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BAMMA 15 Review

BAMMA_151

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.

bamma-15-fletcher-vs-hervey-poster

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:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

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UFC Fight Night 30: Machida v Munoz

October 26th 2013, Phones 4 U Arena, Manchester

Following last weekend’s spectacular night of entertainment, the question on everyone’s lips was how would UFC Fight Night 30 compare to UFC 166, described by Dana White as ‘The greatest card ever in UFC history?’

High-profile UFC events don’t come to the UK often, so when they do British MMA fans bust their balls to get tickets. This event was originally built around local hero Michael Bisping, but unfortunately he was forced out of the fight after suffering a detached retina in training. The UFC then pulled off a masterstroke by drafting in ex light heavyweight world champion Lyoto Machida to headline the card against Mark Munoz. But I’m getting ahead of myself, there was much more to this card than the headline fight. There’s no point talking about who couldn’t be here. We’re much better off talking about who could…

The prelims were stacked with names familiar to most British fans, kicking off in the middleweight division with English hope Brad Scott of TUF: The smashes fame, against Dutch judo specialist Michael Kuiper. This promised to be an exciting fight, and it didn’t disappoint, Scott tapping out his opponent in the very first round. Elsewhere, the first Scot in the UFC, Robert Whiteford, took the fight against Jimy Hettes at a week’s notice, and it showed as he was heavily outclassed by the American, and Cole Miller spoiled what could have been an impressive victory over Andy Ogle by making some disparaging comments about judges and European fighters, before literally running away flanked by minders. Maybe that’s why he’s still on the undercard at big events, if he’s lucky.

Next, Brit pioneer Rosi Sexton came up against Brazilian Jessica Andrade in the women’s bantamweight division. With both coming off losses, there was a lot on the line here with the loser possibly facing the dreaded cut from a loaded division. Not surprisingly, the crowd was right behind Rosi, and the smile on her face as she entered the Octagon was a joy to see. However, the smile didn’t last very long as she was picked apart over three rounds by a younger, faster opponent. Nobody could fault the heart of the Manchester native, as she did well to go the distance, the referee almost stepping in to save her several times. It was heartbreaking to watch, but the sad truth is that maybe Sexton is out of her depth at this level.

Someone who is certainly not out of his depth is TUF 17 finalist Luke Barnatt, who had a real tear up with highly-rated Andrew Craig. The Cambridge upstart floored his more experienced opponent twice with strikes before ending the fight with a submission. Any observers couldn’t help but be impressed by his striking. Perhaps less-so by his habit of celebrating prematurely. Twice he turned away with his arm raised in triumph, before actually finishing the fight. Headlining the prelims (if such a misnomer exists) was Al Laquinta v Piotr Hallmann in the lightweight division. I like Laquinta, but he hasn’t really proved himself at the top level yet, and here he was up against some stiff opposition in the Pole, who despite flying under the radar up until now, has accumulated a pro record of 14-1-0. His submission rate would indicate that he loves taking fights to the ground, but he didn’t have much of a chance against the classier Laquinta who won the judges decision.

First up on the main card was a flyweight clash between Portsmouth’s Phil Harris and the Brazilian John Lineker (who, allegedly, is named after Gary!). These two have been destined to meet each other for some time, and were originally scheduled to face off in August at UFC 163 where Lineker fought (and beat) Jose Maria when Harris was forced out. Here, they finally clashed. Anyone who was expecting a floor battle would have been disappointed as Lineker lived up to his ‘Hands of Stone’ monicker and rocked Harris with punches several times in the first round before finishing the fight with a solid body shot. Game over for Harris. Perhaps his only saving grace could be the fact that Lineker failed to make weight, not for the first time in his career, which didn’t cast him in a good light with the UFC hierarchy.

Next up was Italy’s Alessio Sakara against Sweden’s Nicholas Musoke at Middleweight. Sakara is the wrong side of 30 and has lost his last three match-ups, admittedly against world-class opposition, so he was probably fighting in the last chance saloon tonight. Despite wins becoming increasingly rare, Sakara usually puts on an exciting fight but in the opposite corner, Musoke, taking his bow in the Octagon, is a largely unknown quantity. Both fighters came out swinging to roars of approval from the crowd, and both were clearly rocked in some frantic opening exchanges. After a spell against the cage, Musoke then took Sakara to the ground, where again it was a see-saw battle with both fighters going for subs. Sakara seemed to be getting the better of it and was throwing some serious leather from the top, until he left an arm out and quick as a flash, Musoke grabbed it and held for an arm-bar. Welcome to the UFC, Nicholas.

