Sunday, 26 September 2010

Cage Control 2 - Revolution

Cage Control 2 represented a huge step forward for the team from Spartan MMA. Doug Wildman and Andy Molyneux had pulled out all the stops to ensure that this show was bigger and better than the last and the gleaming white Dreamesque cage was surely testament to this.

As the crowds started to slowly filter in and I took my seat at cageside, it quickly became apparent that there was an energy in the air that was hard to explain.

Mixed Martial Arts is not a team sport, but the achievements of great individuals are fashioned by their coaches and sparring partners. They are the real heroes of events like this and every fighter, whether in victory or defeat, should be quick to thank their respective teams for the help and support that bring them to battle.

It was clear that war was about to be declared and as soon as MC Ricky Wright began his sonic assault, there wasn't a dull moment all night.

Ben Almond vs. Steven Molyneux
63kg Amateur Bout

The first of the Spartans entered the arena to rapturous applause as Ste Molyneux made his debut against Ben Almond. It soon became apparent that the two fighters were very well matched as both exchanged evenly on the floor and on the feet.
There was, however, a frantic nature about the fight and after just two minutes of the first round it was Almond who wound up in a tight guillotine choke and struggled to get out. Molyneux, sensing he had the victory, applied the crank and elicited the tap.

Callum Griffiths vs. Phil Barnard
65kg Semi Pro Bout

Once again the crowd roared as Callum Griffiths, another debuting Spartan, took to the cage but his opponent was clearly ready to take the fight to him. In the first round it was Griffiths who looked to have the better of the striking as he landed a hard right uppercut that wobbled his foe. Barnard showed a good chin and came back well in the first round with some good wrestling.
The rest of the bout continued to follow this pace as Barnard seemed to have the better grappling but slowed down considerably in the last round. Griffiths landed some nice strikes and locked in a tight triangle choke in the last seconds of the final round to undoubtedly leave an impression on the judges. It was a close fight but Griffiths took the bout, winning two out of three rounds on all the scorecards.

Jay Reynolds vs. Richie Jones
77kg Semi Pro Bout

Once again the warriors from Sukata MMA made the trip to fight at Cage Control as Jay Reynolds took on Falcon's Richie Jones. It was clear that Reynolds had the reach advantage but a beautiful shoot from Jones took his man down and, although swept, he quickly recovered and seemed to have the measure of his foe on the floor.
It was a very game effort from Reynolds but, in the end, it was the grappling pedigree of Jones that was the difference as he locked up a tight arm bar with just seconds left in the first round.

Will Harcourt vs. Chris Musgrove
77kg Semi Pro Bout

Spartan's Chris Musgrove came out with a point to prove and looked ferocious early on but Harcourt sublimely took his man to the floor and quickly looked to work. Once the fight hit the deck it was clear that Harcourt had the edge and he showed great positional grappling before locking up a tight armbar with seconds left. It's a testament to the heart of Musgrove that he chose not to tap out but the referee did the right thing by stepping in before his arm was broken.
It's clear that Musgrove showed a lot of courage in fighting through the armbar but it was perfectly applied by Harcourt and stubbornness is surely not conducive to a long career in mma.

Alister Hawke vs. Ross Houston
77kg Semi Pro Bout

In one of the quickest bouts of the evening it was Spartan's Alister Hawke who came out guns blazing against Ross Houston, only to find himself locked in a vice like anaconda choke. The fight was over as quickly as it began and after just thirty six seconds Hawke was fast asleep on the canvas, much to the dismay of the local crowd.

Triffan vs. James Woodruffe
93kg + Semi Pro Bout

The biggest reception of the evening was received by local fighter Triffan as the Siberian Express took a little less than two minutes to dispose of an outmatched James Woodruffe. Triffan landed hard punches from all angles and in the end forced his foe to verbally tap out following a series of devastating strikes which sent shockwaves around the whole cage.

Ben Brand vs. Adam Turner
84kg Semi Pro Bout

It was a tough act to follow, but Force MMA's Adam Turner looked like a man possessed as he made short work of Ben Brand in a little under a minute. It was a series of perfect transitions on the ground that would prove to make the difference as Turner targeted an arm and dispatched his foe with textbook armbar.

