by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
The Cage Rage promotion is fast becoming known for hosting excellent events with an increasingly international feel. The latest card features fighters from the UK, Brazil, America, Holland, France and Japan; many of whom have made their name fighting in the PRIDE network and find themselves competing here with a view to getting back onto the winning track.
The flip of this approach is that PRIDE’s assumed intentions present a springboard opportunity for the many highly talented Cage Rage regulars. Cage Rage is riding the crest of a wave at present – a feeder promotion with links into PRIDE, high quality cards brimming with bouts, an excellent venue to work from and two promoters that are incredibly passionate about the sport in Andy Geer and Dave O’Donnell.
With PRIDE developing a true 185lb category and there being no less than 8 fighters on the card in middleweight bouts it is feasible that some of the UK regulars may have opportunities in Japan awaiting them if they put on a dominant showing.
The stakes are high for the big name fighters on this card, a loss could see their career plummet and a win could see them back on the avenue to the main events, the key here is that they will be judged on Saturday night’s performance.
Enough of the stakes, let’s turn our attention to the fighters…
Vitor Belfort, the Phenom… What happened? Well, times have seen Belfort struggle to become a complete fighter; one who started his career of in brutal fashion but has seemingly squandered away an amazing natural talent. He is a fighter blighted by a lack of Cardio, an unwillingness to let his hands fly and most crucially: his head in the wrong place. We have all seen flashes of a dangerous Belfort in his epic battles with Liddell and Ortiz as well as the mauling of Eastman. But have also been witness to a heartless Belfort in his fights with Overeem and Couture – He needs to fight Antony Rea as if his career depended on it, because in this instance it does.
At 28 years of age with a 12-6-0 record, there is plenty of time left for Belfort to have another run at the top, be it in the UFC with matches against Babalu, Horn and a rematch with Ortiz or in PRIDE with matches against Silva, Arona and Shogun – in his way stands a fighter that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Anthony Rea is a well rounded fighter with good submissions and strikes – no stranger to the UK fans, but on the cusp of the world knowing his name if he stops Belfort.
Rea has amassed a record of 9-4-0 with losses to Franklin, Team Quest up-and-comer Horwich and interestingly, Marvin Eastman (his only loss in the last five bouts). Something to consider when assessing Rea is that he comes out of the gate strong; this is punctuated by the fact that his fight with Eastman is the only fight to have passed the second round. Belfort also comes out strong but tends to loose heart at the halfway mark if things don’t go to plan.
Rea can win this fight if he ties Belfort up early, frustrating the Brazilian and stifling any plans he may have of keeping the fight at a distance. If Belfort has been pushing cardio hard, has stabilized his training regime and comes out swinging then it will be a short night for the Frenchman.
Matt “The Law” Lindland returns to Cage Rage to take on PRIDE refugee Antonio “Nino” Schembri, a fighter known primarily for turning Sakuraba’s lights out with a lucky knee. Schembri fights out of the Chute Box academy in Brazil, a club mainly known for vicious strikers and generally overlooked for submission specialists. Schembri is no doubt a very talented BJJ player but has always appeared to be out of his depth in MMA squeaking out snoozefest decisions. In Lindland he faces a very cerebral fighter capable of nullifying his BJJ with Olympic level wrestling and incredible ground control.
Many have accused Lindland of being a boring fighter but his record speaks for itself at 15-3-0 with his losses accredited to Bustamante, Terrell and bizarrely Vitale (via self KO slam). Lindland is capable of dealing with strikers and submission specialists alike. His fight with Schembri is likely to go the distance but will see him coming out the victor setting up a likely showdown with Anderson Silva in the future.
Anderson Silva defends his Cage Rage Middleweight Championship for the second time against Curtis “Bang ‘em out” Stout. Silva is a devastating striker capable of finishing anyone who comes into the cage with intentions of trading. Currently ranked 7th in the world Middleweight rankings, he possesses crisp Muay Thai skills and an excellent work-rate, his record of 13-3-0 is the hallmark of a fighter who has been submitted twice and lost a bout by decision. He comes into this fight having TKO’d the tough and game Jorge Rivera at Cage Rage 11.
Stout (10-6-1) should be full of confidence for this bout having regained his momentum with a 3 fight win streak against De Castro, Weir and Gilbert. He has good hands and a better wrestling base than Silva; he would be smart to take this fight to the ground and pound his way to victory avoiding Silva’s stand-up and trademark knees in the clinch.
The British Middleweight champion Mark “The Wizard” Weir (16-9-0) faces off against Akira Shoji (12-12-5) in a bout that is likely to be another showcase of his striking abilities. Weir appears to be back on track following wins over Gilbert and Sasaki and will look to continue his momentum against Shoji, a tough PRIDE veteran who is capable of absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment. Shoji is adept at submissions, strikes and wrestling but without a clear edge in any area. Weir by contrast is a very good striker and possesses slick submissions – look for this fight to go into the later rounds with Weir picking Shoji to pieces before the stoppage.
