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Cage Rage 18: Battleground review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 28, 2007, 7:51 AM

Cage Rage 18: Battleground

London, England

-Your hosts are Malcolm Martin, Rob Nutley and Stephen Quadros, with Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer presenting the programme again. Another sell-out at Wembley Arena, too. Oh, and this time they’ve got some random soap-actor looking bloke doing the post-fight interviews instead of ‘Alex’ or Richard Blackwood.

Middleweight Fight: Zelg Galesic vs James Nicholl

Geer and O’Donnell explain that the winner of this one’s getting a British Title shot at Mark Weir, and I guess they would know, being the promoters and all. Pre-fight Galesic cuts a hilarious promo too, saying “my shin, your chin”.

Nicholl comes forward into a quick clinch right away, but Zelg fires some knees to the body and a big right hand from close distance. Nicholl decides to go for the takedown, but Galesic stuffs it and breaks off. Galesic presses forward, landing a glancing left high kick and a combo that causes Nicholl to cover up, and then continues to throw punches as they circle off. Nicholl comes forward, but Galesic catches him with a big right and decks him, and from there the ref calls open guard and he follows with a HUGE AXE STOMP TO THE FACE!~! Quick flurry of punches follows, and it’s all over, just outside of two minutes.

I thought Galesic would take this, for sure, but I never expected it to be so quick and easy for him, especially taking into account what Nicholl survived against Amar Suloev over five minutes. Really explosive showing from the Croatian who just continues to impress.

Middleweight Fight: Xavier Foupa-Pokam vs Alex Cook

Cook’s out of the Wolfslair camp with Michael Bisping, et al, while ‘Professor X’, who had been unfortunately DQd in his last Cage Rage fight, was coming off a really great fight with Ryuta Sakurai in the DEEP promotion over in Japan. He enters in a straitjacket and a ‘no biting’ mask ala Hannibal Lecter here, not sure quite why. Not as cool as Lee Murray’s Con Air-esque entrance at UFC 46 in similar gear, either.

Xavier opens by establishing his right jab, and catches Cook with a nice straight left as they press the action. Some nice shots get exchanged by both men as Cook answers the jab, and Xavier follows soon after with a missed flying knee. They openly trade off punches, with both landing, and Cook comes away with a cut over the eye. Xavier continues to get the better of the exchanges, until he slips to his back on a wheel kick attempt, and Cook quickly dives into his guard and slugs away. Xavier catches him with an armbar from the bottom as he gets a bit overzealous, and rolls through to straighten it out, but Cook steps over and looks to have escaped, only for Xavier to lock it back up and extend it for the tapout.

Decent enough fight there, it looked like it would only be a matter of time before one of them got knocked out, so definitely surprising to see a submission finish things. Not much more to say, really.

Cage Rage British Featherweight Title: Brad Pickett vs Robbie Olivier

Rematch from their earlier bout at Cage Rage 15, which ended with a really close decision, so no complaints from me for giving it to us again – both of these guys always provide awesome action. For his part Olivier looks REALLY pumped here, like he’s got a serious point to prove after coming off on the wrong end of the decision last time.

Round 1, and Olivier takes a punch right off the bat, but walks through it and dives in for a takedown. Brad manages to block until his back is to the cage, and then Olivier gets a big slam down to side mount. Pickett tries to scramble, but Olivier keeps him down and goes into full mount. Pickett immediately turns though, getting a back door escape and throwing Olivier down! Robbie pops right up though and gets another takedown, right into the fence this time, and quickly passes to mount once more. This time he lands some nice punches, and then when Brad rolls, he gets both hooks in. Pickett defends the rear naked choke, and then turns, but Olivier keeps the mount position. Pickett tries to roll again, and this time almost rolls right into a choke, but manages to escape into Robbie’s guard. Brad moves him towards the fence and avoids a triangle, but Olivier works back to his feet and gets a takedown of his own right into side mount. Pickett gets back to half-guard off a mount attempt, but it’s only momentary as Olivier clocks him with a hard right hand and moves into side mount. Pickett spins away from a kimura attempt, but Olivier steps over into full mount and rains down some hard punches until the round ends, almost stopping the fight at one point. Pickett walks back to his corner looking dejected....and spits a tooth onto the announcer’s table. Ouch.

