Cage Rage 9 No Mercy - I’m sure that if you were to look at the mission statement of Cage Rage, then you would see nothing less than a promise to deliver the very best mixed martial arts show in the UK. Speak to anyone in the UK scene about Cage Rage and the phrase “The UK’s UFC” will soon be bandied about. Whatever you think of Cage Rage, the facts are as follows; they consistently put on shows that contain the highest production standards, feature the biggest names and pay the best purses.
In a relatively short amount of time, Cage Rage has grown from humble roots to become without doubt the UK’s leading MMA promotion. Beginning life in famous boxing venues such as the York Hall they took a temporary residency at Caesars Nightclub, then surprised everyone by taking a huge leap forward and booking the 2500-seater Wembley Conference Centre. Cage Rage had been steadily building their brand of party atmosphere mixed with adrenaline fuelled fighting in smaller venues, but had reached the stage when they were ready to expand.
Armed with a loyal fan base, bolstered by some hefty financial backing and wielding an unprecedented SKY TV deal, Cage Rage were ready to take on the world. After the success of their last two shows at Wembley, they once again raised the bar for UK MMA by putting together a card that included five UFC veterans (more than some UFCs!) and a few of the biggest international names side by side with the cream of UK talent.
Main Event – Heavyweight Title Fight
Ryan Robinson vs. Ian “The Machine” Freeman
Ian “The Machine” Freeman is a legend among UK HWs. His memorable beatdown of UFC superstar Frank Mir will forever be remembered, much like the great victories of WW2. A young and inexperienced fighter stood in the way of the powerhouse from Sunderland, and while putting up more fight than expected, still received a clinic from the big man himself.
Though taken down briefly, Freeman calmly escaped and reversed position, and with a takedown of his own put the young Londoner on his back. Trapping his arms he started dropping those heavy hands, before taking the back and pounding his way to a victory.
Winner: Freeman by TKO (ref stoppage) 2.44 Rd 1
While not the walkover many predicted, it was certainly a measured performance from The Machine and one that helped get rid of any ring rust. Announcing he would instantly vacate the title due to his decision to fight at LHW, it leaves the HW division wide open for Cage Rage.
Freeman’s next step is to drop to his new fighting weight and to fight Golden Glory Team member Paul Cahoon in February. This fight proves he has not allowed his training to slacken during his inactivity, and he will need to train hard for his encounter with Cahoon.
Mark “The Wizard” Weir vs. Matt “The Law“ Lindland (USA)
I swear I saw this fight play out before my eyes before it happened- Lindland would take down the gangly Weir with his trademark clinch and administer a bona fide Team Quest beating. No, before you ask, I’m not psychic.
Dodging the advancing Weir’s kick, he methodically worked his clinch against the fence before capitalising on Weir raising his knee to sweep him to the mat. Calmly working from inside Weir’s guard, Lindland peppered him with short punches and forearms, beginning the process of what many expected to be a “typical” Lindland decision victory. He looked a little more eager to do some damage tonight though, and was soon avoiding a desperate arm triangle attempt from Weir after over-reaching with an elbow. Lindland easily rode out to the end of the first round in clear control. A bloodied a frustrated Weir was further disappointed when the doctor waved it off due to a cut over his right eye.
Winner: Lindland by TKO (Doctor’s stoppage) 5.00 Rd 1
It was clear from the moment Lindland took Weir down that it just wasn’t his night. While Weir nursed his wounds, Lindland had a little something to say to whom many regard as the UK’s top MW, and the jewel in Cage Rage’s crown, Lee Murray. Displaying some impressive mike skills Lindland challenged Murray to face him in February, telling him he’d shut him up once and for all.
An irate Murray rushed into the cage and a memorable smack-talking contest ensued with Lindland clearly emerging the winner. Drawing repeated laughs from the crowd, he poked fun at Murray calling him a monkeyboy and taunting him with a little monkey dance. “Want some peanuts, Monkeyboy?” he sang, prompting a peeved-looking Murray to launch a bottle of water over him. A showdown is pencilled in for February; keep an eye out for further details.
