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Cage Rage 16: Critical Condition review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 28, 2007, 7:50 AM

Cage Rage 16: Critical Condition

London, England

-Your hosts are Ian Freeman, presenting the programme, Malcolm Martin, Rob Nutley and Stephen Quadros on commentary, and no more Richard Blackwood! He’s been replaced by an unnamed girl who is identified on the credits as ‘Alex’.

Heavyweight Fight: Edson Drago vs Tengiz Tedoradze

At this point still unbeaten, Rodrigo Nogueira student Drago was seen by many as a hot prospect in the largely barren Heavyweight division, as he’d won all of his seven fights to this point by KO or TKO, showing excellent striking in all. Everyone and their dog refers to him as ‘Drago’ too, despite the tattoo on his back clearly reading ‘Draggo’, so not sure what’s up there. He has Anderson Silva in his corner for this one. Pre-fight interview with Tengiz is pretty funny here too, as he tells Quadros he’s got a secret gameplan, and when asked what it is, he says, it’s secret, so I can’t tell you. Stephen led himself right into that one methinks.

CRAZY staredown before they start, referee even has to shove Drago back to get him out of Tengiz’s face. They get underway, and Drago walks right out, slips a punch from Tengiz and lands a CRUSHING LEFT HOOK! Tengiz goes DOWN AND OUT, and the ref calls it at just five seconds.

Holy crap was that a hard punch, and a shockingly fast knockout too – I can’t recall one I’ve seen that was quicker, as if I recall correctly, Ludwig on Goulet was six seconds. Stunning debut for Drago who I’d definitely like to see back in Cage Rage at some point.

Cage Rage British Light-Heavyweight Title: Mark Epstein vs Ryan Robinson

Michael Bisping had vacated this title a few months prior due to contract/management problems with the promotion, so former champion Mark Epstein was matched up with former Heavyweight champion Ryan Robinson to decide the new titleholder.

Round 1 begins, and Robinson shoots in for a takedown right away. Epstein sprawls back, but Ryan catches a single leg and manages to get him down, immediately going into side mount. Robinson lands a few punches, while looking for a possible kimura, and then he tries the mount, but Epstein gets half-guard. Robinson continues to slug away with punches, staying busy, but not really doing that much damage either. He takes full mount, and Epstein tries to flip him over, but ends up giving his back. Robinson looks to float into an armbar, but Epstein avoids it and ends up on top in guard, where he avoids a quick triangle attempt too. Epstein passes into side mount, and begins to grind away with some punches and forearms, before trying an arm triangle choke. It looks pretty tight, and although Robinson gets half-guard, he still looks in trouble, but before Epstein can finish it off the round ends.

Epstein opens the 2nd with a stiff left jab, so Robinson shoots in, but Epstein stuffs the takedown and throws him across with a whizzer. Robinson shoots again, but Epstein sprawls back and then reverses, getting top position in Robinson’s guard. Robinson tries an armbar, but Epstein avoids it and then gets a guillotine from the top, and they flip over with Epstein ending up in side mount. He lands some punches, but Robinson tries a reversal and manages to get guard back. Epstein avoids a triangle attempt and then gets back to his feet off a switch, but Robinson stays on his back and the ref calls open guard. Epstein tries a crazy flying stomp, and ends up landing in side mount, where he works the Hughes crucifix momentarily and lands some punches. Robinson gets guard back though, and despite Epstein continuing to land punches, the ref stands then back up. Robinson misses a high kick off the restart, and then shoots, but Epstein sprawls and uses a front facelock to put Robinson on his back in a side mount. Epstein lands some shots, and then gets a keylock, but as in the first round, the time runs out before he can finish! That has to be frustrating.

Third and final round, and Robinson gets a quick takedown to open, working to keep Epstein down by the fence. Epstein gets half-guard, but eats some lefts that bloody his nose up a little. Robinson continues to land nicely for a while, working Epstein over, but then Epstein reverses and gets top position with Robinson in guard. He works to side mount, landing some grinding shots, before pinning Robinson’s arm down to land some clean punches. Robinson turns to a front facelock, and takes some bodyshots to end the fight.

The fight’s in the hands of the judges...and Mark Epstein picks up the majority decision. Certainly the right call in my eyes – despite Robinson controlling periods of the fight, Epstein never looked in true difficulty, and he came closer to finishing with the submission attempts in the first and the second. Robinson kept it competitive throughout though, and although not a great fight, it was perfectly acceptable stuff.

