Lenght: 174 mins
It's official: the vendetta against the Cage Rage production crew is ON! Some god-awful Cockney speed garage/hip hop hybrid combo provided the backdrop "music" for this event, and it practically runs on a loop throughout the whole f***ing thing. EVERY line ends with "cause I'm fearless... FEARLESS!"... by the halfway point, this aural repugnance is going round & round in my head, to the point where I seriously consider dipping the nether regions into the blender & hitting full power to distract from the excruciating pain. Lucky for Britain's pre-eminent purveyors of Mixed Martial Arts that Richard Blackwood is conspicuous by his absence from affairs, otherwise a total boycott would be academic stuff.
Luckily for presenters/promoters Andy Geer & Dave O'Donnell, the fighters they gathered at Earls Court in December of 2006 redeemed them by putting on a thoroughly provocative night of action. They don't half shoe-horn a load of fights onto their cards, these blokes....
- Rob Broughton vs. Eric 'Butterbean' Esch
- British Middleweight Championship
Mark Weir vs. Zelg Galesic
- Mark Epstein vs. Elvis Sinosic
- World Lightweight Championship
Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro vs. Daisuke Nakamura
- Paul Daley vs. Luiz Azeredo
- Jean Silva vs. Danilo Cherman
The initial duo are mirror-image askew, as Sulley Mahmoud RNC'd & tapped Francesco Ligato in under two minutes, with Matt Ewin utilising a similar timeframe to choke out Scot Alan McCauley.
The theme of strong first round submissions carried over into the Welterweight tussle, which saw Jess Llaudin fend of a standing Ross Mason attack from his back, bringing matters to the canvas & finishing with a dissonant heel hook, having previously come close to earning a tapout by combining a knee strike with a jump into guard to lock a guillotine choke.
Xavier Foupa Pokam...there. I'm not typing that out again. The Frenchman's fight with Alex Reid (nice job on losing the woeful nickname, "Reid-anator") confused the living bejaysus out of me. Both men went tit-for-tat standing up, in a first round that was difficult to score in the favour of either. Reid came out at the start of the second period with a pair of leg kicks, Xavier countering with a punch from which a stray finger caught the Brit in his right eye. Reid SELLS it (in a manner of speaking). The replays run, as Stephen Quadros & the other bloke whose name I don't think is mentioned once discuss open-handed shadow boxing practice techniques, and how the employment of such can lead to instances like this when instinctiveness kicks in during a fight- the slow motion footage certainly lends weight to such a theory. With Reid unable to continue...they go to the scorecards?? So, Belfort pokes Couture in the eye & is awarded the fight. Ron Faircloth low blows Alessio Sakara, and that's a no-contest. And now this? Yep, that's the set.
41 year old Dave Legeno is a bit of a cult figure, apparently. "Boasting" a record of 1-3, big Dave was seeking to carry the momentum from his first career victory- over Kimo Leopoldo, no less- into a fight with a prior vanquisher of he, Cumbrian Alan "Mad Dog" Murdock. Another concise offering, the first qualified exchange saw Legeno take Murdock down & secure side control, prompting the latter to roll with a series of elbows, from where he locked in a hook & secured a lopsided but ultimately successful Rear Naked Choke. Afterwards, Legeno called out Dan Severn. Hmm.
The all-Brazilian barnstormer, pitting Jean Silva against Danilo Sherman, invoked memories of the thrilling battle of wills between Karo Parysian & Nick Diaz at UFC 49 throughout it's duration. Upstart Cherman edged the opening fast-paced five minutes, scoring a pair of significant takedowns, ending the round agonisingly close to fully extending an armbar from the bottom. This pattern continued into the second period, with Silva vitally slipping his left arm alongside his head to defend an arm-triangle, the spell concluding with a standing restart, from where Silva rallied with a big knee/uppercut combo. Round Three is sick: Silva ate a further takedown, yet took an arm, transitioning from Kimura to a full-blown armbar which caused a nasty fracture, evident in the post-fight footage. Not only did Cherman not cry "uncle", he managed to escape into side control and, following a dosey-doe of sweeps into respective guard, see out both round & fight to take a unanimous decision. A real belter.
Bushido regular Luiz Azeredo kept the short samba-streak going by way of a near shut-out against Nottingham native Paul "Semtex" Daley in an expeditious outing. The Brit pushed the action standing, yet was seemingly prone to be taken to the mat at the will of his foe, which undoubtedly swung the judges against him. Still, "Semtex's" stock didn't take too much of a blow, as he remained competitive with the more-established Azeredo throughout; I'd say this was simply a tough match-up for him, stylistically speaking.
Queasy finish highlight-reel clippage was the order of the day as Vitor Riberio successfully defended his Lightweight title against Daisuke Nakamura (announced for the Cage Rage "World" Championship, yet Mark Weir would later be announced as the "Cage Rage British Middleweight Champion." Apparently, they have two champions in each division... strange). "Shaolin" took the back of the Japanese in the opening round, working into a Kimura, prompting the referee to call a halt, and bemused looks all round. A myriad of multiple-angled replays eventually show the stoppage to be a commendable one, as Nakamura's forearm visibly gives way, Tim Sylvia style.
UFC jobber-to-the-stars Elvis Sinosic made quick work of Mark "The Beast" Epstein prior to the marquee fights commencing, utilising the popular-on-this-night armbar to secure the tapout after front-sweeping into mount from the clinch. In similar blink-and-you'll-miss-it-fashion...
....Croatian Zelg Galesic blitzed Mark Weir in under a minute to take the aforementioned Middleweight strap. On a night of neat submissions, Galesic placated the lust of the knockout fraternity with a furious blast of swift, harsh hands, to which "The Wizard" had no response... this was pretty impactful; on this evidence, the Croat is a genuine prospect.
In a display of typically baffling British behaviour (as an aside, the audience scored big points in the plus column by not getting all restless & jeery for the array of mat based combat on display throughout the night, unlike their Stateside counterparts), the Earl's Court crowd went ga-ga for the novelty act finale starring Butterbean, whose plain limitations were handily exposed by Merseysider Rob Broughton (who holds a win over James Thompson, incidentally). The giant northerner kept an unassailable distance from the big-haymaker danger zone, shot in super-low for takedowns, and generally put on a tactically faultless performance. By no means without charm, the main event ended with Broughton landing hammer strikes from side mount in the second, with Big Eric electing to tap. Could've been hideous.... but it wasn't.
Almost all conclusive finishes plus no distance-lasting snoozefests equals no complaints whatsoever. As anyone who lasted through the ordeal that was this year's FA Cup final will tell you, the hyped-up big guns can often flatter to deceive, whilst proper value for money is often easy to come by in the lower leagues. With "Fearless", Cage Rage- a breeding ground for young fighters/circuit on which to shine for those who found the UFC or PRIDE to be tough going- proved that this analogy also has a home elsewhere in the sporting spectrum.
Points: 8 / 10