It seems that with every BAMMA event I attend, the bar is raised ever higher. The promotion is now arguably head and shoulders above the competition on these shores. Strangely, tonight the entire card was broadcast from start to finish on Facebook, which may well explain a few empty seats in the arena. It could turn out to be a stroke of marketing genius in showcasing BAMMA to a whole new audience, but could well come at the cost of some existing fans. Who in their right mind is going to travel miles and pay hard cash for something they can watch at home for free? Of course, the same can be said for any Premier league fixture, and it never did the profile of those guys any harm. Anyway, moving on, MMA has been exploding in popularity here over the past few years, like it has been almost everywhere else in the world, and now UK crowds are finally reaping the benefits of all that training and dedication. BAMMA now attracts some of the most gifted and highly rated in Europe, if not the world.
At BAMMA 15, the main card kicked off with a flyweight contest between German Rany Saadeh and the undefeated Mahmood ‘Persian Pride’ Besharate. Saadeh has been described in the fight press as a ‘top European flyweight,’ but was up against some stiff competition in the shape of undefeated prospect Besharate, who went in with a perfect 5-0-0 record. As it happened, Saadeh kept his cool to pull off an uneventful majority victory. Next up was Ali ‘The Terminator’ Arish versus the highly-rated Sunderland prospect Ryan ‘Big Baby’ Scope who won a close decision to stretch his record to 8-0-0, despite carrying a potentially serious foot injury.
A late addition to the card was a BAMMA Lonsdale British Middleweight Title Bout between Andy ‘Lion Paw’ De Vent, making his first appearance for the promotion, and Harry ‘Mad Mac’ McLeman, who went in to the fight fresh from his decision victory over Matt Howard at BAMMA 14. And it was Mad Mac who somehow pulled off a victory from the jaws of defeat by majority decision, despite spending much of the fight turtled up and taking some vicious knees to the body. 20-year old BAMMA World Featherweight Champion Tom ‘Fire Kid’ Duquesnoy looked to build on his impressive knockout of James Saville in his last outing when he came up against undefeated fellow Frenchman Teddy Violet. This was obviously a big step up for Violet, who until tonight had a record of 8-0-0, all by knockout, despite only turning pro in June 2012. After seeing this performance, one has to wonder what kind of opposition he was knocking out because for the short time this bout lasted he looked completely outclassed, eventually succumbing to a triangle choke in the second round.
Despite losing his last fight, a tilt at Mansour Barnaoui’s lightweight title, and boasting an overall record of 9-4-0, ex-UFC fighter Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher remains one of BAMMA’s biggest draws. Seven of his nine wins have come by submission and he has never knocked anyone out, but long before the fight there was a feeling he could pick up his first against the USA’s Tony ‘Lionheart’ Hervey, who went into the fight with a decidedly average career record of 16-15-0. Saying that, who could forget ‘Fast’ Eddy Ellis who went into his fight with ‘Judo’ Jimmy Wallhead at BAMMA 13 with a similar record, yet ended up winning a split decision and taking the welterweight championship.
Contrary to most people’s expectations, however, this was no quick finish, and no easy ride. Over three rounds Hervey rocked the favourite more than once, notably in the second round, and the fight remained standing, which didn’t suit Freakshow’s gameplan at all. In the end he managed to grind out a split decision victory, but not many would have argued the point if the decision had gone the other way. Freakshow’s problem is that despite his scary persona, he is a fucking nice guy. So nice, in fact, that during in his post-fight interview, he even said that he wouldn’t have complained if he had lost the fight. When asked why he didn’t go for more takedown’s, he admitted that he ‘Just couldn’t do it.’ Bless.
An all-English clash between defending champ Wayne ‘Caveman’ Murrie and challenger Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards for the BAMMA Lonsdale British Welterweight Championship followed. Murrie has built something of a reputation as a submission artist, with 10 of his 17 wins coming on the ground. This is in contrast to relative newcomer Edwards, who went into the fight with a 5-1-0 record. However, Edwards was the one who left with the honours, getting his opponent in a deep rear naked choke and forcing a tap in the very first round.
At long last, the main event rolls in, a titanic Heavyweight clash between Oli Thompson and Gzim ‘The Albanian Psycho’ Selmani. 34-year old Thompson has been around the fight game for a while, even enjoying a brief ultimately unsuccessful spell in the UFC in 2012, while his opponent, with a pro record of 3-1-0, is relatively unproven. However, he is taller and heavier, and how can anyone doubt the skills someone with a nickname like the Albanian Psycho? Whilst roaming the cage waiting for his opponent to appear he looked the part, and wasted no time getting to grips with Thompson, knocking the champion to the floor before choking him out via guillotine after just 18 seconds of the fight. Job done. On this evidence, the Albanian Psycho looks a fearsome prospect.
The original version of this review appeared on the Huff Post UK: