by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
LONDON – Murilo “Ninja” Rua moved to 3-0 in Cage Rage following his win over French fighter Xavier Foupa-Pokam on Saturday night in a bout that saw both fighters dancing about the cage picking shots at each other. Pokam invariably coming off the exchanges better having worked his range out and using his powerful kicks to soften the Brazilian.

The second round continued the dance between the fighters until Rua managed to close and bring his opponent to the ground. From this position Foupa-Pokam appeared to be completely out of his depth and found himself struggling to maintain composure.

Rua appeared to have a plan all marked out, and having abandoned a brief attempt at an arm triangle, he proceeded to secure a tight rear naked choke forcing the tap. With the submission, he derailed Foupa-Pokam’s five-fight win streak, marking himself out as the top contender for the vacant Cage Rage Middleweight title.

Elvis Sinosic had a long flight over to the U.K. for a short time in the cage and will be spending the long return flight wondering what on earth happened in his fight with Liverpudlian terror Paul Cahoon.

The opening seconds of the round saw both fighters circling and throwing feeler shots at each other before Cahoon stepped in, having measured his distance perfectly, to plant a big right cross square on the jaw of the Australian fighter, wobbling his legs before sending him crashing to the canvas.

Cahoon was clearly ecstatic about his performance and his in cage celebration showed it as he jumped around on the cage walls like Spiderman on speed – climbing in, on and out of the cage in joy before coming back down to check on his downed opponent.

It was a very impressive win for Cahoon. He underlined his position as king of the British light-heavyweight division and the man most likely be gunning for Vitor Belfort’s strap during 2008.

Drew Fickett came from the brink of defeat in his fight with Mark Weir, having found himself on his back trying to survive a vicious ground and pound assault from the Briton. It was clear early on that Fickett had no intention of doing anything other than making the fight a grappling match. Mindful of this, Weir seemed comfortable on the ground and seemed completely prepared for that scenario.

Weir had previously stated that he would call it a day if he ever becomes easy prey for his opponents. In this fight he proved that there is still fire in him having almost finished the fight via ground and pound, but you have to give praise to the American for his tenacity and composure. His setup of the rear naked choke was masterful and swift. Fickett should prove to be a welcome addition to the Cage Rage 170-pound division.

Ross Pointon surprised everyone in his fight with Marios Zaromskis, taking it to the Lithuanian fighter in the standup exchanges and rocking him on several occasions. Even though he stepped out of the cage with an evil-looking four centimeter long cut in his forehead, he was chomping at the bit demanding a rematch.

“I want that fight again. I know I can beat him and want the chance to prove it. He didn’t hit me with anything I couldn’t handle,” proclaimed the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran and fan favorite.

Many thought Zaromskis might prove too much for the Stoke based fighter, but despite taking several full force connecting knees, he refused to go down or even be rocked by the exchanges and was the aggressor, pushing the pace at all times. Zaromskis appeared to be frustrated at the lack of effect his strikes were having.

Pointon looked completely different in this fight to any other time we have seen him, with crisp hands and stinging leg kicks. Aside from opening a few exchanges with knee’s, Zaromskis was in effect fighting a counter game with his strikes and relying on his high kick speed to try and score.

Ultimately a big right hand signaled the end for Pointon’s night, connecting on a cut that had been opened earlier in the bout, and forcing the fight to the mat. There appeared to be a lot of blood coming from Pointon, forcing a doctor’s check. Reminiscent of the cut suffered by Marvin Eastman at UFC 43, there was no option but to halt the bout. Pointon will be looking at this fight as “one that got away.”

Mark “The Beast” Epstein proved there is still life in him – this time at middleweight – in his fight against Tom “Kong” Watson in a bout that would be contested over the full 15-minute duration.

With the opening round finding both fighters respectful of each other’s striking skills, they circled and chipped away, Watson using his jab well and Epstein attempting a bold, early high kick attempt. Surprisingly it was Epstein who initiated the first takedown of the fight, only to be reversed and spend the rest of the round fighting off his back.

With all three rounds of the fight being closely fought affairs – both fighter’s working similar game plans – scoring the bout must have proven quite difficult for the judges. But Epstein picked up the win; most likely on account of having finished the last round in top position.

Watson offered his view on the fight, saying, “I should have been more aggressive in the standup, and I only have myself to blame for that. I hate fights going to the judges, but I still thought I did enough to win that fight having attempted armbars and triangles from the bottom. Mark got the win, but I’ll be back and I’ll be meaner next time.”

Mark Buchanan impressed with his maturity and composure in his fight against George Castro, having stepped up on two day’s notice to fill in for Dave Legeno and proved that “who dares wins.”

