by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com

Click HERE to see Cage Rage 18 Photos

 Cage Rage 18: Battleground marks a huge step up in production quality for the dynamic duo of Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer. Changes marking the event are a long catwalk entrance for the fighters leading up to a cage that is significantly lower placed on the ground enabling a better view of the action from the higher seats. Cage side, the view is slightly worse due to an overcrowding of the cage but from a TV point of view, everything is less cluttered and clearly easier for coverage.

This event also marks a change in TV production crew with improved graphics, fast action replays and good action shots from the boom camera. Less between fight banter but they are still in dire need of a post-fight interviewer who knows what the hell he is on about. Bring back Richard Blackwood!

Zelg Galesic def James E-Nicolle R1 2:02 Ref Stoppage GnP

This fight revealed the true contender to Mark Weir’s British Middleweight Title and Galesic comes into this fight as a clear favorite having submitted Curtis Stout at CR17 in quick fashion. Nicolle by contrast, is coming off an absolute raping by Amar Suloev and this will be his first fight back in six months.

From the bell Nicolle rushes out and clinches early, clearly looking to avoid the stand-up and take the fight to the ground; surprising given his solid Muay Thai background; Galesic responds quickly clinching and driving home some knees. It’s clear now what Nicolle’s gameplan is, but he is continually thwarted in a solid takedown defence by the Croatian.

Breaking away from the clinch both fighters circle briefly before Galesic steps in beating Nicolle to the punch and landing with a heavy cross dropping him, open guard is called and without hesitation the Croatian comes over with a massive head stomp, landing squarely and following up with a series of blows before referee Leon steps in to stop the bout declaring a R1 stoppage due to ground and pound at the 2:02 mark.

Galesic is now lined up to meet Weir at Cage Rage 19 in December and Nicolle is at a crossroads. It appears that the damage sustained at the hands of [Amar] Suloev has made him tentative, afraid to get hit and weary of his abilities. He needs to overcome this because his heart and skill will take him far as long as his head finds the zone again.

Xavier Foupa-Pokam def Alex Cook R1 4:45 via Armbar Submission

Cook comes out hard and fast throwing high kicks, some connecting but all looking heavy; Pokam for his part is content to stay on the outside, continually switching his stance to throw the tough Brit off his game. Cook steps in again with some crisp combos, but Pokam is better on the counter landing with a hook that opens a cut above Cook’s right eye.

Cook fires low while Pokam throws high, Cook evades and lands an excellent right hook, Cook is starting to find his range and is pressing solidly, Pokam attempts a spinning back-kick but is punished for his efforts falling to his back with Cook following him and into the guard pounding away furiously, a tad over-zealous in his approach. Perhaps underestimating the Frenchman’s skills on the ground, he finds himself on the end of a fast armbar. Although he defended valiantly for a good 20 seconds he is forced to tap at the 4:45 mark of the first round– if only for 15 more seconds, he would have been saved by the bell!

Cook is a Wolfslair fighter and during his preparations for Epstein, Ian Freeman has been training with them, it seems a case of insult to injury when Freeman is left to present the runners up trophy to the Brit for his efforts!


Robbie Olivier def Brad Pickett R3 3:03 via Rear Naked Choke Submission

This match is a case of second time around for both fighters, their last attempt ended in a draw at the judges table. Many feel the fight went to Olivier last time, but the old adage stays: To win a belt you need to beat the Champ, Whilst undeniably game, the consensus was that Pickett did just enough to retain last time out.

Olivier comes into this fight all business, looking focused and ready for action but Pickett by contrast doesn’t appear to be in the game at all, quite possibly due to the death of his mother two months ago due to Cancer and his understandable inability to focus during training.

Olivier starts with an immediate shoot that finds its mark after some initial defense bringing Pickett crashing to the canvas, from this moment on it is clear that Pickett can do little to prevent Olivier from controlling the position at will and working for submission after submission. Olivier’s workrate has doubled since the last bout and he is landing shot after shot on the ground.

Throughout three rounds Olivier dominates Pickett by out-positioning his opponent – to the point that even when Olivier secures the mount (on various occasions) Pickett is unable to bridge him off. The final attempt at the midway point of the final round sees Pickett giving up his back only to have hooks applied fast and choked out for his efforts.

Dust settling and Robbie Olivier becomes the New Cage Rage British Featherweight Champion and Brad Pickett is left to ponder his future in the sport. There are rumors abound that he may call it quits because of a lack of sponsorship, management and the financial difficulties involved. A bad time for the amiable fighter, hopefully he can put his personal issues aside, find a new love for the sport and get the tooth he lost in the fight put back in! A crowd favorite, I don’t think we have seen the last of him yet!

Paul Daley def Sol Gilbert via KO R2 2:59

Daley starts the fight like a man possessed, shooting straight for the takedown and landing in side control, lands a few shots and forces Gilbert to turn him over, Daley responds with a step-over armbar attempt from the back and almost has it, the scramble and back to their feet.