They clinch up right away to open the 2nd, and Pickett tries a throw, but completely botches it and Robbie ends up on top in side mount. Pickett reverses to his feet, and lands a good knee to the body, but again Olivier goes for the takedown, working a single leg into an ankle pick to put him on his back in side mount. Olivier steps into full mount, and Pickett is pinned into the cage, just eating big shots at this point. He manages to reverse to his feet, but another takedown follows as Olivier gets side mount once more, and then lands some punches en route to mounting him. He tries an armbar, but Pickett manages to reverse his way out and slips into Olivier’s guard. Robbie immediately rolls for an oma plata, but Brad escapes and drops a couple of punches down into the guard. Olivier reverses up though, and then gets yet another takedown, this time right into full mount against the fence. Round ends just as Pickett reverses over. So far this has been total domination from Olivier.

Third and final round, and Pickett finally lands some punches and a knee, looking a bit desperate, but Olivier tackles him again and pts him down in side mount. Full mount follows, but Brad manages to reverse to his feet, and land a jarring knee to the midsection. Olivier looks for the takedown right away though, and gets him down once more, moving from north/south into full mount again. Olivier lands some shots, and then gets the back as Pickett rolls, but doesn’t have his hooks fully in. Brad kneels up, and then stands, but leaves his neck exposed along the way, and Olivier hooks in the rear naked choke standing, then pulls him down and puts both hooks in and after a short struggle, Pickett taps out there.

Olivier is the new champion, then, and boy, what a turnaround from the first fight – Olivier did control a lot of the positioning in that one, but it was a much more even war and Pickett got his fair share of offense in. Here though, Robbie just dominated from the opening bell, getting the takedown every time he went for it and never allowing Pickett into the scrambles that he tends to use to gain himself a better position. Extremely impressive fight for Olivier, and a disappointing one for ‘One Punch’.

Cage Rage British Welterweight Title: Paul Daley vs Sol Gilbert

Tough test for Daley’s first defense here; in the form of Middleweight contender Sol Gilbert, making his first drop down to Welterweight. From what I can gather, these guys were good friends at some point, but there’s heavy trash-talking coming into this one, with Daley accusing Gilbert of being one-dimensional. We shall see.

Round 1 begins, and Daley comes out with an immediate takedown to side mount. Gilbert tries to scramble free as Daley looks for full mount, and then spins into an armbar attempt instead! Gilbert looks in trouble for a second, but then manages to slip free and stands. Daley comes back to join him, and Gilbert comes forward...but Daley lands a heavy left cross that sends the challenger reeling! Daley closes in with a knee and a left hook, and they trade some wild shots with both guys missing, before Daley gets a nice takedown to the guard. He drops some heavy lefts, but when he stands to attempt a pass, Sol gets a reversal and ends up in top position, working the body and head in Daley’s guard. Daley tries a triangle, but Sol stands free and then tries a lunging stomp as open guard is called, missing it though. They come back up and exchange some shots, before Daley gets another takedown to guard, dropping some punches from the top. Gilbert keeps an active guard, but Daley begins to take over, and hammers him with left hands from the half-guard, looking like he’s about to stop it just as the round closes.

2nd round, and Gilbert opens by going for the clinch, but they break off quickly and Sol lands a left hook, answered by a glancing right high kick from Daley. Daley follows with a takedown to guard, and then passes to half-guard, but Sol gets his feet on the hips and pushes off to standing. They exchange, and Gilbert catches him with the left hook a couple of times, but Daley gets another takedown to guard. Gilbert tries an armbar from the bottom, but Daley avoids it, and then decides to stand. Gilbert joins him, and they exchange with Daley landing a couple of low kicks. Gilbert gets aggressive, coming forward and trying to land the left hook again, but Daley counters, and decks him with a right hook! Gilbert looks in trouble, and Daley closes in flurrying, catching Gilbert clean on the chin with an especially vicious left, and that knocks him totally out cold, glassy eyes and all.