Both Castro and Buchanan were content on trading, that much was apparent and both looked pretty good with their boxing. Buchanan has tended to not look comfortable in the past striking and almost as though he has been trying to piece MMA together in stages. He was positively flowing Saturday night and kept adjusting his range and striking to pick off his opponent, never fully over-committing himself to a big exchange, but still chipping away calmly.

Midway through the second round Buchanan must have smelt blood, having forced Castro to back up into the cage with a nice combination. He grounded the fight and unleashed a barrage of punches to force the referee to step in and call time. His conservation of energy, calmness and ability to turn the pace up when it mattered won him the fight and showed that he has improved massively in 2007.

Robert “Buzz” Berry came into this bout with a chest infection and even appeared to be breathing heavy during the pre-fight interview, but it didn’t stop him from throwing it all down in the cage and fighting a “do or die” first round against Neil Grove.

Berry has had criticisms leveled at him in the past over his lack of head movement and his propensity to throw strikes with a rigid back whilst hanging his chin out, an area that he appears to have worked on for this fight. Indeed, it appears that Berry has highlighted major chinks in the “Goliath’s armor” and possibly laid a blueprint on how to beat the South African fighter.

Berry circled well, stepping back out of oncoming punches and drove forward to close the distance before working solid knees in the clinch. Even on the ground it was Berry who dominated top position with a solid run at an arm triangle, but he fell foul to conditioning and was unable to finish the fight with strikes despite being in top position. Having worked himself into oxygen debt and unable to breathe, he only had this telling nugget to offer, “I was (expletive), I couldn’t breathe and there was no way I was going to make it out for the second round.”

Italian Ivan Serati came out ultra-aggressively against Lee Hasdell in the opening moments of their bout, immediately working for a takedown and forcing his will upon the British veteran. Following a scramble, both fighters made it to their feet and up against the cage wall, but again it was the Italian who was pushing the pace landing knee’s before dragging the fight down again.

The fight proved to reach a major turning point at the end of the first round with Serati setting up an armbar submission from the top position that was on deep, so much so Hasdell’s arm was slinged-up after the bout and awaiting further medical inspection. The submission didn’t end the bout though as the bell for the end of round broke the hold.

Round two continued in the same form with Serati being the aggressor taking Hasdell back down and securing mount. He fired off a continuous stream of punches on his opponent forcing the referee to call time to the bout. Serati chalks up his first win on the big stage in impressive fashion and Hasdell is left to ponder his future, just around the corner from turning 41-years-of-age.

Abdul Mohammed and Robbie Olivier fought to a three round decision to contest for the lightweight championship in a bout that offered too much respect towards each other’s abilities. Olivier arguably won the first, driving for the takedown, using his strikes well to open up a cut inside Mohammed’s ear and really pushing the pace. Mohammed arguably took the second, working stronger in the clinch and using his wrestling base to good effect attempting to work his ground and pound game.

The winner of the bout boils down to how you scored the third round, and in this case the judges favored Mohammed. The old adage of “to be a champion, you have to beat a champion” rings true and although both fought well, Olivier didn’t let his hands go enough in the final round to sway the judges, and Mohammed retained his title by decision.

Robert Paczkow, Polish sumo wrestler and owner of the worst mullet ever seen in the cage, clearly has some judo in his background and he used it to good effect having weathered an early attempt at an armbar by James McSweeney from the bottom. But a 100-pound weight disadvantage would always prove to be a problem to shift if you are on your back and, as such, the British fighter couldn’t find a way out, enabling Paczkow to setup the choke from the north/south position.

In the opening bout of the evening, Ronnie Mann took out Jordan Miller quickly via triangle choke following a big takedown. It was evident that Mann was looking forward to fighting Pickett and to be denied the opportunity due to injury, clearly took the luster away from his win and it showed. Miller was a late replacement and did well to step-up and take the fight, but clearly wasn’t going to be a match for the upcoming Team Trojan fighter.

Cage Rage 24
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2004
Wembley Arena
London, England

– Murilo “Ninja” Rua def. Xavier Foupa Pokam by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:47, R2
– Paul Cahoon def. Elvis Sinosic by TKO (Strikes) at 0:21, R1
– Drew Fickett def. Mark Weir by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:55, R1
– Marios Zaromskis def. Ross Pointon TKO (Cut) at 3:39, R2
– Mark Epstein def. Tom Watson by Split Decision, R3
– Mark Buchanan def. George Castro by TKO (Strikes) at 3:17, R2
– Neil Grove def. Robert Berry by TKO (Unable to Continue) at 5:00, R1
– Ivan Serati def. Lee Hasdell by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:34, R2
– Abdul Mohammed def. Robbie Olivier by Majority Decision, R3
– Robert Paczkow def. James McSweeney by Submission (North-South) at 2:09, R1
– Ronnie Mann def. Jordan Miller by Submission (Triangle Choke) at 0:53, R1