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Cage Rage 17: Ultimate Challenge review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 28, 2007, 7:50 AM

Cage Rage 17: Ultimate Challenge

London, England

-Your hosts are Malcolm Martin, Rob Nutley and Stephen Quadros. The actual programme sees the first appearance in a presenting role of Cage Rage promoters Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer, and these guys are brilliant in the role, not adding much insight to be fair, but they’re enthusiastic as hell and come off somewhere between smart promoters and hyperactive characters from Snatch.

-Speaking of the promoters, they had to be happy with this show, as not only was Cage Rage able to sell out the much larger Wembley Arena venue on their first attempt at booking it, but the show also took place on the same day as England’s World Cup Quarter-Final match with Portugal! Just goes to show how MMA has risen in popularity over here in the UK.

-Quick explanation of the show’s title - it was originally supposed to be main evented by Tank Abbott taking on a British street fighter known as Kiane, but for whatever reason (I think one of them got hurt, I forget which one) the fight got called off, and Cage Rage replaced it with a far superior fight – British MMA legend Ian Freeman returning from retirement to challenge Melvin Manhoef for the World Light-Heavyweight Title.

Welterweight Fight: Darren Guisha vs Dean Bray

Both of these guys were coming off pretty disappointing losses in their last CR appearances, so I guess this match made sense. Crowd are definitely in favour of Bray, who always seems to be popular from what I’ve seen.

They circle and exchange some low kicks to open, before Guisha hits a body kick and then looks for a takedown. Bray tries to defend it, but ends up on his back in guard. He stays busy from his back though, avoiding Guisha’s punches and continually shifting his hips, looking to sweep or improve position. Sure enough, Dean gets an ankle pick reversal from the bottom, and ends up on top in Guisha’s half-guard. Quick pass into full mount follows, and then he takes Guisha’s back. Guisha rolls back into the mount position, but takes some punches, so he gives his back again. Some more punches follow, before Bray secures a tight rear naked choke for the tapout.

Not much to see there, Bray basically sonned him, but the choke was a really nice finish for a guy not that well known for his ground game.

Cage Rage British Welterweight Title: Paul Daley vs Ross Mason

I was looking forward to this one almost as much as any fight on this card, as Daley and Mason are two of the better young fighters on the UK circuit, and it was definitely a good decision to match them up for the British title. Pre-fight interviews reveal that they’re actually good friends, but both say to hell with the friendship for fifteen minutes. That’s what I like to hear!

Round 1, and they open up pretty tentatively, circling around and exchanging low kicks, before Daley avoids a bizarre attempt at what looks like an axe-kick. Mason begins to take over about a minute or so in, landing some strong kicks, and they go into a clinch, where they muscle before Daley breaks with a body shot. Daley closes the distance and they trade off, and it’s Daley who draws first blood, stunning ‘The Boss’ with a left hook, but suddenly Mason comes back and decks him with a short left! Daley recovers quickly and gets half-guard as Mason comes down, and then gets to full guard as Mason lands a couple of punches. Mason works from the top, but we can see that he’s cut, probably due to the left hook. Mason stands back up, and then drops a big left into Daley’s guard, but Daley kicks him away. Mason lands another clipping left as Daley scrambles to his feet, but Daley comes forward swinging wildly, and both men land a big left hook simultaneously, before continuing the exchange to end the round.

Round 2, and Daley presses forward to open, clipping Mason with a jab before shooting in and getting a takedown to half-guard. Mason tries to escape, and manages to get to full guard, but Daley lands some heavy shots from the top, busting Mason’s nose in the process. Daley continues to blast away, and then passes to full mount. Mason bucks to try to escape, but Daley keeps control nicely, and nails him with some hard shots, causing Mason to turn his back. Daley slaps on a body triangle, but Mason rolls forward with a beautiful escape, and turns into Daley’s guard! Daley goes for a triangle, but Mason avoids and slugs away, only for Daley to reverse now, gaining top position again, where he pounds away and passes the guard to end the round.

Third and final round, and I’m thinking whoever takes this one has the fight. They exchange some kicks to begin, looking like a copy of the first round, before Daley lands a left hook and gets a takedown to guard. Mason gets bloodied up pretty badly now as Daley lands punches from the top, working to side mount in the process. Mason manages to reverse to standing though, and they exchange some knees before Mason ends up in top position off a scramble. Daley gets guard though, and pushes him off, before getting a reversal to Mason’s half-guard. Semtex passes into mount, but Mason reverses and gets on top in Daley’s half-guard, where he tries a kimura from the bottom. Mason avoids it and they come back up to standing, where Daley slips a punch and gets a slam to half-guard on the buzzer.