Nice first defense for Daley, who fought well throughout, taking it to the ground when he wanted to and also outstriking Gilbert for the most part. Gilbert didn’t shame himself or anything, but as the announcers point out here, he doesn’t have the power in his shots, nor the chin to compensate for the wide-open style he uses, and that’s why he tends to get caught like he did here. Decent fight, though.

Heavyweight Fight: Alexandru Lungu vs Mark Buchanan

Buchanan is a pretty big guy, but Pride veteran Lungu DWARFS him, weighing almost 400lbs and looking in about as horrific shape as I’ve ever seen anyone in MMA. Well, since Emmanuel Yarborough at least. Apparently he’s a multiple time Judo champion in Romania. That makes sense – who the hell is going to be able to throw that guy?

Buchanan circles to open the round, dancing around Lungu who looks barely able to move. Buchanan lands some nice low kicks, showing a decent gameplan at least, but he slips to his back on one of them and ends up side mounted under the fat guy. Uhoh. Lungu works for a keylock from the side mount, but can’t seem to lock it up properly, so he steps over into full mount, basically smothering poor Buchanan in the process. Another attempt at the keylock gets the tapout.

Buchanan looked like he had a solid gameplan with the low kicks and the circling, and I think if he hadn’t slipped, he probably would’ve taken this one Keith Hackney-style as Lungu just didn’t seem mobile enough to catch him. Bad break on the slip I guess, but despite the win, I’d really not mind if I never have to see another Lungu fight in my life.

Heavyweight Fight: Mustapha Al-Turk vs Henry Miller

And from one bizarre heavyweight bout involving a large, immobile guy, we go to another, as ‘Sentoryu’ Miller is back for some reason. This time his opponent was Mustapha Al-Turk, Abu Dhabi veteran and probably the best heavyweight grappler in the UK.

They get underway, and the taller Al-Turk uses his range immediately, tagging Miller with some straight punches from the off. Mustapha closes in and gets a plum clinch, where he lands some heavy knees before basically throwing Miller onto his back in guard. A quick pass to half-guard follows, and Al-Turk sits up and begins to pound him, before stepping over and getting a back mount. From there Al-Turk flattens him out, and rains down some BRUTAL punches to the head for the stoppage.

At this point, methinks it might be time for Mr. Miller to give it up. On the other side of the coin – although I haven’t seen that much of him, I honestly think Al-Turk might be the best prospect that the UK has in the heavyweight division. Abu Dhabi-level grappling skills, with seemingly decent striking too, and he’s definitely quick for his size. I’d like to see him tested against some of the other British fighters like Buzz Berry and James Thompson as soon as possible.

Middleweight Fight: Tony Fryklund vs Alex Reid

Reid’s finally changed his nickname, going from the ‘Reidernator’ to the much better ‘Detonator’. Pre-fight interview here sees him promise “Rocky VII”, while Fryklund seems calm and collected for the most part.

Reid comes out aggressively to open the first round, swinging combinations and low kicks at Fryklund and seemingly catching him off guard, as the American backpedals. They exchange into a clinch, but Reid lands a nice knee to break off, only for Fryklund to come back into the clinch and get a takedown to Reid’s butterfly guard. Fryklund stands up, so Reid lands an upkick, but Fryklund grabs his leg and drops for a heel hook. Reid looks ready to tap, and then instead uses his free leg to kick Fryklund in the face, but before the ref can call the illegal move, Fryklund rolls into a TIGHT HEEL HOOK and Reid taps out in a LOT OF PAIN, while Fryklund holds the move on for good measure and then yells at Reid as he releases.

Ouch. Replays show that Reid’s knee seemingly popped out of place during the hold, not surprised as the heel hook’s one of the more vicious moves in MMA and Fryklund REALLY cranked on it, I’m guessing because of Reid kicking him in the face illegally. Bit of a nasty ending there to what was a short an exciting fight.

Cage Rage World Lightweight Title: Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro vs Abdul Mohamed

Mohamed had defeated Jean Silva in a controversial decision on the show prior to this one, and this was his prize – a match against arguably the best grappler, pound-for-pound, in MMA, as ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro made his return to Cage Rage after around a year away. As Mohamed’s the British Lightweight Champion, this was actually a title vs. title bout, although it was only Shaolin’s belt on the line.

Both men open the fight looking to establish their jab, and they circle around with Mohamed landing a couple of leg kicks, too. Shaolin works the left jab nicely though, backing off as Mohamed looks to counter. His stand-up actually looks really good here. Suddenly though Shaolin shoots in and gets a nice takedown to half-guard. Mohamed holds him in a guillotine, but you’re not tapping Vitor Ribeiro with a guillotine from half-guard, and he easily works free. Shaolin works to pass the guard, and gets into a tight mount, landing some short punches to the side of Abdul’s head. Ribeiro looks to be setting up for an armbar, but instead Mohamed rolls and gives his back. Vitor lands some more punches to the head, and Mohamed attempts to get a back-door escape, but Shaolin uses the movement to slide off to the side, and secures a kimura from the back! Mohamed rolls forward and tries to escape, but only ends up making the hold deeper, and Shaolin gets a body triangle for good measure and really cranks on it, and Mohamed taps there.

Another incredible display of grappling from Shaolin. Sure, Mohamed’s not in the top ten at 155lbs or anything, but he’s a strong enough guy, and he basically got schooled here as soon as the fight hit the mat. The finish was especially outstanding, as I’ve never seen anyone else lock in a kimura from that sort of position before, and the tightening as Mohamed rolled was beautiful. Oh, how I wish the UFC had signed this guy up.

Cage Rage British Heavyweight Title: Rob Broughton vs Robert Berry

Broughton’s first title defense following his upset victory over James Thompson for the belt, then. Again it’s a visual mismatch here with Broughton being the tubby guy to Buzz’s heavily muscled guy. Berry enters with a bagpipe player for this, which is pretty cool.

They go into a free exchange early, with both landing some stiff punches, before going into a clinch. Muscle for position for a moment, and then they break, and Berry looks gassed already, seemingly not relaxed enough to fight properly at all. He swings wildly for Broughton, who easily avoids, and tags him with some counters. A fast combo lands for Broughton, and they go into a clinch and shove each other before Berry breaks off. Into another clinch and this time Buzz tries a standing arm triangle choke, but can’t get it locked up properly and they break off once more. Broughton starts to take over from there, landing a couple of nice left jab-right hook combinations before they go into the clinch again. Berry leans to look for a takedown, but Broughton blasts him with a bit knee, and then a series of left hooks put him down for the count.

Surprisingly dominant showing for Broughton, who looked better here than he did in the Thompson fight, showing some good standing skill and speed for a guy of his size. Berry just looked too tense from the outset, and appeared to have blown his energy after the first exchange, not sure what happened there, but a good showing by Broughton nonetheless.

Heavyweight Fight: Dave Legeno vs Kimo Leopoldo

Bit of a bizarre pairing for this one – Kimo’s last act before this was to pull out of a scheduled fight with Bas Rutten, and before that he’d been busted for steroids. Still, another interesting opponent for Legeno, who’s apparently changed his nickname to ‘Deathwish’ for this fight, as he’s taking on such a well-known opponent. To be fair to the guy, he’d taken this fight very seriously, training extensively with another UFC legend, Don Frye, to prepare.

Kimo shoots in right away to begin the round, but Legeno actually defends it well, holding Kimo off before stunning him with a knee and a right hand, putting the legend on his stomach. Kimo basically crawls for the takedown though, and manages to get past Legeno’s sprawl this time and put him on his back in side mount. Kimo tries to keep him down to work for a submission, but Legeno does well from the bottom, managing to get his feet on the fence and push off, reversing to standing. Kimo looks for another takedown, but Legeno sprawls off nicely, and then lands a big right hand as he stands, with Kimo kneeling in front of him! Another one connects with the chin and Kimo goes down onto his back, and Legeno follows up by flailing away in Kimo’s guard with punches and hammer fists, few of which actually land. Dave decides to stand back up, and Kimo sits up and eats a couple more big punches for his troubles. Kimo leans forward, looking for a takedown, but Legeno sprawls back and gets a front guillotine, and Kimo taps out there. Crowd go INSANE for Legeno’s first win.

