Monthly Archives: September 2013

BAMMA 13 – Night of Champions review

BAMMA 13

14th September 2013, Birmingham NIA

To echo the sentiments of many other observers, BAMMA 13 at Birmingham NIA was a bit of a weird one. After several fighters’ vacating their titles to take higher-paying gigs in Bellator and the UFC, there was room at the top of the UK’s premier MMA organization. Hence, BAMMA 13 was billed in the press as the ‘Night of Champions.’

BAMMA 13 poster

BAMMA 13 poster

I was in the bar for most of the prelim action. My bad. The first fight I saw was Welshman Jack ‘Hammer’ Marshman take on Romanian kickboxer Ion Pascu. With a record of 11 wins from 13 fights with 8 knockouts and a large Welsh contingent in the crowd, the former British middleweight champion was expected to make short work of his eastern European opponent. Not so much. Marshman was dropped in the first round with a straight right, face-planted, and didn’t get back up.

The first title fight of the night between English prospect Scott Askham and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ‘specialist’ Jorge Luis Bezerra for the vacant World Middleweight Championship, went more according to plan, with the Doncaster boy battering his smaller opponent around the Octagon for 15 minutes before winning the decision to take his record to an impressive 12-0, and the title. The only disappointment here was that Askham couldn’t find a finish.

On to the main card (I have no idea why the World Middleweight Championship was on the undercard) and we saw the return of Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher against another Welshman, Tim ‘Superhuman’ Newman. Ever the showman, Freakshow came out to considerable fanfare, with an entourage that included dwarves and sword-swallowers, which was probably a first. One of the biggest personalities in British MMA has flattered to deceive in his last two fights, successive decision losses to Norman Parke and Mike Ricci that saw him rather harshly cut from the UFC. By his own admission, Freakshow wasn’t at his best, neither physically or mentally, for those fights. Here, he was back to his destructive best, dropping Newman twice in the first round with punches and coming close to finishing the fight several times with some vicious ground and pound. To his credit Newman fought on gamely, and could even have pulled off an arm bar, but it wasn’t to be and he ended up on the wrong end of a decision victory. Welcome back, Freakshow.

BAMMA 13 Freakshow poster

BAMMA 13 Freakshow poster

The next fight between England’s Curt Warburton and Tunisia’s Mansour ‘Tarzan’ Barnaoui for the vacant World Lightweight Championship was less a fight and more of a demolition. 32-year old Warburton came in with an impressive record of 12-3 but didn’t even get out of the blocks here as Barnaoui, a late call-up, swarmed him and finished the fight with punches in the first round to the delight of his small band of travelling support. The post-fight ‘interview’ was hilarious, as the guy obviously doesn’t speak a word of English and just stood there in awkward silence as Frank Trigg fired questions at him. Still, a good performance by the 20-year old who last fought just three weeks ago at M1 Global Challenge 41. He now boasts a record of 10-2, but has fought largely average competition. If he goes into every fight with this much brutal intensity and destructive intent, the sky’s the limit for him.

And so on to the vacant World Welterweight Championship between ‘Judo Jimmy Wallhead, one of the biggest stars of British MMA and American journeyman ‘Fast’ Eddy Ellis. As it turned out, ‘Fast’ Eddy wasn’t very fast at all, and copped a good one at the beginning of the fight that knocked out his tooth. He was in trouble, but like a solid pro hung on and saw out the round. The expected onslaught from Judo Jimmy, roared on by a vociferous crowd, didn’t happen, and he allowed Fast Eddy to get a foothold in the fight, which ground on for the next two rounds without any significant incident. Judo Jimmy looked out of sorts, and strangely lethargic. Fast Eddy, coming in to the fight on a six-fight win streak but boasting an unremarkable overall record of 18-15, and hadn’t fought for almost two years, did enough in the judges eyes to steal the title.

That left just one more fight, and the second phase of the much-hyped televised portion of the show featuring a Light-Heavyweight clash between golden boy Max Nunes, who went into the bout with a perfect record, and Dutchman Jason ‘the Villain’ Jones. There can’t be many sports where a 32-year old with a record of 19-10 gets plucked from obscurity and handed a title shot. As with a few other fights tonight, he was fully expected to lose. But despite being younger, bigger and faster than his adversary, Nunes was outclassed and soon tapped out to a choke. Another future prospect effortlessly disposed of.

All-in-all, not a good night for British fighters. Perhaps the true level of MMA in this country has been exposed, as three of the four titles went to overseas’s fighters. The night belonged to Freakshow, who finally lived up to his potential. Roll on BAMMA 14 on 14th December, which, we are told, will feature Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley as headliner, the man who will forever be remembered for punching Josh Kroscheck in the back of the head after the final bell at UFC 113.