Carlos Francis vs. Lee Garrett
84kg Semi Pro Bout

Carlos Francis came into the cage with fire in his eyes but he ran into a tsunami in Sukata MMA's Lee Garrett. In the best display of striking that I have ever seen at this level, Lee Garrett showed some phenomenal combinations that left Francis wondering what had hit him.
He wasn't wondering long, however, as Garrett duly deposited him on the canvas with a piledriver of a left hand which forced a very justified referees stoppage. The Sukata chants had begun in force as the crowd were quick acknowledge a fantastic performance.

Jordan Broadbent vs. Mike Feely
70kg Semi Pro Bout

The final Sukata fighter of the evening, Jordan Broadbent, came out to a good reception but Mike Feely seemed as relaxed as anyone I've ever seen in this situation. It was clear that both men were evenly matched but Broadbent looked the busier of the two and his determination soon paid off as he toppled his foe with a looping shot.
Jordan showed great finishing instincts as he swarmed his man and took a textbook armbar submission after a little under two minutes in the first round

Lee Stevens vs. Xander Davies
77kg Semi Pro Bout

It was the return of the local favourite Lee Stevens after his disappointing bout at Night of the Gladiators and the look in his eyes showed that his intentions were crystal clear. Davies proved to be no slouch and threw a variety of strikes at Stevens but it was not to be, as Lee stalked his man from one side of the cage to the other and threw some really nice combinations.
Stevens also threatened a submission victory at the end of the first but, in the second, it was more of the same as the striking dominance became too much for Xander to deal with. Stevens had worked hard for this victory and the referee stopped the bout after a little over two minutes of the first round when it was clear that Davis was not able to defend himself.

It was a great main event and another good card from Cage Control who were able to provide the fans with just what they needed. The bouts were action packed, the music was loud and I enjoyed one of the easiest night's judging of my professional career.

Cage Control was an amazing event and served to be the highlight of a huge day of MMA for me that had started with Dream early in the morning and, after BAMMA, concluded with a live UFC 119 play by play chat on MMAHQ that finished at around 6am.

Thanks for taking the time to read
It's been emotional but then, it always is.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Walking to Work and the Need to Write

Hey all,

Sorry if it's been a few days since I updated anything. I've been writing so much recently it's really made me appreciate how lucky I am to be able to get so much work published.

If you'd have asked me if I thought that this would be possible when I started this blog then I'd have probably laughed and logged back onto Warcraft. It's funny just how much has changed recently. I can't tell you how good it is to sit down and write with real purpose for a site like MMAHQ, to be editor is easily the greatest honour of my short writing career and I hope there's more to come real soon.

I was thinking at 'work' today about writing, and how much I'd give to be able to write full time and it hit me all at once. If everyone who thought like that, didn't do anything about it then everyone would walk around in 'jobs', waiting for the evenings so they could live their dreams, or even think about their dreams. I wondered how many people that you see walking along in the morning have the ability to do something life changing but are petrified to do anything about it?

I came to a conclusion today, it's not going to happen to me. I'm not going to hit a certain age and dread getting up, I want the commute to work to be a walk to the kettle. I want to sit somewhere warm, while the rain comes crashing down outside and write about what moves me to write. There's no reason I can't write full time long term, it's just about taking chances and rolling the dice.

Thanks to everyone who reads my work, thanks to everyone who has ever supported me or stuck their neck out for me and thank you for everyone who has given me a chance. I know who you are and so do you. I'd like to think that, if he were alive, my dad would be proud of how much I've taken after him and how much his love of writing plays a part in my every waking moment. I always respected how much he gave me, but the biggest gift is only really becoming apparent after he's gone, I guess that's irony.

One day in the future I'll re-read this and smile, safe in the knowledge that I gave it every single thing that I had.

Much love
Keep in touch

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

On decisions

As far as presidents go, Dana White is easily one of the most quoteworthy figures in modern sports. Anyone who's been a fan of the sport can name a whole host of separate occasions where Dana has summed up what we were all thinking, albeit laced with slightly more profanity.

It was at the point when Dana finished the "Do you want to be a fighter" speech, that I realised I didn't. I did however realise at that point that I needed to find a way to get more involved with the sport in any way that I could.

