When EliteXC went belly up in October 2008, Dave O’Donnell, head of their British affiliate Cage Rage, quickly went into action, dissolving the Cage Rage brand and forming an entirely new company - Ultimate Challenge. Now, having held numerous events, they’ve released their first DVD - Cage Fighting: The Best of Ultimate Challenge. Basically it’s a compilation of what are meant to be their best fights. So what are these fights like then?
Simon Gill v John Joe Ellis (Featherweight)
This one featured some nice ground work from both men, with Gill in particular looking good as he secured the submission win.
Mark Brown v Dominic Plumb (Middleweight)
A blink and you’ll miss it affair sees Plumb getting the quick take down, and going for the ground and pound, soon earning the knockout win with an impressive display.
David Urquhart v Adam Gould (Light Heavyweight)
Gould dropped his man early with a big left, but Urquhart soon reversed positions on the ground. Both fighters were soon back on their feet, where Gould soon secured the knockout win.
Jake Bostwick v Rafik Benziada (Light Heavyweight)
Explosive would be the best way to describe this fight. Controversial would be another. Both guys went at it full tilt, but Benziada took it a little further, earning himself two warnings, one for repeated blows to the back of the head, and another for an eye gouge on the ground. All this seemed to do was spur Bostwick on, and it wasn’t long before e big right sent the Algerian crashing to the ground. So impressive would be another way of describing this fight.
Chris Greg v Tony Pasos (Light Heavyweight)
A more technical and slower paced bout saw Pasos get the early take down, showing some good work on the ground before the referee stood the fighters up. Pasos then went to work again, connecting with some good combinations and knees in the clinch before getting the knockout win in a very enjoyable fight.
Dean Bray v Edgelson Lua (Welterweight)
A one-side affair saw some great defensive work from Lua, but when the fight did go to the ground it was all Lua, transitioning at will until he took Bray’s back and synched in a rear naked choke for the impressive submission win.
Dino Gambaseti v Brad Pickett (Featherweight)
One Punch is perhaps best known to American fans for being on the undercard of Brock Lesnar’s MMA debut, and this fight was a great example of his work. Pickett controlled almost every aspect of the first round, and he would surely have got the submission victory win an arm bar, but time was against him. But having broken a rib in the first, Pickett got the win just seconds into the second with a guillotine choke. You know, Pickett is one of those fighters I could watch all day.
John Joe Ellis v Marcus Thomas (Lightweight)
A better performance for Ellis in his second appearance here. Ellis ducked the taller man’s blows, and dropped Thomas with his first punch, a big right, with the referee stopping the fight soon afterwards.
Luke Smith v Dragos Voiculescu (Lightweight)
The debuting Romanian was completely overwhelmed by Smith. Dragos’ only offence of note was a take down attempt that Smith easily defended. When the fight did go to the ground it wasn’t long before Smith took Dragos’ back, getting the win with a rear naked choke.
Scott Jansen v Edgelson Lua (Welterweight)
Lua’s second appearance here proved to be a very tactical battle with some crisp combinations from both fighters in the first round. But when it went to the ground Lua was clearly the superior fighter, and this showed as he secured the submission victory with a rear naked choke early in the second round.
Jamie Hearn v Jimi Manuwa (Light Heavyweight)
A somewhat bizarre fight here. Hearn injured his right ankle just moving around the cage early on, and despite being in great pain he insisted on carrying on, which proved to be a big mistake. Just seconds later Hearn again turned away in pain, and again he carried on. Manuwa then pounced, and soon applied a guillotine, which Hearn quickly tapped out to, not because of the choke, but because of his injured ankle. I’m not sure why this was included here to be honest.
Mark Weir v Mohamed Khacha (Welterweight)
Weir may be best known to UFC fans for his great performance at their first ever British show way back in 2002. Sadly, things didn’t go to plan for him here, with both men showing some good work before Khacha scored with a second knockdown, before his ground and pound secured the knockout win.