Irishman Norman Parke was up next, the 26-year old fighting John Tuck at lightweight. The popular and talented Parke is a familiar name to most UFC followers after winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes last year, beating fellow Brit Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher in the final, but since then has been used sparingly by the UFC, his last appearance coming at UFC 162 where he got an impressive decision win over Kazuki Tokudome. Fellow prospect Tuck was a less familiar name, being relatively new to the UFC, but the MMA Lab product started the night with an impressive career record of 7-0-0, including six first round victories, the only blemish being a defeat to Al Laquinta during the entry rounds to TUF: Live, but as those fights are classes as exhibitions it didn’t go on his record. All eyes on Parke, then, who did a decent enough job. He threw some good combinations and was never in serious trouble, winning a unanimous decision. Parke, who’s record in the UFC now stands at 3-0-0, seems to have all the tools in his locker, but by his own admission he needs to start finishing fights if he is going to make an impression.

Among light Canadian heavyweight Ryan Jimmo’s claims to fame is tying for the fastest knockout in UFC history (7 seconds, against Anthony Perosh at UFC 149). Here he took on London’s Jimi ‘Poster Boy’ Manuwa, the former BAMMA and UCMMA champion going in with a faultless record of 13-0-0, with none of his fights ever requiring a judge’s decision. Fair to say, then, that this was a ‘blink and you’ll miss something’ kind of fight. The opening round was less than explosive, but Manuwa took the center of the cage and delivered some killer knees and kicks at close quarters. To the frustration of the crowd, Jimmo seemed determined to use spoiling tactics, and time and time again the pair were separated by the referee. Then, with just 25 seconds left in the second round, Manuwa caught Jimmo with a knee to the face. He reeled backward, bounced on his heels, and then slumped to the floor holding his leg in the air. Legitimate injury or not, Manuwa walked away with the TKO.

Ross Pearson has won himself a lot of fans with his tireless work ethic and constant desire to improve, myself included. His co-headliner slot on the bill is well-deserved. However, the Sunderland lightweight faced his stiffest test yet against American striker Melvin Guillard, veteran of 46 professional fights and perennial title contender, but with four defeats from his last six, there were signs that the Young Assassin was on the slide. Plus, tonight he wasn’t just fighting Pearson, he was fighting every member of the 21,000 crowd. This was many people’s pick for Fight of the Night. Shame it didn’t pan out that way. After a frantic opening flurry, Guillard pushed Pearson against the cage and caught him with two brutal knees, opening up a nasty gash on the Englishman’s forehead. The only problem was, at least one of those knees were illegal blows. Marc Goddard stepped in quickly and pulled the two apart, while the crowd looked on in bemused silence. From here, the result could have gone a number of ways. Judging by his protestations, Pearson must have thought he’d been TKO’d. Guillard probably thought he was going to get disqualified. But in the end the decision was a No Contest. Another strange and slightly disappointing end to a fight. I’m already looking forward to the re-match.

UFC Fight Night 30 poster

And so here we are at the headline event. Machida v Munoz. Despite an unimpressive record of three wins against three defeats since losing the world light heavyweight championship to Mauricio Rua in 2010, the Brazilian karate specialist remains one of the most popular fighters in the promotion. Who could forget that front-kick on Randy Couture which one Knockout of the Year in 2011? Coming off the back of a controversial split-decision loss to Phil Davies, Machida could not afford another slip-up tonight. This was his first appearance at middleweight after spending his entire career thus far at light heavy, a move welcomed by many in the sport. His opponent, the Filipino Wrecking Machine, is certainly no slouch, having won five of his last six against some of the best opposition in the world (the defeat coming against current champ and Anderson Silva-slayer Chris Weidman) and fresh from a decision win over Tim Boetsch in July. His game plan coming into the fight would have been simple; clinch, grapple, take the fight to the floor. Basically, grab hold of Machida, known as one of the most elusive fighters in the sport, and don’t let go. Of course, having a game plan and seeing that game plan through are two very different things.