He always seems to find a time to say "Never leave it in the hands of the judges." This in itself is probably a testament to just how many fights go the distance and how many decisions are controversial.

I've done a few judging gigs in my time and, after all the hullabaloo the other night with the Lee Stevens vs. Harry Izevbigie fight, I took the time to watch the fight with the sound off and my trusty pen and paper.

I respect everyone's opinions on the fight and I haven't written this piece to start any kind of argument. Merely to give my impressions of how I saw the fight in a less pressurised atmosphere.

I remember it being close but, as these things often are, I felt that in the cold light of day I'd be in a better position to make an informed decision.

Lee Stevens vs. Harry Izevbigie

1) 10-9 Harry Izevbigie

Striking wise it was very close but for most of the round it was Izevbigie who engaged a bit more. Lee did a good job of avoiding the punches coming in, if he could have followed up on one or two then he would have taken it. Harry took it due to aggression and very slightly more active striking. He took control of the fight more and was the one looking to make things happen.

2) 10-9 Harry Izevbigie

Lee's striking was a lot better in this round, he looked to engage more and his movement didn't slow down. Harry landed a similar number of strikes and did well to get the takedown and although he didn't do a great deal with it, he transitioned into a submission attempt. It was a very close round once again but Harry pipped it with slightly more activity and due to the takedown and sub attempt.

3) 10-9 Lee Stevens

Stevens did much better here and caught him with the best shot of the bout, he did the right thing as well to come forward and keep throwing when this happened. Overall this was probably the clearest round, even though it was still close. Stevens landed more and, more importantly, he took the centre of the cage and dictated the pace a bit more.

Harry Izevbigie 29-28

In fights where not a lot of things happen it's sometimes the smallest things that make a difference and impress the judges. Harry attempted more takedowns and submissions, albeit only a few but he still attempted them.

Lee's striking looked a lot more compact but his unwillingness to link his punches together made his output seem a little less impressive than it could have been.

When you break it all down, my opinion doesn't count for a whole hill of beans because I wasn't judging that night. That's the centre of what I'm trying to say here, everyone is entitled to have their say but the only opinions that matter on the fight night are that of three people.

It's a harsh sport and the judging has come under heavy scrutiny but in mma, just like any other sport, any time you leave your fight in someone else's hands, you can never be sure of the outcome.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Night of the Gladiators 5 - Reflections on MMA

Night of the Gladiators is a show that I always look forward to, it's a chance for me to commentate some good fights and to see how far the sport has come in my local community.

Night of the Gladiators 5 bought us 12 action packed contests, 2 title defences and some fights that were a tad on the wild side. All in all it was a night that few will forget, as the promotion offered some dynamic finishes and the crowd can surely have no complaints with just how much action Ross Pointon and the boys managed to cram into a Saturday Night.

Jake Barrett vs. Anthony Hart
70kg Semi Pro Bout

Jake Barrett was the first of the local fighters to enter the arena and he showed tremendous heart, taking this fight on just a day's notice. From the opening bell it was obvious that these fighters were here to finish, and finish quickly as Barrett quickly scored a flash knockdown and looked to lock in a tight guillotine choke. He was unable to finish from this position and once the two made it back to the feet they duly stood and began winging huge shots. The crowd went wild as both fighters stood right in front of each other and kept up a relentless pace throughout the first round.

In the second period it was more of the same but just when it looked like Barrett was completely spent, he pulled out another guillotine choke and was able to finish the fight after 1:20 of the round, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Wayne Farrington vs. Oliver McLeod
70kg Semi Pro Bout

It was the debut of another of the Team Gladiator fighters next, as Oliver McLeod made his way to the cage to meet up with Wayne Farrington. It was a spirited opening from the McLeod as he showed some nice kicks and a good Judo takedown but, in doing this, he gave up his back. Farrington seemed the stronger of the two fighters and, once on top, was able to dictate the positions on the ground with relative ease. As the round wore on it was clear that McLeod was struggling to shake his foe and he wound up taking more and more shots, it was the accumulation of strikes that called the referee to stop the bout after  2:47 in the first round.

