After a bit of a slow slow start, Sheffield's Octagon Arena began to fill up.
CWFC, M.C. Ian Freemantook the mic and began to warm up the crowd. He introduced the main players and the Spearmint Rhino girls, who were very well received by the spectators. Mark Goddard was to be the referee, and Ian Freeman joked that he was glad he wasn't doing his job.
Although the first fight was scheduled for 6:30, the show started slightly later as hardly anyone was there for the doors opening. This must have been frustrating for the fighters trying to warm-up pre-fight! The first 3 fights were to be Class B (CW Quest) rules fought with no elbows, or heel hooks allowed.
Both making their Middleweight debut in pro-MMA were Tamai "Big T" Harding, and Wesley Scarrett. Big T makes a huge entrance into the arena, it was clear that he was itching to get his debut over and done with, with Scarlett strolling into his corner just as if he was walking into a 9-5. The stare down showed the size difference, with "Big T" towering over his opponent. He comes out of his corner with a left right combo, into the clinch taking Scarett to the canvas, pulls half-guard, and works punches to the head. Passes the half guard, takes the mount and unloads onto his downed opponent forcing a referee stoppage. Enter the Paramedics, and it was game over for Scarrett at 1 minute of the opening round of the pair's debut. "Big T" looks to be a promising start, he barely broke sweat in the fight, and dominated throughout.
Next up was Matt Hasland of Tap or Snap and Chris Taylor of Wakefield Submission. The Tap and Snap guys were in abundance, so were well behind their fighter. Hasland strolls into the Octagon, very calm, a complete opposite to Taylor who enters to the New Zealand All Black's Hacka. Worked well for a fight entrance, stirring up the crowd who after the first rapid victory were after more. Hasland explodes out of his corner, into a double leg take down of Taylor, who wanted to get the action rolling. Taylor closes guard, but Hasland goes for strikes, loosening Taylor's grip. After a slam attempt by Hasland, the fighters are against the cage, sending the door flying open, pending an impromptu stoppage, giving the fighters a break, and a much needed breather for Taylor. Once restarted in Taylor's guard, Hasland works body head combos to Taylor who again is slammed by his opponent. The fight continues with several attempts by Hasland to finish, but Taylor is far from giving up. The buzzer goes with Taylor caught in a guillotine, a lucky escape.
Round 2 and Hasland makes the most of his reach advantage, but the unlucky event of Taylor catching a low blow, giving Hasland a breather, stops the fight once again. Once restarted Taylor looks to finish, with Hasland looking gassed and bloodied. Buzzer goes for the end of the round, and Hasland wins via unanimous decision.
Last of the CW Quest fights was to be Kent Cooper versus Spencer Dummer. Cooper was the crowd favorite, being a local fighter from Brian Aiken's camp, and was well received. However it was not to be his night as Dummer from Pedro Bessa's JJ academy in Wales closed the fight at 49 seconds of Round 1 with a text-book guillotine choke.
First of the full MMA rules was Karl Amoussou from France versus Lee Chadwick. Amoussou entered wearing a Kamikaze headband along with a Team Red Devil hoody, hoping to draw some inspiration from the Red Devil's finest fighter, Fedor Emelianenko. After a close up face off the fight got going with Amoussou unloading into Chadwick with a big kick, both going to the ground. Chadwick goes for a turtle guard, Amoussou sliding in with an attempt at a rear naked choke. He gets the hooks in and straightens his man out, and Chadwick is tapping. Winner by tap out at 31 seconds of Round 1. Very good finish!
Onto the next fight being a Middleweight match up of Paul "Hands of Stone" Jenkins versus Marcello Salazar. Being the veteran of some 60 MMA fights, Jenkins looked the better opponent, working some good low Thai kicks to his relatively inexperienced opponent, scoring well with these throughout round 1of the scheduled 3. Making it to the second round, it gets restarted due to inactivity and the crowd restless at the lack of action. Into the third and final round, both fighters looking to close the fight early on, Jenkins making the most of his kicking ability, scoring to the same region of Salazar's left leg over and over. Switching to some inside kicks, Salazar takes the fight to the ground, which ends in a Referee restart. Buzzer sounds with 2 tired fighters making their way to their respective corners. Ian brings them to the centre, and a draw by unanimous decision. A good result for Salazar over his more experienced opponent. A classic match up of the striker versus the grappler, with Jenkins favoring the tried and tested low Thai kick over and over.