Mark “The Beast” Epstein vs. Mike “The Count” Bisping
Epstein and Bisping had the dubious honour of being the only fight all night that actually went into a second round. A stand-up war of epic proportions, it was a rematch of their earlier encounter this year, when Bisping had stood victorious.
Both men favour their striking, so this fight was a repeat performance of their first, but this time far more drawn out and bruising. Bisping used his fast jab and cleaner boxing skills to constantly tag Epstein with flurries, moving in and out of range of the stocky street fighter’s hooks. Epstein is not a counter fighter, and had major difficulty in landing anything of substance on the quicker Bisping. Though Epstein has a granite chin, Bisping managed to stun him a few time, taking mount in round 1 and easily controlling round 2. Round 3 was more even, and Epstein no longer looked as in quite so much trouble, and started hammering in leg kicks. Bisping finally remembered his shin block though, and though his timing was off his right hand counter to another of Epstein’s leg kicks was on target and Epstein went down for good with only 19 seconds left in the fight.
Winner: Bisping by KO, 4.41 Rd 3
Cyrille Diabate (Fra) vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral (Bra)
I’ll admit it straight out; I am a fan of Babalu. I like his style, I like his tattoos and I think he is generally underrated. Wearing a fetching pair of pantaloons emblazoned with sponsorship logos, he looked like an old-fashioned strong man or carnival wrestler, daring the punters to last five minutes and claim their prize.
Utilising the old fashioned jiu-jitsu front kick, he successfully baited Cyrille into countering it and shot in for a single upon the response. Passing Diabate’s guard he maintained a low knee ride while looking for full mount, but got stuck in half guard on the opposite side as he tried to work his way over.
And this was where the brilliance began- a trap was laid that led to Diabate effectively submitting himself. Locking down Diabate’s far arm, Babalu snaked his arms under and acquired the position for a keylock. Cyrille knew what was coming and defended perfectly by placing his hand on his hip and not allowing the arm to go anywhere. Sensing Babalu’s weight come off him, he bridged into him to roll him and take top position, but halfway over Babalu had gotten his hips out of the way and a front choke was in place as Diabate got to his knees. The guillotine was tightened and a sweep to mount put Babalu in top position, leaving no escape for the Frenchman.
Winner: Babalu by Submission (Guillotine) 3.38 Rd 1
Easy fight, easy money. Babalu employed a perfect strategy to dominate Cyrille throughout.
Jean Silva (Bra) vs. Sammy Schiavo (Fra)
This was a match between two fighters who always exciting, yet fans were guaranteed a blistering fight as both men were coming off lacklustre performances of late and had something to prove in tonight’s second rematch. Having faced each other a few years ago, Schiavo had put in a tremendous performance but got choked in the third round by the wily and unpredictable Brazilian.
This time out, the LW champ came out hard and fast, using his unorthodox spinning kick attacks to try and faze the Frenchman. Sammy was well prepared though, and closed the gap with punches, prompting a lengthy battle in clinch.
As they traded position and knees, Silva got caught with a low blow and took time to recover. A second, this time debatable, low blow saw another short break for Silva, but on the restart both men came out firing. Dodging Silva’s sloppy punches Schiavo shot in and took Silva to the mat, but spent a furious few minutes defending the infamous anaconda choke. Maintaining good base he would not be rolled and escaped, but upon starting another beatdown from inside Silva’s guard he inadvertently dived into a triangle and was left no choice but to tap.
Winner: Silva by Submission (Triangle) 4.40 Rd 1
Both these guys are livewires, and given time literally anything could have happened during this fight. I’d say it was a case of an eager Schiavo making a mistake than Silva taking the win through a clear game plan.
Sol Gilbert vs. Ridas Vivada (Lith)
For those of you living under a rock for the last two years, Gilbert is one of the UK’s MW rising stars. Full of charisma and presence he brings a fight or die attitude with him and loves to bang. Vivada was a total unknown quantity, as he was a last minute replacement.
