Since its inception, Cage Rage has been the leading influence on UK Mixed Martial Arts. With each event receiving more promotion and coverage than the one before, incremental improvements have been made from Cage Rage 1-13. However there is nothing incremental about the progress made leading up to Cage Rage 14. Broadly speaking there are two types of event: events for ‘up-and-comers’ to make their mark and improve their fight record; and events that pitch only the best against one and other- productions such as Pride. Through this 14th instalment, Dave O’Donnell and Andy Greer have firmly cemented their event in the latter category with a fight-card crammed full of quality fighters.
The first fight of the night ended by way of referee stoppage in favour of Ryan White, over his opponent Mark “The Cannon” Buchanan. The total domination of White’s ground ‘n’ pound had an immediate effect on those in the crowd as the whole atmosphere was totally lifted. In the past, Cage Rage has been on the receiving end of some criticism which suggested that the atmosphere of their events was slightly lacking. Yet Cage Rage 14 enjoyed a fully packed-out crowd, who through their enthusiasm for such a full fight-card, must surely have put an end to any such criticism.
This good start was followed by the entrance of crowd favourite, Paul Daley. Although taking Daley all the way to a decision, Joey Van Wanrooy was soundly defeated by ground ‘n’ pound which was relentless for the entire duration of the bout. Frequently rising to his feet inside the guard, Daley rained down many heavy shots which may have sent some fighters home early. Although Wanrooy showed a lot of grit, Daley’s superior skills were just too much for him.
In what must surely be the very best fight-card ever put together on UK soil, those in attendance were treated to yet more excitement- delivered to them by the right hand of Gesias Calvacante. It took just 49seconds for "JZ"’s looping right to find the spot, and when it did it was quickly followed by a further left and right which was enough for the Judo stylist to be sent packing.
In the fight that followed, it took less than two rounds before the clean and precise stand-up skills of Ross Mason starting taking their toll on Darren Geisha. After landing a flying knee, several head kicks and a barrage of punches to the face, Mason found his opponent on the flat of his back. Mason then worked his ground ‘n’ pound which was enough to force the interjection of referee Leon Roberts.
The first submission of the night was supplied by Nigel Whitear via an arm-bar from the guard. In an absolute textbook finish by Whitear, his opponent “Dynamite” Dean Bray, tapped furiously in the third minute of round one. After a brief battle for position on the ground, Whitear showed that he is capable of finishing from any position.
Cage Rage regular Robbie Olivier faced-off against Chris Freeborn]] in a fight that went all the way to the final round. It has been suggested that with his gaze set firmly on Pickett’s belt, Olivier was guilty of looking past Freeborn. However, on the night there were no signs of a hurried or uncalculated performance from Olivier. He dominated the fight from start to finish implementing good takedown and ground ‘n’ pound skills. Although there were spells where Freeborn was able to get from his back and use some of his own ground ‘n’ pound, Olivier was just too strong for him. As such, he was awarded a unanimous judges decision.
The Oliver-Freeborn fight was the slowest of the event so far and a little something extra was needed if the high excitement of the event’s introduction was to be maintained. Enter Dave Legeno! Received by a mass of cheers from the crowd, the charismatic Legeno provided the crowd’s adrenaline before even entering the cage. Once inside, Legeno pounced on opponent Alan Murdoch unleashing a plethora of huge right hands to Murdoch’s face. In all honesty there didn’t appear to be a great amount of skill being implemented, simply strength and aggression. After clinching with each other the pair fell to the floor, where from the bottom Murdoch slipped on an arm-bar, which took Legeno’s arm to a full extension. However there was no sign of a tapout from Legeno. A few moments later, the referee interjected and put an end to the pressure being put on the elbow of Legeno. The crowd obviously voiced their disapproval but from cage-side, a distinct snapping sound could be heard. Whether this was Legeno’s arm no-one could be sure, but in a complete turn of fortune, Murdoch went from having his face pummelled, to victory (although a rather controversial victory to say the least).