Already a favourite, Machida endeared himself to the crowd still further (and showed some impressive local knowledge) by coming out to the Oasis track Fuckin’ in the Bushes and some delirious cheering. At middleweight, he looks lean and mean, and wasted no time taking the center of the cage and immediately embarking on his traditional ‘feeling out’ period. Not that there was much feeling out to be done, with these two being regular training partners. Munoz attempted to stay on the outside, trying to be as elusive as his opponent, and there were early signs that he could have been trying to beat the Dragon at his own game. But then, at about two minutes in, he walked straight into a devastating high kick which dropped him to the canvass. Machida pounced, fists ready, but hesitated, knowing the fight was over. He knew before the referee did, and certainly before Munoz did.

In summary, maybe it wasn’t such a good night for the British fighters, but there was hardly a dull moment in a fine night’s entertainment. Here’s to hoping the UFC comes to these shores again in the not-too distant future. We have some unfinished business, ya’ll.

This post was originally published by the Huff Post UK: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/


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


Surviving

I always had an interest in what I now know to be called survivalism. Maybe it was a yearning to be independent, or a desire to be ready for the life struggle that lay ahead. In my childhood fantasies I was stranded alone on a desert island, or maybe in a jungle. Or perhaps I was the lone survivor after a huge natural disaster, a nuclear war, an alien invasion, or a zombie apocalypse (in that version I was obviously well tooled up with guns and stuff).

As I got older, and especially after I read Emergency by Neil Strauss, I began to realize that there didn’t have to be an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. Anything that knocks out the main power grid for longer than a few days would bring about the end of the world as we know it pretty damn quickly.

What would we do without an electricity supply?

When I was a kid I was a cub scout, and especially enjoyed rummaging around in forests and lighting fires. Tying all those knots was a pain in the ass, though. I also joined army cadets, which was a bit of a waste of time. When I was a teenager I put together a ‘survival kit,’ consisting of a fishing line and hooks, matches, razor blade, some chocolate and several Oxo cubes. I must have liked Oxo cubes at the time. I remember having a phase where I would make hot drinks out of them. As a bonus, they also fit neatly into my tin.

After seeing the film Rambo: First Blood Part II I persuaded my parents by me one of those ‘Rambo’ knives with a serrated edge and a compass on the handle. They were dubious at first because I didn’t have a good track record with knives. Once I cut my finger open with an old Gurkha Kukri I found in a junk shop. Another time I thought it might be a good idea to try cutting through the wire of my bedroom lamp with a penknife. Big mistake.

Image

Anyway, the best thing about my ‘Rambo’ knife was that the handle was hollow, and contained a mini survival kit. Oh, joy! It wasn’t as good as my little tobacco tin, though. For a start there were no Oxo cubes.

My interest in… er… not dying… continued into adulthood. I fell in love with martial arts and have accumulated a small collection of cool knives and other weapons, such as an extendible baton, a knuckle duster and some nun chucks, which I keep in the name of self defence. I live and work in China most of the year, where most of these things are still illegal but readily available. And cheap. I know a girl who keeps a Taser gun in a drawer next to her bed. In a world where there are more guns than people, being able to look after yourself and the people you love is not a crime.

If I lived in America I’m pretty sure I’d own a gun. Or several. But thankfully I have not yet arrived at the stage where I move to the mountains to farm beans and live in a log cabin waiting for the end of the world.

Anyway, my point is this…

There is no point.

If there was an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse (which, in my opinion, are among the most entertaining and attractive End of the World scenarios) any attempt at ‘surviving’ would be futile. You would just be prolonging the inevitable. We would be all be doomed whatever measures we took. Even if we managed to escape the bloodthirsty hordes we would die of starvation as soon as whatever we looted from ASDA ran out.

Of course, by that token you could argue that simply being alive is prolonging the inevitable, death awaits us all. But that’s a bit defeatist. We owe it to ourselves, the people who love us, and the human race as a whole, to fight for survival.


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