Monday, 1 September 2008

Cage Rage 25: Bring It On! - DVD Review

Having reviewed the live television broadcast a few months ago, it’s time to take a look at the DVD release, with a review of Cage Rage 25: Bring It On! It’s the UK fight debut of the legendary Ken Shamrock, taking on local favourite Robert “Buzz” Berry, with Ken’s son Ryan making his MMA debut on the same show!

With all of the introductions out of the way, it’s down to the action, and first up is a middleweight contest with Jake Bostwick facing John Phillips. Round one began quickly, Bostwick getting the takedown almost immediately, and transitioning well as he unleashed with a torrent of blows. A quick return to the feet saw Bostwick score with a second takedown, beginning with more ground and pound before the ref stood them up for inactivity. Phillips then showed remarkable powers of recovery as he staggered his opponent with some good combinations, and with Bostwick stunned, Phillips scored with a takedown of his own. After a few moments where nothing happened Phillips unload with a barrage of his own, bloodying the nose of his opponent, and with Bostwick seemingly unable to defend himself, the referee stepped in and called a halt to the fight, awarding the fight to Phillips, and with Bostwick complaining of a throat injury. Two good performances here, and a joy to watch.

The middleweight action continues with Marvin Arnold facing Jon Hathaway. With the early feeling out process in round one involving a couple of strikes from both men, Hathaway scored with a quick takedown. It wasn’t long before he took Arnold’s back, before returning to his guard, and unleashing with the ground and pound. Arnold was doing nothing to defend himself, so the referee called an end to proceedings. A dominating performance from Hathaway here, and somewhat surprising that he took it to the mat considering that he’s known more for his stand-up skills.

The debut of the second generation star is next, with Ryan Shamrock facing Giorgio Andrews in the featherweight division. The younger Shamrock began quite well, connecting with a couple of good lefts. It then got a bit scrappy looking as Shamrock scored with the first takedown. Andrews then went for an armbar, but Shamrock was able to escape and re-take the guard position. Seconds later they returned to their feet, and an Andrews knee to the midsection stumbled Shamrock somewhat. Andrews then went for the kill, unleashing with a torrent of fists and knees, looking to put the youngster away. But Shamrock didn’t got down, and hung in there as Andrews continued with his attack, which only stopped as the American went for a standing guillotine, but with nothing happening the referee pulled them apart. When the fight restarted Andrews returned to type and again went for the kill, but a right hand from Shamrock rocked Andrews, but as the round ended Andrews regained his momentum.

Round two never happened. Between the rounds Shamrock pulled out of the fight with a broken left hand, giving the fight to Andrews. Another exciting contest, with Andrews looking great. I’m sure we’ll see more of the younger Shamrock in the years to come.

Following this, action from the women’s division, with Aisling Daly taking on Aysen Berik in the featherweight division. A quick star to the first round saw both women connect with a few blows, and both trying to get a good position. Daly soon took Berik’s back on the mat, and went for the ground and pound as Berik tried to get out of the firing line. Daly’s constant right hands soon opened a cut above Berik’s eye, and with Berik just holding on, the referee stopped the fight, awarding the contest to Berik. A dominating performance from the pink-haired lady, and damn impressive as well in what was the first ever women’s MMA fight at Wembley Arena.

So after that historic moment, it’s back to their male counterparts, with a welterweight contest pitting Henrique Santana against Michael Johnson. Round one with the usual feeling out process, with kicks attempted by both fighters, before Santana got the takedown and the side mount. Santana then went to work, holding Johnson down with his right and unloading with his left before going north south and going for a choke. Johnson then managed to get back to his feet, but Santana took him down again straight away as he went for the side mount again. A side choke didn’t work for Santana, and when they got back up Johnson scored with a right hand which shook Santana enough for Johnson to score with his first takedown, and even though he was still shaken Santana went looking for submissions. After Johnson returned to his feet, Santana took him down again, but Johnson soon powered out and took Santana’s guard. It wasn’t long before Santana was back in control as the round came to an end.

Round two, and the feeling out process began again, and again with kicks exchanged. Surprisingly, Santana didn’t go for a takedown in the first minute, instead deciding to try and play with Johnson at his own game. Indeed it wasn’t until the second minute that Santana took the fight to the ground, and again going to the side mount, before going north south and attempting another choke. Johnson survived this attempt, but left his back open to Santana. Johnson defended well against Santana’s rear naked choke attempt, a defence he had to employ for the remainder of the round.

Round three, and it began in the same way as the previous two rounds. Johnson scored with a big knee to the head thirty seconds in, and with Santana looking in some trouble, Johnson scored with a second knee. But the Brazilian reverted to type, and scored with a takedown. Santana’s work rate was down a little, and it wasn’t long before the referee stood both fighters up, only for Santana to score with yet another takedown, but with nothing happening again, the referee stood them up. This gave Johnson the chance to score with another knee, and Santana looked tired as Johnson went in for the kill. But he wasn’t tired enough to take the fight down again, but more inactivity saw them stood up again. A left hand from Johnson rocked Santana again, whose only defence as the fight came to an end was to take his man down.

So with the fight going the three round distance, it went to the judge’s decision, and it wasn’t surprising that Santana got the unanimous decision. A very good showing from the Brazilian, who seemed to have Johnson’s number from the moment this one began.

