While Junior Whitter was losing his World Welterweight boxing title to Tim Bradley in Nottingham, a few miles down the road Ian “The Machine” Freeman was hoping to roll back the years by taking the British Light-Heavyweight title from Paul “Boom Boom” Cahoon in Cage Rage 26: Extreme, in the NEC Arena in Birmingham, and shown live on Sky Sports this past Saturday. Our announcers for the evening are Rob Nutley, Malcolm Martin and “the Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros.
The broadcast begins with welterweight action, with Ross Mason facing his namesake, Ross Pointon. Lasting just over ninety seconds, it had quite an explosive start as both fighters exchanged submission attempts before they returned to the stand-up. However, it wasn’t long before they were back down on the ground, and Pointon soon locked in the heel hook. Mason had no choice but to tap out, earning Pointon the submission win in a very good and exciting opening encounter.
Then it’s up to the light-heavyweight division, as Dutchman Rodney Glunder takes on James Zikic. The first round was really a feeling-out period, with not much of note happening, except for Zikic catching Glunder with an accidental low blow. There was more action in the second, but only just, with Zikic controlling things on the ground, with his best achievement being the attempted heel hook and knee bar towards the end of the round. Thankfully, the fight was soon over, as Zikic quickly took it to the ground and locked in the armbar, with Glunder tapping immediately. This was actually the best part of what can only be termed as an uneventful fight. It didn’t exactly set this writer’s pulse racing.
With some time to spare, a fight from earlier in the evening, with Mark Epstein against Matt Ewin for the British Middleweight title, with the action beginning with the third round. From the looks of this one both fighters were exhausted by then, although Ewin looked the more active of the two, unleashing with the ground and pound while in the guard, with the unanimous decision going in favour of Ewin. Kind of hard to give an overall opinion of this, having only been able to see the final round.
Back to regular action, for the vacant British Welterweight title, with Che Mills going up against Marios Zaromskis. The opening round saw some good action from both men. Marios looked good when he eventually got the taking down, and looked great with his transitions, and also did well when Mills tried to lock in the triangle chokes as he was able to escape from those attempts pretty quickly. Mills did his bit though too, opening up a cut underneath Marios’ eye, and it was this which led to Mario’s downfall, as the doctors pulled him out before the start of the second round, giving the win and the title to Mills. A good first round, but something of a disappointing end. Hopefully these two will be matched up together again.
Main event time, with Ian Freeman challenging Paul Cahoon for the British Light-Heavyweight title. The first round clearly belonged to Freeman. Although Cahoon was able to block Freeman’s first shoot and turn it into a takedown for himself, Freeman soon escaped and took the champion down with his second attempt. From there it was all Freeman, with excellent transitions and ground and pound, with Cahoon failing to either answer of protect himself from Freeman’s blows several times. It was the same in the second round, Cahoon took Freeman down, but the Machine soon took control, and no matter what he did, the champion just couldn’t do anything against Freeman, the challenger seemingly transitioning from mount to mount to side control to back control with ease. Third round, same script. Cahoon got the take down, but Freeman looked very comfortable in that position, and again escaped with ease, defending Cahoon’s second take down attempt before gaining control himself and dominating once more. With the fight going the distance, it went down to the judge’s decision, and it was pretty obvious who they were going to vouch for. Freeman got the unanimous decision, winning the title for a second time. A hell of a performance from the Machine here, which just goes to prove that as far as some fighters are concerned age is no barrier.
In conclusion - although Cage Rage 26 suffered from the inevitable mediocre fight and the inevitable disappointing finish, the main event more than makes up for those moments. Bringing back memories of when Randy Couture came out of retirement and defeated Tim Sylvia to win the UFC Heavyweight title, the moment when Ian Freeman defeated Paul Cahoon was just as memorable and just as emotional, and it’s moments like these that make me proud to be a mixed martial arts fans.
On the downside, the news that former Big Brother contestant Ziggy is in training and hopes to fight on the next Cage Rage show in July sends me shuddering in a Sideshow Bob way. Is this nothing more than a publicity stunt from someone trying to extend his fifteen minutes of fame, or is he serious about a career as an MMA fighter? Either way, the hook up with EliteXC seems to be taking Cage Rage away from the freak show main event attractions of the past, and I really hope that Ziggy’s involvement in Cage Rage doesn’t herald a return to those days.