by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Cage Rage 21: Judgement Day was much more than a mixed martial arts extravaganza. It was a day where the cockney baldies’ promotion was under full scrutiny – from MMA detractors claiming that they cannot survive against the UFC on the same day, a free TV deal with Sky Sports that needed to impress and all under the watchful eye of the K1 Alliance; Judgement day indeed, and the verdict? A resounding success!
From the first bout to the last, production was slick and fights fast-flowing – no hiccups, no dramatics and all played out to a crowd of 7,500 in attendance, not sold out, but shy by only limited numbers, as well as a live stream across the globe at ProElite.com.
Tank vs. Turner
As predicted, Turner dispatched Cage Rage debutant Tank Abbott via ground and pound in the first round, but the win was not without dangers. Tank took the bull by the horns early, mindful of a lack of cardio for the distance, and proceeded to unleash a barrage of punches to Turner after dropping him with a big haymaker.
Turner kept his composure under fire and taunted his larger opponent into striking him. Sensing the opportunity to do something different, Tank rose out of Turner’s guard and dropped back for a heel-hook stunning all in attendance with the submission attempt. Turner broke free of the attack and after resisting a takedown attempt by the game American, he managed to take his back and pound out a stoppage win via ground and pound.
Belfort vs. Serati
Serati was completely outclassed in this match-up. It was clearly a case of too much to soon against the Brazilian and although clearly a tough competitor, he fell short of what was required to clash with the Phenom effectively.
From the bell, Belfort fired two brutal head-kicks signalling his intent early on. Both kicks were blocked, but still carried immense force with them. From there it appeared as though Belfort was trying to sense how much attack was going to come from the Italian wrestler. Serati just looked tentative and stunned. Belfort took the offence…
After working the clinch against the Italian, it was Belfort who grounded the action and mounted his opponent. He used superior positioning to setup an unanswered series of blows that left the Italian squirming to avoid the shots – eventually forcing the stoppage via TKO.
Belfort once again looked good – hopefully this time it will last…
Zikic vs. Cyborg
Every fight is the same for Cyborg, you know exactly what his game plan is and how to work him over… basically weather the storm, be defensive with straight down the pipe counters for the duration, then when he gasses come the second round, stick it to him hard.
Zikic had obviously been studying his opponent well and implemented the above-mentioned game plan to perfection after receiving an absolute battering to his left leg via low-kicks. And so the worm turned from a stunning Cyborg in the first round to methodical scoring by Zikic for the remainder.
Save for a brief takedown attempt in the third, this fight was all on the feet and although Cyborg wasn’t in any clear danger of being stopped, his reactions were there for the shin checks and blocks, but was too gassed to offer an offence. Zikic pushed the pace and say what you will, he did his job to perfection and became the new World Light-Heavyweight Cage Rage Champion filling boots vacated by Melvin Manhoef…
Ninja vs. Reid
Bitterly disappointing fight this, not down to the fighters, but due to an unfortunate cut on Reid’s shin following a shin check. From what I can make out of the first 28 seconds, Reid was looking game and ready to stick it to the Brazilian big-style. He came out from the bell firing on all cylinders unlike his usual self (usually takes a first round warm-up to get him flowing… and some punishment) and landing a series of kicks.
I have to be honest and say that Rua looked to be relieved at the stoppage, sensing that this fight was going to be a hard-fought messy war. But in any case, he picked up an easy cheque tonight – Reid just can’t seem to catch a break.
Weir vs. Matsui
Weir came to fight and Matsui, it appears, did not. Looking tentative from the start, Matsui clearly didn’t want to engage in any of the stand-up and kept his distance. As means of engaging, he decided he was going to granby roll his way toward Weir – this wouldn’t be his last either – leaving the Brit wondering if he was in a pro-wrestling match or a fight.
What followed was a strong performance from Weir in the first, whereby he nearly secured a beautiful Kimura on the Japanese fighter and managed to land some convincing strikes from the bottom. Aside from the eventful bout opener, he was beholden to Matsui’s slow tactics. The Japanese fighter didn’t really offer much in the way of offence and clearly lost the fight in the judges’ eyes due to lack of action, excepting his only submission attempt at a kneebar.
It appears that this was the last we will be seeing of Weir at 185 pounds as he intends to move down to 170 pounds for the future.
Epstein vs. Webber
Webber proved his heart taking a ton of punishment from the former British Champion throughout the duration of the bout, but ultimately highlighted the need to train at a higher standard if you are to compete on the big stage.
Falling into a pattern of throwing sequential leg kicks meant that Epstein could absorb the shot and counter with bombs. Every time the young upstart engaged the vet, he appeared to open his body up to strikes by keeping his head high, but bizarrely, managed to drop them too far in the exchanges leaving his chin further exposed.
Epstein is effectively the light heavyweight gatekeeper of the division. If you can beat him, then you are worthy of international level opponents and in this case he again proved that there is a beast still lurking, ready to bite.
Daley vs. Jenkins
Surprisingly, Jenkins faired much better than I thought he would. He managed to land some solid shots on the Champion during the first round, as well as secure a takedown, complete with cage-wall stack prior to finding himself on the wrong end of an armbar. He escaped though and the Melee continued into the second.
