by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Cage Rage 26 rolls into
view in a different location than normal… the Birmingham NEC. For those unaware
of the venue, it is one of the biggest venues for conferences and exhibitions
in the country and the perfect platform for Cage Rage to begin its expansion
across the U.K.
Mixed martial arts has
flourished over recent years with shows cropping up all over the country. The
West Midlands (where Birmingham resides) is one of hottest regions for MMA
talent with a gaggle of tough camps in the area, some of which feature fighters
on this card.
So what of the card
itself? Well, it’s a distinctly British affair, bucking the trend of import
fighters (save Rodney Faverus) and concentrating on building quality match-ups
with the existing talent pool. Top this off with a spectacular showdown in
waiting between Ian Freeman and Liverpool terror Paul Cahoon and you have a
night to remember.
IAN FREEMAN VS. PAUL
Ian Freeman is back
fighting… why? In order to put the disappointments of the International Fight
League axing the British team behind him, and also to make one last stab at
taking the belt. Freeman is a man of many talents, MC’ing events, training
fighters, acting, and interviewing; but of all these accolades, fighting is
what he is best at and he intends to prove this against the tough and explosive
Cahoon has always
lingered on the scene, cutting his teeth in the U.K. before expanding into the
Dutch scene and beyond. When he got the call to fight Mark Epstein for the
British light heavyweight title (as vacated by Messrs Freeman) things began to
crystallize. He stepped up to the plate, dominating the experienced London
Shootfighter en route to the belt. His approach was calculated, precise and
flawless in delivery. His first round K.O. of Elvis Sinosic shortly afterwards
showed that the aggression for which he has been known is still there, ready to
be called upon when needed.
Who will win? Tough to
say as both fighters are very well rounded, arguably with Freeman having the
edge in experience. He has fought in the upper echelons of the Ultimate
Fighting Championship heavyweight division and as a light heavyweight at Cage
Rage. He has a wealth of talent to draw upon and will be the bigger fighter of
the two come the bell. His wrestling and submission offense should level out
the advantage Cahoon possesses standing. This will likely be his key to victory
as Cahoon has the unenviable ability to take a huge amount of punishment
striking. This will be a tough, bloody war, but expect Freeman to regain the
title he regards as “his own.”
Freeman, R3, TKO (Strikes)
CH’E MILLS VS. MARIOS
Ch’e Mills and Marios
Zaromskis have fought before with Mills recording a rare K.O. victory over the
Lithuanian, but Zaromskis has improved massively since that fight. He comes
into this match as a veteran of brutal wars against Ross Pointon, Ross Mason
and Damien Riccio.
I don’t think Mills will
be recording a win in the same fashion this time, no matter how talented he may
be, and thus his key to victory remains on the ground.
Zaromskis will be looking
to trade on the feet. He brings a relentless pace and vicious kicks with him.
He will have surely been training a sprawl and brawl tactic for this bout.
Implementing it will be linked to his ability to keep Mills out of shooting
range. The first round should be eventful and clearly the promoters think so
too, having placed the bout near the top of the card and in the prime spot for
The amount of tools
available to a fighter dictates the chances of winning. In this scenario, Mills
has the superior submission offense and will likely pick up the win in the
second round having worked out how to ground his opponent. In doing so he will
step into the vacated British welterweight champion spot as vacated by Paul
Mills, R2, Submission
JAMES ZIKIC VS. RODNEY
James Zikic has been
holed up in Brazil for months, working on his jiu-jitsu and expanding his
horizons spiritually. His improved skill set on the ground was tested recently
against Jeff Monson at the Seni weekend, having fought valiantly against the
renowned grappler only dropping the fight by points. His stock rose with the
performance though and it is unlikely that Faverus will be bringing the same
level of grappling skill into the match.
Faverus is the
archetypical Dutch Muay Thai striker – vicious, strong and fast. He is a
rangy opponent and will be looking to test Zikic’s resolve. Many have tried
before though, including Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and Vitor Belfort amongst
others. Zikic’s greatest strength lies in his ability to remain unflustered and
to shut down his opponent’s game plan, he can take punishment without flinching
and keeps pressing forward. This will be a hard fight for both men, and one
that will likely go the distance. Ultimately, Zikic should be able to pick up
the decision victory and mark himself as the next light heavyweight in line for
the winner of Freeman/Cahoon.
