by Lee Whitehead, photos by Terry O’Reilly for MMAWeekly.com


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The line-up scarcely resembled the original card that went to press four months ago, but Cage Rage rebounded in dazzling style this weekend with a great night of fights in a great new venue.

The disappointment of England being knocked out of the World Cup was a distant memory for everyone in attendance.  This was a night of thrills, mega-fights, and some pretty huge upsets.

In the main event, Melvin Manhoef knocked out Ian Freeman in just 17 seconds.  Everything happened so quickly that it was difficult for anyone to determine which exact blow knocked Freeman out.  Freeman is a tough man who has tons of experience, but ring rust and age showed through in this fight. 

Freeman looked tentative in the brief amount of time that the fight lasted.  This was not the ending that Freeman had in mind, but for his contributions to the UK MMA scene and some very exciting bouts over the years: Ian Freeman, we salute you!

The biggest upset of the night came when James Thompson lost a three-round war to Rob Broughton.  This was a one-sided beatdown by Thompson until he seemed to run out of gas in the third round, at which point Broughton began unleashing blows that went unanswered right up until Thompson’s corner threw in the towel. 

Referee Grant Waterman was already stopping the fight literally while the towel was still in the air, which is a testament to the fact that fighter safety is the most important thing.  Broughton’s head must be full of concrete, given the amount of punishment that he took in this fight before ultimately winning in the third round.

In a heavyweight fight, Gilbert Yvel went up against last-minute replacement Fabiano Scherner, who attempted a series of submissions at the beginning of the fight, including a knee bar and an Achilles crush.  Yvel was able to reverse position and reign down blows from the top.  Scherner took a few of these blows before his skull thumped off the canvas, giving Yvel the TKO victory. 

Yvel surprised a lot of people by taking an early shot the nuts without retaliating or showing anger. Is he learning to control his temper? If he manages to control his temper and train properly in the future, Yvel could once again become a credible opponent on the international stage.

In another upset, Zelg Galesic beat Curtis Stout with an armbar submission at the 1:10 mark of the first round. Everybody expected this to be a stand-up fight, but Stout shot in for a takedown early in the fight. Once on the ground, Galesic managed to fluster the American and force him into a panicked error to secure the armbar win.

Stout has now lost four of his last five fights and will surely be thinking about where he goes from here. A change of team, location, and training techniques is clearly the only way forward in his MMA career.

The fight between Henry “Sentoryu” Miller and Robert “Buzz” Berry went as expected, with Buzz scoring a TKO victory just over a minute into the fight. Yes, it was wild, and ugly, and sloppy, but a win is a win, so Berry continues his ascent through the Cage Rage ranks.

One thing that struck me is that Berry hangs his chin out a lot when striking, and this leaves him open to eating shots. Miller tagged Berry a few times, but he recovered well enough. With a size and reach advantage over his opponent, Berry could have made a bigger impression with tighter boxing, but Berry is Berry and you gotta love him for it because he always comes to brawl.

Mark Epstein vs. Dave Legeno reminded me so very much of Tank Abbott vs. John Matua, only with a lot more skill.  Epstein came out swinging from the bell, catching Legeno flush and rocking him early. It was apparent that Legeno didn’t like the feeling, and he was very tentative thereafter.

A knockout seemed inevitable at that point, and it came at the 45-second mark of round one when Epstein landed a combination that consisted of a high kick, an evil left hand, and another solid right hand on the way down. Legeno appeared to be out from the first left hand in the finishing sequence.

Referee Grant Waterman had to pry Legeno’s jaw wide open to get the mouthpiece out and to secure a clear airway. Legeno was out on the floor and twitching (much like John Matua) for a good 30 seconds before he came around. A vicious KO victory and a fifth straight win in Cage Rage’s light heavyweight division leaves Epstein banging firmly on the door of Melvin Manhoef. That fight will likely take place on the September 30th card.

Daijiro Matsui came into his fight against Pierre Guillet on the heels of two solid Cage Rage appearances.  Up until this fight, he has looked tough, full of heart, and well-rounded, but not dangerous. In this fight, he appeared to have stepped it up a notch.  I firmly believe that fighting guys his own size has been a breath of fresh air for Matsui, and it shows in his fighting style. From the bell, Matsui was content to stand and trade kicks with Guillet.

Circling well and landing good kicks (including a huge kick to the ribs of Guillet), Matsui pursued Guillet relentlessly.  Guillet clinched, but Matsui’s superior wrestling technique allowed him to bring his opponent to the ground and launch a barrage of hammer fists, followed by what may have been the longest Achilles crush ever seen in an MMA match.  How Guillet managed to avoid tapping out remains a mystery, but it appeared that the bones in his shin where bowing and in danger of snapping. A hematoma was forming by the second round.

I was salivating at the prospect of a three-round war, but had to settle with a doctor’s stoppage at the 4:08 mark of the second round due to a one-inch gash along the left brow of Matsui, thus giving Guillet the TKO victory.  I was left wanting more.  Putting the cut aside, Matsui looked dangerous, and fighting on these shores clearly agrees with him.

