by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com

Lee Whitehead, our U.K. correspondent, takes a deeper look at the Cage Rage 21: Judgment Day fight card, which will be streaming live on ProElite.com this Saturday. Going head-to-head with the UFC’s return to the U.K., the Cage Rage main event features Bob Sapp vs. Gary Turner and undercard fighters include Vitor Belfort, James Zikic, Murilo “Rua” Ninja, Paul Daley, and more.



Gary ‘Smiler’ Turner v David ‘Tank’ Abbott


Video interview with Gary Turner


Originally scheduled to fight the monstrous Bob Sapp, Gary Turner will now headline Cage Rage 21 against last minute replacement David ‘Tank’ Abbott. According to Cage Rage, due to personal reasons, Sapp was unsure that he would be able to arrive in time for the event, so they secured the services of Abbott.


Turner had been training for a huge size difference with Sapp; working extensively with a sumo-level teammate on sidestep movements and precision striking. Tank doesn’t possess the same massive frame as Sapp, but presents many of the same problems being much larger than Turner, so his training is likely to carry over well. If anything, Tank is less athletic than Sapp, so Turner’s plan to keep moving out and use his striking abilities may be even more effective against Tank than they would have proved against Sapp. He will still have to watch out for those huge bombs that Tank throws, but Turner is a far superior striker and should be able to pick Tank apart.


Prediction: End of First Round TKO – Turner



Ivan Serati v Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort


No offense to Serati (5-0), but I really don’t think he should be in there with Belfort at this stage of his career. Sure, he is strong, a solid wrestler and has a big right hand, but Belfort has considerably more tools at his disposal and more importantly, the ability to draw on masses of experience when things go wrong.


I fully expect Belfort to come out for this one firing on all cylinders and to put Serati away early with a barrage of strikes. He will surely deflect all takedown attempts from the Italian and apply his savage uppercut to effect. Serati is a welcome addition to the Cage Rage roster as he clearly has skills, but they are in their infancy compared to Belfort.


Prediction: First Round TKO – Belfort



Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos v James ‘The Messenger’ Zikic


Zikic makes a welcome return to the Cage, but is it too much to ask following a lengthy layoff? I believe he would have benefited from an easier fight as his way back into the fray, but such as it is, he faces Belfort’s originally intended opponent, Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.


Cyborg is one of those fighters who looks menacing and when on form can be devastating, but it appears that as soon as there is a step up in competition on the big show, he drops the ball via poor cardio or a bad strategy. He will be looking to knockout Zikic early and make a statement, but I think Zikic will push him into the later rounds hoping for a cardio burnout.


Prediction: Second Round Ground ‘n Pound Stoppage – Zikic



James McSweeney v Michael ‘Black Sniper’ McDonald (K-1 BOUT)


Video interview with James McSweeney


Quite amusing that a conversation with Dave & Andy back at Intense Fighting in Peterborough had them saying they would never have a “Cage Kickboxing” bout on one of their shows. Fast forward 3 months and guess what? This is a tad more prestigious though as it features two solid K1 guys guaranteed to bang, and bang hard at that!


McSweeney will surely outweigh McDonald coming into this match and also possess a reach advantage. Where he lags a little is in breadth of experience as McDonald has seen it all and climbed to the very top of the K1 mountain before. Sure he is older, but K1 differs a lot from MMA in that veterans are still more than able to compete against the young guys, just ask Aerts, Sefo, Hoost, et al


McDonald is no exception to the rule, but I am expecting this to be McSweeny’s shining hour – he is fighting at home against a legend of the sport and has a fantastic camp working with him for this fight in the shape of Corbin and his boys.


Prediction: Decision – McSweeney



Daijiro Matsui v Mark ‘The Wizard’ Weir


Polar opposite emotions going into this fight, Weir is coming off the back of a brutal reality check at the hands of Zelg Galesic and Matsui is coming off his first ever career submission win over Tom Watson.


Weir is approaching that age where people will start to ask “how long does he have in him?” but that question is unjust in this case. Weir is still in incredible shape, brutally fast and has that KO power. His loss to Galesic was a changing of the guard in the middleweight division, but Weir is still one of the top dogs. I very much doubt that he‘ll knockout Matsui in early highlight reel fashion, but I do feel that Matsui will have trouble with his speed and range.


