by Lee Whitehead, Photo’s by Terry O’Reilly
Cage Rage 15 played out to a full house at the Wembley Conference Centre – as these kinds of crowds are becoming common for promoters Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer. Their company has gone changes in the last couple of years and come July, Cage Rage will be moving to a new venue.

The initial candidate is Wembley Arena but the most likely option will be The Royal Albert Hall (Scene of UFC 38) due to the difference in logistical fees such as merchandising, security, etc… In either case they will start with fireworks as Tank Abbott was signed, sealed and delivered this weekend.

Tank was on-hand this weekend to talk about why he’s in Cage Rage, what he’s been up to and what his opponent can expect – and to no surprise, that is a short night full of pain. The story behind Tank’s opponent is an interesting one: He has no prior outings as a professional MMA fighter. In fact, he is a millionaire nightclub owner in London looking for challenge.

You have to wonder about the sanity of someone making their MMA debut against a slugger such as Tank and hope that they have been serious about their training. Krainer is physically imposing at over 6ft tall and probably the best part of 270lbs but does he have the chops? Andy Geer assures me that he does, he has been assessed by the promoters at Elite Fighting and they believe he will be ready… in July we will find out.

Santos vs Manhoef
Unquestioned fight of the night and an early candidate for fight of the year; These two warriors stood in front of each other for two rounds throwing everything they could. To the point of exhaustion in both rounds they were game, technical and throwing leather.

The bout swung in favour of both fighters several times with Cyborg fairing better on the offence and Manhoef on the counter. Leg kicks were about even but the speed edge had to go to Manhoef. From the opening bell it became apparent that there was no love lost between the two but I can assure you that they now have a new found respect for each others abilities.

Excepting a brief moment towards the end of the first round where Cyborg executed a beautiful shoot of a jab to pull a single-leg takedown the fight was conducted on their feet. That being said when they were on the ground it was Cyborg with the edge having almost secured a heel-hook on his opponent; Manhoef was saved by the bell – literally!

During the second round both fighters came out strong leaving it all in the cage – two minutes of solid slugging and you knew that the end could come at any point for either fighter. The end did indeed come for Cyborg in the second at the 3:20 mark via KO when Manhoef dropped him with a barrage of shots.

Not a single person was seated throughout the whole venue during the bout, the noise was immense and the atmosphere electric. Cyborg showed what a warrior he is having taken the fight on 7 days notice following the withdrawal of Belfort – had Belfort been fighting we would have been denied one of the best stand-up wars in recent memory. Cyborg and Manhoef should both be proud of their performances!

Matsui vs Stout
Oh dear, it all looked to be going so well until the unreliability of a Judges decision. Essentially; both fighters came with a pre-determined game-plan and both executed them perfectly without deviation. Styles make fights and this fight was a bit of a disappointment for most… not least of all Curtis Stout.

Stout had opted to play it safe for the win following his devastating loss to Anderson Silva but adopting a Sprawl ‘n’ Brawl tactic against Matsui – the more accomplished wrestler. A smart move following a loss and one that has been employed to great effect with fighters such as Liddell, Cro-Cop, etc…

Deflecting the takedown of Matsui and countering with some heavy hands left no doubt that the stand-up was going his way. When Matsui eventually secured a takedown it was either Stout who stalled for a restart or worked his way back to the feet and out of harms way. Stout dropped the Japanese several times with rock solid hooks but was unable to get the KO (a testament to Matsui’s proven toughness)

Becoming frustrated at the ineffectual nature of his attack, Matsui employed the bizarre including two drop kicks and a flying Superman style shoot. Throughout all three rounds Stout defended on the ground when required, worked back to his feet and struck on approach. The judges obviously say things differently and ruled the bout in favour of Matsui.

Following yesterday’s rule meeting it was deemed that all fights will be judged by a four point criteria, the first and most important of which is effective aggression. One can only assume that Matsui’s continued takedown attempts were viewed as a more aggressive approach then Stout’s tactic. You could argue that Stout should have been more aggressive in the final round but I for one believe he had done enough to secure the win.

Stout is an incredible talent and now faces a rebuilding of sorts following back-to-back losses – he has it within him and will be back to putting people to sleep in a very short time.

Lytle vs Mason
Both fighters clearly have a lot of respect for each others abilities and appear to be quite well matched so far which is impressive given Lytle’s lofty Boxing rank. The clear difference between the fighters is when fight hit the ground about halfway through the first round following a deceptive leg trip. Lytle then began to control the action with better hip movement and a stronger base, securing the scarf-hold and beginning to patter Mason’s face with punches.

