Off the Hook - By Joe Reilly

OTH: Bushido Rings: Ireland vs. England Review

A couple of weeks ago Ireland’s biggest MMA event to date took place in the Point Depot in Dublin, Ireland. The new promotion Bushido Rings could be compared to Shooto in Japan. The bouts are contested in a ring, no headshots are allowed on the ground and when a knockdown occurs the referee issues a ten count similar to boxing. This show had many interesting moments. Plenty of new stars were born in this part of the world and the planned main event was surrounded in controversy. So, how did this ambitious show come off when all was said and done? Read on and find out.

A couple of weeks ago Ireland’s biggest MMA event to date took place in the Point Depot in Dublin, Ireland. The new promotion Bushido Rings could be compared to Shooto in Japan. The bouts are contested in a ring, no headshots are allowed on the ground and when a knockdown occurs the referee issues a ten count similar to boxing. This show had many interesting moments. Plenty of new stars were born in this part of the world and the planned main event was surrounded in controversy. So, how did this ambitious show come off when all was said and done? Read on and find out.

For those of us already enlightened, MMA in general is a great sport that we thoroughly enjoy. However, the most awkward aspect for promoters and true fans to overcome is mainstream acceptance. In Japan, PRIDE and other MMA events enjoy unparalleled popularity that resembles the popularity of Premiership Football in Ireland and England. However, in the USA the UFC and other organisations are constantly toying with new concepts to market our great sport to reach to casual fan base.

In Ireland, with barely a few shows to have taken place already, we do have a long way to go. The idea to try and introduce a sport that is not even understood by many on such a big stage in Ireland is ambitious to say the least. Like any new business venture you have develop a marketing idea that will somehow draw the punters in, while the hard part is keeping them. The promoters of the show were able to accomplish the first half of the equation by drawing in a nearly packed arena of several thousand spectators.

They used a clever strategy that many of us Irish don’t like to admit, but is very true. The fact that many of us feel resentment to our neighbours in England over years of rival history. Therefore, the concept was born, let’s have Ireland vs. England. So, the average Joe (Not me) sees an advertisement for a fight show saying that a team of Irish fighters will take on English fighters. First reaction, here’s a chance for us to see Ireland beat England up and in a literal sense. So, let’s see how the show worked out.

The Opening

The opening was very similar to a PRIDE: Bushido event. A nice ramp was on display with three big screens behind it. The lights were dim accompanied by smoke and strobe lights. This led to an action packed clip showing several MMA fights outlining stand up and ground exchanges to give the audience a taste for what was in store. Music played over the arena to the beat of drums from actual drummers exactly like a Bushido event. Before you wonder, this was not a PRIDE show or a show using another promotions trademarks. It was a new promotion trying to simulate an intro from one of the big shows, which I don’t see anything wrong it, as it served its purpose to get people hyped to see fights. The intro ended with all of the competitors in two single lines along the ramp to a thunderous ovation.

(80kgs) P.Postovituas vs. V. Casantunas (84kgs)

The first two competitors where in fact from Lithuania. However, Casantunas was representing SBG Ireland, Ireland’s most prominent MMA team. The first round showed Postovituas controlling most of the action. He constantly went for takedowns and achieved most of the attempts. However, Casantunas constantly scrambled to get off his back and get back to the feet. After the action first hit the mat, Postovituas was in Casantunas’ guard. Casantunas tried a quick armbar attempt, but Postovituas escaped just as quickly taking Casantunas’ back with a rear naked choke attempt. Casantunas managed to defend it, but spent most of the time reacting to Postovituas’ attempts.

When Postovituas finally got the full mount position, he must have forgotten the rules, as he instinctively punched Casantunas in the head. The referee sharply intervened and issued a warning to Postovituas. The referee then stood up the action to the crowds’ delight. Postovituas then shot in and scored a nice double leg take down, but he landed on the ground with one arm in and one arm out (of Casantunas’ guard). Casantunas seized on another armbar attempt.