Featherweight Fight: Brad Pickett vs Hiroyuke Abe

Pickett had been training for an extended period with the American Top Team for this one; his first test against an experienced, international fighter. Although not a top-ranked guy, Abe had been in with some of the best, including Alexandre ‘Pequeno’ Nogueira and Luis Buscape amongst others, so this was certainly Pickett’s toughest challenge to date.

Round 1 gets underway and they trade some fast combinations into a clinch to begin, where Pickett lands some knees before Abe gets a single leg down to guard. Pickett tries to scramble back up, but Abe pins him into the fence, landing a couple of punches before taking the Brit back down to half-guard. Pickett tries to scramble free from the bottom, but Abe takes his back standing, and looks for a rear naked choke. Abe gets his arms around the neck, but then can’t get his hooks in, and Pickett escapes and breaks off, where both men land nice left hooks. Abe shoots again, but Pickett blocks it and they go into a clinch, before breaking and trading off, and this time Pickett lands a flurry, followed by a superman punch to put Abe on the canvas! Pickett smells blood and looks for the finish, dropping a HUGE FLURRY OF PUNCHES down onto Abe as he covers up to try to block. Pickett drops down into his guard and continues to slug away, but Abe defends well, deflecting a lot of the shots with his forearms. The referee ends up bringing them back up, and Abe lands two heavy left hooks off the restart, but Brad answers with a big combo of his own into the clinch! Abe gets another takedown though and mounts, but Brad rolls him over, avoids an armbar and drops a big right down into the guard, where Abe ties him up to end the round. Whew.

Pickett presses the action to open the 2nd, but misses a spinning back kick and a flying knee, and Abe gets the takedown to half-guard. Abe lands some lefts, and smothers Brad, before passing to side mount and looking for a kimura, but Brad reverses up to the clinch. Abe still has the arm locked, but Pickett manages to break off, and then lands a nice right cross into the clinch. They muscle for position, and Abe gets a trip down to guard, but Pickett stands right back up, only for Abe to grab a single leg and put him back down. Brad escapes to his feet once more, and then stuns Abe with a clean one-two combo! Pickett comes forward and works him over with some HEAVY uppercuts and bodyshots, and then sprawls to avoid a takedown, landing a knee to the body and then putting Abe on his back. Brad pins him to the fence and drives his shoulder into Abe’s face, before they get stood back up. Restart, and Abe catches him with two good left hooks, but Brad WALKS RIGHT THROUGH THEM and lands a combination, ending with some BIG KNEES! Abe looks stunned badly, and Brad lands some more heavy knees, before tackling him to the mat as the buzzer sounds. Jesus this is a great fight.

Third and final round, and Abe lands the big left to open, but once again Pickett eats it right up and lands a combination ending with a big uppercut and a glancing spinning backfist. Brad tries to trip him down, but Abe pops right back up and clinches. Abe knees to the body and they break, and the Japanese lands the stiff straight left again, but Pickett takes it and answers with some punches of his own, causing Abe to cover up. Brad closes in and nails him with a BIG RIGHT ELBOW, causing him to back off. Brad comes forward following, slips a punch and lands left hooks to the body and the head, and then closes in with some BIG RIGHT ELBOWS, doing a dead-on impression of David Loiseau and really chopping away. Big knees to the body and the head from a plum clinch follow, as Abe suddenly looks in dire straits. Abe manages a clinch, but Pickett stomps the feet and then breaks off. Abe works the left jab, but takes some bigger counter-punches from Pickett who seems to be able to shrug off anything Abe throws. No sooner have I said that that Abe NAILS him with a heavy one-two, and they openly trade to the clinch with Abe getting the better of it! Pickett gets a takedown from the clinch though, and as they hit the deck Abe ties him up, before rolling for an armbar to end the fight.

To the judges again, I’ve got Pickett 29-28 here, and sure enough it’s a unanimous decision for ‘One Punch’, giving him his biggest victory yet. And oh boy, what a fight that was. Tremendous action from start to finish with neither guy giving up an inch; a low-end fight of the year candidate in my opinion. It’s incredible to see how much Pickett’s improved from his early fights to this one, too – he always had decent stand-up and good power, but here his Muay Thai skills looked to have developed beyond belief, and his ground game’s come on leaps and bounds too. Definitely my favourite Cage Rage guy to watch at this point.

Middleweight Fight: Jorge Patino vs Curtis Stout

Chute Boxe’s ‘Macaco’ Patino was originally scheduled to fight in Cage Rage at some point in 2005, against Ross Mason I think it was, but that never came off for some reason, so he ended up fighting Stout here. For his part Stout was coming off a disappointing (and badly judged) fight against Daijiro Matsui, and was looking for a bit of redemption from this one.