First Welterweight match up of the night sees Peter "Yamatodamashii" Angerer of the German Top Team against Matt Thorpe from Stockport's Northern Cartel. With Thorpe's fans in abundance it was clear early on who was to be the victor. Angerer comes out of his corner with a lead low kick and Thorpe taking his man to the deck. With Thorpe in Angerer's butterfly guard. Angerer attempts a heel hook, which Thorpe just manages to escape with a roll out, leaving Angerer's head open to Thorpe's big heavy hands, resulting in a referee stoppage.
The Paramedics are called in as Angerrer is still down way after the buzzer, but shortly after he is back on his feet congratulating his victorious opponent with a good show of respect and sportsmanship.
Next up the Lightweight bout between Andre Winner of the Rough House and Paul Cooper from Wakefield Submission. Winner opens with a classic knee to the head of Cooper.
After a few exchanges against the cage, Cooper gets caught in a Triangle, which was a huge surprise, as it came from nowhere, he looked gutted to say the least, with his fight ending so early on in the first round. Winner seemed to be the stronger fighter throughout, moving from 1 submission attempt to the next like he was rolling with his training partner. The take down which resulted in the triangle came from what I can only describe as a crab scissor, to take Cooper off balance to the mat into Winner's waiting finish.
Fight 8 of the scheduled 12 was a catch weight fight between Sami "The Hun" Berik and Peter Irving. Berik sets off circling his opponent looking for his opening and secures his take down. Irving goes for the rear naked choke, loosening up his opponent with some strikes to the back of his head. Berik showcased his ground skills and rolls out only to get caught in an arm bar attempt. He punches his way out and taps Irving out with a sweet rear naked choke at 4.15 of the first round. Berik's experience prevailed here, he had an answer for every move Irving made, and was a real slippery guy on the mat. Very entertaining to watch!
Next fight on the card was Thiago "Jambo" Goncalves from Holland's Northern Pro Team versus Matt Ewin fighting out of Mark Weir's Range Fighting stable. I for one was really looking forward to this as Mr. Weir is a firm favorite of mine after disposing of Eugene Jackson in his UFC debut back in 2002. Ewin's game plan was clear from the off as he kept his man at bay with some Thai 'teep' front kicks utilizing his long legs like a boxer's jab. The fight hits the canvas with Jambo locking on a guillotine as they go down. After a scrappy ground battle, the fighters make their way to their feet with Ewin kneeing Goncalves in the face from the outside of the clinch, a textbook Thai knee. With the fighters against the cage, Goncalves is caught by an accidental low blow by Ewin's knee. After Goncalves has caught his breath back the show is underway with Ewin determined to finish this standing throwing big Thai front and low kicks, Goncalves answers with a flying knee but unfortunately the action is stopped with the end of round buzzer.
Round 2 is pretty much of the same, with Ewin's kicks finding their target on Goncalves outside thigh. Fatigue starts to show as the fighters are keen to rest, with Goncalves sat in Ewin's closed guard. Definitely needed a restart at this point and the buzzer brought a welcome end to a scrappy second round. With a big round 3 needed conditioning was going to be a factor with both fighters showing the signs of tiredness. To start the final round they show their respect for each other with a good touch of gloves, something I always like to see. Not only does it show sportsmanship and respect, but it gives the brain an idea of where your opponent is distance wise. Like a carbon copy of the first 2 rounds, Ewin comes out with his array of Thai kicks. It was not to be Ewin's night as Goncalves looked the better fighter wanting the finish, in a better state than his opponent with more wind in his sails. In Ewin's guard Goncalves works short digging punches to the face and the body, all Ewin can do is hold his man as tight as possible to prevent Goncalves from dropping bombs onto his tired opponent. The fight is restarted stood up, with Ewin bloodied up from Goncalves' shots. The Paramedics are called in, and declare him good to go. Ewin kicks low and Goncalves answers with a hard low kick of his own with the crack of instep against tired thigh echoing all around the arena. Into Ewin's guard they fall, and all they can do is await the buzzer. Tired they emerge, but both fighters showing their immediate respect for what was a hard fought battle. Goncalves emerges the victor with a unanimous decision.
