by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Cage Rage 24 rolls into view with a card featuring some regulars, some returnees and a few new additions.
One thing is for certain; Cage Rage appeared to have looked closely at the fights that are likely to provide the most fireworks and arranged the card accordingly for the TV broadcast. This should ensure that past criticisms of their TV product should be obsolete and help attract a new audience. It will be interesting to see what improvements ProElite has made since the last event at the Wembley Arena back in September.
MURILO “NINJA” RUA VS. XAVIER FOUPA POKAM
Rua comes into this fight having lost his EliteXC belt to renaissance fighter Robbie Lawler in an exciting fight. Against Pokam he will need to bring his “A” game as the French fighter has been tearing through opposition ever since he faced Sol Gilbert. Pokam has proven his versatility on the ground and in striking, his explosiveness and range, use of footwork, and his aggressive delivery mark him out as the favorite in this fight.
Rua has the name value coming in, but he has been variable in his ability to adapt to the flow of a fight and can sometimes get caught following a game plan that isn’t paying off. Against Weir he stuck to the plan and won – albeit with considerable “heart in mouth” moments. W have seen him in the past chose to trade and the hallmarks have been there to indicate it hasn’t been going well, but he still persists and drops the ball.
I am aghast as to why this fight isn’t for a World Title. I am sure there is some logical or political reason as to why not, but I think given the caliber and nationality of both fighters it very well could be.
In any case, both would make excellent candidates to step into the vacated shoes of Anderson Silva. As it stands the slot will remain open until such a time as the belt becomes available. For now, I think Pokam takes the fight in the early part of the second by TKO and continues his win streak with a big name under his belt.
Prediction: Pokam – TKO – R2
ELVIS SINOSIC VS. PAUL CAHOON
Interesting fight stylistically, as well as from a positioning point of view in the division. Cahoon dominated Mark Epstein to secure the vacant Cage Rage British Light Heavyweight strap in a battle of wills, underlined by a smart strategy. Against Sinosic you could argue he has the advantage standing, but many people underestimate the effectiveness of the Australian’s standup and more importantly his range.
For Cahoon to win the fight he needs to stick and move, avoid the jab and sprawl his way to attain top position. From there he should be able to overpower his opponent with his methodical ground and pound attack.
From Sinosic’s point of view, he knows his best chances come from using his range standing by jabbing and chopping at the legs with kicks. If he gets Cahoon down, he fairs a much better chance from top position to work his game. If he is on the bottom, I think he will struggle, despite his submission prowess.
Prediction: Cahoon – Decision – R3
DREW FICKETT VS. MARK WEIR
Weir is still going strong and despite his recent run of results, he remains a very dangerous fighter for anyone. This fight is his third stab at welterweight and the cut doesn’t appear to have affected him in any negative way. He played smart against Paul Daley and fought an excellent savvy game plan, but the champion wouldn’t be denied and ultimately he got stopped.
Fast forward to present and I am sure that many will be looking at this as one of the last chances Weir gets before being placed in front of a rising star such as Zaromskis. I am sure Weir will be ultra-determined to win this one and step back into the winners circle. He needs to play to his strengths of speed and unorthodox delivery to keep the American at bay.
Fickett is one tough hombre. You look through his record and it’s a veritable who’s-who of fighters and with an enviable 30-5-0 record you have to wonder what all that experience is going to bring to the table? For a start, an excellent submission game and a good solid wrestling base. But more so, Fickett would seemingly be comfortable to trade as well. I wonder if we will see him square up with Weir and slug it out? One thing is for sure, if it hits the ground, I fully expect him to be all over Weir like a staph infection at a no-gi BJJ club.
Prediction: Fickett – Submission – R2
MARIOS ZAROMSKIS VS. ROSS POINTON
A bad fight for Pointon no doubt. Zaromskis is a brutal striker who has a head of stone and a will of iron. He showed in his wars against Damien Riccio and Ross Mason that he can handle trading with anyone and his confidence must be soaring at the moment.
Pointon is well known to followers of “The Ultimate Fighter” and has a name recognition that can be useful. He is hard-headed and there is no doubting his bravado, having fought across four weight divisions, but you have to wonder what is there for Pointon to gain from this fight? His win over Dean Bray put him back on the winner’s track, but this fight could easily derail it again.
If he gets sucked into a standup war with Zaromskis I think he will fall. He would do well to work in favor of his strengths and ground the fight, the potentially exploitable area in Zaromskis’ game.
Prediction: Zaromskis – TKO – R1
TOM WATSON VS. MARK EPSTEIN
Firstly, props to Epstein for working at getting to middleweight to fight Watson. Cutting weight like that when you have a solid frame and having looked comfortable as high as heavyweight is no easy feat. His cardio should improve drastically on a lighter, more dynamic frame. But I think Watson is on the up and this will be his chance to shine against a tough, respected veteran of the U.K. scene.
Watson identified early what he needed to add to his game in order to have a long-term successful future in the sport and made the adjustments necessary by hooking up with Dean Lister and Greg Jackson’s team leading up to this fight. At 25 years of age, he has taken his training by the horns and made an investment in his future. I believe we will be seeing a vastly improved technical fighter in the cage to compliment his already solid cardio base and aggression.