Up to the light-heavyweight division, as Ivan Serati takes on Roman Webber. Webber came running out at the start of the first round, only to be met by Serati taking him to the ground immediately. Serati went on the attack straight away, and with the Italian’s ground and pound going unanswered, the referee stepped in. Explosive performance from Serati, and very good as well. Webber’s eagerness obviously proved to be his undoing.

Time for the big boys next, Gary Turner and Mustapha Alturk. Round one began with Turner testing the waters with a kick, before Alturk caught a second kick attempt, following this up with a takedown. The Smiler managed to get out of the guard briefly, but it wasn’t long before Alturk took Turner’s back, unleashing with the blows to the sides of Turner’s head. Turner tried to work his way out, but Alturk looked in complete control, and it wasn’t long before he went for the rear naked choke. With that tactic having failed, he went back to the ground and pound, still in control of Turner’s back. Things soon got too much for Turner, as he tapped out as Alturk continued to rain down with the blows. Almost a perfect performance from Alturk here, and a truly dominating one as well.

Following that great fight were Pierre Guillet and Tom Watson at middleweight. This one began with a quick tie-up before Guillet took Watson down. It didn’t stay there long, and back on their feet they tired up against the fence, exchanging knees to the mid-section, but after a couple of good shots from the Kong man, Guillet scored with another takedown. Guillet rose to his feet, and then when Guillet went to leap back into guard, Watson rose his foot and connected with a sweet looking up-kick. Guillet was out of it as the referee stepped in to stop Watson dealing out more punishment. Early on I thought Guillet was going to take this one, but Watson fought a very good fight.

More heavyweight action next, with Rob Broughton taking on Neil Grove. The two big men began this one slowly, but it wasn’t long before they began exchanging punches and kicks, with Grove getting some success with a series of kicks. Broughton looked in trouble as the leg kicks, along with a few good shots, continued to rain in from Grove. Broughton seemed to be continually on the retreat as Grove moved forward. Broughton eventually closed the distance and got in a synch up against the cage, but it wasn’t long before Grove delivered a couple of blows that clearly stunned Broughton. Seconds later the fight went to the ground, with Grove on top, going for the ground and pound as the round came to an end.

Grove entered round two for the first time in his MMA career, and again his kicks worried Broughton. Broughton went for a takedown, but Grove defended extremely well. As time went on Broughton became even more and more worried about Grove’s stinging leg kicks, so much so that he tried to stop that particular attack by getting in a clinch up against the cage, but with nothing happening the referee pulled them apart. By this time Grove was starting to look gassed, with the fighting slowing down quite a bit until a quick flurry from both fighters. Later a left punch, followed by a right, staggered Grove, and as the round ended, Broughton upped his game with some more good shots, with Grove on the back foot as the bell sounded.

Round three began with both men looking exhausted. Broughton went for a standing guillotine, but Grove countered by dropping him to the mat and taking the guard. Grove didn’t go for any submissions, instead preferring the ground and pound, a tactic that didn’t actually last long, which was the reason the referee stood them up. Back on their feet, Broughton rocked Grove with a punch followed by a knee, before another clinch up against the cage. The fatigue was really setting in by now, and after another clinch, Grove went down to the mat, with Broughton trying to take his back. Grove slowly rose to his knees, holding Broughton’s legs, getting a takedown of his own. But again, because of their tiredness, not much happened, and the fight ended with two exhausted fighters in a clinch angst the cage.

With the fight going the three round distance, it was down to the judges to make the decision - with Broughton getting the majority decision in what turned out to be a very interesting and well fought contest.

The penultimate fight sees Masakazu Imanari defend the World Featherweight title against Jean Silva. The fight began with Imanari testing the waters with some kicks, with Silva replying with a couple of punches before it went to the ground. The Japanese fighter began to tie Silva up immediately, almost synching in an alma plata, which Silva managed to escape from. The battle of submissions continued until the champion finally succeeded with a leg lock, which Silva quickly tapped out to. It may have only lasted a couple of minutes, but those minutes were damn exciting!

Main event time, featuring the UK debut of Ken Shamrock, taking on Robert “Buzz” Berry in the heavyweight division. Berry looked to take the fight to Shamrock straight away, firing in kicks and punches, which the UFC legend didn’t respond to. In fact, Shamrock seemed to do very little as Berry kept jabbing away. When Shamrock did finally react, his shot attempt was defended well. Berry kept plugging away, seemingly unaffected by Shamrock’s combinations, until he connected with a right that floored the legend. The referee stepped in immediately to save Shamrock from any further damage. If truth be told, Shamrock just didn’t look up for this fight, while Berry’s tactics were spot on.

The DVD extras come in the form of numerous pre- and post-fight interviews.

In conclusion - my first experience of a Cage Rage DVD is a good one. Everything from the original television broadcast, from pre-fight interviews to the walk-ins, were left in, which is something their UFC counterparts don’t do with their DVD releases. The addition of the fights not shown on television also added to the flavour, as some of these were just as good, if not better, than those dished up to us armchair enthusiasts. In all, if you’re a fan of British mixed martial arts, then Cage Rage 25 would be a welcome addition to your collection.

Cage Rage 25: Bring It On is available to buy online via www.mmauniverse.com.