Josh Yates vs. Jack Longworth
70kg Semi Pro Bout

Jack Longworth was making his return to the promotion and he looked very sharp on his feet, showing a good selection of strikes from all angles. Team Gladiator product Josh Yates gave a very good account for himself on his debut in the cage, but it was hard for him to get his game going in this bout. 

Longworth showed some nice movement and controlled the round well and, with seconds left in the first round, landed a textbook spinning back kick that folded up Yates like a lawn chair. It was easily the best shot of the entire night, a very difficult technique to land and credit to Longworth for a very impressive performance.

Lee Youens vs. Luke Morris
70kg Semi Pro Bout

Lee Youens made his way to the cage coming off a very impressive performance at Shoot N Sprawl in Northampton, but local debutant Luke Morris was clearly ready for the challenge. Youens got off first with some good leg kicks and, although the fight looked very even on the feet, when Lee took the fight to the floor it was clear that he had the edge.  Morris worked very hard from the bottom but he was unable to stop Youens, who worked relentlessly from a variety of positions. 

The first round was nearly over when Youens took his opponent's back and locked in a vice like rear naked choke. It was testament to the heart of Morris that he fought tooth and nail to escape but he was put to sleep by the hold, following a refusal to tap. An impressive performance from Youens who seems to be evolving at a tremendous rate.

Lee Tuff vs. Josh Layton
77kg Semi Pro Bout

Lee Tuff made his return to Gladiator Promotions, following a successful debut but he ran into a buzz saw in Josh Layton. In what was a phenomenally entertaining bout, the powerful wrestling of Layton proved to be the difference as he was able to dictate the pace of the encounter from bell to bell.

Tuff showed a fantastic guard and was busy off his back throughout the encounter but, in the third round, Layton was able to move to the mount position and posture up significantly. Fatigue was clearly an issue but Tuff had no answer for this punishment and the referee did a good job of stepping in to stop any unnecessary shots being landed after just a minute in the last round.

Raddsiau Radzuik vs. Matt Marr
93kg Semi Pro Bout

It was clear from the outset that neither man wanted this fight to go the distance as both offered crushing power in every strike. Whereas Radzuik came forward with wild punches, it was the powerful kicks of Matt Marr that seemed to be landing more. As the round came to a close it was clear that the more heavily muscled Radziuk seemed to be slowing down.

Raddsiau did the right thing by looking to take the foe to the deck but he seemed somewhat lethargic. He was, however, able to land strikes but there wasn't a lot behind them. It was clear that Raddsiau was spent and all it took was a quick reversal from Marr and a few strikes to end the fight via TKO in the second round.

Daniel Bonner vs Adam Bairstow
70kg Semi Pro Bout

The chants of Bairstow once again rang out around the Victoria Hall as the local favourite met with Wolfslair prospect Daniel Bonner. It seemed that neither fighter was afraid to throw strikes and both were soon marked up from the encounter, Bairstow with a nasty cut above his eye and Bonner with a split lip.

The bout was developing into an intriguing striking contest when Bonner landed a thunderous shot that turned the lights out in a hurry. Bairstow, upon hitting the canvas, was quickly woken back up but there can be no debate that he was out and the referee did the right thing by stepping in. The fans may not have been happy but it was the right call to make and Bonner was given the nod with just six seconds left in the first round.

Joe Daly vs. Adam Randle
95kg Semi Pro Bout

Another battle of two newcomers saw Stoke's own Adam Randle meet Joe Daly in the eighth bout of the evening. Randle was clearly in better condition but following a brief exchange on the feet, quickly found himself pressed up against the cage by his foe. Randle had double underhooks for sometime and eventually managed to get a takedown but was unable to show anything special from the top as the round ended.

As the second round wore on it was Randle who got another takedown and was able to land several unanswered shots to the head of his opponent. The crowd duly went wild as the referee stepped in and Randle picked up the victory

Ant Phillips vs. Lee Summers
65kg Semi Pro Bout

Ant Phillips looked revitalised following a disappointing loss at Cage Control in June but it was Lee Summers who made the better start, landing crisp strikes and a good looking head kick. Summers quickly pounced on his foe but Phillips showed real composure from the bottom and continued to attack with his guard.

