Review & Photos by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
LONDON – Having started a new promotion with a clean slate, former Cage Rage brains Dave O’Donnell set up three clashes to determine the new champions in front of a busy London Troxy on Saturday night to close out a turbulent 2008. Here’s how it all went down…
Trying to overcome a size deficit to someone like Neil Grove means that you have to be smart, and initially, that’s exactly the strategy James McSweeney implemented having opened his account with a superman punch before concentrating on sticking and moving. Once close, Grove took no hesitation in putting the smaller heavyweight on his back and under his gait, unable to land much in the way of damage, they went back and forth before finding their way to the feet again.
Gaining momentum in direct correlation with the increasingly raucous crowd saw the fight swing back and forth between the two with strikes before McSweeney found himself in a solid position on Grove’s back, but unable to sink home a submission.
During the gap between rounds, McSweeney appeared to suffer from fatigue quite badly and made the tactical mistake of opening their next exchange with a badly timed shoot. Grove sprawled, pivoted and took side control on his turtled opponent before stopping him with strikes. Grove picks up the Ultimate Challenge heavyweight title and McSweeney is left to rue a tactical error that cost him the chance of gold.
Early exchanges between Tom Watson and Daniel Cubbit were quite tentative, as both fighters felt each other out before landing the clinch and trying to bully the other around with the plumb. Both seemed content to throw knees in this position with Watson having the edge in penetration. It facilitated the positioning of his kneecap flush into Cubbit’s face before following up with a short uppercut for good measure. An academic ground and pound offense followed before the referee intervened, handing the vacant middleweight title to Watson.
Tim Radcliffe wins big with a dominant victory over highly regarded Team Titan prospect Jason Young with a rear naked choke at 3:03 of the first round. Forced to play to Radcliffe’s strengths as a grappler from the moment they engaged put Young on the defensive, as he knew any mistake would cost him dearly. Although never looking in danger of causing a stoppage upset, Radcliffe used his hands to great effect flustering and forcing Young to give his back before sinking the hooks in and securing the tap to become the inaugural Ultimate Challenge lightweight champion.
In a fantastic reversal of fortune, Chris Harman came back from a tumultuous experience in round one of his encounter with Robert Salmon to record a left cross knockout finish at the start of the second. His elation was evident, having been on the receiving end of some serious knees and dirty boxing in the clinch, and a very close call with a Kimura/straight armbar transition in the first. He hung in there, weathered the storm, and made an impression with his fists.
Dillian Whyte made a successful MMA debut to complement his 20-1 K-1 record with a hugely destructive left hook on opponent Mark Stroud only 12 seconds into the round. Bizarrely, Stroud seemed to ignore the bellows from his corner advising him to go for a takedown and threw a lazy low point kick. It was a mistake he will regret when the thumping headache clears in his brain.
Michael Pastou wasted little time in clinching up with Chris Woolcott before dropping for a sweet double-leg takedown to land in half guard. Wasting no time, he used the strikes to open up his opponents guard before passing to side control and locking on a tight keylock for the tap.
Jimmy Manuwa showcased an improved wrestling base to thwart Chris Grieg on the majority of his takedown attempts. Having recorded a vicious TKO at the last FX3 event, it was clear that Grieg’s plan was to avoid the standup, but his persistence started to drain his gas tank quickly and left him with little energy come the start of the second round. Following the bell, Grieg backed up in a straight line against the aggressive Manuwa and telegraphed his shoot before the next exchange. It was all the invitation he needed to ground the fight and blast away from side control with a heavy-handed assault.
Jack Mason followed his patented approach of “take ‘em down and take ‘em out” with a quick double-leg from the bell that landed him in side control. It didn’t take much to move into mount before opponent James Elson bucked him off and scrambled to the cage wall. Capitalizing on the frenetic motion, Mason latched on a tight guillotine for the tap at the 1:05 mark of the opening round.
Marvin Arnold opened his encounter with Jake Bostwick cautiously with a fast pawing jab, but Bostwick had other ideas coming in like a rampaging bull and landing a vicious right hook to drop his opponent to the mat. Hesitancy left firmly at the cage door, Bostwick pounced on the downed fighter to throw a relentless series of punches to force the referee to intervene at 32 seconds of the opening round.
In other action, Mark Smith made short work of Jody Cottham after dropping him with a right hook and following up with strikes. Cottham scrambled, but fell prey to an armbar waiting in the wings. Fabio Taldo secured the tapout victory over Edgelson Lua on his third run at a heel hook submission.
-Neil Grove def. James McSweeney via TKO (Strikes) at 1:38, R2
-Tom Watson def. Danny Cubitt via TKO (Strikes) at 1:57, R1
-Tim Radcliffe def. Jason Young via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:03, R1
-Chris Harman def. Robert Salmon via KO at 0:23, R2
-Dillian Whyte def. Mark Stroud via KO at 0:12, R1
-Michael Pastou def. Chris Woolcott via Submission (Keylock) at 1:15, R1
-Jimi Manuwa def. Chris Grieg via TKO (Strikes) at 1:35, R2
-Jack Mason def. James Elson via Submission (Guillotine) at 1:05, R1
-Jake Bostwick def. Marvin Arnold via TKO (Strikes) at 0:32, R1
-Fabio Taldo def. Edgelson Lua via Submission (Heel Hook) at 3:26, R1
-Mark Smith def. Jody Cottham via Submission (Armbar) at 1:05, R1