They circle briefly, upon engaging Daley lands a solid high kick to his opponent followed by a quick combo before driving again for the takedown. It is clear that Daley’s plan is to tie Gilbert up, avoid boxing with him and bring him down to the ground, this time around Gilbert manages to reverse position and pop back up to his feet, the ref calls an open guard but Gilbert misses the mark with the stomp allowing Daley back up and out of danger; They circle and engage with Daley looking the fresher of the two and landing the cleaner shots.

Round two starts much in the same way as round one with Daley getting the better of the exchange, looking crisper on his feet and with more gas in the tank; Aside from a brief armbar attempt from his back Gilbert is starting to flag. With both fighters on their feet and Daley’s confidence starting to grow he steps in with series of shots dropping Gilbert to his knees, still aware of what’s going on and blocking an illegal knee to the head, it leaves him open to getting back up and eats a barrage of punches before falling out of consciousness to the ground – three more shots following him down before the referee steps in to call a halt to the bout at the 2:59 mark.

Paul Daley answers his critics with a brilliant win over a tough opponent to retain his Cage Rage British Welterweight Title.



Alexandre Lungu def Mark Buchanan via Keylock R1 1:55

Buchanan starts the fight with a perfect gameplan, take the legs out with solid kicks then step in with the shots; all is going to plan as he lands 5 solid blows before Lungu charges him and puts him on his back, taking side control and then mounting quickly; the Romanian Judoka smothers his opponent and starts to fish for the keylock.

Obviously unable to buck a 375lb man off he is left powerless and it is only a matter of time before Lungu secures his chosen submission and forces the squashed fighter to tap at the 1:55 mark of the first.

This begs the question: how do you train to get a 375lb man out of the mount position? Anyway, Lungu goes to 1-1 in MMA competition and Buchanan is left to wonder what could have been, he was moving fast and landing the shots he needed but laws of physics were against him!

Mustafa Al-Turk def Henry Miller R1 0:55 via referee stopage GnP

This fight marks a coming out party for Al-Turk, he is clearly the future of the British Heavyweight scene, he is an accomplished grappler (European Heavyweight ADCC Champion) and his standup has improved immensely.

Coming out from the bell, throwing heavy hands, but not in the same way Berry and Thompson do, Al-Turk actually has head movement, knows how to slip and counter-punch! He proceeds to land shot after shot on Miller and shortly secures the clinch to land three big knees to the solar plexus dropping his opponent. Moving swiftly from side control into mount he continues to pound forcing Miller to roll and give his back whereby Al-Turk batters him with unanswered hooks – only 56 seconds in and the bout is stopped to avoid further punishment for Miller.

A very solid convincing win for Al-Turk, a fighter who at this weight is the real deal and likely to be the only person to relieve Broughton of his title; Battles await the London Shootfighter with Buzz Berry and Dave Legeno before a likely call into the big shows.


Tony Fyklund def Alex Reid R1 1:32 via Heel Hook Submission

Reid opens the bout with a high kick that grazes his opponent and some good shots from the distance, they find the clinch and proceed to exchange knees before Fryklund finds the ground and Reid’s leg for the heel-hook, firmly in place he cranks on the submission – the lock is on tight and Reid briefly taps but it is missed by the ref, Reid then tries to kick Fryklund illegally in the face but lands on his chest, Fryklund protests and tries to rip his leg off! Multiple taps follow and the ref steps in to separate the fighters.

Fryklund looked like business from the start and exposed Reid for his cheating attempt. Post fight and Reid by his own admission, admitted he was “naughty” and that he felt his ankle pop 3 times; Frkylund by contrast was shocked that Reid had asked about the consequences of booting someone in the face to avoid a submission during the rules meeting the day before and still had the audacity to try and get away with it.

An impressive win the Vegas Fight club standout who is unable to hold his weight as a Middleweight and actually came into the fight some 4 kilos lighter than he did at the weigh-ins!!! This win surely sets him up as a likely contender for the vacant Cage Rage World Middleweight Title (if Anderson Silva is unable to defend)


Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro def Adbul Mohammed R1 4:27 via Kimura Submission

Both fighters start tentatively with Mohammed landing snappy leg kicks to Shaolin’s outside leg, Shaolin responds with a jab but his standup is clearly telegraphed. Mohammed proceeds to land three more unanswered kicks prompting Shaolin to shoot before his leg stiffens up; responding to the shoot Mohammed clamps on a guillotine but Shaolin has been here many times in training and remains calm working free of the guillotine and out of full guard to half.

From there it is pretty much a BJJ clinic with Shaolin out-positioning Mohammed at every turn and ending up on the right end of a slick kimura. The main question coming into this battle was: “Can Ribeiro handle Mohammed’s strength advantage as he is known for powering out of submissions?” and the answer is an emphatic yes! Through superior BJJ technique he controlled his opponent from the moment they hit the ground.

You only have to ask if Shaolin has truly shocking management or is just not interested in the big shows because in terms of talent he is clearly a match for anyone in any 155lb weight class.


Rob Broughton def Robert “Buzz” Berry R1 3:33 via KO

Both fighters came to swing, that much was apparent – the difference being that Broughton knows not to stick his chin out when he does so, something that Berry is notorious for! Punching with decent power but with a rigid back and chin with a bullseye on it, Berry sets to work trying to land a haymaker on the British champion.