Stout presses forward to begin the fight, but Patino shoots in on a double leg. Stout blocks it well initially, but Macaco keeps driving forward and eventually gets him on his back in half-guard. Patino works to pass and gets into side mount, where he tries an interesting neck crank variant, but Stout rolls and uses it to escape to his feet. Patino follows, and Stout presses with strikes, so Patino pulls guard. Stout tries to work, but Patino ties him up and then reverses over, getting top position in half-guard again. Stout ties him up, but Macaco works and passes to side mount, where he tries the crucifix to land some punches. He locks up an arm triangle and it looks tight, but Stout defends it well by hooking his own leg for a bit of room, and Patino can’t close it out before the end of the round.

Stout comes out for the 2nd swinging, but Patino quickly grabs him and pulls guard, before reversing and gaining top position with Stout in half-guard. He passes to side mount, and then works to the full mount, but before he can get any offense in Stout uses the fence to roll on top, and then stands. Patino joins him, and takes a couple of punches, but still gets the takedown to half-guard. He mounts again, and this time lands a flurry of punches before taking the back. Patino goes for the rear naked choke, but doesn’t have both hooks in and Stout manages to roll back into the mounted position. Stout gets half-guard, but quickly ends up mounted again and Patino looks for the arm triangle once more. He slips over to the right, but Stout somehow turns away from it and stands, throwing Patino off in a nice escape. Stout goes down into the Brazilian’s guard and throws some punches, but Patino throws his legs up for a triangle choke. He can’t lock it in fully, and Stout stands free, and the referee calls Patino back up, with Stout pressing forward as the round ends.

They circle to open the third round and Stout swings some punches and avoids a takedown, but Patino comes back by throwing some wild swings, and then ducks Stout’s answering haymakers and gets a takedown to half-guard. He quickly looks to mount, but Stout reverses over into top position, and the action slows down enough for the ref to call the stand-up. Stout looks desperate now and really pushes forward swinging, but Patino avoids practically all of his punches, before shooting and getting another takedown, passing into mount. Stout rolls to his feet nicely, but Patino gets ANOTHER takedown and that’s all she wrote as the fight comes to an end, and Patino gets the clear unanimous decision from the judges.

Basically a one-sided shutout on the part of Patino, who exposed the glaring holes in Stout’s game badly by avoiding any haymakers he threw, and just taking the fight to the ground with very little resistance. Granted it wasn’t an entertaining fight, but Patino did what he had to and really Stout should’ve been able to change his gameplan, but couldn’t, and came off like a one-trick pony. Real slide for him after his early performances in the promotion.

Middleweight Fight: Amar Suloev vs James Nicholl

English fighter ‘Gentleman’ James Nicholl was making a big step up here; he was 6-0 against home fighters, but this was his first test against a major international fighter in Suloev, who was ready to make another run in Pride. Suloev actually has Fedor Emelianenko in his corner here, which is cool.

They get underway and Suloev immediately stalks him, landing a couple of snapping left jabs early. Nicholl throws a low kick, but Suloev counters a low kick with a fast combo, and Nicholl covers up, and lunges for a waistlock, but Suloev gets a BEAUTIFUL shoulder throw and looks for an armbar! Nicholl manages to spin out as Suloev doesn’t get it locked up properly, but the Russian turns and drops some HEAVY punches down onto him, before standing. Nicholl joins him, and Amar presses forward, landing a right, but Nicholl manages to block an attempted throw. Nicholl lands a one-two, but gets rocked by a big right hook, and Suloev closes in with a BIG FLURRY as Nicholl looks hurt badly. Suloev smashes him with knees, kicks, and uppercuts as Nicholl’s face is now a complete mess, cut badly, but somehow he survives, and tries for a clinch. Suloev avoids, and more shots land as Nicholl covers up again, and then tries to fire back. It does him no good though, as Suloev rocks him again, and then decks him with a nasty right uppercut. Amar drops a big right hand down onto him, and looks for the finish, but somehow Nicholl finds it in him to try an armbar! Suloev avoids though, and stands back up, and Nicholl gets called to join him. Suddenly though, Suloev looks gassed, and Nicholl actually looks fresher, landing some nice kicks. Suloev lands two big overhand rights, but looks really tired now, leaning over with his hands on his knees. Nicholl makes the mistake of coming in a bit careless though, and walks into a HUGE RIGHT HAND that sends him crashing to the mat, where he eats more punches on the bell.