I’ve got it 29-28 for Daley, and it looks like the judges agree – it’s a unanimous decision for Daley, your new Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion. Pretty good fight there too – Mason almost certainly took the first round, and I think he surprised Daley with how good his stand-up was, but once Daley changed gameplans and went to a more ground-based fight, everything went his way. I think you can really tell that Paul’s been splitting his time with American Top Team, as his takedowns and ground game have improved no end recently. Good showing from both men, but Daley was just a little too good for Mason in the end.

Middleweight Fight: Daijiro Matsui vs Pierre Guillet

Curious match-up here, as Guillet hadn’t been seen in Cage Rage since two consecutive losses in 2005, while Matsui was coming off two controversial fights, with Alex Reid and Curtis Stout respectfully. Pre-fight Quadros calls Guillet “the English-American guy with the French last name”. Um, I’d be more inclined to say his first name was French, to be honest.

The first round opens, and surprisingly it looks like Matsui wants to stand with him, as they exchange strikes, with Matsui landing some nice low kicks, but Pierre getting the better punches in. After a while Matsui goes into a clinch, and works for a trip, getting Pierre down into guard. Matsui quickly stands, and falls back for an ankle lock attempt, and they go into the old trading footlocks spot, with Matsui apparently locking up an Achilles crush, and Pierre RAISES HIS HAND TO TEASE THE TAP, right out of a pro-wrestling match. Instead though he manages to work free, and they end up where they started, with Matsui on top in guard. Matsui works with some chopping punches from the top, and it appears that Guillet’s cut under his left eye. Action slows down and the ref brings them back up, and Pierre lands an apparently low kick, and time is called as Matsui sells it in his trademark overblown fashion. They restart and exchange strikes again, and Guillet lands the best shot so far, a hard right uppercut into a clinch before the buzzer sounds.

2nd round begins and they exchange kicks, before Matsui catches one and gets a takedown to guard, avoiding a sweep attempt to retain top position. Matsui stands and kicks the legs, before Pierre comes back up into a clinch. Matsui attempts to jump to a guillotine, but Guillet pops right out of it and stands. He kicks the legs, before the ref calls Matsui back up. They exchange some punches, a pretty even trade-off with both men landing, before Matsui shoots, only to take a big knee to the head coming in. Pierre sprawls back, and then reverses on top and takes mount, but Matsui quickly rolls him over. When he does though, a large gash is visible on his head and the ref calls time, and it’s a doctor stoppage for Guillet.

Replays don’t confirm it, but I’m thinking the knee caused the cut, really well-timed shot from Pierre, that was. Anticlimactic ending, as always with a cut stoppage, but a decent fight nonetheless.

Heavyweight Fight: Mark Epstein vs Dave Legeno

Pre-fight interview from Legeno here is TREMENDOUS, as he plays up on Epstein’s ‘Beast’ nickname and cuts a crazy ranting promo, quoting from the Bible about how he’s got the “number of the beast” and stuff, then makes a bizarre entrance too, wearing a shredded up outfit, accompanied by scantily-clad “nuns”, and bashing a Bible. Epstein of course could not give a shit about any of this.

Epstein presses forward to open, and they trade off immediately, brawling, but with neither guy landing cleanly as Legeno circles and moves around. Epstein suddenly closes in, and lands a glancing high kick, before catching Legeno with a CRUSHING LEFT-RIGHT COMBO that KILLS DAVE DEAD, as he collapses down face-first, looking as stiff as any corpse you can imagine.

TONS of replays follow as Legeno looks legitimately hurt and has to be helped out by his corner men and the doctors, a truly horrifying knockout, that one. Every replay just makes it look worse too, as we see his body crash slow-motion style into the mat. Post-fight Epstein dedicates the win to “my boys in jail in Morocco”, a reference to the recently-captured Lee Murray. Not much of a fight there, but man, what a knockout.

Heavyweight Fight: Robert Berry vs Henry ‘Sentoryu’ Miller

Of all the fighters that Pride could’ve sent over, I have no idea why they sent former Sumo champion Sentoryu, as he’d won just one match at this point and lost four, but eh, I guess Cage Rage tends to get more from the relationship anyway so they can’t complain. Both guys are legit HUGE here, though Miller seems to have a lot more mass on him.

Berry avoids an early takedown as they openly trade stiff punches to begin, and soon enough Buzz rocks him with a couple to the chin. Miller manages to get him down somehow, but it’s not enough as Buzz quickly reverses and takes full mount, pounding away with strikes. Sentoryu rolls and gives his back, but Berry doesn’t even think about the choke, instead standing up over him and dropping some huge punches for the stoppage.