I’ve heard people mention that this looked worked, I disagree – those punches looked anything but worked to me, and I think Kimo just wanted out when he tapped, more than the choke actually putting him away. Looking at it in context, I mean, Kimo’s an ageing guy who’s way past his prime (and in my opinion wasn’t that great in his prime), but this was still a solid win for a guy who’s 40+, and has come out of acting rather than a fighting background. This will sound insane, but with their agreement to exchange talent, I’m surprised Pride haven’t picked up Legeno yet. Think about it – he’s large, muscular, charismatic, throws hard punches and cuts a hell of a promo. Sure, on the flipside he’s lost as many fights as he’s won, and his biggest victories are Kimo and Dan Severn, but since when did that matter in Pride?

Anyhow – back to this fight. Wasn’t a technical masterpiece or anything, but it was short and watchable enough, and fun in a way to see Legeno pick up his first win.

Middleweight Fight: Murilo Ninja vs Mark Weir

Outside of the Shaolin fight, this was probably the one I was most looking forward to on the card, as British Middleweight Champ Weir took on Chute Boxe’s Murilo Ninja, looking to rebuild himself following two disappointing losses at MW in Pride (to Paulo Filho and Denis Kang). I actually thought an upset was potentially on the cards here, as Weir had looked like he was on a resurgence in his last few Cage Rage outings, while Ninja basically looked like a bit of a shot fighter.

Round 1, and Weir throws a combination to open, but Ninja quickly grabs him and pulls him down to the ground, on his back in guard. Ninja tries to pass, working punches to the body, and manages to move into half-guard with some resistance from Weir. Weir tries a kimura from there, but Ninja uses the opportunity to pass to side mount, avoiding it easily. He mounts for a second, and then hops back to side mount and secures an arm triangle choke. It looks tight, as Ninja passes to the other side to try to finish, and it looks for a second like Weir’s about to tap, but somehow he turns right into the choke, and manages to wriggle free, coming up to his feet in a clinch to a big pop! Ninja tries to break off, but Weir lands a couple of big knees to the gut that seem to hurt the Brazilian. He tries to pull Weir down, but Weir actually gets on top with a back mount, only for Ninja to roll free into Weir’s guard. He works through into side mount, and then takes a full mount, trying to get Weir’s back as he rolls, but the Brit escapes out the back door and stands, where he drops a BIG RIGHT down onto Ninja’s chin!

Ninja comes back to his feet, but looks stunned quite badly, and Weir comes forward with some straight punches and a big knee to rock him quite badly. Ninja looks wobbled, but manages to fire back and land a shot of his own, before getting a clinch and a takedown to side mount. Immediately he locks up the arm triangle, and Weir looks in trouble again....but the ten-second countdown sounds and he manages to survive as the buzzer goes to end the round! Holy crap was that a great five minutes.

Into the 2nd round, and Ninja comes forward, but walks right into a BIG LEFT HIGH KICK from Weir that stuns him again. Ninja shoots in, but Weir avoids and lands a big knee, left high kick, and a combo as Ninja staggers back looking stunned. Another left high kick lands, but only glancingly this time and Nina gets a takedown to guard, with Weir holding a loose guillotine. Ninja works his way free, and manages to pass to side mount, where he gets the arm triangle again. He hops to the other side, and this time the choke’s nice and tight with plenty of time, and sure enough Weir taps out to end things.

Hell of a fight right there, as exciting as anything I’ve ever seen in Cage Rage and probably a real low-end FOTYC too, probably the 2nd best of the year in Cage Rage behind Pickett-Abe. Ninja strangely for a Chute Boxe guy looked totally outgunned on his feet here, which shows what kind of striker Weir really is, but he managed to get the fight to the ground and when he got there, he was clearly one step ahead of his opponent and managed to finish it, despite Weir showing some tremendous skill and defence to survive the first couple of chokes. Definitely the fight of the night between these two.

Cage Rage British Light-Heavyweight Title: Ian Freeman vs Mark Epstein

So much for Freeman “going out with a fucking bang” against Manhoef then, as this was his second fight after coming out of retirement a few months earlier. This time he got another title shot – a crack at the British champion Mark Epstein, who, despite not being quite as intimidating as his Dutch counterpart, was coming off a couple of good performances himself, and was confident that he’d be able to knock out the British MMA legend. Both men get big reactions from the crowd, with the reaction a mostly split one, with cheers for both men with some boos spliced in.

