It’s been exactly one year and four months since Cage Warriors Fighting Championship‘s last show.
In the time that has passed since Cage Warriors 74 at the Copper Box Arena in London, former CWFC dual-weight king, Conor McGregor has added yet another belt to his collection (you might have heard about it) and positioned himself as one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts and sports in general, New York have finally seen fit to legalise MMA, the UFC women’s bantamweight title has changed hands twice, and Dominick Cruz is – once more – the men’s 135lbs champion.
Domestically, CWFC’s biggest rivals, BAMMA have staked a serious claim as Europe’s number one promotion, we’ve seen BCMMA mature into one of the UK’s most respected regional shows, CWFC stars Jack Hermansson and Brad Wheeler have picked up belts at Warrior Fight Series, and Ultimate Ball made it onto the bloody tele!
In the real world, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are now placed 1st and 2nd respectively in the Premier League, our Prime Minister was alleged to have penetrated a dead pig, and we’ve said goodbye to David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy Kilmister, and, more recently, Paul Daniels.
A lot has changed while Cage Warriors have been away.
The More Things Change
Perhaps the biggest question other than “Are they ever coming back?” has been “What will CWFC look like if and when they return?”.
Notable stars Nicolas Dalby, Tom Breese, Stevie Ray, Joseph Duffy, Pannie Kianzad (and doubtless more), have all moved on to pastures new. Even 3-0 Anna Elmose – who was originally slated to compete on CWFC 75 – got the call. So where did that leave new owner Graham Boylan and his team?
The aforementioned Warrior Fight Series champions, Jack Hermansson and Brad Wheeler were recalled, as well as Liverpool’s rising stars, Chris Fishgold and Paddy Pimblett. Light-heavyweight prospect Darren Stewart was promoted to the poster, and UK featherweight standout – and former BAMMA title challenger – Ashleigh Grimshaw was back on the show for the first time since 2011.
Alongside the familiar faces were a few promotional newcomers, some of whom appear to have already made a name for their themselves in the new look Cage Warriors.
Out With (Some Of) The Old
Same music, same production values, (mostly) the same team… So what’s different?
There was no Copper Box or Kentish Town Forum this time around. The Camden Centre in Kings Cross was the chosen venue for the reimagining of Cage Warriors.
A curious setting for MMA, the atmosphere and ambience of the Camden Centre may well lend itself to live sporting events, but it’s hard to ignore the makeshift seating area on the stage. Whilst not without its charms, the Camden Centre is no York Hall.
Jens Pulver is a legend of the sport, of that there can be little argument, but his skills on the mic are still very much open for debate. When John Gooden departed for the UFC, Brad Wharton had some seriously big shoes to fill. Wharton brought a style of his own to the booth, his occasionally left field take on commentary (“Reach for the lasers”, “It’s great to be back in Amman”) sat perfectly alongside the ever-knowledgable, Josh Palmer.
It’s just not clear yet where Pulver fits in, the jury is still out on this new partnership.
Perhaps the shrewdest new signing has been that of lightweight, Alfie Davis. Matchmaker Ian Dean has brought in someone they can potentially build shows around.
Davis has the flair, the looks, a considerable following, and might just have the skills to match.
CWFC 75 belonged to up-and-comers, the stars of the new era of Cage Warriors shone on Friday night, exposing their talents to the UFC’s Fight Pass audience.
Now we know they’re back and we know what they look like in 2016, the next question is: Can they build upon this and re-establish themselves as a major player in the UK and European MMA scene? With BAMMA moving into Ireland in a big way (a former hotspot for CWFC), and snapping up a considerable portion of the regional talent, have Cage Warriors got their work cut out for them?
CWFC 75 was a strong start, their next moves will be crucial in determining their place in the MMA landscape.
We had some questions answered on Friday night, but we’ve been left with a whole load more.
JACK HERMANSSON (c) vs. ALAN CARLOS
Despite eating a heavy overhand/standing backfist (seriously) that wobbled him in the second round, Jack Hermansson defended his middleweight title, dispatching of Brazilian Alan Carlos in devastating fashion in the third round.
