Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Cage Gladiators: Invasion on ITV4 - TV Review

This past Friday night, Cage Gladiators returned to British television channel ITV4 with their second show, with fights taken from their recent Invasion show, their eighth event, held at the Liverpool Olympia at the end of July. Our hosts for the evening are Rob Hallam and Tom Baxter.

The opening fight of the broadcast sees Lucas Lez taking on Kam Atakura in the 77 kilo division. The fighters both began with high kicks, with Lez looking good from the start. Kam soon tagged his man, before Lez went for a shoot, only for Kam to sprawl and then get a takedown of his own. Lez was soon able to reverse the move, getting into Kam’s guard, and it wasn’t too long before he locked in a guillotine choke, with Atakura tapping immediately. Quick, but good stuff here.

Up a weight to 84 kilos next between Kev Axeworthy and Liam Shannon. As with the previous fight, it began quickly, and it wasn’t long before the fight went to the ground. However, it only stayed there for a moment, but then again, they were only on their feet for another few seconds. This up and down action continued for the next few moments, with both guys in control at one time or another. When they get back to their feet, Axeworthy connected with a good looking knee to the head which staggered Shannon, and as he went in for the kill with the ground and pound, the referee stepped in, giving the KO victory to Axeworthy in what was another good showing.

Back down to the 77 kilo weight next, with Mark Scanlon and Greg Letch. Another quick start here, with Letch connecting with a couple of kicks until he got the takedown, getting into Scanlon’s guard and unleashing with the ground and pound moments later, to which Scanlon had very little answer to. Scanlon looked out of his depth slightly, with very little offence as Letch was able to transition and synch in the heel hook. It wasn’t long before Scanlon tapped. Letch looked very good in this one, while Scanlon looked the complete opposite.

So after three quick fights, it was down to Steve McCombe taking on Ronnie Mann with the British Featherweight title up for grabs. McCombe tagged Mann early on, before the fight went to the ground. Mann soon took McCombe’s back, going for a rear naked choke. McCombe tried to defend himself, but it was all in vain as Mann synched the choke in tightly and got the tap out seconds later, winning the title in the process. The fourth quick fight in a row, but still a very good one.

Then it’s on to the 70 kilo division, with Greg Loughran facing Rob Sinclair. Round one began with Greg connecting with a couple of kicks, with Sinclair replying with a Superman punch, before a clinch up against the cage saw them go down to the mat. The ground work didn’t last long as they rose to their feet and got in another clinch. Sinclair soon got the takedown, working in Loughran’s guard, before they rose again for another clinch against the cage. Sinclair seemed to be on the back foot a little as Loughran moved forward, but it wasn’t long before they were up against the cage again. But with this tactic again going nowhere, they returned to normal stances. But then, guess what? Sinclair got Loughran up against the cage again, but his takedown tactic didn’t work as Loughran got back up to his feet straight away. As the round entered it’s final minute, Sinclair continued with his chosen game plan, which didn’t really make for exciting viewing, mainly because it wasn’t really working, and the round ended with Sinclair and Loughran up against the cage once more.

Round two, and Sinclair was on the back foot again until he went back to his previous strategy, which led to a takedown. Loughran was able to defend against Sinclair’s attacks though, and went for a triangle on a couple of occasions. Sinclair was doing more work in this round, but it didn’t seem to get him anywhere, and this showed when Loughran was able to get back to his feet - a move which was met by a couple of blows from Sinclair, who then reverted to type as it were. When Loughran got out of Sinclair’s clutches, a good high kick rocked Sinclair, whose only reply was another clinch. The final minute saw Loughran take Sinclair down to the mat, and with his opponent’s back against the cage, Loughran unleashed with the ground and pound, and the round ended with Loughran going for a rear naked choke.

The third and final round, and Sinclair began to retreat straight away, before going back to his usual tactic, which this time saw them move down to the ground, with Sinclair in side control, before going into full guard. Once there he didn’t seem to do much, mainly because Loughran was tying him up so much. Loughran then went for a kimura, with Sinclair tapping as Loughran twisted back on the arm. A very nice performance from Loughran here, and not a very good one from Sinclair, who seemed unable to change his tactics when his tactics were clearly not working.