I can’t wait.

The original version of this review appeared on the Huff Post (UK):

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/bamma-13_b_3936804.html

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Film Review – Vinyl

In February 2004 Mike Peters’ revamped Alarm line-up released a new single, 45 RPM. It was a spiky, anthemic offering, reminiscent of the original Alarm’s early-eighties glory years. Problem was, that’s not very cool, is it? At least in the eyes of the music industry who tend to judge more on looks and image than talent and ability. That prompted Mike Peters to put the single out under the fictitious name The Poppy Fields, complete with a glossy MTV-friendly video performed by a group of carefully-selected 18-year old stand-ins.

The Alarm - 45 RPM

The Alarm – 45 RPM

The single was a hit, entering the UK singles chart at number 27 and creating a huge media buzz. In true rocker fashion Peters then blew the whole thing wide open, including his reasons for doing perpetrating the hoax, live on Radio 1. When revealed, the story went international, the publicity breathing new life into the Alarm and leaving a lot of people with egg on their faces. The song became most widely recognized for exposing the rampant ageism within the music industry. It was soon agreed that the story behind the single would make a great film. It took almost a decade for that to happen, but finally… it has.

For the movie version of this real-life Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle, Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia) is fantastic as washed-up rocker Johnny Jones, ex of made-up punk band Weapons of Happiness who, after a drunken recording session, attempt a comeback. However, their efforts fall on deaf ears and are met only with derision from record company bosses who no longer see them or their music as relevant. That forces them to go out an recruit a bunch of good-looking teenagers to be the public face of the group and mime to tunes performed by the original Weapons of Happiness. The young pretenders, given the name the Single Shots, soon find fame.

Vinyl movie poster

Vinyl movie poster

During auditions for the new ‘fake’ band singer meets a young upstart called Drainpipe (played by the excellent Jamie Blackley), and a cross-generational friendship flourishes. As the story progresses old tensions within the original group about who broke up the original band and why begin to surface, and Johnny Jones is forced into a fair amount of soul-searching. At times the film lapses into classic British comedy caper territory, but as it’s set against the breathtaking backdrop of north Wales, and boasts a great original soundtrack, with no small measure of true punk spirit, that is forgiveable.

Free Rock n’ Roll.

Vinyl is out on DVD now


Cardiff City’s Summer Spending Spree

So, after endless play-off heartache, Cardiff City have finally made it to the Premier League. It was obvious to all that certain areas of the team would need strengthening if they weren’t to be relegated by Christmas, and with last season’s top scorer Heider Helguson and midfield stalwart Stephen McPhail both being released, gaps needed to be plugged. A transfer kitty in excess of £25 million was promised by big-spending owner Vincent Tan, so all eyes turned to Malky Mackay to see how he would spend it. Over the next couple of months, the existing transfer record for fees paid was broken on three separate occasions.

The first capture, 6’ 4” striker Andreas Cornelius, arrived in a £7.5 million deal from FC Copenhagen in late June and instantly handed the number nine shirt. He was top scorer in the Danish Superliga last season, with 18 goals from 32 appearances, and has also played seven times for Denmark. No doubt he comes highly rated, but personally I have my doubts and fear another Etien Velikonja scenario. The Slovenian international cost us £1.5 million last summer and played only three times, not making much of an impression in any of them despite scoring goals for fun in the development squad. A closer look at his overall record may go some way to explaining this. For Gorica and Maribor he played a combined total of 152 times, scoring 52 goals. Not that remarkable, especially in one of the weaker leagues in Europe. His scoring record was boosted by a record of 14 goals in 17 cup games, where the opposition was generally very much inferior. In short, Velikonja flattered to deceive. If he can’t cement a place in the Championship, he has no chance in the Premier League.

The problem with Cornelius is, as talented as he may be, at just 20 he is very young and untested. Just like Velikonja was when he arrived. Personally, I would have preferred to have signed a more experienced man for that role, to compete with Nicky Maynard and Fraizer Campbell. England internationals Marcus Bent and Carlton Cole were both available, and for considerably lower fees (Cole on a free!). It is likely, however, that they would have commanded higher wages. Not that paying sky-high wages seems to phase Malky or the current owners too much. It is rumored that City are in the market for yet another striker, to add to the considerable options already at the club. If we continue playing one up front, which seems likely, that would probably be an unnecessary expense. Even with injury concerns over Maynard and Campbell and doubts over the ability of Velikonja, Rudy Gestede, Joe Mason, Tommy Smith, and Craig Bellamy are also vying for places, with Rhys Healey banging on the door.

