by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Vitor Belfort is off the Cage Rage card and now steps in the man called Cyborg. MMAWeekly’s Lee Whitehead reports from the UK about this weekend’s card that features plenty of UFC veterans.
Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos vs. Melvin Manhoef
Light Heavyweight World Title Fight
Cyborg (12-7-0) is on a run with four back to back wins via KO/TKO and should come into this fight full of confidence excepting the fact that he is a last minute replacement for Vitor Belfort who has withdrawn due to personal reasons.
Cyborg is a vicious striker but has tended to have a weakness when it comes to conditioning, thankfully, most of his recent fights haven’t lasted that long but cardio is an area that he has hopefully addressed as Manhoef will be pushing him hard and fast for all three rounds.
Manhoef is a renowned Muay Thai striker and brings devastating hooks to this match, his wrestling is pretty good and he remains unproven against a top flight BJJ practitioner, that shouldn’t affect him in the bout with Cyborg as they are both strikers first and foremost.
You have to wonder how much a late change will affect the fighters. In Manhoef’s case his night just got a little easier but for Cyborg his task has changed dramatically, hopefully his training has been well rounded enough to accommodate a change of gameplan – if it has and he digs deep enough, the reward is there in the form of the World Light Heavyweight championship.
Curtis Stout vs. Daijro Matsui
Curtis Stout (10-7-1) must have left Cage Rage 14 with a heavy heart having blitzed through the competition since his arrival on the UK scene, only to be derailed in devastating fashion by arguably one of the top Middleweight fighters in the world: Anderson Silva.
It is testament to Stouts’ character that he can bounce back from disappointment in decisive fashion and will be preparing to do just that against Matsui.
Matsui (7-13-4) by contrast, will be looking to build upon his last outing where, debatably, he won his fight against Alex Reid – the bout was recorded as officially as a draw but those who witnessed the fight will testify to Matsui looking effective in the fight and dominating the action.
Stylistically, this bout promises fireworks with both fighters being ground ‘n’ pound specialists. Striking and Wrestling strengths fall to Stout with Submission and Endurance falling to Matsui. The likely leveller will be reach advantage to Stout and undeniable determination. The American has seen the lowest point before exploding onto the UK scene and knows when to dig deep to rebound. Matsui is a proven hardhead and unlikely to go down in the same way Stout is used to but will likely absorb tremendous punishment until the bell sounds.
Chris “Lights Out” Lytle vs. Ross “The Boss” Mason
Welterweight World Title Fight
You gotta love Lytle (20-12-5), he is one of the most game fighters in his weight class – highly ranked in MMA and top 40 material in the Boxing ranks yet he is perennially overlooked. Much like Horn, Lytle has been plugging away on the scene amassing a 35-fight pro-career since his debut in 1999 and yet his three cracks at the UFC have been losses, this does not do his abilities justice.
Three weeks off a dominant win over Savant Young in WEC 18-Unfinished Business and Lytle is at it again this time against highly ranked Cage Rage veteran Ross “The Boss” Mason (7-3-0) – Lytle will have his work cut out for him as Mason is a solid striker; more biased towards Muay Thai than himself but nevertheless if it stays standing expect fast paced action.
Mason has been highly touted for a while and deserves a crack at Bushido or ROTR, a win over Lytle could be the springboard this fighter needs to make the world take notice. With Weir lined up for the next Bushido you have to assume that his chances are good and that the Japanese are watching.
Dave Legeno vs. Ikuhisa “The Punk” Minowa
In a prime example of PRIDE influenced match-making we see Middleweight warrior Minowa (30-28-8) face a massive weight differential as he squares up against Dave Legeno (0-1-0) in a Heavyweight bout.
Minowa is no stranger to these odds having faced imposing fighters during his career in Kimo and Schilt. The major difference in favour of Minowa this time is experience: Legeno is coming off his MMA debut with a submission loss to Alan Murdoch; whereas Minowa is a proven veteran of 61 fights since his debut back in 96.
Legeno is likely to explode out of the gate throwing haymakers in fast and furious manner in the same way that he did with Murdock but what he needs to do this time is to pace himself, avoid the ground and pick his shots. Conservation of energy is key – he lost his last fight having gassed early on and was unable to muster the energy to defend the armbar.
Though smaller, Minowa will look to take this fight to the ground early on and work for submissions – it is unlikely that we will see Minowa work a double leg takedown but we can expect him to tie Legeno up and throw his balance.
Jean Silva vs Paul Daley
Silva (11-4-3) is a fan favourite here in the UK, we like exciting fighters with heart – win or lose – and Silva has these qualities, he has faced top-flight competition in his recent outings and unfortunately come up short but his match with Daley (8-3-2) promises action. Daley has been known to fight at the level of his opposition which can be exciting with someone who pushes the action but if they are passive the ante drops.