Well, if you like big men brawling, you’ll love this fight, as it was right out of UFC 6 in terms of the skill that they showed. Looked more like something you’d see outside a pub on a Saturday night, to be honest. Still, I like Buzz, so this was a decent win for him.

Middleweight Fight: Curtis Stout vs Zelg Galesic

Pre-fight Stout mentions how excited he is to finally face someone who’ll stand up and trade with him, after his last three opponents took him down and dominated him there. Galesic was still largely unknown at this point, 1-0 in Cage Rage over a much lesser opponent than Stout, so this was certainly his toughest test to date.

Round 1 begins, and Galesic opens up by throwing some side-kicks, before surprising Stout with some swift punches as the American comes forward. Stout decides he wants none of the stand-up, and surprisingly tackles him and gets him down to guard. Stout looks to open up with some ground-and-pound, but as soon as he gets a little loose with it, Galesic secures an arm and rolls right into a BEAUTIFUL armbar from the bottom for the tapout.

Stout looks shocked, and the announcers sound shocked too as apparently they had no idea Galesic had a strong ground game (although Malcolm Martin gets to say, I told you so, as he’d pimped Galesic from the start). Really, really slick finish from the Croatian, one of the nicest armbars I’ve seen slapped on from the bottom in a long time.

Heavyweight Fight: Gilbert Yvel vs Fabiano Scherner

Original fight here would’ve seen Dutch kickboxer and former Pride fighter Yvel taking on UFC veteran and BJJ legend Marcio ‘Pe De Pano’ Cruz, but Cruz pulled out for some reason and they ended up replacing him with Scherner, who’s still a strong ground fighter, but to be honest my interest was largely lessened as I’m a huge fan of Cruz and I don’t especially find Scherner impressive.

Yvel opens with a crisp left jab, and follows with a low kick and a combo, immediately causing Scherner to shoot for the takedown. Yvel blocks into a clinch though, where Scherner hits an apparent knee to the groin. They give Yvel time to recover, and then restart, and the Dutchman tries a jumping knee, but Scherner catches it and gets a takedown. Scherner falls back for a leglock attempt, but Yvel turns out and defends quite nicely, and for a moment it looks like he’s considering his own attempt. Scherner gets back on top though, and tries for a kneebar from a mounted position, almost locking it out, but Yvel defends in the best way he knows how, dropping BOMBS down onto Fabiano’s head. Scherner looks stunned and releases the kneebar, and from there Yvel unleashes some CRUSHING PUNCHES from the top, just sickeningly accurate shots that bloody Scherner up and the ref quickly steps in.

Impressive win for Yvel I thought; I’m not a fan of Scherner, but the guy’s a legit, strong BJJ black belt and Yvel was able to escape a very deep kneebar from him. Honestly, if it weren’t for his loose cannon style and penchant for dirty fighting, I’d say I’d like to see Yvel in UFC, because even though he’s a very limited fighter, he almost always brings the action and his fights almost always end spectacularly, win or lose. I’d definitely be happy to see him back in Cage Rage, that’s for sure.

Cage Rage British Heavyweight Title: James Thompson vs Rob Broughton

Original fight here would’ve seen Tengiz Tedoradze defending his title against Pride star Thompson, but he ended up being stripped of the title after breaking his contract and fighting abroad (and being KOd) twelve days before this fight, so Cage Rage brought in Liverpudlian fighter Broughton to replace him, clearly looking to get Thompson crowned as the new champ. Total contrast in how these guys look, too, as Thompson’s a big, muscular, defined guy while Broughton is a chubby character with a large gut.

They exchange early to open the first round, and Thompson lands a knee and grabs a front headlock. Broughton tries a takedown, but Thompson sprawls back and out to the side, where he looks to take Broughton’s back, dropping some right hands as Broughton attempts to roll free. Broughton ends up on his back in half-guard, but Thompson swiftly takes full mount and drops some heavy punches. Broughton gives his back, but Thompson doesn’t bother putting his hooks in and keeps punching, so Broughton kneels up and manages to stand. They exchange some big, sloppy punches, with Thompson tagging him, and following with a hard knee shot. They continue to muscle in and out of the clinch, exchanging clubbing blows, before a left from Thompson puts Broughton on the mat. Thompson squats down over him and lands some punches, before taking mount properly and continuing to rain down blows, not the most accurate shots in the world, however. Broughton covers up quite well, and tries to reverse out, but ends up taking punches from behind before falling back into half-guard. Broughton looks pretty bloody now, and takes some more shots, before Thompson looks for an armbar (!), but Broughton avoids that easily and tries to crawl into a takedown. Thompson avoids, putting him on his back again, and more punches from the Colossus end the round.