Daley has always had solid cardio and it was clear that the last-minute call-up on Jenkins was taking its toll and that he was tiring quick. All it took was a well-placed, floating rib body shot to drop him out of contender status and firmly onto the canvas.
Mohammed vs. Pointon
Pointon looked pretty handy early in the fight throwing confident kicks and setting up a few good exchanges. He even managed to fight off a pretty good takedown attempt by his wrestling biased opponent, but not for long. It was clear that Pointon still has a way to go with his ground awareness, but he is improving all the time – case in point being the natural instinct to shrimp and secure guard when your opponent has side control.
Ultimately though, Mohammed shocked everyone with a spinning backfist that will surely see him on Cage Rage knockout DVDs for years to come – perfectly timed out of nowhere and he dropped Pointon like a discarded rag doll. Mr. International would be proud!
Diabate vs. Robinson
Diabate showed slippery, masterful ground skills against his highly regarded grappling opponent and secured a beautiful armbar submission in record time. I think Robinson was more shocked in the speed he was submitted than the fact that he was submitted. Diabate again proves that he is world-class and that at 205 pounds, he is very dangerous indeed.
Pickett vs. Owen
Pickett was nigh on inconsolable come the announcement of the decision in favour of Owen, but later acknowledged that he followed the wrong strategy from the start in the fight.
Owen did exactly what he intended to do: he grounded the fight at every opportunity and was incredibly slick in his submission attempts. Pickett had to fight off several armbar attempts and a serious run at the rear naked choke. Pickett was floundering with his cardio in the third stanza, in part due to a locked on body-triangle, but also due to the continual persistent striking attack from Owen who was secured limpet-like to his back.
In short, Owen proved he has the mettle to be fighting at this stage – lets hope we can see him go to war with Batten or Oliver at some point in the future.
Foupa-Pokam vs. Watson
Pokam is really maturing into a devastating fighter, both on the ground and standing and is clearly title contender material already. I very much doubt we will be treated to seeing him match up against Silva, but if there is ever a bout for the vacant title then Pokam has to have a shoe in already.
Watson was game; say what you will about his aggressive nature and demeanour. He came to fight, pure and simple. Despite getting smashed around during the first round, he still managed to fire in some solid strikes, but ultimately his downfall came in the second. His over-exhuberant nature led him to get caught in a triangle he couldn’t escape. To make matters worse, Pokam held the triangle trapping Watson’s right arm and proceeded to Kimura his left arm for the tap at the same time!
Nicholl vs. Ilyasov
Ilyasov failed to live up to his expectations and dropped the second and third rounds through lack of effective aggression and poor cardio. He looked solid standing during the first, opening up a cut beneath Nicholl’s left eye early on, but never really looked dangerous after that.
Nicholl started to look more like his old self in this bout and peppered the Uzbekistani fighter with strikes throughout. He even demonstrated that he is no fish out of water on the ground either and came incredibly close to winning the fight via armbar submission early in the second. A convincing win for Nicholl and hopefully a return to the fighter he was prior to Suloev.
McDonald vs McSweeney
Not many people here appeared to give McSweeney much of a chance with the vastly more experienced Michael McDonald, K1 veteran and tough, solid competitor. But McSweeney delivered the goods, taking it to his illustrious opponent early on, dropping him with a jumping knee to the temple from the clinch. The first standing count of the evening goes to McSweeney and underlines the fact that he is all business and McDonald had better throw his best. Not more than 30 seconds passed before McDonald is dropped again by a solid right hook that lands flush, really rocking him this time and running the count to nine.
Continuing his relentless attack on the American, McSweeney lands strike after strike to set-up the clinch and is finding a pattern McDonald finds hard to cope with: every time they clinch he fires knees up the outside and scores. McDonald is robust, but unable to change the tide until the third and final round, whereby he starts to land outside kicks on the slightly tiring challenger. Too little, too late… Carbin and his boys have given McSweeney all the tools required in training and he has used them to maximum effect when it counted. A dominant win by the Brit who has announced he will more than likely be competing in MMA before the end of the year and putting into effect his Combat Sambo training (see video interview in the members section from pre-event coverage for further details).
James Nicholl def Sunnat Ilyasov via Majority Decision
Xavier Foupa-Pokam def Tom Watson via Kimura 2:27 R2
Alex Owen def Brad Pickett via Majority Decision
Cyrille Diabate def Ryan Robinson via Armbar 1:15 R1
Abdul Mohamed def Ross Pointon via Spinning Back-fist KO 3:20 R1
Paul Daley def Paul Jenkins via TKO 0:41 R2
Mark Epstein def Roman Webber KO 4:27 R1
Mark Weir def Daijiro Matsui via Unanimous Decision
Murilo Rua def Alex Reid via TKO / Doctor Stoppage 0:28 R1
James Zikic def Evangelista Santos via Decision
Vitor Belfort def Ivan Serati via Ground and Pound 3:47 R1
Gary Turner def David Abbott via Ground and Pound 2:31 R1
K1 Kickboxing Rules:
James McSweeney def Michael McDonald via Unanimous Decision