Postovituas seemed like a typical wrestler. His takedowns were excellent and his ability to stay on top was good, but he seemed to be less versed in submission wrestling. Instead of trying posture calmly and lever out his arm he opted for the brute force of a slam to escape the hold. The rest of the round was a scramble for position on the ground with Postovituas trying to keep top position and Casantunas trying to calmly work of his back. The ref stood up both men for inactivity on the ground, but the bell went preventing either man showing any stand up skills.

In the second round, Postovituas immediately shot in with a textbook double leg takedown, but he again fell into an Armbar attempt from Casantunas. This time Postovituas resisted the slam option, by fluidly escaping and taking Casantunas’ back for a rear naked choke attempt. However, Casantunas snuck out the back door and put Postovituas on his back for the first time in the bout. Casantunas tried body punches and a can opener (neck crank) attempt, but Postovituas opened his guard allowing Casantunas to stand back up.

Postovituas again shot in on for the double leg and got it, but he ate a knee in the face for his troubles on the way down. Casantunas again reverted to an armbar attempt. Postovituas picked him up and slammed him to the mat to escape and take up the full mount position. In another scramble Postovituas accidentally landed a knee to the groin of Casantunas. The ref issued a warning and stood both men up. The action quickly resumed with Postovituas shooting in with another double leg. Casantunas tried to sprawl, but Postovituas picked him up and slammed him, but he landed in an Armbar again. Postovituas tied to slam his way out of it, but it was in tight this time, but before it was in long enough the bell went to signal the end of the fight.

In the end, the judges scored the fight a draw based on no clear dominant winner. Postovituas had the takedowns and slightly more ground control, but Casantunas had way more efforts to finish. I’d like to see Postovituas polish up on his submission skills and Casantunas to keep working on his wrestling. I can’t really comment on the striking skills from either competitor however, as there was only one knee that connected on the feet. Good competitive fight overall though.

(65kgs) Jason Clarke vs. Colm O’Reilly (65kgs)

This was the first of the Ireland vs. England bouts. Jason Clarke hailed from England, who was cornered by UFC veteran Leigh Remedios. The hometown boy Colm O’Reilly was cornered by SBG Ireland head instructor John Kavanagh and (top 70 KG Irish fighter) Dave Roche. O’Reilly started the action by clinching with Clarke and jumping guard to bring the fight down to the mat. Clarke stood up out of it, but O’Reilly attempted it again and transitioned to an armbar attempt. Clarke quickly escaped back to his feet. Both men then clinched and O’Reilly tried to force a takedown. Clarke resisted with some good punches to the face. O’Reilly still aggressively sought after the takedown and Clarke sprawled. O’Reilly then pulled guard.

Clarke managed to avoid the guard and pass to side control. However, he could not maintain the position and both men scrambled to the feet. Both men then started slugging it out with one another catching each other with good shots. Clarke then took O’Reilly down. Once he landed in O’Reilly’s guard though he chose to stand back up. Both men wasted no time to engage in a boxing exchange, which pleased the crowd. O’Reilly landed some nice upper cuts, as the bell went.

After that round both men looked tired, particularly O’Reilly. They wasted no time in the second round to resume the stand up battle. O’Reilly then looked rocked from the exchanged and quickly clinched to avoid the punches. From here, Clarke landed a series of nice punches and knees that had O’ Reilly rocked again. O’Reilly tried to take Clarke down, but Clarke defended well allowing the striking exchange to continue. Once there was a pause in the action, the ref stopped to check a cut on Clarke’s face. Once the doctor cleaned it up, the action resumed.

O’Reilly came at Clarke with good punches and a nice knee to the body. Clarke then countered with good punches and great knees to knock O’Reilly down. O’Reilly managed to beat the ten count. Clarke finished out the round with a barrage of strikes in the Thai clinch, as the bell went. The judges scored the fight in favour of Clarke, which was a fair decision. Both men showed a lot of heart in the fight and swung some heavy leather, but Clarke landed more and seemed a bit more precise with his strikes.

