyweight, the division he intends to resurrect his career in. He has also undergone surgery to fix niggling issues and to enable him to train as a complete mixed martial artist, as opposed to previously focusing on his hands to cover the injury affected elements of his.
All the tools are in place, but Robert “Buzz” Berry is a monster of a man who pushes the pace hard and fast from the bell. He has heavy hands and is built like a solid rock of muscle. Dropping a bout to a relatively unknown international fighter such as Buzz would spell disaster.
As long as Shamrock can weather an initial storm, he should be able to capitalize on his superior conditioning. Berry has always been a gamer, but it takes a lot of oxygen to keep his muscles working and he has shown in the past that this can effect his results.
The other factor is striking. Most view Shamrock as a fighter who is tough and has leg-locks, but his boxing has shown massive improvement over his career. This is most likely going to be the deciding factor in the fight. As Berry’s hands lower evermore in the second round, Shamrock should land more and more with the strikes to secure a TKO victory.
Prediction: Shamrock by TKO, R2
Mazakazu Imanari is a welcome return to the U.K. shores. The Japanese fighter is always exciting and pulls some extraordinary moves out of the bag. His style is such that it makes him almost impossible to second guess and always dangerous. He is a submission fighter first and foremost, but his striking is definitely going to be falling behind the mercurial Brazilian Jean Silva.
At Cage Rage 23, Silva made a return to his winning ways with an impressive, dominant performance over highly rated grappler Chris Brennan; this fight setup the prospect of a world title bout with Imanari.
Silva has a clear edge in striking over his Japanese opponent. His application is also unorthodox enough to present problems that make him hard to prepare for and thus force Imanari to have to fight close to the Brazilian in order to implement his game. High kicks, spinning back-fists and flying knees are all on the menu here, if Imanari catches something, it is going to hurt. Furthermore, a clinch game will also present problems due to the application of knees, unless Imanari catches one and sets up a crafty leglock.
Technically Imanari may be the better grappler, but technique and application are a world apart and Imanari will have a difficult time implementing his technique against Silva.
Prediction: Silva by TKO, R2
Mustapha Al Turk comes into this bout following a tough three-round war against current British heavyweight titleholder Tengiz Tedoradze at Cage Rage 23. In that bout he answered questions about his cardio and his wrestling, but just fell marginally short of securing the strap. Against K-1 veteran Gary Turner, he will have the chance to answer questions about his striking.
Turner is tough, durable and owner of a solid, tested chin; but Al Turk possesses the grappling credentials and youth to put a dampener on his plans for victory. In a way this fight presents a much harder challenge for him than a potential match with the reigning champion. It is expected that both fighters will be content to circle, picking shots at each other for the majority… until Al Turk gets caught with something big and grounds the fight. From there he should be able to use the highly regarded wrestling training afforded him at the London Shoot camp to enforce his will.
Prediction: Al Turk by TKO, R3
In a match that has all the hallmarks for fight of the night, Tom “Kong” Watson squares off against Team Tsunami standout Pierre Guillet in a fight that promises to be a war on the feet. Both have an aggressive fighting style and are actually close mirrors of each other ability wise.
Watson proves to be his own worst critic having come away from his last encounter with Mark Epstein ruing his own lack of engagement and anger. He felt he got too comfortable in the bout and didn’t fight with his usual venom; he has vowed to come into this fight full of evil intent and will have the cardio to back it up.
Prediction: Watson TKO R2
A welcome return for heavyweight Rob Broughton following an unfortunate leg injury (ACL) that kept him out for a sizeable chunk of 2007. During that time a new challenger crystalised into view in the frame of Neil Grove – a fast, heavy-handed monster of a man with a run of wins since joining the promotion.
Has Broughton healed enough? And has Grove been working on the missing areas of his game?
Grove has a powerful right hand and likes to fluster people early on into a costly mistake. Broughton by contrast likes to play tactically and pick an opponent off at the right moment, and he also doesn’t mind taking punishment in order to do so.
Prediction: Broughton by TKO, R2
An interesting battle between two fighters who are on the top of the British light heavyweight division – Ivan Serati through his stellar performance over U.K. MMA pioneer Lee Hasdell and Roman Webber through his flattening of Ed Smith and a thunderous eight-second knockout at Contenders Wales. The underlying story in this is that Webber is part of Team SSJ with Lee Hasdell – so revenge is an additional motivating factor.
