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.
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.