Fight 10 was a Lightweight bout between Ian "M16" Butlin and Phil Raeburn from Wales' House of Pain gym. Emerging as the more nervous fighter Butlin takes his man straight to the mat, and gets stuck in with some good old fashioned ground and pound. Giving Butlin his back, Raeburn gets caught in a rear naked choke, with Butlin holding onto him for dear life. After 2 escapes Butlin looks determined to finish the fight early on and after just over 1 minute Raeburn taps out to the rear naked choke.
Butlin takes the mic off Ian Freeman offering an open challenge to any lightweight out there who fancies a go. After seeing what he has to offer only 8 fights into his professional career this guy is destined for the big time and a serious contender.
A short break saw Michael "The Count" Bisping entering the ring to announce that he was scheduled to fight in the ultimate Western proving ground, the UFC. He would not reveal who he was to face, but he looked excited and the crowd showed their appreciation with a rewarding ovation. I'm sure I speak for all the UK fight fans when I wish The Count all the best in the upcoming show.
Fight 11 was to be the Lightweight World Title bout, with the defending champion Alexandre "Xandinho" Izidro pitted against Franco "Ortega" De Leonardis from Germany's Top Team. The victor of tonight's fight meeting the winner of the upcoming 8 man lightweight tournament to be fought in November back in Sheffield's Octagon.
Round 1 of the proposed 5 minute bouts starts with Izidro closing distance with a Thai low kick followed by picking up De Leonardis and slamming him to the ground in style. Izidro's ground skills showed with him landing his man into side-control. De Leonardis manages to roll out and the fighters are in a North/South with De Leonardis' head ripe for some shots off Izidro. Izidro escapes the hold, and gets to his feet, hunting down his man. Both men appear fit and set should the fight go the full 25 minute distance. The fight takes to the ground, but the buzzer stops the action just as Izidro cranks on a knee bar attempt from the bottom. Given moments longer I'm sure this would have secured him an early victory, as it was on tight.
Round 2 kicks off in style with Izidro opening the action with another big low Thai kick, landing flush on De Leonardis' thigh. De Leonardis follows with a Thai kick off his own closing the distance with a left right combo into a clinch against the cage. Izidro wants to take this to the ground and show his BJJ skills, but De Leonardis isn't having any of it, and stays stood to avoid the ground battle. In the end he falls into Izidro's butterfly guard, which De Leonardis easily passes to take side control. De Leonardis' technical BJJ skills shine, but the referee is keen to stand the fighters to retain the pace. De Leonardis looks down his nose across the Octagon at his adversary, keen to get stuck in. With De Leonardis on his back, Izidro attempts a Sakaraba style stomp to his downed opponent, the buzzer ending the action again, just before it heats up.
Round 3 sees De Leonardis leading with a good left hook right straight combo, closing the distance, straight into Izidro's waiting low kick. De Leonardis answers with an inside low kick, solid hook and unloads as his opponent's guard comes down. Down they go, with both fighters looking for a heel hook. De Leonardis manages side control, but fails to make the most of his opportunity to finish, some big elbows would have ended it for sure. Izidro rolls out, and the ref restarts the action stood up. End of round 3 sees Izidro with another heel hook attempt which De Leonardis escapes, and answers with a rear naked choke attempt.
Both fighter's ground skills are obvious, but the short 5 minute rounds aren't enough for one to crack each other's defence. When 2 very technical grapplers are pitched together, the 5 minutes rounds just aren't enough in my opinion.
Round 4 and after a few harsh words by Izidro's corner, they come out fighting, with De Leonardis landing a big straight to Izidro's face who immediately follows his corner's advice and land a heavy overhand right to his man's face. The fight goes to the ground in De Leonardis' corner, with his team shouting out instructions to close the fight. He secures a choke, but fails to end it, kneeing Izidro as he releases his grip. Once again De Leonardis tries to tap out Izidro with a triangle attempt that goes nowhere, fatigue and a sweaty body preventing the Ippon. Ref restarts the action, Izidro shoots for the double leg and slam, but the buzzer yet again ending the round climax as Izidro unloads some big shots to De Leonardis' face and body.
