September 21, 2010

by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com This weekend plays host to the fourth installment of the BAMMA show. There are some pretty good bouts in the offering, but top of the bill is the rescheduled encounter between Alex Reid and Tom “Kong” Watson.

Expectations are high for this bout and even though Watson is the reigning BAMMA champion, it’s not his pressure to bear, but that of mainstream media target Alex Reid.

So here we break down the particulars of that bout and the implications it has on a growing MMA awareness in the U.K.

What a lot of people fail to realize is that Reid is a tough kickboxer and has proven adept at submissions, the triangle in particular, but he isn’t a natural grappler. His strengths lie in his durability and striking, but he has shown in the past that it takes a round of action and a few hard shots to the head to get him fired up. His key weakness lies in the fact that he hasn’t fought in an outright MMA bout for three whole years, so ring rust will surely be a factor.

When describing Watson, the most comprehensive term to apply is that of a complete Mixed Martial Artist. Sure, there are areas that still need honing, such as his wrestling, but on the whole he has proven to be dangerous at any level. His strengths lie in the diversity of his arsenal, his conditioning, and the frequency with which he has been fighting. His major weakness is his still-developing wrestling game, as witnessed in his recent loss to Jessie Taylor.

So what are the factors that are likely to influence how the fight runs?

The first concern for Reid is that he will have to comprehensively beat Watson throughout five rounds if it goes the distance. The old adage is true in that “To be a Champion, you have to beat the Champion” and in no certain terms, Reid won’t be expecting any clemency from the judges. He will have to impresses if the scorecards are read.

The second factor is that dreaded scenario for all fighters coming off a lengthy break: ring rust.

Reid may well be training with all the top guys he can get at London Shootfighters, ZT Fight Skool, and his kickboxing camp, but there is no substitute for in-ring frequency. You take risks in sparring that you wouldn’t in the cage, unless you are either supremely confident, or Jon Jones.

Reid’s last actual MMA fight, although not part of his Pro-record, was part of his audition for “The Ultimate Fighter Season 9” TV show, where he dropped a decision to eventual housemate Dean Amasinger, and didn’t look himself doing so, especially considering a harsh cut to welterweight.

Throughout all the time Reid has been inactive, Watson has gone 7-1, picking up two MMA titles, a kickboxing title, and a highlight reel knockout. This isn’t cheerleading; this is merely an assessment of the task Reid now faces.

Make no mistake, Reid wants this victory, and he wants it bad. There is a lot of negativity toward his return to competition on account of people’s judgments on his personal life, but his personal life is exactly that, personal. Given the steep path to the title he now faces, expect Reid to come into this fight in his best shape yet and fully prepared for a war.

A war is exactly what he will get, as Watson also has a point to prove.

This fight will ultimately come down to who is more dangerous throughout different levels of the game and how each fighter imposes his strategy. Watson possesses the more versatile toolbox and will likely pull out a TKO or submission victory late in the fight, where Reid has lacked recent experience and may succumb to conditioning.

Win or lose, many suspect that this will be Reid’s last MMA fight for the foreseeable future. Because of that, it makes him all the more dangerous.

Watson won’t be taking him lightly and fans shouldn’t either.

Alex Reid may be in the public eye in the U.K., but to non-MMA fans a tough, clean fight, win or lose, has the potential to turn many more eyeballs to the sport that weren’t there previously, and in that scenario it’s a win-win all round.