by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
Eric Esch vs James Thompson

Butterbean makes a return after losing to a very mature, technical game from current incumbent British Heavyweight Champion Rob Broughton back in December. Butterbean is still gamely plugging away at any form of combat that will have him, Boxing, MMA and K1, although his strengths are undoubtedly in his ability to absorb punches as well as having a pair of seriously heavy hands. If you rush him and swing wild he can catch you and put you to sleep!

Thompson likes to bulrush opponents and can swing wild, in this respect he is in danger of being tagged by the Bean, but if he is calm, had been working on his cardio and fights smart he can definitely overcome the returning American. His recent fight against Yoshida still showed holes in his game but it also showed a maturing Thompson, more aware of cardio (and the improvement were obvious) and less concentrated on mass, but ultimately, that he has a lot of heart and determination to win. Let’s hope he doesn’t become overzealous and continues his ascendancy with a second round stoppage due to strikes.

Mark Kerr vs Mustapha Al-Turk

Will Kerr actually make it into the cage to fight? That is the big question on everyone’s lips here in the UK, rumors are flying that the fight won’t happen; which is a shame as it gives Al-Turk a step up in competition level and against an opponent that will hopefully push him outside of the first round. Al-Turk is a ferocious fighter with smarts, a good chin and excellent head movement for a heavyweight, content to fight wherever it takes him.

Kerr may be underestimating the London Shootfighter Heavyweight but it would be a mistake. Kerr’s strengths lie in his wrestling but if he grounds Al-Turk he will be forced to deal with European ADCC Champion credentials.

I think this fight will be the final nail in the coffin for Kerr with Al-Turk securing the TKO stoppage in the second round.

British Heavyweight Title
Tengiz Tedoradze vs Rob Broughton

Solid matchmaking here and I fight that I am really looking forward to seeing. Broughton has come from nowhere as the token fat bloke for Thompson to smash to being the man to beat and paradoxically, the ultimate underdog.

Broughton is a smart fighter who unlike many heavyweights on the UK scene he actually sticks to a gameplan and is patient in its application. In Tedoradze he faces an opponent with arguably the better striking and the superior wrestling base but stats don’t mean wins and Tedoradze will have his work cut out to topple the current British Champion and retain his old title.

How will it play out? I recon Broughton with have to stay mobile, pick his shots and when the fight hits the ground, work a solid ground and pound attack. I think he will be controlled during the first but I think Tedoradze will likely tire giving Broughton a chance to claw it back and get the win.

Dan Severn vs Dave Legeno

I think Severn must be the second oldest active MMA competitor in today’s world and will likely be following Skip Hall into the latter years still possessing the desire to win. It just goes to show that age doesn’t diminish your desire, sure your body changes and injuries take longer to heal, but Severn should never be overlooked as he usually manages to overcome the odds and bring home the win.

Legeno’s weakness is on the ground, yes he’s improved, but is wrestling ability is questionable and his cardio hasn’t looked the best of late, but he is a game opponent who is willing to step up face the challenges presented to him. Do I think he will beat Severn? No I don’t, I expect Severn to dominate with his wrestling base to record the win via second round sub.

Daijiro Matsui vs Tom Watson

Tom Watson steps in for Zelg Galesic, who appears to have injured his ribs in training and cannot therefore compete against PRIDE veteran Matsui, interestingly, Galesic has now joined the PRIDE roster so it will be interesting to see how long a “fractured rib” will take to heal, and if he indeed honors his remaining Cage Rage fight or if his next appearance will be in the land of the rising sun!

Back to matters at hand, Matsui is tough and has a habit of throwing a spanner in the works when you least expect it, I think that this fight will be an excellent test of Watson’s abilities as well as giving the Japanese a solid chance of recording the win via decision, which I think he will do!

Watson trains hard and with a good camp, he has mixed it up internationally and learnt from a lot of world-class fighters, but actual pressured-combat is the element he has lacked of late, and at such short notice I expect ring-rust will likely play against him.

Mark Buchanan vs Robert Berry

I expect this to be a short fight with two heavy’s swinging for the fences from the bell, chins out, hands low and a lot of aggression. I think Berry is too strong and too experienced for a fighter of Buchanan’s Caliber at the moment and I think he will put the Elite fighter away early.