Round 1 gets underway and it’s quite a tentative beginning, as they circle off with Freeman working some leg kicks, but as he moves forwards, Epstein clips him with a short left hook and sends him to the mat! Freeman pops up quickly and grabs the clinch to recover, forcing Epstein into the fence, and they reverse position a couple of times with Freeman looking for a takedown. After working for a while, he gets a single leg down to Epstein’s guard. Epstein tries to tie him up, but Freeman works his way free and then drops back for a heel hook. The hold looks tight and Epstein looks in serious pain momentarily, but somehow he guts it out and then sits up, dropping a couple of punches onto the head of the challenger. Freeman gives up on the submission and they scramble and switch, coming back to their feet, where Epstein blocks a takedown and lands a knee to the sternum to break off.

Both men press forward, but only land a couple of leg kicks as the pace slows a little. They trade hooks, and then Freeman gets a single leg down to side mount. Epstein gets half-guard, but Freeman lands a couple of right hands and then takes full mount, only for Epstein to roll and then slip out the back door! They come back to their feet and it’s a WILD TRADE OF PUNCHES as the crowd go crazy, and Epstein lands a couple of heavy shots that Freeman absorbs. Finally they back off, and then Freeman comes forward with a heavy left hook that sends Epstein retreating back. Freeman follows with a big takedown to side mount, and pins him into the fence, landing punches for the remainder of the round. That was actually a HELL of an opening round.

2nd round begins, and Freeman immediately lands a low kick and then gets a takedown to half-guard against the fence. Freeman lands some punches from the top, but Epstein defends well, deflecting a lot of the punches, but seemingly he’s unable to escape as Freeman pins him down tightly. Freeman lands some heavy left hands and right hammer fists, and cuts Epstein open somewhere near the left eye. More shots land and then Freeman passes to side mount, continuing to punish Epstein with powerful, grinding shots. Epstein manages to scramble free suddenly, but Freeman coolly gets another takedown to guard, and continues where he left off, landing hammer fists and punches until the round ends. I’ve got Freeman up 20-18 here meaning Epstein needs a knockout or a submission in the third to keep his title.

Freeman comes out for the third in the same way as he did the 2nd, landing a low kick and ducking under Epstein’s haymakers to get a takedown to guard. He works the body and head over, with Epstein unable to tie him up, and then passes into side mount, where he looks for a keylock. Epstein manages to avoid it, but takes some knees to the body and some nasty hammer fists. His face looks marked up pretty badly at this stage, as Freeman looks for the Hughes crucifix position and continues to land methodically, basically just beating on Epstein’s head over and over, and this continues until the fight comes to an end.

Only one result here, and sure enough Freeman gets the unanimous decision and becomes your NEW British Light-Heavyweight Champion. I actually heard that this was a snooze-fest, but that really wasn’t the case, especially in the first round, which was pretty even and saw a couple of really exciting exchanges. The second and third rounds admittedly weren’t great, mainly because they were so one-sided on the behalf of Freeman, but he was busy enough from the top and did enough damage to keep the fight at least interesting, if not a barn-burner. Bit of a plodder in parts, but a decent fight.

-Andy and Dave plug the next show, Cage Rage 19 from Earl’s Court, and then we roll the credits.

Final Thoughts....

Very good show here, perhaps the best Cage Rage I’ve reviewed, in fact. There was nothing especially boring on this show – the main event was plodding in parts, but not really horrible or anything – and with the bizarre Heavyweight bouts being kept to a minimum and being short anyway, a lot of the better Cage Rage fighters were given time to shine. The two undercard British title matches were a lot of fun (Daley/Gilbert, Olivier/Pickett); Fryklund/Reid was exciting despite the controversy, and you’ll never hear me say a bad word about practically any Shaolin Ribeiro fight. The icing on the cake was definitely Ninja/Weir, though, one of the best fights I’ve ever seen from Cage Rage and a must-see for any fan of the promotion. With just one decision on a twelve-fight card, Cage Rage 18 might be the best show the company has ever produced. Highly recommended.

Coming Soon....

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