In the end it took less than a minute as Phillips locked on a tight armbar and cranked it hard forcing the tap. It was a good win for Phillips who showed a much improved game in surviving the early pressure and pulling out the victory.

Conrad Hayes vs. Ben Ford
65kg Semi Pro Bout

All eyes were on Conrad Hayes as he made his way to the cage to face his toughest test in Ben Ford. Hayes is already being touted as one to watch for the future and he showed why in this encounter. His opponent, however, was clearly not intimidated by the reputation and quickly began chopping away with good looking leg kicks.

The striking was even for the most part but, despite giving up his back following a spinning back fist, it was the grappling of Hayes that would prove to be the difference. Conrad was able to land several big takedowns and, in the third round, spent most of his time in mount. Ford never stopped fighting for the whole of the bout but simply had no answer once Hayes was able to take the fight to the floor.

The judges rendered a unanimous decision to Conrad Hayes and the fights will surely only get bigger for the young fighter from here.

Lee Stevens vs. Harry Izevbigie
77kg Semi Pro Title Bout

It seemed like the entire arena, myself included, simply could not wait for this one to happen; two devastating knockout strikers meeting up for the GPUK Semi Pro belt. It was quite the nervy first round though, as both fighters clearly respected the power that their opponent possessed. 

Stevens looked the more composed with his strikes but, all too often, threw single shots and did not seem willing to link his strikes to combinations. Izevbigie, however, remained the busier fighter and managed to mix in the occasional takedown attempt to keep his opponent guessing. 

This quickly became the story of the fight as both fighters showed good conditioning to keep this pace up for the entire fifteen minutes. It was a very close fight and this was represented in a split decision win for Izevbigie which, while not well received by some of the crowd, was far from being a bad call. Harry took the belt but will surely be looking over his shoulder for a rematch with Stevens in the near future.

Paul Ramos vs. Chris Whitehead
70kg Pro Title Bout

In the main event of the evening it was Paul Ramos who looked to be the aggressor from the start as he landed early and set up a good takedown. It became apparent that Whitehead had some tricks up his sleeve as he showed some good submission attempts from the bottom. In the end it was a big strike from Ramos that settled it, as he slammed his foe to the canvas and followed up with an elbow that knocked Chris Whitehead out cold. 

Once again the referee intervened at just the right time, but the real story has to be the impressive performance from Ramos who, at 5-1, looks to be a real talent at 70kg.

In Reflection

It was a good night of fights that, for me, was marred by a few incidents. It's too easy to have a go at anyone doing a job at an mma event but until you've done that job yourself, you're not in a position to criticise. There are decisions over the years that I haven't agreed with but have I thrown pound coins at the referee and screamed obscenities at the officials? No, because I'm not in a position to and because I've been taught better than that.

People were screaming at the referee following a few decisions but I ask you this, would you rather have seen someone hurt? Fighter safety is paramount at all times and if you don't like that then you would be well advised to stay in and watch UFC 1 instead of a modern mma event.

I write about mma for a lot of reasons but one of the most important ones is because I love how much people get out of the sport when they get involved and understand it more. It's mixed martial arts, and the martial arts aspect should never be forgotten. Last night reminded me, for a small time, of a football match and everything I hate about being English. 

If you people want to see a fight then go to the pub and knock over someone's pint, but please don't bring this attitude to live events. It undermines everything that the sport has fought so hard to achieve in the last 17 years and it makes the rest of society think that this really is what the sport is about. It's nice to be able to call it a sport again, we need to make sure it doesn't devolve back into being a spectacle.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Evan Tanner: The Adventurer's Eulogy

Evan Tanner: The Adventurer's Eulogy

I can't express how much writing an article like this meant to me. It's not my first piece about Evan Tanner, but it's a testament to just how diverse and unique an individual that he was that writing a second piece was so possible.

Evan Tanner will always be my favourite UFC fighter, my favourite champion and one of the reasons that I believe that anyone can write. It's all about expression, and Evan Tanner is the greatest example of this.

Evan Tanner: 1971-2008

Friday, 3 September 2010

Gym of the Month - Leicester Shootfighters

It amazes me each month how much response I get from Gym of the Month, it seems there's so many great gyms out there and I love giving them all a chance to tell everyone what they have to offer. If you want to get involved then please drop me a line, my details are on my UKMMA page. This month it was my pleasure to chat with Nathan Leverton at Leicester Shootfighters about the club and his visions for the future.