His Armbar attempt was defended well but experience showed again with Lytle securing an upside-down head and neck triangle and trapping the opposing arm. This leaves Lytle able to strike away until the end of the round.

Round two follows the same pattern with Lytle using good head movement to avoid the strikes until they tie up and push to the cage; at this point Mason is starting to press forward with knee strikes. Lytle caught one of the knees and drove Mason to the ground working for the guillotine. A scramble ensued with Mason rolling onto his front – Lytle in tow putting the hooks in. A Rear Naked Choke for the win at the 4:57 mark or Round 2.

Mason will need to look upon this fight as a learning experience and to dedicate his training regime to improving his ground game. His striking ability is without question but Lytle demonstrated the beauty of positioning and drew upon his greater experience as a fighter to become the new Cage Rage World Welterweight Champion.

Minowa vs. Legeno
Roaring crowd support greeted both fighters with Minowa coming out jigging to 90’s dance music dancing like Derek Zoolander – the guy is clearly a few cogs short! So then Legeno comes out looking all business with a huge crusader sword in one hand and… A severed mannequin head covered in blood and a Japanese headband in the other… oh dear…

Minowa is a known submission specialist and it was clear what he intended to do – so Legeno spent the initial part of the fight exhibiting fast reactions and a good takedown avoidance. The Japanese wouldn’t be denied though; securing the leg and forcing Legeno to pull guard with Minowa peppering him with shots. Minowa exploded back breaking the guard and securing Legeno’s leg with an Achilles lock – Legeno turned correctly but found himself badly positioned for another roll with Minowa blocking his movements having tri-angled the other leg.

Minowa gets the tap at the 2:28 mark for the win to huge support from the crowd.

Silva vs. Daley
If an opponent pushes Daley he tends to rise to the occasion but has sometimes been involved in fights where he hasn’t needed to push the pace. Silva has that trademark Chute Boxe aggression so this fight promises to be exciting.

So they start the first round on their feet content to trade both high and low kicks with each other. Silva appears to be scoring more on the exchange but his kicks don’t appear to have a lot on them. Daley is proving to be a difficult target to hit with the punches forcing Silva to commit and then countering. Ever the exhibitionist Silva does his best Shogun flying kick but misses the mark – he has a very unique style and it’s keeping Daley on his toes.

It appears that Daley must have realised in his corner that he didn’t need to be as tentative in engaging and comes out of the bell in super-aggressive mode scoring heavy outside kicks to Silva. They tie up following a nice combo that leaves an inch long gash over Silva’s left eye where a Daley hook found its mark. The action on the ground is quite limited with neither fighter really making an impression – they restart with Daley again forcing the kicks upon his opponent.

Daley gets tagged one their next exchange prompting referee Grant Waterman to call an open guard. Silva attempts a flying guard pass and is nearly caught in an Achilles for his efforts but manages to land a quick uppercut as they scramble pushing Daley back into the cage. It is hard to tell from an audience perspective at the time but the fight is stopped due to Daley dislocating his right thumb. Clearly upset having swung the fight round in his favour during the second round only to be stopped due to a freak injury. Silva is declared the winner at the 4:40 mark of Round 2 due to Daley being unable (yet not unwilling) to continue.

Pele vs. Lutter
Pele looked in phenomenal shape and seemed huge for a middleweight – anticipation for this grappler/striker match was high but Pele failed to execute his gameplan. Lutter has had a few rough fights in recent times trying to push the pace, tonight he seemed confident and knew exactly what he needed to do – avoid the stand-up, take him down and submit him; and that is exactly what he did.

Pele must have expected this and initial shoot attempts were deflected with an uppercut and then a flying knee. The knee was a mistake for Pele as Lutter secured the inside leg and took him down. Pele would have benefited from staying on the outside but now he was where Lutter wanted him.

Initial submission attempts were focussed on the Americana prompting Pele to defend but drawing attention away from Lutter’s movements as he escaped the guard and secured mount. Lutter’s ground and pound attack wasn’t the most aggressive but served to prompt Pele to defend leaving his left arm open for the crash Armbar at the 4:00 mark.

At all stages Lutter looked like he had a plan and never deviated from his objective, worked at his own pace and got the win – Pele by contrast never really got going and was always on the defensive.

Delucia vs. Piemonte
With the movement of Cyborg into the title frame a new opponent was sourced from Chute Boxe in the form of Fabio Piemonte to battle Delucia. As it transpires, original opponent Cyborg would have destroyed Delucia given his performance tonight. Delucia looked slow, rusty and out of his depth. Shooting in for an early takedown and getting side control seemed like a good start but he was unable to offer any kind of offence.