Serati brings a fantastic wrestling pedigree to the table and we have seen a vast leap in his confidence at applying submissions, but standing, he still likes to bully opponents with his big right hand and that aside, he isn’t that confident of a striker. If the fight isn’t going his way or gets pushed past the first round, he tends to devolve into wrestler mode. If Webber can stay off his back early on and push the pace standing, he should be able to wear Serati out… sprawl and brawl if you will. As the rounds chalk up, Webber will pick harder and more frequent shots before snatching a hard earned TKO.
Prediction: Webber by TKO R3
Henrique Santana steps up to take the place of Range Fighting standout Ch’e Mills, leaving Michael Johnson with a totally different style of fighter to contend with. Santana is a slick submission artist and has adapted his BJJ well to MMA, but his striking skills and wrestling are definitely weaker points in his arsenal. Johnson’s strengths come to the fore in this fight and unless he gets caught with something silly, he really shouldn’t be in much danger from the Brazilian.
Johnson is a huge welterweight, strong and determined, with an excellent cardio base. He has a habit of grounding and shutting down his opponent’s offense with consummate ease. Santana will present early danger (as he always does) but Johnson will take this beyond his opponent’s conditioning and dominate for the win.
Prediction: Johnson by TKO, R2
Aisling Daly vs. Aysen Berik is the first female MMA fight at Wembley Arena and the second for the main Cage Rage event, but let’s forget the gender of the competitors for a second and concentrate on what they bring to the table. Daly is a tough, experienced fighter with solid hands, but more so, she is comfortable on the ground and has submissions in her arsenal. Berik by contrast is making her debut on the biggest homegrown MMA stage there is, and so little is known about her and her style of fighting, other than the knowledge that she has trained with her brother Sami Berik and that her style is likely to be unorthodox.
Prediction: Daly by TKO, R1
Ryan Shamrock is undertaking his second MMA fight on the same card that his illustrious father Ken Shamrock headlines, and you have to wonder how hard dad pushes his son in training.
Having seen his first MMA fight, it is hard to predict what areas of his game have improved. He displayed a decent standard of skill in his debut, but it is always hard to judge a fighter on a sole performance, especially a debut. What we do know is that Giorgio Andrews will have received all the best London Shootfighters have to offer from their roster in order to claim a Shamrock scalp on the night.
A difficult one to predict, but logic dictates that Andrews will be the better prepared fighter and will surely suffer expectations of Joe MMA a lot less than his opponent.
Prediction: Andrews by TKO, R1
“The Hitman” John Hathaway will be making waves at Cage Rage 25 when he takes on Marvin Arnold in a bout that will see him take the step up from Contenders and into the main fray. There are many potential matchups brewing for him at the moment, but he must get past Arnold first.
Arnold is an opponent who can take the fight anywhere and keep moving forward, the only problem being that Hathaway just gels better at all the same elements of the game. Hathaway’s technical striking and level head under pressure should see him build on the momentum that elevated him to the main stage to record the win.
Prediction: Hathaway by Decision, R3
Another fight that is Contenders worthy is the battle between Jake Bostwick and John Phillips, both are Contenders veterans and both are looking to move their careers forward. The big question will be how they feel on the main stage where they could be fighting in front of a crowd of 8,000-plus in attendance; that’s a lot for an opening fight, let alone a debut on the main stage.
Bostwick is definitely in the making though. His confident nature will enable him to deal with the jitters without it affecting his game too much, both have their career interests riding on it, but Bostwick is slightly more aggressive in nature and should have a successful debut.
Prediction: Bostick by TKO, R2
Ken Shamrock vs. Robert “Buzz” Berry
Jean Silva vs. Masakazu Imanari
Gary Turner vs. Mustapha Alturk
Pierre Guillet vs. Tom Watson
Rob Broughton vs. Neil Grove
Ivan Serati vs. Roman Webber
Danny Batten vs. Leigh Remedios
Henrique Santana vs. Michael Johnson
Aysen Berik vs. Aisling Daly
Ryan Shamrock vs. Giorgio Andrews
John Hathaway vs. Marvin Arnold
Jake Bostwick vs. John Phillips