(68kgs) Kamron Ranna vs. Michael ‘Sissy Boy’ Leonard (70kgs)

This was the second instalment of the Ireland verses England series. Kamron Ranna represented England and Michael Leonard represented SBG Ireland. Leonard got the action started and shot in and slammed Ranna to the mat hard resembling Matt Hughes quite a bit. Both men scrambled back up to the feet and Leonard locked on a Guillotine choke. Ranna escaped and took Leonard down. Leonard quickly established his guard and sunk in another Guillotine choke. Leonard used the leverage to reverse Ranna to a mount with the choke still intact. Ranna tapped out giving Leonard the win by submission. Neither man showed any of their striking skills in this bout, but Leonard demonstrated top-notch Freestyle wrestling and smooth Jiu Jitsu skills.

Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Demo

During the interval, Yuri Miletenko and Tshifco (SBG Ireland Wrestling coach) demonstrated tonnes of slams and top position control. It was an eye opener for me, as I had never seen demo of this kind before. Up until now I had only seen the techniques of Freestyle Wrestling used in MMA and not in a strict Freestyle Wrestling environment. I was impressed with the skills shown, but the audience seemed a little bewildered at times, not understanding what it was.

(82kgs) G.Musashi vs. John Donnelly (85Kgs)

This bout was outside the Ireland vs. England format. Musashi was fighting on short notice from Holland, while Donnelly was fighting out of SBG Ireland. Before the fight began, Donnelly stared his opponent down with an evil smile trying to intimidate Musashi off the bat. Once the fight got underway, Donnelly scored with a good Thai kick to leg of Musashi. Musashi wasted no time by clinching with Donnelly and pulling off an excellent Judo throw to the mat. Once the action hit the ground, Donnelly went for a Heel Hook.

Musashi escaped the dangerous attempt and passed to side control. Musashi landed some good body shots from here, but the ref soon stood both men up for lack of action on the ground. Musashi then scored some nice leg kicks and then took Donnelly down to get side control once again. Donnelly somehow made some space and scooted out with an Armbar attempt. Musashi remained composed and escaped and took back side control. Musashi then landed some knees. Musashi than quickly transitioned into an armbar forcing Donnelly to tap out. Musashi looked smooth on the ground, while Donnelly looked pressured on his back. Donnelly does train extensively in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu though, so he will work on this position more thoroughly in training I’m sure to redeem himself in another fight.

(105kgs) Andy Ryan vs. Rob Broughton (120kgs)

The line-up of fights went back to the Ireland verses England format now. Andy Ryan came in representing SBG Ireland and Rob Broughton was representing England. The fight went into the clinch right away and both men pummelled for position and utilised some dirty boxing inside the clinch. Ryan showed his Judo background by scoring the first takedown. Ryan quickly went for an Armbar attempt. He nearly extended it, but Broughton defended well. Ryan held the mount position briefly, but Broughton scrambled and both men went back to standing position.

Broughton then landed some heavy punches. Both men clinched once again where Broughton brought on a barrage of strikes. Ryan countered with a solid knee, but Broughton pulled guard and immediately went for a triangle choke. Ryan quickly escaped and took his back. Before Ryan could get his hooks in, Broughton reversed the position landing in Ryan’s guard. Broughton went for a keylock on Ryan while inside his guard, which seemed pointless, as there is no leverage from that position to finish the move.

Broughton moved on to half mount position and landed some good knees to the body to the body to set up a Kimura (Shoulder lock) attempt. Brougthon then cleared Ryan’s guard and transitioned into a nice armbar forcing Ryan to tap or snap. Fortunately Ryan went with the former and Broughton won the fight by submission. This was a good fight and certainly competitive, but Broughton outweighed Ryan by 15 KG’s, which is crazy. I have trained with Andy Ryan and seen him fight a few times now.