Berry needs a win to get him back on track, but where does he go when that happens? I can’t see him toppling Thompson, Tedoradze or Broughton, but I do think he will stand as the gate-keeper for Cage Rage’s heavyweight division for a while yet. With Al-Turk and Legeno being the only home-grown fighters he can face left and both are already facing international level competition in Severn and Kerr.

Rock and hard place methinks.

Tom Howard vs Tom Blackledge

Howard is a fighter in desperate need of a win, he has had some tough fights and he does have heart but I just don’t see him taking this with anything other than a lottery punch. Blackledge, by contrast, is a solid fighter with decent hands, punishing leg kicks and a good sub arsenal, he is a natural Light-Heavyweight and is fighting bulked up to heavyweight and it shows in his lack of power behind shots. So why is a lottery punch possible, though unlikely? Because there are a lot of questions around his ability to take a punch, particularly against heavyweights, the glass jaw effect is amplified when a guy has 30+ lbs on you!

All things aside, I have Blackledge chalking up the W via sub in the first.

World Featherweight Title
Masakazu Imanari vs Robbie Olivier

I have tingles on the back of my neck in anticipation of this bout! Most notably with the excitement of seeing Imanari’s oddball and highly effective submission skills but also because it finally gives Olivier the chance to showcase his skills against a world class opponent.

How do you train against a fighter whose style is unlike anyone else you have come across? This is the dilemma Olivier faces. So you can argue, should he keep the fight standing or actually embrace the inevitable and train for the ground? My guess is the latter, but I don’t think it will help him. Olivier is a very likeable UK veteran, he was relentless against Pickett and I expect him to come out the same way against Imanari; ultimately I see Olivier being overwhelmed by the submission offence and finally succumbing to the Japanese late in the first.

Jason Barrett vs Jack Toczyelowski

Jack Toczyelowski replaces Jeremy Bailey, thank god for that!!! I really didn’t want to be sitting (or squatting cage side) during another sloppy re-enactment of their last battle, instead I expect this fight to be all business between the two with only minimal trash talking coming if Bailey decides to appear cage-side for the bout.

Barrett is a conundrum, a mix of conflicting elements – decent Muay Thai, good fitness and competent on the ground, that much you expect, but he is also a preacher, a DJ, an actor and has the Cage Rage persona of a wide-boy. Where a match with Bailey will draw out the worst, a match against a hungry up-and-coming London Shooter will hopefully bring out the best in him. Alexis & Paul are in the business of building fighters not personalities and you can bet your last dollar that if they think he is ready for this, he absolutely is and will be bringing some of the best training in the UK with him.

Toczyelowski via sub; third round.

Ronni Mann vs Ashley Grimshaw

These two have fought before at Contenders in a barn-burner of a match that had judges and audience in two minds as to who won, so the fight was declared a draw. This time the main stage will be the location for what promises to be a decisive battle between the two to settle the debate once and for all.

The similarity between the fighters is astounding and both are young with bags of talent, good camps and full of desire for the game. My money is going on Grimshaw to chalk up the win via sub, but it wont be easy and I think that it will be late in the third when the catches Mann. I think this has all the hallmarks of becoming fight of the night.

Marios Zaromskis vs Damien Riccio

Zaromskis has made a name for himself on the contender shows as a good striker, although he finished at Contenders 3 with a surprise triangle submission. I doubt he will be submitting the vastly more experienced Damien Riccio in this fight but for sure they will be trading from the bell. Is Zaromskis ready for an opponent as intense as Riccio? Honestly, I am not sure, but if your not moving forward and evolving you are moving backwards, and I think win or lose this match will be a good test for him.

Riccio… Well, he’s been around the block a bit hasn’t he? And it’s not as though experience hasn’t taken its toll on the French fighter. Several years of punishment both in competition and outside on the street appear to have taken its toll and he appears to be susceptible to the KO. He needs a win really badly and I hope that his status of late replacement for UFC signee Paul Taylor doesn’t mean he’s been sitting on the sidelines out of shape.

Out on a limb here, I see Zaromskis recording the TKO in the second.

Francis Heagney vs Lee Doski

Francis Heagney replaces injured London Shootfighters stable mate Michael Johnson. I must admit to not knowing too much about Francis Heagney but I understand that he is from a heavy boxing background and reportedly has “excellent hands”; As far as styles making fights go his “excellent hands” will need to work quick because Doski is well known for his ground-game.

Having not seen Heagney fight I cannot make an accurate assessment of how I think this will play out, but if styles and Doski’s experience are to be factored I would plump for a submission win over Heagney.