What was your first involvement with mixed martial arts?

My first exposure was reading about UFC 1 not long after it happened and hunting out a tape of it, which is what got me interested in the sport that was then known as NHB. Not long after that I met and trained with Geoff Thompson from Coventry who at the time was mixing different styles together and training some of the first UK NHB fighters for events run by Lee Hasdell. Following my interest online I met other s with the same passion for this burgeoning sport and become a part of Submission Fighting UK (SFUK) when it launched, Europe’s first major MMA website and resource which was a driving force behind the UK scene for many years.

Briefly explain the history of the gym.

The gym was originally founded by students at De Montfort University (Matt Whetton and Giuseppe Iannucci with Jimmy Cairney and Dom Bufton) who broke away from a more traditional martial arts club to set up their own sessions. Following a chance meeting with one of them I dropped by to watch some classes but ended up sharing some of what I’d picked up from training in Coventry and my involvement with SFUK. I gradually took over more of the sessions and when the founder members moved away from Leicester or became busy with other things I took over the club. I continued to train small groups over numerous locations for many years until we finally settled in to our own academy at the end of 2009. We have trained over 100 competitors in Submission Grappling and MMA, from amateur up to UFC level.

Nathan Leverton prepares for classes
What is your vision for the gym?

The goal of the gym is to provide a safe, professional and healthy environment where students can explore the arts we teach and be helped to achieve their goals; whether that be getting in better shape, learning a few techniques, competing, coaching, or anything in between. We aim to continue our strong traditions in these areas and continually strive to provide a better service.

Who are the coaches and what are their backgrounds?

The gym is owned by myself and Robert Hannis. We both teach Submission Wrestling and MMA classes and are purple belts in BJJ (but primarily train without the gi). Top ten European ranked MMA fighter Jim Wallhead teaches MMA classes at the gym and many of our top students such as Andre Winner, JD Hylton, Ranjeet Baria, Liam Corrigan and Paul Barton take occasional classes in their specialist areas. Caz Tweedy is a competitive grappler trained by us who runs the popular women’s programme at the gym.

What range of classes does the gym offer?

We currently have classes 6 days a week. There are MMA and MMA Striking sessions to introduce students to the fundamentals of the sport and an MMA Advanced class which essentially serves as squad training right now for people to spar and drill in preparation for competition. We have a similar format for Submission Wrestling, with classes for those wishing to learn the art or refine their technique as well as advanced classes for sparring and competition preparation. We also have the MMA Fitness class once a week to whip everyone in to shape and Sundays are reserved for special events like the women only sessions, seminars and club competitions.

As more and more MMA gyms open up over the coming months what do you feel is unique about the gym?

Our relaxed and friendly gym atmosphere and our commitment to developing no-gi grappling and its application to MMA; I also would say our history of success in open competition and our goal of providing the best training possible for recreational students alongside competitive athletes.

Also, our series of seminars at the gym this year has been amazing. We’ve had  Andre Winner, Ross Pearson, Paul Daley, James Wilks, Pablo Popovitch, Marcelo Brigadeiro, Rosi Sexton, Wanderlei Silva to name a few.

What is the most gruelling training session that the gym currently runs?

The MMA Fitness class is pretty tough; strength and conditioning circuits, bag circuits, ab routines, neck work, partner stretching and more.

How would you sum the gym up in a sentence?

If you train MMA or grappling in Leicestershire and it’s not with us then you are at the wrong gym.

What are the plans for the gym for the future?

We’ve just expanded the women’s program and that’s going great.  We’ve done some trial kids classes and hope to bring those in next year too. We are planning our strength and conditioning area for the new year and will also be rolling out our grading system for no-gi grappling; more seminars, events, classes and people enjoying MMA and Submission Wrestling and a few more medals as well.

Is there anyone that you'd like to thank or give a shout out to?

Where to start! Everyone who gave up time to help get the new facility ready, Caged Steel for providing us with training gear for the gym, the coaches, the team, all the people in the scene who’ve been a friend and supported us and my girlfriend Gen!

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the gym.