The fight that followed was probably the most disappointing bout of the evening, although it received no negative jeering from the crowd. In an attempt to bring the Cage Rage rules more inline with those of their Japanese counterparts at Pride, ‘head-stomping’ and kicks to the head of a downed opponent have been included in what has been dubbed the “Open Guard” rule. However, any such stomps or kicks are only permitted when the referee calls for its implementation by announcing that “Open Guard” is in play. No such call was made during this bout, and in what was obviously a misinterpretation of the rules, “Professor X” Xavier Foupa-Pokam ‘soccer-kicked’ Sol Gilbert to the chin. Pokam, obviously believing that he had won was dismayed to find that, after 1:10 of the first round, Gilbert was declared the winner.
Robert “Buzz” Berry saw off Marc Goddard in just over one minute with a guillotine choke. Goddard later announced his retirement from professional MMA, which based on this performance, would appear to be the right decision.
Cage Rage debutant “Big” Brian Adams was next to make his entrance to the Cage- although he wasn’t the only one. Later Vitor Belfort would be making his Cage Rage debut, but for now, Adams had his sights set on the more conservative task of defeating Mark “The Beast” Epstein. In what was the most unusual fight of the evening, both Adams and Epstein came out looking for a knockout. For a split-second it looked as though they had both achieved their goal. Just after the one minute mark, both men connected with the other’s chin at exactly the same time. Both men were dropped to the floor by each other’s blow yet neither man was knocked out. A referee stoppage in favour of Epstein saw an end to the bout, much to the disapproval of those in attendance. Although looking up from the flat of his back, Adams guarded up straight away and looked to still be intelligently defending himself. The fight was stopped too early but it would be grossly unfair to blame referee Grant Waterman, who amid unusual circumstance was required to make a split-second decision. A rematch between the two is anticipated.
Antonio Schembri vs. Matt Lindland - Prior to this bout Lindland had stated that he admires the fighters at Chute Boxe but that he was looking forward to giving one of them a beating. The fight itself turned out exactly as everyone had expected: Schembri loves fighting from his back, and Lindland loves being on top and it remained in this position for the duration of the fight. As Lindland imposed his will, Schembri looked less and less likely to win. Schembri’s one-dimensional style of fighting didn’t work towards a good game-plan. As such, Lindland was where he loves to be. Inevitably Lindland won the bout, but to some surprise, the victory did not come by way of decision. Lindland was able to put an end to Schembri’s contributions in round three by steadily building the pace until all was too much for the Brazilian fighter. Referee Grant Waterman put an end to the punishment halfway through the third minute of the final round.
Among the endeavours of the promoters at Cage Rage is a new reality television series based on the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ series called ‘Rough House’. The wheels must be firmly in motion as the first eight entrants were announced. They are:
Ross Mason; Sol Gilbert; Jess Liaudin;
Jeremy Bailey; Paul Daley; Suley Mahmoud;
Paul Jenkins and Tony Thompson.
The Pride-Cage Rage link-up is another of the many endeavours undertaken this year, and things appear to be working well. The success of this link-up was particularly evident in the line up that followed, and the expectation of the last four fights was now at fever pitch.
The two men that started off the conclusion to the evening were Daijiro Matsui and Alex Reid and was the third and final fight to be left to the interpretation of the judges. Reid, in facing a vastly experienced fighter in Matsui, spent most of the bout’s duration on his back. Reid managed to inflict some damage, utilising backfists and lashing out with his feet. However, Matsui imposed some heavy ground ‘n’ pound and controlled the majority of the bout. There were spells were Reid managed to use his stand-up skills, yet Matsui consistently put Reid back on the canvas where he was able to utilise his ground ‘n’ pound and even attempted an knee-bar.
Evidently the judges saw Reid’s contribution as sufficient to amount to a draw, a decision reached by majority. These sentiments were not shared by the crowd, who believed that Matsui had done enough to take the win. Yet, rather than boo and complain, the crowd respectfully raised themselves from their seats and cheered in one almighty chorus the name of Matsui over and over again. The return of Matsui to Cage Rage would be a welcome one.
