Monday, 1 December 2008

Cage Gladiators: Beatdown on ITV4 - TV Review

This past Friday night saw the return of British-based MMA promotion Cage Gladiators return to ITV4 screens here in Britain with a showing on their latest show, Beatdown, held this past October at the Olympia in Liverpool, featuring an appearance by former UFC star Rico Rodriguez, going up against British star Rob Broughton.

The show begins with featherweight action, Ashleigh Grimshaw facing Mark Sinclair. This one began with the fighters begin by exchanging kicks and punches, before the action moved to the mat with Grimshaw in the guard. As Grimshaw tried to move into position, Sinclair connected with a series of elbows to the top of his opponent’s head. It wasn’t long, though, before both fighters got back to their feet, probing with kicks and jabs. A short time later Sinclair upped his game with a good combination and a couple of high kicks to the head which clearly stunned Grimshaw, who held on to his man so he could catch a breather. When the clinch was finished, Sinclair connected with another high kick that sent Grimshaw crashing down, and as Sinclair was about to go in for the kill, the referee stepped in and called a halt to the action. A nice little fight here, with Sinclair’s superior foot work seeing him through, and a good performance considering he had trouble making the weight.

Next saw Andy Wadsworth take on Carl Noon in the middleweight division. Round one, and the action began extremely quickly, with Wadsworth going for the take down, getting it at the third attempt, although once in the guard he found himself under attack, with Noon controlling his head and getting off a few blows in the process. He then went for an armbar, which Wadsworth was able to defend against. But after Noon tried to lock a triangle, which Noon reversed with a slam, Wadsworth took Noon’s back and went for a choke, which went nowhere because of Noon’s great defences. But Wadsworth wasn’t going to give up that easily, and once again went for the choke. But the attempt failed, and Noon was able to turn around and take Wadsworth’s guard, before transitioning to side control. The action was slick and was a joy to watch as Noon went to work with knees and elbows to the body, as well as the ground and pound as the round came to an end.

Round two began with a clinch, before Wadsworth got a single leg take down. Again, Noon began to control Wadsworth’s head and arm, and tried for a submission which Wadsworth escaped from by simply standing up, before going back down into the guard position immediately. But with hardly any action, the referee stood the fighters up again, and after Noon caught Wadsworth with a couple of big blows, Wadsworth countered with a clinch followed by a take down, taking side control and going for the ground and pound. Wadsworth took Noon’s back, but just for a second or two as both fighters rolled over so Noon was now in the guard. But as Noon stood up in order to deliver a blow, Wadsworth connected with a couple of up kicks. As both fighters began to visibly tire, Noon went for the ground and pound, which Wadsworth countered by taking control of Noon’s head. A few scrambles followed, which soon saw Wadsworth take Noon’s back in the last few seconds of the round.

Round three began with both fighters looking exhausted, with Wadsworth scoring an immediate take down and going for the ground and pound, with Noon defending as well as he could. But the action was slow, not as crisp as the previous rounds, thanks to the fatigue factor. Noon soon gave up his back to Wadsworth, and it wasn’t long before Wadsworth locked in the rear naked choke, with Noon tapping after just a few seconds. This was a really enjoyable fight, with some great action in the first two rounds. A good example of British MMA action.

Lightweight action follows, with Andrew Fisher facing Paul Sass. Some quick exchanges began this one, before a brief clinch up against the fence which went nowhere. It wasn’t long before Sass took the fight down to the mat with a jumping guard, immediately going for a submission, which Fisher soon escaped from, getting into the north south position. But even though Fisher went for the ground and pound, Sass continued to go for the submissions, quickly locking in a triangle choke which Fisher quickly tapped to. A very good performance from Sass, controlling the fight from beginning to end.

Then it was on to heavyweight action, with former UFC star Rico Rodriguez taking on Rob Broughton. Round one saw both fighters testing the waters a little, before Broughton’s jabs sent Rodriguez down, with the Brit following up and going for the ground and pound. It wasn’t long before Broughton took Rodriguez’s back for a few seconds, although he wasn’t able to do much as the American got back to his feet. A long clinch against the cage followed, which the referee stopped as it wasn’t going anywhere. After a failed take down attempt, a second clinch against the wire followed, with Broughton putting in a few body shots for good measure. Rodriguez was soon able to escape the clinch, but Broughton was constantly on the front foot, and was able to defend against Rodriguez’s take down attempt, before transitioning well on the mat. But with the American looking for the ground game, Broughton was reluctant to stay on the mat. But he didn’t have much choice as Rodriguez went for another take down which was again well defended by the Brit as the round came to and end, with Broughton clearly winning the round.