Ground. Ground. Ground. That is where Matsui needs to put Weir and he needs to outwrestle and pound his way at a fast pace over 3 rounds to win this. A sub is unlikely as Weir has the awareness to thwart Matsui’s attempts and a knockout is just wishful thinking.


Prediction: Second Round TKO or Cut Stoppage for Weir



Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua v Alex ‘The Reidernater’ Reid


Had I been matchmaking I would have left Foupa-Pokam against Reid and matched Ninja against Cyrille Diabate. That slight shift would have created fireworks and given Reid the chance to put a W on his record. Reid is a solid fighter and I hope his time off since December has allowed him to refocus, plug the holes in his game and come back with a refreshed outlook.


He always tends to start matches with his timing being off and finding form in the second rounds after a few shots to the face. With Ninja, he really doesn’t want to be letting that happen… He needs to match the Brazilian’s aggression early, up the tempo and bully him around the cage working the clinch – Reid should be the larger of the two come fight-time.


I get the impression that Rua glossed over Weir in his last Cage Rage outing and displayed a serious lack of cardio come the second round. I hope that he is better prepared this time as Reid has cardio for days. That said, I feel that his submission skills and striking ability have an edge over the Brit and on paper should see him through. At this stage, it would be good for Reid to get the knockout, but I feel that it will more than likely be a second round submission for Ninja.


Prediction: Second Round Sub – Rua



Roman Webber v Mark ‘The Beast’ Epstein


Video interview with Roman Webber


Much as I like Webber, and believe me I do, I think this is a very tough fight for him as Epstein is no slouch standing and that is clearly where this fight will be played out with both fighters swinging for the fences early.


Epstein has suffered bitter disappointments when it has mattered most and is widely acknowledged for having holes in his game that could be plugged should he train at London Shootfighters more regularly than he does. As it stands, both fighters are essentially the same save for a gap in years. The only key difference is hunger. Does Epstein still have the fire to burn bright and fight off a younger version of himself? Or is this a welcome introduction of a new player in the Light Heavyweight division, at 2-2 for Webber, you have to give the edge to Epstein, both in experience and skill set.


Prediction: First Round TKO – Epstein



Paul Jenkins v Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley


Last stop before Strikeforce/EliteXC for Semtex and this really is a dangerous fight, not because he can’t beat Jenkins, but because he needs to beat him in order to arrive in Los Angeles, Calif. on the back of another devastating win. He squares off against Duane “Bang” Ludwig on the 22nd of June and arriving with a loss is not how Semtex wants to go into that fight.


This match finds Jenkins stepping up as a last minute replacement for the injured Paul Kelly – so it’s still the battle of the Paul’s… Funny enough, this is the third fight between the two and Daley has matured so much since the last encounter that its just plain ludicrous! He has been lucky to be called up to take this bout and to have avoided the route through previous contenders such as Gilbert, Mason and so on. In short, I think Daley has momentum, experience and motivation on his side. His timing is ultra-sharp and his ability to think in the thick of it will see him through. Jenkins is tough but this will be Paul’s night!


Prediction: Second Round TKO – Daley



Ross ‘The Gladiator’ Pointon v Abdul Mohammed


Ross is back in the UK, under new management and trying to rebuild the tatters of a career that has encompassed The Ultimate Fighter, American celebrity, porn stars, training at the Pit in San Luis Obispo, Calif. with Chuck Liddell and John Hackleman and 4 weight classes. Personality aside, he is riding 1 win in 9 bouts… unfortunately, this is a bad fight for him to start the road back.


Mohammed is tough, very strong, and has an incredible wrestling base. Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro admitted that he found Mohammed’s strength surprising to him in their bout and with the move up to welterweight for this fight, Mohammed will need to worry less about the cut and subsequent depletion of energy. Having debuted at welterweight, he will be very comfortable in himself coming into the bout.


