It was a near faultless weekend for Merseyside MMA fans.
Next Generation MMA stamped their mark at Cage Warriors 146, with three wins out of three, all coming via first round stoppage.
Across the pond, it wasn’t quite so successful. Molly McCann was beaten by Erin Blanchfield at UFC 281, in Madison Square Garden. The Meatball was submitted via kimura in the first round, but it was a gutsy display to make it that far into the fight.
Here are some of the main takeaways from Saturday night’s bouts>>>
1. Styles make fights
‘Meatball’ Molly McCann had her three fight win streak ended at the hands of 23-year-old Blanchfield. This was a classic case of grappler versus striker, and it turned out how those fights often do.
The Evertonian found herself on her back not long into the first round after being taken down by the American. She advanced position into a crucifix and landed punch after punch as the Scouser’s face got more and more red by the second.
The New Yorker cinched in her first kimura attempt which McCann somehow managed to survive. How she did is astonishing with the pain she must have felt. Blanchfield then adjusted, stepped over the head of the 32-year-old to make it even tighter, and McCann had no choice but to tap out with just under a minute and a half to go in round one.
It was always going to be a tough fight to win against an opponent who was ranked higher and who had a massive advantage on the ground. But in defeat, McCann showed class and amazing will.
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2. The King of France
King Adam I of France was anointed by Lord Pimblett on Saturday night; news of which hasn’t quite reached Mr Macron and his rèpublique yet.
All jokes aside it was a sensational performance by Adam Cullen to open up the Cage Warriors main card. The 24-year-old made it six out of six first-round stoppages since turning professional with his win over Martin Causse.
Cullen had control of the Frenchman’s back and started raining down elbows and punches, forcing the referee to stop the fight. It was announced that he was to be competing on the card a long time before an opponent had been agreed on.
He had to step up from lightweight to welterweight to find an opponent, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. Cullen said afterwards that he’ll be Cage Warriors lightweight champion in 2023. With the run that he’s on, it might be hard to deny him.
3. Luke Riley gets better and better
‘The Kid’, as he calls himself, added to his impressive run with a first-round TKO of Karol Kutyla.
The 23-year-old has won all five of his professional fights via TKO due to punches. In the Merseysportlive preview podcast of Cage Warriors 146, we spoke about the power that he posses in his striking. It’s similar to Conor McGregor in that when he hits people for the first time you can see a shocked look in their eyes.
Similar to McGregor as well, Riley has a deadly calmness and poise when finishing fights. He said in the build up to the fight that he’s got that killer instinct; he’s not wrong. You tend to see non-elite strikers rush when they see they’ve hurt their opponent. But this young lad is elite. He dropped Kutyla with a left hook, pounced on him, not giving his opponent any room to breathe. But then he propped himself up, assessed, got square on with the Pole and unloaded hooks until the referee had no choice but to intervene.
He’s putting the featherweight division on notice.
4. Liam Gittins continues winning ways
Gittins improved his record to 9-4 (6-4 in Cage Warriors) with a first-round victory over Faisal Malik on Saturday night.
Malik was undefeated coming into the fight with five wins on his record, none of which went to the judges. However, it was the Pakistani’s first fight in Cage Warriors.
Gittins almost acted as the gatekeeper to the division this weekend. He was there to see if this new talent could potentially hang with the rest of the featherweights.
Malik looked laboured as the fight neared the end of the first-round. Gittins was able to land a left hook and right uppercut. From then, ‘Nightmare’ continued to land shots until the fight was stopped with under a minute to go.
After going 4-4 in his last eight fights, it’s nice to see the Southport-based fighter starting to put some wins together after a promising start in the promotion.
5. It’s just how the fight game is
This phrase sums up the last year pretty well for Nathan Fletcher. He was hoping to be fighting alongside his Next Gen training partners this weekend after Cameron Else pulled out of the fight they were supposed to have on the November 5.
Fletcher tried to follow in the footsteps of Cullen by moving up a weight division to entice an opponent. It worked for the lightweight, but not for the bantamweight. No opponent was found and his hopes of a return to the Octagon have been postponed.
It’s been a tough year with injuries and last minute pull outs becoming a norm for Fletcher. But he’s looking ahead to a better next 12 months, hinting at a return to action on New Year’s Eve.