Between rounds Nicholl’s corner throw in the towel, no surprises there as he’d just taken a vicious, vicious beating from practically start to finish, and there was no need to let it continue really. James showed a LOT of heart here to survive for as long as he did, but Suloev was just on top form with his strikes and despite gassing towards the end of the round – simply from hitting the guy so many times – he was landing efficient and brutal shots every time he threw. Entertaining, if sadistic beating.

Welterweight Fight: Paul Daley vs Dave Strasser

Like many of the British fighters on this card, Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley was also facing his toughest test to date here, in the form of experienced American veteran Dave Strasser, who had been in with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Karo Parisyan. Despite never really beating a top fighter, Strasser is always a good test to see where a fighter stands in the scheme of things, and this was definitely a good fight for Daley to prove himself with.

Strasser shoots in for a takedown to open, but Daley avoids well, so the American comes forward swinging and gets a clinch. They muscle and exchange some short strikes before Daley breaks off, and lands a couple of low kicks. Strasser comes back into the clinch, and Daley blocks a trip and breaks, landing a couple of combinations and a nice left high kick. Daley works some low kicks well, and then lands some knees and elbows in close as Strasser looks to clinch. Sweet jumping knee follows from Daley, and then a sharp knee to the body, but Strasser gets a takedown to half-guard. Daley immediately ties him up, reducing his offense completely, and sure enough, the official stands them quickly, and Daley ends the round with another low kick.

They circle to open the 2nd and Daley lands a hard counter-right and a low kick, then follows with a crisp combo ending with a left high kick. Strasser tries the takedown, but Daley tosses him into the fence, and then rocks him with a combination, avoiding another takedown easily. Strasser suddenly looks hurt, as Daley picks him apart with punching combos and some HARD low kicks, but as he lands a left high kick Strasser manages to get a takedown. Daley uses his half-guard to reverse out and stand, though, only for Strasser to slip a punch and get a single leg to half-guard. Strasser doesn’t do much from the top as Daley gets full guard back, and ends up using his feet on the hips to push off and stand. Strasser looks tired, and wings his way into a clinch, but Daley gets a plum clinch and NAILS him with some hard knees, avoiding a takedown as they break. Strasser shoots in again, but can’t get enough power behind it and ends up on the bottom, taking shots, before Daley tries a guillotine to close the round.

Third and final round, and Daley comes out looking to finish the tired Strasser off, continuing to pick him apart as the American circles the fence, and Semtex lands some heavy combinations and some more low kicks. Daley avoids a takedown, and Strasser just covers up now, trying to survive as he takes some more abuse, and a SWEET leaping knee and a big combination appear to hurt him badly. Daley opens up with combos, but somehow Strasser soaks them up and manages a clinch, trying to pull guard but ending up mounted instead. Daley decides to stand, looking for the knockout, but Strasser finally gets the takedown to half-guard, where Daley calmly ties him up and waits for the restart. Ref calls them back up, and Daley lands another vicious flurry as the fight comes to an end.

Daley takes the unanimous decision, I had it 30-27 and I’m thinking the judges probably did too, as Strasser was never really in this one at all. Daley just had too much explosiveness and energy for him standing, and when the fight hit the mat, Strasser just couldn’t get off any offense from the top position to keep it down for an extended period of time. You have to give Strasser credit for not being stopped, especially in the third, but realistically this was a very impressive showing by Daley, who stepped up against an experienced veteran and battered him from bell-to-bell. Current reports have him signing a deal with UFC, and if that’s true, hopefully he’ll continue to improve like he has been (like Brad Pickett, he trains with ATT) and make some noise there.

Middleweight Fight: Dave Menne vs Alex Reid

Another ‘Rising Brit vs. Experienced International’ pairing, as this time Alex ‘Reidernator’ Reid, fresh off an entertaining draw with Daijiro Matsui, stepped up to the plate to take on former UFC Middleweight Champion Dave Menne, who was looking for another run at the big league after some disappointing fights in the states.

Round 1, and Menne lands a body kick, but Reid actually tackles him off it and gets a takedown. Menne quickly comes back up into a clinch though, and gets his own takedown to half-guard, avoiding an attempted reversal. Menne controls him as Reid gets full guard, and then works the body and the head with some short punches as Reid tries his trademark slashing backfist punches from the bottom. Reid blocks a guard pass, as Menne stays busy, but does little damage, and so the official stands them. Menne gets a quick single leg off the restart though, and we get more of the same with Menne staying busy, but doing little damage until the round ends.