2nd round, and Thompson begins by tagging him with some straight punches, before going into a clinch and landing some knees. They muscle and break off, and this time Broughton lands some punches, shoving Thompson backwards into the fence with heavy force. Broughton grabs his arm and tries dropping for some sort of armlock attempt, but Thompson pulls out into side mount and slugs away again. He looks for the armbar once more, but Broughton turns it into a single leg attempt. Thompson avoids by punching away again, and Broughton ends up on his back, where he takes some more abuse, but Thompson’s punches are lacking the power and accuracy they had earlier in the fight. Broughton finally gets a reversal to a MONSTER pop from the crowd, who are getting behind the underdog in a big way at this point. Broughton slugs away from the top, but Thompson manages to kick him away, and ends up back on top in guard. Thompson looks gassed though, and the ref steps in to restart them standing. Thompson looks seriously tired at this point, leaning forward with hands on knees, and Broughton tags him with punches from the restart, popping the crowd big again, but Thompson manages another takedown to guard, finishing the round.

Between rounds Broughton somehow looks fresh, while Thompson’s tank is clearly empty. They come out for the third, and Broughton tags him with some nice punches, basically dancing around the Colossus, and Thompson’s mouthpiece is soon sent flying, as the crowd go apeshit. Broughton lands some more and then closes in, and they tumble to the mat, where Broughton uses a headlock to get into top position! Crowd are absolutely deafening at this point, as Broughton drops some HUGE punches down onto Thompson’s face from side position, bloodying him up and eventually knocking him SILLY as the referee steps in! Roof sounds like it’s about to blow off as Broughton celebrates with his corner, the new British HW champ.

Not much to see here in the way of skill, but man, you can’t help but be captivated by this fight, as Broughton just took a beating in the first two rounds before coming back out of nowhere, and really got the crowd going too, capturing their imagination in a way you wouldn’t have thought possible going in. Granted, a lot of Thompson’s offence was visually better than it was physically, as many of his punches were inaccurate and Broughton was able to deflect them; and the underdog theme may have been affected by England’s exit from the World Cup earlier in the day, but you can’t take a thing away from Broughton and it’s not often you get a crowd reacting like that. Tremendous fun even if it was mostly devoid of skill.

Cage Rage World Light-Heavyweight Title: Melvin Manhoef vs Ian Freeman

This was Freeman’s big comeback fight after retiring just a little under a year earlier, and did he step into a difficult fight or what? Freeman himself acknowledges this in his interview, saying that Melvin’s looked like a total beast since entering Cage Rage, but the announcers rightly point out that Manhoef didn’t look great on the ground in his last fight, and Freeman might have a good chance if he can get it to the mat. With it being a World Title fight we get the Dutch and English national anthems pre-fight, too, giving it a real extra-special feel. Huge pop for Freeman, naturally, while the usually popular Manhoef gets booed loudly.

Round 1 gets underway, and they press briefly, before Freeman comes charging forward....right into a monstrous left hook from Manhoef that sends him crashing to the mat. Manhoef tries to flurry, but Freeman gets back up to one knee, before a heavy right uppercut send him back down. A right hook from behind ends things, as Freeman goes down face-first, completely knocked silly. Crowd are in SHOCK AND AWE, as are the announcers.

Post-fight Manhoef endears himself to the crowd again by apologising for having to beat up Freeman, while Freeman rejoins us and gives us a classic quote – “I said I wanted to go out with a bang, and I went out with a fucking bang”.

Announcers call it a phenomenal, destructive performance from Manhoef and they’re right – Freeman just walked right into the danger zone and got absolutely demolished in quick fashion – seventeen seconds in fact. I think Freeman definitely made a mistake in initiating the action – he should’ve countered when Melvin made an attack – but Jesus Christ, if you stand with Melvin Manhoef you get WRECKED. Hell of a way to end the show.

-We quickly head back to Dave and Andy, and from there the credits roll.

Final Thoughts....

Cage Rage 17 is actually quite a difficult show to judge. On one hand, it’s definitely an exciting show, with only one fight going the distance and a variety of great finishes, but on the other hand, the majority of fights don’t have all that much skill on show, and all of the Heavyweight bouts, save for perhaps Yvel/Scherner wouldn’t have looked out of place in the first ten UFCs. Overall, I’ll say this – if you’re fond of big blokes hitting each other very hard in the face, then this is basically your dream show. If you’re heavily into the more skilled side of things and really hate the bar brawling style, avoid it. If you’re like me and you’re somewhere in the middle, it’s a largely entertaining show, albeit one that doesn’t break any new ground, and it’s worth a look. Thumbs just up for this one.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 18, Total Elimination 2005, Critical Countdown 2005, Final Conflict 2005.
UFC: 64, 65 and 66.
Cage Rage: 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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