Predictably Sol came out firing off combos, and two or three of these saw the Lithuanian closing the gap lest he get KO’d. Bad move, as Sol has a ground game too you know, and he used an outside trip to take mount almost immediately. Sol postured to hit but Vivada had turned, giving his back. Going first for the choke then switching to an armbar, Gilbert looked close to getting his second submission in as many matches, but the Lithuanian shook him off and stood away. Sol leisurely rose to his feet, and once in range dropped Vivada with an overhand right from hell. The ref got in the way as he dived on, protecting Vivada from any more harm.
Winner: Gilbert by TKO (Ref stoppage) 3.42 Rd 1
Sol was seen nursing a broken hand later, a direct result from that KO punch. “He had to go down off that one,” he said.
Robbie Oliver vs. Dave “Speedy” Elliot
Olivier initiated proceedings with a cracking leg kick, drawing a low/high kick combo from the former kickboxer-turned-submission specialist Speedy. No punches were landed as they met in clinch, and as they moved as one towards the fence Elliot made the mistake of jumping guard. Olivier shook off the first attempt, maintaining his footing and staying in a clinch. Elliot tried again, but this time Olivier slammed him down, visibly winding him. Speedy’s legs opened, and his eyes glazed- while he was still conscious, he wasn’t quite all there. Olivier patiently stood out of guard, soccer kicking to the body and legs before suddenly diving in with a huge left hook. Snapping Elliot’s head back, he popped up possibly looking to do so again, but this time Elliot had gone for good- turned on his side and clutching his head, no more was needed for referee Grant Waterman to call the stoppage.
Winner: Olivier by TKO (Referee stoppage) 0.57 Rd 1
Paul “Semtex” Daley vs. Jess Liaudin
Back from a hefty training experience with the American Top Team, Paul Daley has been making a name for himself as one of the most explosive fighters on the UK WW circuit. Young, hungry and frighteningly talented, he’s got serious power in his hands, hence the nickname “Semtex”.
Everyone thought it would be Jess taking the fight to the floor, but as the two swapped punches and met in clinch, it was Daley who took the initiative and scored an outside trip. Landing in guard, he used the cage to control Jess’s hips and began his offensive. Liaudin was in no bother though, and soon scooted his hips out. Climbing his legs up, he seemed to have a triangle but Paul cannily defending both the choke and the subsequent armbar. Settling down into a sedate pace, the two seemed locked in a grappling match, and just as I was checking my watch Daley switched gears and exploded down with three or four big left hooks (his signature weapon).
The two got back to their feet and once again traded shots, but this time as they clinched Paul took crucifix-style double underhooks and started popping knees to Jess’s head. Sensing serious danger, Liaudin pulled guard, and as they again settled down he exploded his hips up and swept Daley into a mount. The call of ten seconds left came, and Liaudin could do nothing before the bell.
Upon inspection from the doctor, it was clear that during his earlier flurry on the mat, Daley had more or less completely shattered the bridge of Liaudin’s nose. A halt was called to proceedings and what looked to be a classic was stopped somewhat prematurely.
Winner: Daley by TKO (Doctor’s stoppage) 5.00 Rd 1
Don’t let the result fool you, it was closer than you might think, but believe me when I say Paul couldn’t have been beaten tonight. Save for the sweep whatever Jess had, Paul was able to deal with and answer with something just a little more of his own. Daley is fast maturing (and not only his age) into a versatile fighter capable of doing great things.
Alex “Reidernater” Reid vs. Tulio Palhares (Bra)
Alex Reid is a man all about business. His fight tonight with Tulio Palhares was one that had some fans scratching their heads- “who is he?” they asked, and a look at his record saw encounters with such luminaries as Semenov and Vovchanchyn. One might expect a tough time for Alex then?
Not so- though a noted striker, Alex possesses a ground game that matches his years inside the various Vale Tudo arenas he has graced. Launching a swift two-kick combo, Reid was quickly taken to the mat by the soft-looking Brazilian (now resident in Spain). Utilising great hip movement, Reid used his long legs to push his way off the cage and out of danger, and to everyone’s surprised took a triangle in just over a minute. Palhares looked distraught, as if he had never seen the move before. I assume he had, I expect he had just never been caught by one quite so easily.