2nd round and they brawl into the clinch, where Menne gets the takedown to guard. Reid ties him up, blocking most of the punches, and the ref calls them back up, where they exchange some strikes, but Menne gets him down again. Menne works the head and body, but again it’s too slow and the ref stands them. Another short exchange follows, before Menne gets the inevitable takedown again. More of the same ensues, with Reid getting slightly cut this time. They get stood again as the crowd are becoming restless, and this time Reid lands a knee as Menne comes in, but backs straight up again and Menne gets another takedown. Ref stands them quickly this time, but once again Menne closes the distance and gets the takedown to end.

Announcers point out quite rightly between rounds that the onus has to be on Reid to stop the takedowns, and the way he’s backing up straight, rather than circling and using footwork is not allowing that to happen.

Third and final round, and Reid lands a couple of low kicks and manages to circle to avoid the first couple of takedowns, but then backs off straight again and Menne tackles him down to guard. Little is done once again, and the crowd get restless before the ref calls the stand-up. Reid lands a low kick off the restart, but Menne puts him down again after a failed knee attempt, and we get more of the same, just slow, non-damaging ground-and-pound. Ref stands them again, and Reid catches him with a one-two and a knee, but Menne gets him down AGAIN. Ref stands them in uber-quick time on this one, and Reid suddenly NAILS him with a one-two and a stiff right cross, rocking him badly! Menne looks in trouble, but manages to lurch forward and take Reid down again to end the fight.

To the judges again, and it’s Menne unanimous decision, not a popular one to say the least, but hey, he did what he had to I guess. Going off on a tangent now somewhat, people always criticise a guy who comes in and pulls the “lay-n-pray”, but in reality, the onus should always be on the guy who’s *being* held down to do something about it. In this case, Reid should’ve circled out and tried to keep distance, rather than backing straight up as Menne came forward. I mean, you can boo Menne all you want and knock him for not wanting to stand with Reid, but he did what he needed to do to win. Reid didn’t. Boring as hell fight though!

Cage Rage World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Tony Fryklund

Originally this was rumoured to be Matt Lindland facing Silva, but he pulled out to fight Mike Van Arsdale instead, and so Fryklund, who had moved from the Miletich Camp to the Las Vegas Fight Club took the fight instead. Pre-fight Fryklund basically promises to stop Silva by sub or knockout; either will do, while Silva simply says, “Tony, you talk too much. Things will happen”. And when it’s Anderson Silva saying that, you KNOW said “things” are bad.

They circle and Fryklund begins by throwing some leg kicks as Silva waits for an opportunity to strike, and after a moment he lands a left straight and a glancing left high kick. Suddenly Silva lands a big left knee to hurt him, and closes in as Fryklund backs off, grabbing the plum clinch and landing some heavy knees to the body as Tony flails away and tries to answer with some punches. They break off, and Silva follows in with a SICK combo, landing a right uppercut, left low kick, and an AWESOME flying knee! Knee to the leg in close puts Fryklund down, but he comes back up, and they circle off before Silva closes in and HITS AN UPWARD ELBOW STRIKE!~! Fryklund goes down, knocked SILLY, and the ref calls things there.

Wow. Just...wow. Words can’t describe the knockout really so here’s a brief clip of it. From a technical standpoint it’s quite easily the knockout of the year – I can’t recall seeing ANYTHING quite like it before, and for Silva to pull it off in a title fight, against a tough guy like Fryklund is INSANE. I am literally in awe of Anderson Silva – the guy is just the best striker in terms of technique that I’ve seen in MMA. Whole fight was basically a Muay Thai highlight reel, too. Hell of a way to end the night.
-And we roll the credits as Ian Freeman talks about Cage Rage 17 from the Wembley Arena.

Final Thoughts....

Despite five of the eight fights on show going to decision, this was still a largely enjoyable show. Patino/Stout and Menne/Reid stunk for the most part, but the highlight knockouts for Drago and Silva are insanely good, and Daley/Strasser and Suloev/Nicholl, despite being one-sided, were really entertaining fights too. The icing on the cake here though was definitely Pickett vs. Abe, one of, if not *the* best fight I’ve ever seen in Cage Rage, and it alone would be worth a mild recommendation. As it’s on the same show as the ANDERSON ELBOW!~!, well, this definitely gets a thumbs up from me. Pick it up if you can.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 18, Total Elimination 2005, Critical Countdown 2005, Final Conflict 2005.
UFC: 64, 65 and 66.
Cage Rage: 17, 18 and 19.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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