Cage Rage Aims to be Hard as Hell
With the polished spectacle of the UFC returning to London in
September and the difficulties of legal action looming, UK
promotion Cage Rage is under more pressure than ever to deliver an
By booking a card stacked full of striking specialists and
fan-orientated match-ups, they have every chance of doing just that
-- at the risk of upsetting some of the purists.
Massive boxer-turned-mixed martial artist Eric "Butterbean" Esch
returns to face UK-based Armenian wrestler Tengiz Tedoradze (Pictures) in the main event Saturday's Cage
Rage 22 in London.
Esch will be looking to score a big win following his hotly
disputed stoppage of James
Thompson (Pictures) back in February. Butterbean has
shown some notable additions to his game in recent months,
submitting the enormous "Zuluzinho" with a keylock and showing some
idea of positioning on the floor -- but essentially he remains an
immovable, huge punching brawler.
Tedoradze on the other hand has genuinely added to his game over
the years, taking on some effective but unpolished boxing skills to
compliment his staple ground-and-pound offensive game.
It is not clear how Tedoradze intends to take Esch to the mat,
given the American's incredible girth. However, once on the floor
with a striker on top of him, Esch has wilted in the past and I
expect Tedoradze to find a way to take the big man down and
promptly finish the fight with strikes.
Lee Hasdell is an absolute
legend of UK MMA, being one of the first British fighters to
compete in Japan, before promoting the classic "Ring of Truth"
shows in the late 1990s. Known primarily as a striker, this fight
with Brazilian grappling wizard, Mario Sperry (Pictures), seems likely to turn out like a
throwback "striker vs. grappler" match-up between two respected
Whilst deeply revered in the UK, Hasdell remains a relative unknown
throughout the rest of the world and Sperry will be anxious to
demonstrate his superiority, having faced by far the sterner
opposition in recent years. It seems likely that Sperry will take
the fight to the floor and finish with a submission in the first
Wesley "Cabbage" Correira has his work cut out for him as he
returns to make his belated Cage Rage debut, this time slated to
face James "The Colossus" Thompson. Once known for his incredible
chin thanks to his near superhuman performance against Tim Sylvia (Pictures) at UFC 39, Cabbage's ability to
absorb punishment seems to have deteriorated significantly over
However, with some uncommonly fast hands for a heavyweight, the
Hawaiian certainly has a decent chance against Thompson -- who will
be seething at the thought of another Cage Rage loss having dropped
his last two on the promotion.
The more recent loss, to Butterbean, is widely seen as a premature
stoppage, but this I imagine this will only serve as extra
motivation for the Bristol fighter who should demolish Cabbage in a
similar fashion to his punch-to-the-finish win over Don Frye (Pictures) earlier in the year.
In his long-awaited return to Cage Rage, fearsome striker, Edson Drago (Pictures) faces Britain's own Gary "Smiler"
Turner. A massively experienced fighter and intelligent man, Turner
is an asset to the sport. However, I can't help but get the feeling
that his win over Tank Abbott in April may have given him a false
sense of security that led him to agree to this inadvisable
Drago amazed the London crowd back in April 2006 with his stunning
one-punch knockout of Tengiz Tedoradze (Pictures). Dropping two submission losses
since, it is clear that he can be vulnerable on the ground.
However, going up against a stand-up specialist, this weakness
should remain out of view and I expect him to finish the plucky
Brit before the end of round two.
Known primarily as a mixed martial arts referee, Herb Dean (Pictures) has been training since 1993,
beginning work with Zane Frasier in preparation for his ill-fated
appearance at UFC 1. The man facing him, "Deathwish" Dave Legeno (Pictures) has received more than his fair
share of criticism as a fighter in the past. Coming into the sport
at a relatively advanced age, Legeno had a rough start, going on a
steep learning curve that saw him drop his first three fights.
Coming back to even up his record with a trio of wins against
similarly aged opposition, Legeno has since improved a great deal,
but I feel that Dean carries with him an invaluable advantage in
terms of experience having trained and been so closely involved
with the sport for all these years -- which may not necessarily be
reflected by his 2-2 record. I pick Dean to win by submission in
the second round.