Winner: Reid by Submission (Triangle) 1.17 Rd 1
Abdul Mohamed vs. Sami Berik
An Afgahnistani monster with a wrestling background, Mohamed seemed easily equipped to deal with the guy who lists himself as a Tai Chi fighter, Sami Berik. Indeed, it took no more than a blink of an eye before Abdul had shot in and hoisted Berik into the air. Forcefully slamming the young Londoner to the mat, he found his head trapped in a desperate guillotine. Picking Berik way up from the mat, he slammed his way out and scrambled to take the back.
We in the audience had a flashback to how we felt when it seemed Randleman was slamming Fedor to the hospital. Abdul had lifted Berik high and launched him over in a belly-to-back suplex that had half the crowd cheering, the other half going “ooooh”. Somehow, Berik’s neck remained in one piece, but he found himself picked up and dumped again. I was thinking of WWE and considering exactly how many of those slams a human being could endure before serious injury occurred, and while doing some quick calculations in my head saw the Ref pulling the two apart.
Some confusion reigned, and we saw blood- but unexpectedly, the blood belonged to Abdul. Berik had elbowed him above the eye while on his back in guard, and re-opened an old gash.
Winner: Berik by TKO (Doctor’s stoppage) 2.41 Rd 1
Fereidoun Maghizadeh (Iran) vs. Mustapha al Turk
The big boys took centre stage in this HW tussle. Al Turk is a London Shoot fighter, and the benefit of having such a well-established team proved invaluable in facing such a formidable wrestler as “Freddie”.
Controlling the stand-up and never letting Freddie get close enough to use his wrestling, Al Turk dropped bomb after bomb over the low guard of the Iranian. Staggering him with his first few punches, Al Turk used a Thai clinch to keep Freddie on the outside and prevent him using his base art of Greco. Dodging a shoot Al Turk darted away as Freddie ended up face down. Taking the back with both hooks in, he dropped a few shots much like Ian Freeman had with Ryan Robinson and won by stoppage.
Winner: Al Turk by TKO (Ref stoppage) 2.23 Rd 1
Brad “One Punch” Pickett vs. Stewart “The Warrior” Grant
I really can’t say anything about this fight other than Brad ended it with one punch. He swung for it a few times, missing with each one, but as soon as his left hook had landed, it was pretty much over. A few shots went followed as Grant was out of it, but the damage had been done and the fight won.
Winner: Pickett by KO 17 secs Rd 1
I have lots of good things to say about Cage Rage. The last time I went to one of their shows was when they were still in Caesars nightclub. Boy have they come a long way. With top production values and a great venue, they have all the necessary tools to maintain a strong position at the top of the market.
They enjoy extensive contacts throughout the UK and the world, they have extremely wealthy backers and an intuitive eye for matchmaking. The auditorium was healthily packed, if not full. The fighters were all more than complimentary about the backstage goings-on, and everyone seems financially satisfied.
As for the big name fighters, well a favourable exchange rate with the weak dollar and the absence of a phone call from the UFC means Matt Lindland’s diary is free for a while- with the exception of February, where he will face Lee Murray in the Cage Rage octagon. A possible match with Anderson Silva down the line means Cage Rage have suddenly got themselves a stacked MW division. Matt’s more than happy to return to the UK, why not get him to bring one of his boys over? Is Dan Henderson busy? A match with Anderson Silva would be mouth watering to say the least.
Freeman seems happy to return, at his new weight of LHW of course. A match with his teammate Mike Bisping is out of the question, however there is one other notable LHW who just won… I think his name began with a “B”.
In conclusion, I’ll say it again. Mention Cage Rage and the words “UK’s UFC” aren’t far away. Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer have done a top job in dragging MMA in the UK kicking and screaming into something resembling a professional sport. With the names mentioned for their next show, it seems we’ll be getting more of the same.
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