Broughton is clearly more conservative with his energy only briefly exerting himself with a whizzer when Berry lunges in, they clinch and Broughton throws a few knees – Berry responds by bullying him up against the cage to slap on a standing arm triangle, he exerts himself considerably by holding the lock for a good 30 seconds and ultimately Broughton breaks free.

Despite coming into this fight looking considerably leaner than usual, Berry’s cardio is now letting him down and Broughton has found his opening – landing a knee to ribs and following it up with about 8 unanswered hooks before the referee stops in to call time on the bout. Broughton has retained his British Cage Rage Heavyweight Title.


Dave “Deathwish” Legeno def Kimo Leopoldo R1 4:15 via Guillotine Submission

This fight was shockingly bad, Kimo dived for the takedown from the bell – something Legeno must have anticipated as he exhibited an improved takedown defense to thwart the attempt, they break and Legeno lands a few feeler punches before Kimo tries again, this time eating a knee in the process. Kimo switches to a single leg knee snatch but is leaving his face open to hammerfists, finally tripping the Brit onto his back; Kimo tried to work side control but is lackluster in doing so leaving Legeno with a chance to scuttle the cage and push off and get back to his feet.

Kimo looks seriously gassed with his hands hanging low, almost as though he isn’t trying to defend from any punches, a man of his experience should know better than this! Legeno steps in and connects squarely putting him on his butt, Kimo just sits there taking punches until finally getting up and sliding his head into the most obvious guillotine setup ever, (un)surprisingly he taps… and Legeno gets his first, and much needed win.

Draw what you will from this fight, some cry foul, others congratulate Legeno on a job well done; in any case Kimo should hang them up as he showed poor takedown attempts, no standup, no ability to alter a gameplan once in motion, sloppy clinch work and just sat there letting his opponent hit him in the face offering no attempt at defense! I am disgusted…


Murilo “Ninja” Rua def Mark “Wizard” Weir R2 1:15 via Arm Triangle Choke Submission

From a bad fight to an absolute war! This is my candidate for fight of the night…

Ninja pretty much decided from the first exchange that he didn’t want anything to do with Weir’s standup, such is the speed and severity of his impact that Ninja was forced to shoot for the takedown. Weir secures half guard and tries to setup a Kimura, the Brazilian blocks well and starts to land rib punches before securing the mount. A couple more shots follow then he sets up an arm triangle choke – Weir thwarts quickly and manages to break free and back up to his feet.

They circle and Ninja bullies in for the clinch and once secure brings Weir to the ground again taking his back. Weir struggles free and manages to reverse positions before stepping out and back to their feet. They exchange and clinch with Weir landing a knee that clearly rocks Ninja’s world, he is in survival mode shooting instinctively to defend himself, luckily landing in mount and working for another arm triangle that he holds for a good 30 seconds before the bell rings.

Round two starts much the same with Weir coming out to bang; In the exchange that follows Weir unloads a series of punches, 2 high kicks and 3 vicious knees to Ninja rocking him hard and forcing him to shoot again, Ninja secures the mount in the dazed shoot and sets up another arm triangle, this time for the tap!

For a fighter that is approaching 40 Weir still possesses amazingly sharp striking and shows no sign of losing that element of his game. Ninja showed his tenacity and will to win having taken a battering only to battle through on pure survival instincts to secure a much needed win in the weight class he is very well suited to! This match surely leaves everyone salivating at the prospect of a Ninja / Fryklund showdown! Whilst Weir will now regroup and face Galesic at CR19


Ian “The Machine” Freeman def Mark “The Beast” Epstein via Unanimous Decision

I for one will admit that I had written off Freeman in this bout, I expected him to get KO’d fast by the enigmatic Epstein. How wrong could I be? Well, the first round was pretty much a draw with both fighters imposing their will, Epstein gave Freeman a taste of the power in his hands and Freeman responded with some excellent wrestling and a heel hook attempt that had everyone gasping – including Epstein himself!

Round two is where Freeman broke Epstein’s will by doing what he does best- Machine Ground n Pound! Epstein had no answer to a very workman like approach that included superior positioning and continually smashing him in the face! There is an art to Ground n Pound and Freeman has perfected it, it may not be technical and it may not be decisive but it gets you the win and after the nasty KO at the hands of Manhoef, this is what he needed to get back on track!

Round three pretty much followed the same blueprint as round two save for a brief attempt by Freeman to apply a keylock; he essentially beat on Epstein for a solid five minutes from side control, forsaking mount and using side-hammers to great effect. Freeman records the win via unanimous decision and becomes the new Cage Rage British Light-Heavyweight Champion!

Aside from Al-Turk, tonight proves to be a bad night for London Shootfighters coming out of the event with three losses and one win and they are now down a title! But they can console themselves in the fact that they fought quality opposition. Fryklund is world class, Freeman is well… a Machine, and Sol laid it all on the line like a warrior but just came up short!

Roll on Cage Rage 19…