You can’t question his toughness and he certainly has a good grappling game, but he seems to be just a little above the Light Heavyweight class in weight and unfortunately nine times out of ten that is too hard to overcome when your opponent trains just as hard as you, but is much bigger. Ryan could do really well if he was able to cut down to Light Heavyweight, as he would be fighting guys his own size then and be in a position to really enforce his game then in my opinion.

Oliver Ellis vs. Thomas Marnachas – 70kgs

The next instalment of Ireland verses England pitted English visitor Oliver Ellis against Thomas Marnachas form SBG Ireland. Originally, ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ Dave Roche was scheduled to fight Ellis, but he injured his hand a week before the fight in another MMA fight against Dave McLaughlin in Liverpool. Roche dominated the fight standing up and on the ground finishing the fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s patented Anaconda choke. It was in a right cross punch that Roche connected solidly with before hand that did the damage not only to his opponent, but his own hand. He informed me before the fight that he was really disappointed about the injury and he couldn’t even open a bottle of water with his injured hand.

On to the actual fight. Marnachas impressed early by taking Ellis down to the mat. Ellis countered with an Armbar from the guard, but Marnachas escaped to the feet. Marnachas then imposed his will on the feet with several strikes and managed to show good takedown defence using the whizzer to defend Ellis’ next takedown attempt and put Ellis on his back in the process. Ellis remained poised however and quickly went for a heel hook.

Marnachas quickly escaped, but Ellis took his back in the process. Unable to get his hooks in, Ellis switched around a bit from mount to side control. Ellis then landed a knee to the head of Marnachas while on the ground and the ref warned Ellis for the foul and stood the fight back up. Marnachas wasted no time and took Ellis down. Ellis then went for an Achilles lock, but the bell saved Marnachas.

In the second round, Ellis began with a nice takedown and quickly attained the mount position. Marnachas bucked up and reversed Ellis landing in his guard, but Ellis quickly clamped on an armbar to get a well-earned submission victory. Overall, Marnachas impressed me on such short notice against an opponent of the calibre of Oliver Ellis. Ellis is quite experienced and has held Cage Rage Lightweight Champion Jean Da Silva to a draw, which I felt he won. However, Ellis didn’t look like he knew what to do on his feet, which may be exploited by future opponents unless this was an exceptionally rare lack lustre performance on the feet by him.

(85kgs) Roger Moore vs. Jimmy Curran (89kgs)

This was supposed to be scheduled as the main event. Moore came out appearing confident, but when Curran’s intro played across the arena he was nowhere to be seen. The crowd grew restless and the announcer kept asking people to allow for one minute for Curran to come out. This process repeated itself for over five minutes with the promoter even calling for Curran to come out. One of Curran’s corner men then came out and got on the microphone to tell people the reason why Curran had not come out.

He said Curran was only paid €500 and that only covered expenses. Despite this, the corner man urged his fighter to come out, but he did not. The show was then over. In fairness, while I could not find out all the details as to exactly why he didn’t come out, I have heard that Curran only has experience in stand up fighting and kickboxing, so maybe he saw some earlier fights and realised what he got himself into, as Moore is definitely skilled on the ground.

Also, I had heard a common disgust from most of the SBG Ireland fighters that Curran was chosen to represent Ireland in the main event, while he didn’t even train MMA. Although Curran was the fighter who pulled out with no explanation from his own lips, the promoters should take some of the blame and that is that legitimate MMA stylists should not be passed over by a Kickboxer with no MMA experience. Overall, I felt most sorry for Roger Moore, who made the trip to Dublin for the show, but left without a fight.

It was a good night of matches overall, but the (lack of) main event left a sour taste in many spectators mouths as they left the Point Depot. This will most likely affect ticket sales for the next show, as Curran was a big draw with many local Dublin people. It will be interesting to see how the organisation continues on form this point. If you have any comments or questions about the show, please email me at: []

Joe Reilly