Akira Shoji, making his Cage Rage debut, was set to face-off against Mark. Weir has for a long time been one of the UK’s best fighters but has yet to make his name as one of the world’s elite. After defeating Eugene Jackson in eleven seconds at UFC 38 Weir shot to fame, but was yet to really prove himself. At Cage Rage 14, Mark Weir demonstrated to the world that his emphatic win over Eugene Jackson was not a fluke. He did this by creating a carbon-copy of what took place against Jackson. Weir came out with a typical ‘Range Fighting’ high kick; a kick that disguised a lethal right hand. It was this right hand that sent Shoji to the ground, and two more that turned his lights out. Unfortunately this knockout didn’t beat the 11 seconds of the bout against Jackson. Against Shoji it took all of 17 seconds- but who’s going to begrudge Weir taking that extra six seconds? Weir, post-fight, inspired the imagination of the UK fans further when he remarked:
“I’m the best in Britain. Let Pride send their fighters over…
I’m gonna knock ‘em out!”
The truly monumental fight-card put together for Cage Rage 14 was emphasised by the fact that Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort was on the card and not the main event. He was set to do battle with Anthony “Wild Thing” Rea, a man deserving of his place against Belfort. The bout started slowly with each fighter entering cautiously, circling for a long period. Some strikes were thrown but non that did any notable damage until well into the second half of the round. The pair clinched on several occasions with Belfort attempting to finish early with a guillotine. Rea put Belfort on his back, only to find that the extremely well rounded Belfort was close to snatching an omaplata. When back on their feet the two continued to exchange. Belfort circled his opponent until there was an opening. When it came Belfort showed flashes of his explosive punching that made him so famous. Yet, Rea was not an accepting opponent and threw many shots of his own. The round ended with little difference between the two.
Round two continued in much the same vein of that in which the first ended. There were several good exchanges in which Belfort was successful in slipping in uppercuts from various angles. In what seemed to be just another small exchange, Belfort ripped up yet another uppercut which found the sweet-spot on Rea’s chin. At 1:13 of round two it was all over.
There was lots of speculation as to which of Vitor Belfort’s two characters would come out to fight. On the night he was somewhere between the two. Belfort remained controlled and focussed but exploded into action when the moment seemed right. Those in attendance were eager to see an explosive Belfort, instead what they saw was a more mature approach to fighting. Belfort has always had the ability to rush in and destroy an opponent, although now it would appear that he has developed an intelligent as well as aggressive fighting style.
The main event of the evening was even more anticipated than the entrance of Vitor Belfort. The showdown between Curtis “Bang ‘em Out” Stout and Anderson Silva lasted not even one full found. It was Silva who opened the bout with a roundhouse to the head of Stout that landed hard and clean. Silva then found himself on his back with Stout in his guard. The Brazilian then demonstrated his roundness as a fighter by attempting to secure a triangle around the neck of Stout. This endeavour was unsuccessful however as Stout slammed his way out of danger. The action was brought to its feet at which point Stout’s failed take-down attempt resulted in him finding himself now on his back. Silva imposed his will and some very strong ground ‘n’ pound from the half guard and began to enjoy some success as the shots appeared to be softening Stout up. In an attempt to wiggle himself free of any further punishment Stout rolled away. However, this only made him more vulnerable to the heavy shots being thrown by Silva. The ten second warning was heard and Silva, in a desperate attempt to end the fight in round one, threw a barrage of right hands. Stout’s defence became more and more open and he was unable to hold out until the end of the round. Silva won by TKO timed at 4:59.5 of round one.
Ryan White def Mark Buchanan by Referee Stoppage – GNP 3:07 Round 1
Paul Daley def Joey Van Wanrooy by Unanimous Decision
Gesias Cavalanti def Michihiro Omigawa by KO 0:40 Round 1
Ross Mason def Darren Guisha by Referee stoppage – GNP Round 2
Nigel Whitear def Dean Bray by Submission – Arm-bar 3:56 Round 1
Robbie Olivier def Chris Freebourne by Unanimous Decision
Alan Murdock def Dave Legeno by Submission - Arm-bar 4:07 Round 1
Xavier Foupa-Pokam was disqualified for an illegal kick to the head resulting in Sol Gilbert being declared the winner – 1:10 Round 1
Robert Berry def Marc Goddard by Submission – Guillotine Choke 1:01 Round 1
Mark Epstein def Brian Adams by KO – 0:19 Round 1
Matt Lindland def Antonio Schembri by Referee Stoppage – GNP 3:33 Round3
Alex Reid and Daijiro Matsui fight to a Majority Draw
Mark Weir def Akira Shoji by KO – 0:17 Round 1
Vitor Belfort def Anthony Rea by KO – 1:13 Round 2