Fifth and final round sees the fighters coming to the centre of the Octagon to touch gloves and show mutual respect for each other over a hard fought 20 minutes of action.
Izidro opens up with a low kick and a left right combo, into a knee attempt and clinches De Leonardis against the cage wall. To the ground it goes, and after some slick BJJ work by Izidro, De Leonardis shows he's not in Germany's Top Team for nothing, with an excellent Kimura whilst he is pressed into the cage with limited movement.
As usual with this type of event the crowd boo when the fight hits the floor and the pace slows, not realizing that is where the fight is hardest and more technical. Obviously the majority crowd were not exponents of Martial Arts, as the true fans appreciated the BJJ battle that was going on, with excellent control on both sides.
With another restart, De Leonardis stalks Izidro with a hook which is checked by a superb flying knee, where Izidro pulls some energy out of the bag and is keen to finish. The fights goes to the ground, and De Leonardis gets caught in an arm bar attempt. De Leonardis goes for a knee bar and Izidro spins out catching De Leonardis in a choke in the North/South position.
The buzzer signifies the end of a hard fought battle on both sides but there could only be one true winner and that was Izidro by majority judges decision. In my eyes both fighters were winners as the action was non-stop for 25 minutes, with submission attempts coming thick and fast.
Izidro retains the CWFC Lightweight World Champion belt and will go on to face the winner of the upcoming 8 man tournament in November.
With Rushton entering the cage as the crowd favorite Hardy strolls into the cage looking very unassuming. The action literally kicks off with Hardy getting down to business with a good high Thai kick, landing with a left right combo. Rushton emerges from the clash looking bloodied after Hardy's big shots and the Paramedic is called to access the fitness of the downed fighter. Hardy looks like a determined fighter with the action stopped, pacing and bouncing around the ring, keen to get back to business. The fight is allowed to continue and Hardy opens with an inside crescent kick which glances off Rushton's head giving him the opportunity to close the distance which he does with ease, picking up Hardy and crashing him to the mat with a chest-to-chest suplex, much to the appreciation of the crowd. Rushton goes to maximize his opportunity and follows Hardy to the deck gaining side control. The fighters get back to their feet, with Hardy's turn to take the fight down, with a slick guillotine take down, wrapping his long legs around the body of his now very bloodied opponent. Rushton however looks fit to fight through his injuries, and lands some big shots and goes for the choke. Hardy attempts the cross straight arm bar from the bottom, which was very close to ending the fight, Rushton lucky to escape. He follows with a knee left right cross combo and drops Rushton to the floor. Rushton attempts a knee bar, Hardy only saved by the buzzer. The Paramedics are called in to tend to Rushton who looks like he's been hit by a truck. Keen to secure the safety of their fighter, Rushton's corner from the Northern Cartel throw the towel in to effectively end an action packed 5 minutes. Hardy is announced the winner and immediately goes across to Rushton's corner to exchange a few kind words and show respect. And that is what makes our sport the most beautiful on the planet. After a severe beating they can laugh and joke about the fight, with no hard feelings or malice.
These guys need to meet again, the CWFC crew deserve big credit here for matching 2 very technical strong fighters. I have to say, watching Dan Hardy on his feet he reminds me of the current Open weight Champion, Mr Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic himself. Very very good on his feet, not scared to throw big head kicks followed by some heavy hands.
And that was that, 12 very good fights with the Hardy vs Rushton fight the highlight of the night, not forgetting the lovely Spearmint Rhino girls who added some beauty to the evening dominated by the sport's finest warriors.
Roll on the lightweight tournament November 19th, the winner of that has a job ahead of him, meeting Izidro who is one of the most technical BJJ guys I have seen for a while. I would again like to wish The Count all the best in his upcoming UFC debut, and also to Paul Daley from Nottingham's Roughhouse Gym who is now confirmed to be on his way to the World's premiere MMA event, Pride. Good luck to you both. A big thank you to MMA.Universe.com!