Despite criticisms of being a one trick pony, Epstein has actually held his own in bad positions against fighters with a superior ground base before. So he should be able to use his strength and heavy hands to good effect in this bout. I think Watson will win favorably, but Epstein will be no pushover and won’t be going down quietly. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the fight goes to the judges.
Prediction: Watson – Decision
DAVE LEGENO VS. GEORGE ” XXX ” CASTRO
I can’t begin to comment on knowing much about Castro, so I cannot second guess what he will bring to the cage come fight time. I do know that Legeno has shown a steady improvement in all aspects of his game and will no doubt have improved considerably since his last outing against Dan Severn.
Legeno is serious about his training and has been putting in the time at various camps to keep moving forward. He is clearly very serious about the time he spends on the mat and pads and it shows in his confidence in the cage. Gone is the fanfare and theatrics and in its place is a heavyweight fighter intent on winning.
Prediction: Legeno – Decision
NEIL GROVE VS. ROBERT BERRY
Berry faces the unenviable task of taking on heavyweight behemoth Neil Grove on his return to the Cage. All he has to go on in terms of form is less than a minute in the cage and complete demolishment of his two opponents thus far. Berry has always maintained excellent strength conditioning, but his cardio is questionable being such a big heavy guy. Grove, though, is even bigger still with a propensity to finish a fight early, so Berry shouldn’t have to worry too much about the later rounds and will likely come out swinging from the bell.
There aren’t many heavyweights on the scene who possess good head movement to avoid punches. Mustapha Al Turk is one of them, but Berry is not and it is his Achilles heel. He tends to throw big hooks and crosses with his chin elevated and I think that will spell his downfall.
Grove has proven that all it takes is one punch to connect cleanly and all that weight will put you to sleep. Berry’s fighting style plays right into his hands and should see him close in on a match with Broughton to help determine a heavyweight contender.
Prediction: Grove – GNP – R1
IVAN SERATI VS. LEE HASDELL
Serati is a strong wrestler with a big right hand. He has shown before that he comes out like a bull in a china shop for the first round then fades dramatically after that. In his bout against Belfort, it was telling that he had second thoughts about striking as soon as he felt the power of the Brazilian’s kicks. I would argue that it made him tentative for the duration of the bout. His battle at Angrrr Management with Marc Goddard at heavyweight last month proved he had a lot of power in his punches and that he is physically strong, but his cardio is likely to again be a weak point.
Hasdell by contrast came out of retirement following a four-year layoff to face Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Mario Sperry at Cage Rage 22. He had little more than a minute to shake off the cobwebs; such was the prowess of Sperry on the ground, submitting Hasdell with a solid rear naked choke.
In Serati, he is likely to get a better chance of having a battle and actually getting into the swing of things. Come the second round, I think the fight will be his due to better conditioning. From his time in Japan in Rings, he learned the hard way that a warrior’s heart beats the longest not the fastest.
Prediction: Hasdell – TKO – R2
ABDUL MOHAMED VS. ROBBIE OLIVIER
Olivier moves up a weight category in a personal challenge to himself and the chance to vie for a belt in a second weight division. The timing of the bout suits him as Abdul is a lightweight closer to his size and also has half a grip on his Cage Rage belt and the other on an International Fight League contract. The pressure will be on Mohammed for this fight as I am sure he will want to debut in the States off the back of a win and still as Cage Rage lightweight champion, whereas Olivier’s featherweight belt isn’t on the line and as he is moving up, he isn’t expected to do as well above his usual weight class.
Olivier is notoriously good at shutting people’s games down and forcing things to go his own way. His submission and wrestling base are arguably at the top of the U.K. in the division along with Danny Batten. Although his striking has improved of late, I don’t think he will be trading for the win.
Abdul should prove to be the stronger fighter in this match and overpower his smaller challenger to retain his title, but it’s going to be a long, hard slog to victory!
Prediction: Mohammed – Decision
ROBERT PACZKOW VS. JAMES MC SWEENEY
This is a horrible match-up for McSweeney against an opponent who could present serious problems if he manages to “do a Lungu” and secure the mount position on him. Sweeping or bridging an opponent of Paczkow’s mass will be almost impossible to pull off despite McSweeney being a big lad himself.
The key to victory in this fight is to keep it standing, be fast, and use angles to keep out of closing distance on the big guy. McSweeney’s K-1 background is going to pay dividends here with the striking and we could very well see a brutal early knockout if he connects cleanly. That said, McSweeney’s exceptional clinch work and knees should be avoided, as it will give Paczkow something to get a hold of and throw around.
Prediction: McSweeney – TKO – R1
RONNIE MANN VS. JORDAN MILLER
A massive shame that Brad Pickett pulled out of this fight due to injury, but opportunity knocks for Miller as he picks up the fight on short notice and off the back of two straight losses. I am sure he would have liked to have more time in preparation for a fight of this caliber, but such as it is he stands nothing to lose going all out and throwing everything he has at Mann early.
The young Team Trojan warrior marked himself out as a featherweight star of the future when he pushed current champion Robbie Oliver all the way to a decision when they clashed. It was arguably too early for him to pull off the win, but he chomped on the bit and showed that the young guns up-and-coming are going to be all over the established fighters in the coming years. He is fantastically well rounded and brings sharper tools to the bout over Miller.
Prediction: Mann – R1 – GNP