Former kickboxer James
McSweeney (Pictures) is a dangerous opponent for
anyone with his precise, rangy striking. He faces another Cage Rage
veteran, Mark Buchanan
(Pictures), who will be desperate to
return to form after back-to-back losses on the main show.
Working with the Trojan camp, Buchanan will have been training to a
solid game plan. However, I'm picking McSweeney to take this one,
quickly and brutally.
With his penchant for stand-up wars, it's not hard to see why
matchmaker Dave O'Donnell has put together the encounter between
Paul Cahoon and Mark "The
Beast" Epstein. Both men are known for their granite chins,
durability and single-minded determination to knock their opponents
I can't see this fight going to the ground for any length of time,
with the Dutch-trained Cahoon coming through a beating to win
inside the distance.
One of the most fascinating match-ups on the card is the
featherweight encounter between Trojan fighter Ronnie Mann (Pictures) and Tsunami gym representative
(Pictures). Blazing through Mark Chen and taking sweet revenge in
his submission victory over Brad Pickett (Pictures), Olivier was then derailed in
less than 30 seconds by Masakazu Imanari (Pictures).
Conversely, the still undefeated Ronnie Mann (Pictures) will be riding high after his
most recent win -- the impressive shut out of Pancrase London's
(Pictures) in February. With only 10
fights on his record, it will be very interesting to see how the
youthful, well-rounded Mann matches up with the more experienced,
rugged grappler in Olivier. This fight has the potential to be an
extremely thoughtful ground fight, with Olivier scraping by for the
In what promises to be another stand-up war, up-and-coming
super-striker from the London Shootfighters Marios Zaromskis looks
to capitalize on his emphatic victory over Damien Riccio (Pictures) at Cage Rage 20 as he goes up
against Ross "The Boss" Mason.
In the Riccio fight, Zaromskis showed an array of vicious strikes
as he dismantled his overmatched French opponent -- and with a
triangle submission win on his record, the young Pole is no
The heavy-handed Mason has shown striking skills in the past that
forced UFC veteran and former boxer Chris Lytle (Pictures) to close the distance. In fact,
hardly any of his recent opponents have looked anywhere near
comfortable in their feet. With neither man ever looking to take
any of their fights to the ground, this one promises fireworks,
with Zaromskis taking the win.
TUF graduate Ross "The Gladiator" Pointon has the world to fight
for in his second appearance in Cage Rage. Matched up with the
athletic but limited Team Titan fighter Dean Bray (Pictures), Pointon simply has to win -- and
win big -- to be considered any kind of threat in the promotion,
following a rough losing streak in the UFC and another shocking KO
loss to Abdul Mohamed
(Pictures) in April.
Bray is a solid fighter with a great work ethic, but it is doubtful
that he will have what it takes to upset such an experienced and
Arguably making his debut on the main show due to his unbelievably
aggressive-looking appearance and brawling style, tattooed former
bodybuilder Joe Mac goes up
against Cage Rage mainstay Jeremy "Bad Boy" Bailey. Fighting well above
his natural weight, Bailey will almost certainly struggle,
particularly as he has shown that he is vulnerable to being bullied
back against the cage -- a strength-based attack that Mac has
employed with a savage delight in the past.
Bailey, however, has got a real crack to his right hand that would
probably trouble the chin of a heavyweight. But in this fight,
Mac's high-pressure assault will more than likely see him take the
fight to the ground and punish the Bad Boy with strikes for a decision
Frenchman Damien Riccio
(Pictures) is one of those fighters
who simply will not quit and has shown in the past that he will
fight to the bitter end. He may well have the opportunity to
painfully demonstrate this ability once again, as he faces another
London Shootfighter, Michael Johnson.
Riccio is a rugged brawler with some wonderful submission defense,
but Johnson has a whole different level to his striking game and
some solid counter-wrestling that should see him keep the fight
upright, eventually scoring the knock out win.
In the first fight of the night, two young and angry fighters, Tom
"Kong" Watson and Ed "Smasher" Smith, face off in a match that
could determine who stays on the main show and who will be
preparing for their next fight on Cage Rage Contenders.
Having worked so hard and with so much at stake, I expect a huge
effort from both men, with "Kong" avoiding Smith's hellish short
punches, taking the fight to the floor for a submission win.
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