The next fight sees action from the 70 kilo division, with Paul Sass tackling Martin Stapleton. Unlike the previous fights there was a slight feeling out process, before Stapleton grabbed Sass, held him high up against the cage, and then took him down. But in reality this played into Sass’ hands, as he went for his favourite triangle submission. Stapleton stood up for a few moments and got off a couple of good shots, but got straight back in the guard straight away, with Sass going for the triangle again. Stapleton countered by going into side guard, returning to the full guard a few seconds later. Sass again went for the triangle, and it wasn’t long before it was synched in, with Stapleton quickly tapping. Another short fight that was very good while it lasted.

Time for the big boys next, with Stefan Struve and Colin Robinson fighting for the vacant World Heavyweight title. Robinson began with a couple of good shots, before both men worked for a clinch around the cage, where Struve got a couple of good knees in while holding Robinson in a muay thai clinch. Struve continued with the knees, before picking Robinson up and scoring with a takedown. A guillotine attempt failed, so Struve went for the ground and pound. All Robinson seemed able to do was to hold on as the onslaught continued, and as he offered no defence, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.

But the fight didn’t actually stop there, because Robinson protested that his foot got caught under the bottom of the cage. So both fighters agreed to restart the fight, and Struve carried on where he’d left off, before locking in a triangle seconds later. Robinson had no choice but to tap, meaning that he’d actually beaten Robinson twice in one night in what was certainly an interesting fight, and a truly dominant performance from Struve.

Highlights of the show of the Lee Barnes/Richie Downes fight, in which Downes accidentally caught Barnes with a low blow, with the fight being declared a no contest. A shame that the full fight wasn’t shown.

On to David Johnson and Mark Glover in the 70 kilo division. A couple of good exchanges began the first round, before Johnson got the obligatory clinch, which resulted in Glover getting the trip and the takedown. Glover transitioned well, although Johnson showed some good defensive work as he got back to his feet. Glover then fired off some good combinations before they went back down, with Glover taking full guard and going for the ground and pound. Once again Johnson defended well, tying Glover up whenever he could. It wasn’t long before Johnson was on top in what was becoming a see-saw kind of fight. Glover went for an arm bar, which Johnson countered by lifting him up and slamming him back down. The transitions at times were getting too fast to follow, which made for a very good fight. As the final minute started, Glover went for the ground and pound, with Johnson responding in kind, and this was really what happened in the remainder of the round.

On to the second round, and they carried on where they’d left off. Glover scored with the first takedown, but Johnson once again tied him up as much as he could, until they got back to their feet and Glover staggered Johnson with a couple of knees. Johnson came back with a takedown of his own, with Glover going for an arm bar before Johnson passed into side control and scored with some good elbows. Back in full guard Johnson went for the ground and pound, connecting with some really good shots before Glover went for another arm bar. Johnson went to unload again as Glover got to his feet, but they were soon back down on the mat, with Johnson in Glover’s guard again, going for ground and pound while Glover was constantly looking for an arm bar, which he was never able to synch in, and as the round came to an end it was obvious that the fatigue was starting to set in for both fighters.

The final round, and they again continued where they’d left off, with some good exchanges. But with tiredness now becoming a factor, it seemed that both fighters were using the clinch up against the cage as a form of energy recovery, and this was how it remained until the referee separated them. Once back in the middle of the cage the fight went back down to the ground. Glover again went for the arm bar, and again Johnson managed to escape. Later on Glover changed tactics and attempted a triangle, which Johnson seemed unable to escape from. As the fight entered it’s final minute, Johnson continued to try and work his way out of Glover’s triangle, and this is how the fight ended.

So with the fight going the full distance, it went down to the judges decision, and it seemed fitting that they scored it as a draw. An amazing fight, and one of the best MMA fights I’ve seen this year.

In conclusion - a very enjoyable second television show from Cage Gladiators, and a delight to watch. No disappointing fights here in this broadcast, and the final fight between Johnson and Glover was a joy to behold, and that’s one re-match I’d definitely like to see in the future. So well done to ITV4, especially as they put the show on at 11 in the evening this time, and not one in the morning!

For more information on Cage Gladiators and their upcoming shows, visit www.cagegladiators.tv.