Chris Greg v Kevin Ludick (Light Heavyweight)
A better performance by Greg in his second appearance here, controlling the majority of the fight and looking like he could get the ground and pound win in the first round. Instead, the win came in the second, as Greg secured the win with a key lock.
Giorgio Andrews v David Byfield (Featherweight)
Another one-side battle with Andrews putting on a very impressive performance, controlling everything on the ground. Byfield tried to escape, but Andrew took him straight back down again, and it wasn’t long before he got the submission win with a rear naked choke.
Sami Berick v Afnan Saeed (Lightweight)
A fast paced bout both on the ground and in the stand-up saw both fighters having their moments, before a big left from Berick saw Saeed slumping against the cage, giving him the great looking knockout win.
Jake Bostwick v Marvin Arnold (Light Heavyweight)
Another impressive Bostwick performance saw him knocking down his taller opponent with a big right, with the referee stopping the fight after just thirty second because of Bostwick’s relentless ground and pound.
Dillon Whyte v Mark Stroud (Heavyweight)
Another quickie which saw Stroud trying to trade blows from the off, before a right from Whyte sent him crashing down and out of it. Impressive knockout win from Whyte here.
Neil Grove v James McSweeney (Heavyweight)
Some of you may know McSweeney from his recent stint on The Ultimate Fighter, and he looked as if he was from another weight division compared to the massive Grove. The first round was a frantic back and forth affair. Grove looked great as he lifted McSweeney high into the air before slamming him down, while McSweeney’s ground work was highly impressive. But by the time the second round began both fighters were exhausted, although Grove had just enough energy to get the ground and pound stoppage win.
Jean Silva v A.J. Wren (Lightweight)
A very technical battle saw Silva in a dominant position for most of the fight, showing some very good ground work before securing the win with a side choke midway through the second round.
Jimi Manuwa v Ryan Robinson (Light Heavyweight)
No bizarre happenings in Manuwa’s second fight of the collection, just a great display of striking as he rocked Robinson early, opening up a nasty cut near his right eye. There were brief moments on the ground, but it wasn’t long before Manuwa’s punching power came to the fore again, with the referee stopping the fight because of the damage to Robinson’s eye. An awesome display of striking from Manuwa here.
Jake Bostwick v Alex Reid (Middleweight)
Bostwick’s third appearance of the collection sees him going up against the darling of the tabloid press in a UK1 kickboxing bout. Bostwick came out with all guns blazing, and Reid looked in trouble until a knee to the face sent Bostwick down, and as the referee made his count, Bostwick pulled himself out of the fight.
Jack Mason v Alex Reid (Middleweight)
Another kickboxing outing for Mr. Katie Price, and this time there’s plenty of shots of his famous future wife, and a little controversy as well. Mason put in a very good performance here, opening up a cut above Reid’s right eye. But with the fight going the distance and many thinking that Mason had got the decision, the judges gave it in favour of Reid.
In conclusion - this is a very good collection from Britain’s best MMA promotion, and it’s filled with great fights and great performances. It’s another good advertisement for British mixed martial arts.
Well, for the most part. While the inclusion of two Alex Reid fights is a canny marketing move, those fights aren’t actually that good. It’s as if he’s only been included because of his current high profile.
Then there’s the slight technical issue. There’s no menu on the DVD, which means that you can’t watch an individual fight. For instance, if you want to watch the Reid/Mason fight, the last fight of the collection, you have to forward through every other fight to get there.
There’s also the slightly misleading packaging. It states that the collection lasts for four hours, when it actually lasts a tad over three. I know, it’s a minor thing for some, but it’s something that really annoys me at times.
So does this get the thumbs up? Yes, yes it does, because it’s an example that British MMA isn’t all about Alex Reid. The majority of the action here should easily satisfy any fight fan’s appetite.
With thanks to the powers that be at Ultimate Challenge for supplying a copy of this release. Cage Fighting: The Best of Ultimate Challenge is available at all major DVD stockists.