Round two, and things began quite slowly, with Rodriguez connecting with a couple of kicks before attempting another take down, which only resulted in a clinch battle against the cage. Broughton was clearly the aggressor here, losing his shoulder and elbows, before the fight quickly went to the mat with the American in the guard, before going to the half guard. Rodriguez was definitely getting the better of Broughton on the ground, and there were times when the Brit looked like a fish out of water, until he attempted a kimura, which Rodriguez escaped from before transitioning back into the guard. A quick spin out later and Rodriguez grabbed Broughton’s leg and locked in the knee bar, with Broughton tapping straight away. This was the proverbial match of two halves, with Broughton the superior in the first round, and Rodriguez clawing it back in the second. A very good fight here.

Then it’s down to the welterweight division with Jay Gladden and Mark Mills. This one began very quickly, with Mills coming out swinging, and Gladden countering with an over under. Seconds later it was down on the mat, with Mills in the half guard, with Gladden locking him down at first, stopping him from moving. This didn’t last long as Mills tried to lock in a guillotine choke, which Gladden was able to defend against before taking his man down and taking the half guard himself. It was interesting to watch as both fighters tried to move for offensive and defensive positions. Mills soon got into the guard, but Gladden went for the triangle, but as the round progressed it looked like the referee was about to stand the fighters up due to inactivity, but the bell stopped this from ever happening.

Round two, and Mills began to swing again before Gladden got the take down, quickly moving into side control. A quick scramble by Mills followed, but Gladden was soon able to regain control, taking Mills’ back seconds later and synching in the rear naked choke. Mills tried to fight it at first, but soon tapped. An impressive performance from Gladden, especially when you considering he’s known more for his striking skills.

Back down to the lightweight division for the penultimate fight, with Rob Sinclair taking on Tim Radcliffe. Round one began with the feeling out process, before Radcliffe got off a good high kick, before Sinclair’s single leg pick up saw both fighters go up against the cage. Sinclair then grabbed Radcliffe’s other leg, holding him high up against the cage before taking him down to the mat into Radcliffe’s guard, and although Sinclair was clearly the aggressor, Radcliffe’s defence was able to withstand the onslaught. But after taking a step back, Sinclair stepped back in and rained down a torrent of blows on Radcliffe. Sinclair then stepped back again, almost inviting Radcliffe to go back to his feet. But it was an invitation Radcliffe wasn’t accepting, so Sinclair went back to his level on the ground. Again, Sinclair was clearly the aggressor, opening up a cut near Radcliffe’s left eye, and as the round came to an end Radcliffe made it obvious that he didn’t want to get back to his feet.

Round two, and both fighters went looking for the opening again, Sinclair looking for a blow, and Radcliffe looking for a clinch. And a clinch it was, before Radcliffe took it down to the ground with Sinclair on his back. As Radcliffe tried to transition into the position he wanted, Sinclair defended well, getting off a few shots of his own in the process. Eventually, Radcliffe was able to pass guard with ease, and Sinclair seemed powerless to stop him as Radcliffe was able to move to whatever position he wanted, almost taking Sinclair’s back at one point. Sinclair then began to scramble, using the cage to push himself up before reversing the situation, with Radcliffe on his back again. Sinclair returned to his first round game plan, going for the ground and pound, then taking a step back, with the bell saving Radcliffe from more punishment.

Round three began in the same way that the first two rounds had, although this feeling out process lasted quite a bit longer. Eventually, Sinclair got the double leg take down, again holding Radcliffe high up against the cage before finally taking him down. But this time Sinclair didn’t go for the ground and pound, a tactic that had served him so well in the first round. Sinclair soon stood back, but with Radcliffe again reluctant to meet his man face to face, all Sinclair did was fire off a couple of leg kicks, and the inactivity saw the referee call Radcliffe to his feet. As the fight went into it’s final minute the fatigue factor was again coming into play, with the occasional low kicks being exchanged.

So with the fight going the full three round distance, it went down to the judges decision, with Sinclair getting the unanimous decision. This was another very good fight, and you remember a couple of fights ago when I said something about being a good advertisement for British MMA? Well, add this one to that list as well.

The final fight saw action from the bantamweight division, with James Williams facing Jay McGuinness. A quick one here to end the show, and I’m not talking about how the action started. It quickly went down to the mat, then to a clinch up against the cage, before it quickly went back down, and just seconds later McGuinness had an arm bar locked in, with Williams tapping immediately. The look on Williams’ face after the fight said it all.

In conclusion - this is the third Cage Gladiators show ITV4 have shown, and this is by far the best one I’ve seen. Seven action-packed fights made this not just an enjoyable show but a very good show, with, for me, the fifteen minute war between Tim Radcliffe and Rob Sinclair standing out as the fight of the night. The Cage Gladiators product is really starting to grow on me now, and I look forward to seeing more from them when they return to British television screens in the new year.