So what does Pointon need to do for the win? Land that big right hand and avoid being taken down. Yup, it’s that simple. Pointon is an old-school fighter, content trading or pounding. He has tremendous heart, but it’s a bad match and he will need to be calm to get through it. Swinging wild from the off will spell the beginning of the end – that said, having inked a fight against Dean Bray as part of his two-fight deal, he will be back in the summer whatever the verdict.


Prediction: Second Round Sub – Mohammed



Cyrille ‘The Snake’ Diabate v Ryan Robinson


The Snake is back… and finds himself in a style clash with Ryan Robinson, renowned UK former heavyweight ground fighter. Diabate is a solid striker, as is common with French guys banging away on the international MMA scene. He knows that Robinson will want to take the fight to the ground and knows that he will have to work hard to avoid it as Robinson has managed to succeed in doing so against strikers before. He is exciting to watch and I think this fight has some of the potential to be one of the evening’s highlights.


For Robinson, it’s a step up in opposition in his welcome return to the cage. Following a loss to Epstein for the British Title that could have gone either way, I hope he has been working extensively on his standup skills for this fight and comes in with a renewed vigor as he really has the potential to become a solid player on the UK scene. Can he win? In short, I think he can, but he will need to be methodical in his game plan application. If he finds himself in a slugging war with The Snake, it’s the beginning of the end. But if he is calm under fire and works diligently for the ground then it’s his to take.


Prediction: Second Round Sub – Robinson



Alex Owen v Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett


Video interview with Brad Pickett


This fight is a big task for Owen. He is obviously a fighter on the rise and his perfect 18-0 record speaks wonders. He is a consummate submission specialist and new FX3 Featherweight Champion. His groundwork is phenomenal and his boxing is decent enough, but nowhere near Pickett’s level.


The one thing about this fight that you know for certain is that Owen wants the fight on the mat, but I get the impression Pickett doesn’t really care where the fight happens as his skill-set is that complete. That said, there is a huge gulf in standing skills and that is most likely going to be the key deciding factor of this fight. Pickett is on a roll winning his last four fights (3 armbars and a knockout in Bodog) and this fight is the latest in a run that will see him fighting in Vegas for K1 in the summer.


Prediction: Second Round TKO – Pickett



‘Gentleman’ James E Nicoll v Sunnat Ilyasov


I really hope Nicoll comes into this fight with his head back where it used to be. It appears to me that he never really recovered from the savage beating laid on him by Armenian Amar Suloev. This left him tentative of engaging in the bout that followed with Zelg Galesic, a fight he subsequently lost in devastating fashion.


Nicoll finds himself against Ilyasov, a devastatingly effective Uzbekistani fighter who last appeared on these shores at the last Contenders, making short work of his opposition in 44 seconds of the first. His pedigree is unquestioned as the reigning Korean MMA Champion and the under 74kg (163 pounds) World Combat Sambo champion. I predicted after the last Contenders show that we would see him on the main stage soon, but I had no idea it would be this soon.


Originally scheduled to face game MMA veteran Damien Riccio, only to have his opponent changed due to withdrawal in the final hurdle, Nicolle has had a running list of opponents. Of the three, this is the toughest for him. Nicoll will really need to keep his wits about him as Ilyasov is an unknown quantity and stylistically miles apart from Riccio. The only advantage I see Nicoll having is in overall size and strength.


Prediction: Second Round TKO – IIyasov




Gary Turner

James McSweeney

Roman Webber

Brad Pickett




Gary ‘Smiler’ Turner v David ‘Tank’ Abbott

Ivan Serati v Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort

Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos v James ‘The Messenger’ Zikic

James McSweeney v Michael ‘Black Sniper’ McDonald (K-1 BOUT)

Daijiro Matsui v Mark ‘The Wizard’ Weir

Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua v Alex ‘The Reidernater’ Reid

Roman Webber v Mark ‘The Beast’ Epstein

Paul Jenkins v Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley

Ross ‘The Gladiator’ Pointon v Abdul Mohammed

Cyrille ‘The Snake’ Diabate v Ryan Robinson

Alex Owen v Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett

‘Gentleman’ James E Nicoll v Sunnat IIyasov