Abdul Mohammed is a tough, gutsy fighter who demonstrated once again exactly why he is the Cage Rage Lightweight Champion, as he recorded a majority decision win over the very tough Jean Silva. Silva came into this fight with every intention of a war.  Win or lose, you know this guy is going to be exciting.

In the first round, Silva was completely dominant with some excellent kicks, multiple submission attempts, and a massive hammer first that opened up a cut on Mohammed’s left eye.  The second round was a completely different story, as Mohammed took control in the striking department and in the clinch. 

Mohammed had weathered the storm and started to pick apart the Brazilian with well-timed strikes and effective aggression on the ground. Silva clearly won the first round, but it wasn’t enough to take the belt. After three rounds of mesmerizing action, Mohammed retained his title by majority decision.

There were two big questions going into the fight between Paul Daley and Ross Mason.  Daley had the tools, but did he have the power?  Mason had the power, but did he have the complete game?  The answer to the second question ended up being “no,” while Daley continues to improve with every fight. 

Other than a brief moment in the first round where Daley took the full brunt of a Mason strike, sending him crashing down to the cage, Daley looked for all this world as though nothing was going to stop him. In the stand-up position, both fighters looked to be pretty much equal, although Daley did have better head movement and a chin of granite. On the ground, Daley was all over Mason, attempting two triangle chokes and a skillful kimura. 

At the end of three rounds, the fight went to Daley by majority decision, making him the new Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion.  For Daley, this would appear to be only the start of a very good journey up the MMA ladder.

One of the surprises of the night was Phil Norman, a fighter who I thought was going to be the latest victim of David Bielkheden’s brutal ground and pound offense. How wrong can a person be?  Bielkheden was never able to overcome a serious reach deficit and was also unable to solve the riddle of the lanky Brit’s very effective rubber guard.

Aside from a cheeky moment in the second round where a seriously gassed Bielkheden tried to dupe referee Grant Waterman into thinking that Norman had tapped out to a very tight triangle choke, Norman never really looked to be struggling.  Norman’s Jiu-Jitsu and reach were serious assets, but it was his ring savvy and excellent cardio that were the biggest factor in his unanimous decision victory.

Mark Chen couldn’t overcome the slightly smaller but clearly stronger Robbie Oliver, who imposed his will throughout the fight.  Oliver displayed his superior grappling abilities and excellent awareness right up until he submitted Chen with a rear naked choke at the 3:11 mark of the first round.

In the opening bout, Dean Bray came into his fight with Darren Guisha looking much better than the last time he fought in Wembley.  In this fight, Bray looked extremely composed on the ground, and while the initial exchanges where slow due to both fighters feeling each other out, the combos that did land looked very good.  These striking combinations forced Guisha to shoot for the takedown, a move that would eventually lead to Bray winning the fight with a rear naked choke submission. Bray oozed confidence on the ground and never appeared to be flustered in the fight.

All in all, this was an excellent night of fights.  Here is the tentatively planned line-up for Cage Rage 18 (which is scheduled to take place on September 30th), followed by a full listing of the results from Cage Rage 17.

Next Cage Rage Line-Up

-Murlio “Ninja” Rua (unsigned) vs. Alex Reid (signed)

-Melvin Manhoef vs. Mark Epstein for the Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight Title

-Paul Daley vs. Sol Gilbert for the Cage Rage British Welterweight Title

-Mark Weir vs. TBA for the Cage Rage British Middleweight Title

-Mustapha al Turk vs. TBA (potentially Rob Broughton)

-Dave Legeno vs TBA (potentially Robert “Buzz” Berry)

Full Results of Cage Rage 17 on July 1st, 2006

-Melvin Manhoef def. Ian Freeman by KO at 0:17 of Round 1 to retain the Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight Title

-Rob Broughton def. James Thompson by TKO (referee stoppage) in Round 3 to win the vacant Cage Rage British Heavyweight Title

-Gilbert Yvel def. Fabiano Scherner by TKO (referee stoppage) at 1:30 of Round 1

-Zelg Galesic def. Curtis Stout by submission (armbar) at 1:10 of Round 1

-Robert Berry def. Henry “Sentoryu” Miller by TKO at 1:06 of Round 1

-Mark Epstein def. Dave Legeno by KO at 0:45 of Round 1

-Pierre Guillet def. Daijiro Matsui by TKO (doctor stoppage due to cut) at 4:08 of Round 2

-Abdul Mohammed def. Jean Silva by majority decision to retain the Cage Rage British Lightweight Title

-Paul Daley def. Ross Mason by majority decision to win the Cage Rage British Welterweight Title

-Phil Norman def. David Bielkheden by unanimous decision

-Robbie Oliver def. Mark Chen by submission (rear naked choke) at 3:11 of Round 1

-Dean Bray def. Darren Guisha by submission (rear naked choke) at 3:03 of Round 1