Carlos had his moments – including a Russian roulette of leg locks toward the end of the second round – but ultimately lacked any real threat on the feet, spending much of the fight with his back on the cage.
Even after scoring another big finish, Hermansson looked out of sorts. It’s not his time to move on just yet.
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JACK HERMANSSON (c) def. ALAN CARLOS via KO (punch) at 4:45 of round three
Middleweight Title Bout
PADDY PIMBLETT vs. ASHLEIGH GRIMSHAW
Paddy Pimblett might be getting that call to the big show sooner rather than later.
The 21-year-old fought with a confidence that belies his youth, controlling a tough veteran in Ashleigh Grimshaw throughout the fight. What should have been Grimshaw’s world on the ground, belonged to Pimblett, who tied his man in knots with an ever-evolving, dynamic grappling game. Pimblett moves to 10-1, having announced himself to the world as one to watch.
Judges Ben Cartlidge, David Lethaby and Andy Sledge all saw the fight 30-27 in Pimblett’s favour – a breakdown of CWFC 75 scoring can be found HERE.
PADDY PIMBLETT def. ASHLEIGH GRIMSHAW via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
BRAD WHEELER vs. SCOTT CLIST
It looked like Brad Wheeler‘s career resurgence was set to continue, with the crowd favourite taking Scott Clist‘s back early in the first.
Clist managed to survive the submission attempts, escaping to his feet and launching an attack of his own. A blocked head kick was followed by some heavy leather that put Wheeler on his backside. Clist leapt on his opponent and unloaded, arguably doing enough to earn the stoppage. Though initially saved by the bell, Wheeler was in no state to continue between rounds.
A big upset win for Clist, and a merciful stoppage call from Wheeler’s corner.
SCOTT CLIST def. BRAD WHEELER via TKO (punches) at 5:00 of round one
Catchweight (159lbs) Bout
CHRIS FISHGOLD vs. JORDAN MILLER
Chris Fishgold made short work of CWFC debutant, Jordan Miller, getting the tap at just over a minute into the fight.
Fishgold clearly had no interest in dragging this one out, and with a title fight at ICE FC 14 in little over a month, who can blame him?
CHRIS FISHGOLD def. JORDAN MILLER via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:04 of round one
DARREN STEWART vs. JAMES HURRELL
If Darren Stewart takes you down, it’s over.
The MMA Clinic product wasted no time in getting man-mountain, James Hurrell to the floor. From there, Stewart unleashed hell – something he’s known to do in that position. Another intriguing prospect, Stewart continues to impress.
DARREN STEWART def. JAMES HURRELL via TKO (punches) at 0:37 of round one
ALFIE DAVIS vs. TERRY DOYLE
Cage Warriors may have found themselves a new star in Alfie Davis.
The London Shootfighter took a while to get going, but a steady diet of kicks kept opponent Terry Doyle on the back foot throughout the first round. Eventually it was a brutal liver kick that felled Doyle; a delayed reaction, doubling over in pain, Davis moved in for the kill.
Depending on how long they can keep both Pimblett and Davis, Cage Warriors might have the beginnings of a new crop of stars to rebuild their brand with.
ALFIE DAVIS def. TERRY DOYLE via TKO (body kick and punches) at 2:41 of round two
Middleweight Title: Jack Hermansson (c) def. Alan Carlos via KO (punch) at 4:45 of round three
Featherweight: Paddy Pimblett def. Ashleigh Grimshaw via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Catchweight (159lbs): Scott Clist def. Brad Wheeler via TKO (punches) at 5:00 of round one
Lightweight: Chris Fishgold def. Jordan Miller via submission (guillotine choke) at 1:04 of round one
Light-heavyweight: Darren Stewart def. James Hurrell via TKO (punches) at 0:37 of round one
Lightweight: Alfie davis def. Terry Doyle via TKO (body kick and punches) at 2:41 of round two
Light-heavyweight: Gyorgy Dolog def. Pelu Adetola (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Featherweight: Oliver Battell def. Rob Scott via TKO (punches) at 0:37 of round one
Bantamweight (amateur): Jawany Scott def. Alan Thomas via TKO (punches) at 2:56 of round two
See the full Fight Photography galleries HERE.