Less fanfare surrounded the arrivals of Goalkeeper Simon Moore and fullback John Brayford, who were brought in from Brentford and Derby County respectively. Third in the pecking order behind established number one David Marshall and his back-up Joe Lewis, it is unlikely Moore will make much of an impression this season, but at just 23, he has time on his side. More is expected from Brayford, generally regarded as one of the best defenders outside the Premier League. At £1.5 million he could prove to be one of the bargains of the season, and is sure to challenge Kevin McNaughton for the right-back slot, leaving Mathew Connolly to push for one of his favoured centre-back positions.

Malky broke the transfer record for the second time in July with the £8.5 million capture of centre-back Steven Caulker from Tottenham. This transfer raised some eyebrows, with the 21-year old being widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the Premier League. He already had two seasons of top-level experience behind him, one on loan at Swansea where he won rave reviews. He had also been a shoe-in in the 2012 Great Britain Olympic team and scored on his full England debut against Sweden. It is believed he agreed to move to Cardiff in order to play more games, instead of being a bit-part player at Spurs, and should go a long way toward shoring up the defence and giving it a more mobile and dynamic look. His centre-back partner is likely to be either Ben Turner or club captain Mark Hudson, neither of whom are exactly blessed with pace to burn.

Then followed the most eye-opening transfer to date, is the £11 million transfer of Chile international Gary ‘El Pitbul’ Medel from Sevilla. The combative defensive midfielder comes with a little baggage, having been sent off seven times in 90 games for Sevilla, but the 26-year old’s pedigree is undoubted. He has been a mainstay of the national team since 2007, racking up over 50 appearances, and is generally regarded as one of the country’s best players. Whenever a new signing is made, a good gauge of their true ability is the reaction of the fans at their old club. In this case, the consensus is that Sevilla should have kept El Pitbul. They didn’t want to lose him, which is encouraging. He looks set to battle Aron ‘Iceman’ Gunnarsson for the holding role in midfield. And what a battle it should be!

El Pitbul didn’t appear to have been one of Malky’s top targets. Negotiations only began after talks with Victor Wanyama and Etienne Capoue fell through, and were eventually finalized while he played for his old club against Manchester United. A game the Spaniards won 3-1, by the way. Let’s hope that’s some kind of omen. The only concern is that, as with Cornelius, it might take El Pitbul some time to adjust to the Premiership, and to learn English. A safer bet may have been ex Cardiff loan star Gary O’Neil, who signed for QPR after being released by West Ham. Or even Scott Parker, who seems to be in the process of being edged out at Spurs. With their Premier League experience, either one would have been a great addition to the squad.

A few more eyebrows were raised with the capture of 20-year old defender Maximiliano Amondarain from Uruguayan team National for an undisclosed fee following a successful trial. Mainly because nobody has ever heard of him. No comment. Less of a gamble was the £2.1 million arrival of lavishly named 23-year old full-back Kevin Theophile-Catherine. This is a player Mackay, and others, had been tracking for some time and comes with no little experience, having played over 80 games for French League 1 side Rennes as well as representing France at U20 and U21 levels.

The drama continued. On transfer deadline day City paid West Brom £2.5 million for their Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie, snatching him on a three-year deal from under the noses of Swansea. This one really divided the supporters. At 32, and with over 50 caps for Nigeria, Odemwingie has both experience and ability in spades, but has been frozen out at West Brom because of infamously trying to force through a transfer to QPR in January. I think it’s fair to say that he comes with a fair bit of baggage, but on the plus side he arrives at the CCS with a point to prove.

If we shed a little dead weight (Simon Lappin, Filip Kiss, or Etien Velikonja, anyone? Going cheap!) the squad looks in decent shape. Maybe we could also afford to lose either Tommy Smith, Craig Noone or Craig Conway and add a quality winger in their place. I think that was the reasoning behind City’s failed approach for Thomas Ince over the summer, though Odemwingie could conceivably fill that role. With Mackay sticking to a 4-5-1 formation so far this season and a clutch of strikers already at the club, it could be the only place for him in the team. Personally, I would have preferred someone else, but still, mustn’t be greedy. This team looks much better equipped to survive in the top flight than some.

Croeso y Cymru, boyos!

My new book, From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC, is out now on Gwasg Carreg Gwalch.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1845242130

This blog was originally published by the Huffington Post UK:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/cardiff-citys-summer-spen_b_3857067.html


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