Alex “The Reidernater” Reid (7-2-0) from London Shootfighters squares up to Daijiro Matsui from the Takada Dojo. Matsui is pro-wrestler with proven grappling skills and a penchant for using oddball manoeuvres in the ring. He possesses the usual Japanese kamikaze attitude towards fighting but will need to keep his wits about him against Reid. Reid has good power in his hands but as Matsui can absorb tremendous punishment so he will most likely need to employ a sprawl ‘n’ brawl tactic to frustrate his takedowns and pick shots for a decision win.
Mark “The Beast” Epstein is another London Shootfighters standout who likes to bang but has unfortunately had a rough ride of late dropping fights to Bisping, Santos and Kocamis. Epstein was very active early into his career with 6 fights in 2003 and 7 in 2004. He appears to be slowing things down with only two fights to date this year – hopefully he will be fresh, re-vitalised and ready to get back on track. Coming off a win over Mathias Ricco at Cage Rage 12 is a good start but he will need to keep his guard up and chin down against Brian Adams – a fighter with a 4-0 record consisting of 2 submissions & 2 TKO’s
Paul “Semtex” Daley (7-3-2) from the Rough House Gym in Nottingham is a tough heavy handed striker who has won all of his fights via TKO. Weighing in at a solid 170lbs and standing 5′ 9″ Daley is a scary prospect to face in your first MMA fight in nearly 4 years. Daley’s entire career has been built during the time Jonny van Wanrooy (3-7-0) has been sleeping – including 4 fights this year alone. Ring rust must surely be a factor and who even knows what Wanrooy brings to the table? The smart money is on Daley to win via KO in the first.
Sol “Zero Tolerance” Gilbert (6-3-1) is a very talented striker who is working his way back from two tough back-to-back losses in Weir and Stout. In Xavier Foupa-Pokam (7-5-0) he finds a fighter who is unlikely to present any troubles on the ground and should expect a Muay Thai biased attack. Gilbert will need to work his way past the reach advantage and fight up close and personal avoiding Pokam’s knees.
Chris Freebourne (5-13-0) comes in as a replacement for Brad “One Punch” Pickett who injured himself whilst training for the title defence against Robbie “The Flame” Oliver (10-5-1). Oliver is an acknowledged grappling expert and this fight is a very bad stylistic match-up for Freebourne who is known to be susceptible to submissions; losing 7 fights by Armbar, 4 by Triangle and a Kneebar. Expect Oliver to come out take him down and submit him in the first.
Luiz “Buscape” Firmino fights out of the Brazilian Top Team with a 10-3-0 record. He comes to the UK from PRIDE off losses to Azeredo and Kawajiri. Not known as a finisher with 7 fights running to decision – he will need to make an impression on Tyrone Glover (4-0-0) the American Capital City Fighting Alliance member who is coming off a win over Din Thomas. Whilst Glover is adept at submissions it is unlikely that he will be able to submit Firmino and will probably look to keep the fight on the feet.
Darren Guisha makes his Cage Rage debut having gone 4-0-0 since his MMA debut last year fighting in the UKMMAC network. He squares off against Ross “The Boss” Mason is a popular experienced fighter and will provide a true test of Guisha’s abilities. Mason has good hands, submission and chin – Win or Lose, a good showing against Mason will likely bring him back to Cage Rage.
Marc Goddard (5-5-0) and Robert “Buzz” Berry (5-2-0) is your typical heavyweight match-up between a pounder and a grappler and should see some fast paced action from the start of the bell with Goddard looking for the quick submission.
In other matches completing the card Alan Murdock squares off against Dave Legeno in a Heavyweight bout, Nigel Whitear engages Dean Bray in Middleweight action, Inexperienced Heavyweights Mark Buchanan and Ryan White clash and finally ATT prospect Gesias Cavalcanti and Japanese Judo player Michihiro Omigawa round out the card.
With 16 fights on the card this event looks set to deliver an entertaining night of action from the opening match with plenty of drama along the way, PRIDE veterans, UK Stars, Debutants and UFC refugees – it will seem like a long time between this event and Cage Rage 15 but given Cage Rage’s propensity for improvement between the events the next one will have a lot to live up to!
Saturday December 3rd 2005
Wembley Conference Centre
Cage Rage 14 “Punishment”
WORLD MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE
Curtis Stout vs Anderson Silva
Antony Rea vs Vitor Belfort
BRITISH MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE
Akira Shoji vs Mark Weir
Antonio ‘Nino ‘ Schembri vs Matt Lindland
Daijiro Matsui vs Alex Reid
Brian Adams vs Mark Epstein
Xavier Foupa Pokam vs Sol Gilbert
Robbie Olivier vs Chris Freebourne
Mark Goddard vs Robert Berry
Darren Geisha vs Ross Mason
Alan Murdock vs Dave Legeno
Tyrone Glover vs Luiz ‘Buscape’ Firmino
Nigel Whitear vs Dean Bray
Joey Van Wanrooy vs Paul Daley
Ryan White vs Mark Buchanan
Michihiro Omigawa vs. Gesias Cavalcanti