Piemonte wasted no time in shrimping back to guard controlling Delucia’s arm and moving up the body in a very obvious Armbar attempt. To the surprise of many Delucia appeared to be unaware of the move and tapped out at the 1:02 mark of Round 1. Having been a competitor of UFC 1 and spent aeons in the Pancrase organization you would have expected Delucia to have faired better – maybe this is his clearest indication to hang up the mitts.

Olivier vs. Pickett
A fantastic fight between two of the best UK Featherweights became a three round demonstration in what it takes to be good at this level in the sport. From the opening round to the end it became clear that Pickett was going to have to work hard to stay on his feet. Olivier is an extremely fast paced grappler with the better control but Picket showcased an array of amazing escapes and submission defence skills that kept him at bay.

There were several times during the second round when Pickett managed to sweep Olivier and started to land heavy blows from the guard but they just weren’t enough to put Olivier under.

To take a belt from a champion you need to either put them away or dominate the action but with this fight being such a close call between the two you were left feeling that maybe Olivier could have been more aggressive in the latter rounds – as it turned out Pickett was justified in retaining the title but these two fighters will surely meet again in the future.

Tedoradze vs. Berry
Bizarre sight when you see a fighter as ferocious as Tedoradze spewing up at the side of the cage prior to the fight – but when he is in there he is all business!

The round starts with Berry landing a good hook prompting Tedoradze to body tackle him to the ground. Berry is fighting him off until Tedoradze suplexes all 253lbs of him then moving to side control. Berry scrambles but Tedoradze moves to north/south. Berry looks gassed against the better wrestler in Tedoradze. Without the slightest break in action Tedoradze moves to the side and starts upper-cutting Berry forcing the KO at the 1:53 mark of Round 1 to become the new Cage Rage British Heavyweight Champion

Little vs. Epstein
Back to the quick fights now with Epstein working for the takedown following a couple of outside leg kicks – he secures and drives Little into the cage wall whereby he starts to unleash heavy rib shots. Epstein is teeing off at will and all Little is able to do in way of defence is turtle and cover. The sight is enough to prompt referee Leon to step in and halt the action at the 1:26 mark of Round 1.

Berik vs. Gilbert
Having spoken to Gilbert before the bout I knew that he was unsure of how Berik was going to come out; he is an unorthodox striker who has fought orthodox before. Initial impressions of Berik is that his a very unusual fighter, his stance and movement was all over the place but seemed effective as he managed to trade with Gilbert in the initial stages.

Gilbert for his part was on a mission, crisp striking led to Berik reverting to unorthodox pretty quickly as he was getting tagged. From there the match appeared to become a battle of the guillotine as both fighters attempted the move several times during the first round. It was clear that Sol had a much better base and was also the stronger of the two slamming Berik around the cage on three separate occasions.

Round two started with Berik coming out orthodox again throwing good combos but it didn’t last with Sol connecting a solid left hook dropping Berik to the canvas for the TKO win at the 1:05 mark of round two. Berik looked coherent enough to maybe have continued but wasn’t protesting about the stoppage in any case.

Adams vs. Robinson
The third of three short fights begins with Adams throwing heavy shots resulting in a nice hook putting Robinson down and pulling guard – at this point the fight changes pace with Robinson immediately working for the Kimura, Adams is showing a good defence against the Kimura but the Carlson Gracie fighter will not be denied switching to the Armbar for the win at the 1:05 mark of Round 1.

Holmes vs. Galesic
A very game Holmes tries hard to deal with a huge reach deficit to Trojan Freefighter Galesic. The first exchange has Holmes lunging into his opponent to gauge the distance and he takes a few shots in the process, they tie up early but with Galesic taking a high kick to the face on the break – blowing a mouse up under his left eye. This seems to fire Galesic up and he begins to stick it to Holmes with a combination of strikes.

Holmes senses that the way to win this fight is to avoid the stand-up and take it to the ground, Galesic never gives him the chance though stuffing his shoots and responding with shots, the last of which is a blistering high-kick to the head that sends Holmes down to the canvas at the 1:49 mark of Round 1 for the TKO win.

A very bad match for Holmes due to the reach: he never found is range and was always open when committing.

Barrett vs. Arbrocious
The first fight on the card gets underway with Croatian Cage Rage debutant Arbrocious taking on Elite Fighter Jason Barrett. Initial impressions before the bell indicate that Arbrocious does not look at all relaxed in the Cage; these thoughts are confirmed after the opening exchange of kicks that send him back towards the cage. Barrett is confident and unloading a barrage of strikes early on.

Arbrocius is just covering up every time Barrett steps in with an offence and is not offering a sensible defence or even trying to counter – the scene is enough for the referee to stop the bout at 1:15 of Round 1 via TKO.