British MMA is on the agenda once again, and with the help of Premier Sports’ free to air weekend we’re going back in time a week or so to the King’s Hall in Belfast for Cage Contender 15.
Shown this past Saturday night in two parts, part one concentrated on the preliminaries. The first three fights were amateur encounters, fought over three three minute rounds, beginning with Gerard Gilmore against Conor White in the welterweight division.
This certainly proved to be an action packed opener. They began with a couple of exchanges, and it was apparent from these that White was the more technical striker.
This was more evident when White began to connect with a series of knees in the Thai clinch, a sequence that caused Gilmore no end of trouble, particularly in the first round.
Everything White did just looked so good, from his striking to his ground work, and he came close to ending the fight on a couple of occasions towards the end of the first and second rounds, but as the hold saying goes Gilmore was saved by the bell.
Sadly the only thing missing from this fight was a finish, which meant a bit of work for the judges as they gave everything to White.
Then it was down to flyweight as Paddy Copeland took on Darren Watkins.
Copeland put in a dominating performance in this one, taking the fight to the ground early on and controlling the action from there. Watkins briefly went for a gogoplata but Copeland quickly moved to side control so he could deliver a largely unanswered display of ground and pound.
The end came in the second round. Copeland scored with another early takedown before quickly transitioning to his man’s back so he could lock in a rear naked choke for the submission win.
The flyweight action continued as Daniel Thompson took on Karl McNally.
This one lasted just over a minute. The action quickly went to the ground, and as soon as they arrived there McNally went looking for a choke with a power guillotine attempt. When that didn’t work he switched over to a regular guillotine which Thompson quickly tapped out to.
The professional fights began with bantamweight action between Stevie Kilbin and Luke O’Neill.
This one lasted under a minute. After the initial feeling out period Kilbin took the fight to the ground. A brief moment of grappling followed as they both went for submissions before Kilbin applied a heel hook for the submission win.
Middleweight action followed as Ronan McKay faced Rich Gorey.
This was a very enjoyable encounter. We had a brief feeling out period at the beginning before Gorey scored with the takedown. However, McKay soon reversed the positions, going on to dominate the rest of the round with some sound grappling, and although Gorey went looking for a kimura at one point McKay didn’t look like he was in any danger.
It was the same story in the second round as McKay dominated on the ground again. It looked like he was going to get the win with a rear naked choke at one point until Gorey managed to escape. It looked all over again a few moments later when McKay took the high mount looking for some ground and pound.
Things began to look up for Gorey when he managed to reverse the positions, but that proved to be a bad move on his part as McKay locked in a triangle choke for the highly impressive submission win.
The main show began with bantamweight action between Stevie McCombe and Barry McGuigan (no, not that one!).
We had quite an extensive feeling out period in this one, and it wasn’t until nearly two minutes into the fight when the action really got going as McCombe scored with the takedown.
It was then that McGuigan played the part of the spoiler perfectly, showing sound defensive skills from the bottom. Whenever McCombe moved from half guard to full guard McGuigan nearly always managed to put him back in his original position, basically shutting McCombe down and stopping him from doing anything meaningful.
After the referee stood the fighters up McGuigan quickly scored with a takedown of his own. It proved to be the beginning of the end for him though as McCombe immediately locked in a guillotine, with McGuigan tapping out just three seconds from the end of the first round.
Then it was up to featherweight with Ricky Edgeworth taking on Alan Philpot.
His was another one that lasted less then a minute. They began by swinging for the fences before a slip from Philpot saw Edgeworth follow him down to the ground.
Philpot quickly went to work with the submission attempts, going for various holds before synching in a triangle for the submission win.
Championship action followed as Arni Isaksson faced Wayne Murrie for the Interim Welterweight title.
This proverbial game of two halves saw Murrie putting in a sound performance in the first round. A series of kicks reddened the Icelander’s thigh early on, and whenever Isaksson went for a takedown from the clinch against the cage Murrie showed sound defensive skills.
When the second round began though it was an entirely different story. Isaksson began to look the better striker of the two, and it looked as if he’d abandoned his plan to take the fight to the ground as his crisp striking rocked Murrie on more than one occasion.
Murrie tried to counter with a takedown at one point, but it wasn’t long before Isaksson was swinging again, a big right sending Murrie crashing. Isaksson followed him down for a spot of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Isaksson the TKO win.
The final fight of the show featured middleweight action as Conor Cooke went up against former UFC star Ross Pointon.
To say that this fight was action packed would be an understatement. As soon as the bell sounded these two went at it full pelt, and it made for an amazing spectacle.
This was one of those fast-paced back and forth encounters you couldn’t take your eyes off in case you missed something. First Pointon had some success with a couple of submission attempts, then Cooke would come back into it with his striking, then Pointon would counter with more grappling.
It was as if the action was going round in cycles until Cooke began to unload with the heavy leather for the final time. Pointon was against the fence on rubber legs when Cooke connected with a right kick to the head. Pointon crashed to the ground like a sack of spuds as the referee quickly stepped in to give Cooke the TKO win.
In conclusion - it’s been a while since I’ve seen any Cage Contender show, mainly because I don’t subscribe to Premier Sports and they’ve hardly appeared on Sky Sports. I was glad I caught this show though.
The amateur bouts were all quite impressive, and the performances from those involved showed that they’ve all got bright futures ahead of them.
As for the professionals they certainly delivered big time. There were some excellent fights there, encounters that could easily have graced the bigger stages in the MMA world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those fighters on those stages in the future.
As for my fight of the night it was a close call going into the final fight, but then Cooke and Pointon gave us one of the best fights outside of the UFC I’ve seen this year, so giving them my no-prize was kind of a no brainer.
So with that being said it’s time to wrap this review up by giving Cage Contender 15 the thumbs up.