Silva has the full arsenal and will push the pace, the theory being that if Daley wants it bad enough he can beat Silva but there is a gulf in their respective level of competition with Silva having faced opponents such as Gomi, Ribero, Strebendt, Remedios and Olivier. Expect Silva to come out strong thus elevating Daley to his best.
Travis Lutter vs Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons
This is a clear grappler/striker match and unlikely to play any other way – Lutter (6-3-0) is the kind of fighter that has never really seemed comfortable in MMA but has excelled in Grappling competition. His lowest points having come at the hands of Lindland (by submission) and Prangley (by Decision) in this bout he will really need to avoid the ferocious stand-up of Pele (21-9-0) and take the fight to the ground fast – work for the submission and keep Pele tied up.
Pele by contrast has always been the quintessential striker and although his record over the last 5 years is skewed more towards losses he should never be underestimated. Weight class changes aside he is now back where he is at his best and if he makes a solid impression on his debut he will quickly find himself in the thick of the Cage Rage 185lb category with exciting matchmaking opportunities to line up against Murray, Stout and Silva.
Tengiz Tedoradze vs. Robert Berry
Heavyweight British Title Fight
These two have met before back in Goshin Ryu with Tedoradze (16-5-0) coming out the victor via TKO in the first. Both are intense fighters and both like to push the action hard and fast – this fight might be an early candidate for fight of the night.
Berry (6-2-0) is a monster of a man, incredibly strong and with hands of stone, his bulk belies his speed; in his last bout he managed to literally crush his opponent in a guillotine choke despite the fact that his victim had his arm in; and these are Heavyweight sized arms! Berry wants the belt and he wants it bad!
Tedoradze is always dangerous… with serious power in his hands and an ability to endure tremendous punishment makes him a very difficult fighter to face. His record includes wins over some heavy hitters including James Thompson and the aforementioned Berry. He will be looking to repeat their previous encounter to solidify his place as one of the top UK MMA Heavyweights.
Brad Pickett vs. Robbie Olivier
Featherweight British Title Fight
This fight finally gets the go-ahead following the false start of Cage Rage 14 where Pickett was forced to withdraw due to injuries suffered in training. During that event we were treated to a grappling clinic by Olivier over Pickett’s last minute replacement: Chris Freebourne.
So, what does this match hold? Olivier is by far the better grappler of the two and has been looking forward to this match for some time. Pickett (4-1-0) has a nickname of “one-punch” although his ground game has improved immeasurably of late. Both are undeniably top 5 UK Featherweights and this match should provide excitement from the get-go. An interesting note is that Olivier’s last opponent is the only man to have beaten Pickett – linear fighter comparisons don’t usually apply but in this instance, Picket lost via submission and Olivier is a master grappler.
Mark Epstein vs Daren Little
This fight looks tailored for another Epstein KO – Little’s (0-1-0) MMA accomplishments leave him unfavoured against a heavy-handed stiker such as Epstein (9-7-0). Epstein likes to bang; this is well documented in every fight he has ever been with and it is unlikely that Little will be able to bring the level of power and skill required to cause the upset.
Epstein has regained his stride following first round wins over Riccio and Adams and will be looking to make this three in a row potentially setting up a rematch with Cyborg and the victor going on to face the winner of the Belfort/Manhoef bout.
Sol Gilbert vs Sami Berik
Gilbert (7-3-1) won his last bout due to disqualification after being on the receiving end of an illegal kick to the face whilst on his knees. Disqualification aside, it appeared that Gilbert was struggling with the size and reach difference to Poukam – a factor that will not be present when he takes on Berik (4-8-0)
Berik for his part is coming off five straight losses in six fights during 2005 and a move up to the 185lbs bracket. Whilst keen, it is highly unlikely that he will present any problems for Gilberts’ crisp boxing skills.
Brian Adams vs. Ryan Robinson
Adams (4-1-0) returns to Cage Rage following his KO loss to Epstein back in December and will be looking to make a better impression this time against Robinson (5-3-0) who drops a class down to Light Heavyweight. Robinson is a five time Cage Rage veteran coming of back-to-back losses; he will be looking to reverse his recent fortunes with his match against Adams.
Robinson is capable with his hands and possesses submission abilities – he makes a good style match to Adams who never got the chance to showcase having had his night cut short at the 17-second mark of his last fight.
Zelg Galesic vs. Michael “Rocky” Holmes
Jason Barret vs. Mindaugas Arbocius