Prediction: Zikic, R3,
ROSS POINTON VS. ROSS
Anyone doubting Ross
Pointon’s ability to strike had the thought permanently erased if they
witnessed his meteoric performance over Marios Zaromskis. He took everything
the Lithuanian had to offer and kept coming forward, only falling foul to a cut
that required 30 stitches to close up. Unfortunate, but in defeat he won the
hearts of a whole new army of supporters.
But in stepping into
Mason’s back yard, he will find himself once again fighting uphill against a
crowd that will be cheering for his opponent, a very popular locally based
fighter. Mason is a warrior. He is the best possible match-up for Pointon with
a view to recreating the fireworks we witnessed in the Zaromskis fight. His
Muay Thai is crisp and he isn’t afraid to come forward, always pushing the
pace, and always looking to engage.
Reading timing will be
the key to victory, Mason telegraphs his intentions more visibly than Pointon,
but speed is his ally and his footwork is good. I expect these two will be
banging away hard at each other for the better part of three rounds, but with
Pointon edging ahead towards to distance and landing the cleaner shots.
MARK EPSTEIN VS. MATT
Epstein made a successful
debut at middleweight having gone the distance with Tom “Kong” Watson. It was a
good introduction to the division and one that served as a benchmark for his
cardio at the new weight. He looked comfortable and in excellent condition. He
will need it against Ewin – a fighter with a huge gas tank and an ability
to grind away, continually nullifying his opponent’s strategies… as proven in
his title winning effort against fellow London Shoot alumni Alex Reid.
This fight could unfold
in exactly the same way the bout between Freeman and Epstein played out.
Epstein will need to have applied the lessons learnt during that bout in order
to win this fight. He undoubtedly has the power to knock Ewin out, but he needs
to actually connect cleanly in order for the stoppage to happen. Ewin will be
mindful of this too.
Expect this fight to go
the distance due to the above reasons, but with Epstein the victor and new
middleweight champion courtesy of the heavier hands when grinding out his
MARC GODDARD VS.
Marc Goddard makes a
welcome return to Cage Rage having spent his time on the fringes of the circuit
getting his head together, refining his training and working out what weight
category he wants to fight in. As a Light Heavyweight he marks himself out as
one of the best grapplers in the division straight away, he has heavy hands
(ask Ivan Serati) and a good gas tank. When he fought at Heavyweight he was
facing monsters such as Buzz Berry and giving up size and strength.
Nogueira will be coming
into this fight a slightly smaller fighter to Goddard but what he lacks in size
he will regain in explosiveness and it should enable him to push the pace of
the fight, but the key will be to not get trapped on the bottom.
Goddard understands the
difference between fighting on the ground and playing another man’s jujitsu
game, I don’t think this will turn into a grappling match despite the prowess
of both men, and I expect that Goddard will find his position before stopping
the Brazilian with strikes.
R2, TKO (Strikes)
PAUL REED VS. BRAD
Paul Reed and Brad
Pickett left FX3 having had a mixed night of results (read: a loss for Reed and
a win for Pickett) with a gentleman’s agreement to stand and bang on their
feet. Obviously, this favors Pickett who comes from a boxing background and has
a notoriously hard head. Sticking to your word is all well and good, but why
limit your options?
Reed has good hands, but
his wrestling is better and would present the most logical course of play. He
should strike to setup the clinch, then take Pickett down and pound on him. A
submission is unlikely, as Pickett has exhibited some phenomenal defense
against highly regarded talent. So he should go for the workman-like approach
and play off his cardio base.
A win here will put
Pickett back on the path to title contention and remains one of the prime
motivating factors for the fighter. Although Reed is very good, I expect
experience and savvy will edge ahead and give Pickett the win.
KEV SIMS VS. POPEK RAK
Kev Sims takes on Popek
Rak in a battle of the tattooed heavyweights, as both fighters tip the scales
covered in ink and bad intentions. Rak will have been working on his cardio
following his outing at Contenders, and Sims will be working on his submission
defense. The winner will be the fighter who attains top position, as both
fighters like to ground and pound.
Sims is very durable and
has had his chin tested by some heavy hitters. If he can wear Rak down early,
he should be able to impose his will in the second round and force the
Prediction: Sims, R2,
In the opening two bouts
of the evening Chris Rice takes on Edegelson Lue in a middleweight battle that
welcomes two new fighters to the division and Harvey Harra brings his slick
ground skills to a lightweight match-up with Gary Kelly.
Predictions: Rice by
TKO, R1 and Harra by Submission, R1