Cage Warriors 129 Preview

The Cage Warriors Trilogy moves onto its final night this Saturday at London’s York Hall, capping off another marvellous festival of mixed martial arts with Cage Warriors 129.

The Cage Warriors Flyweight Championship tournament final holds pride of place at the top of the card. Sam Creasey (14-3) is one of the longest serving fighters on the roster, however has never had the gold around his waist. He’s going for third time lucky against former champion Luke Shanks (8-2). Creasey is a real bundle of energy. Everything is done at top speed. Quick combinations and wild scrambles with cardio for days. He can knock you down and he can snatch your back in the transition. He’s 9-3 in the yellow gloves, a true testament to his quality. Shanks is a really tough opponent. He’s calmer and more methodical, trying to think five steps ahead of his opponent. His striking is measured and keeps close control in his grappling. Will the king regain his crown or will Creasey finally get the big one?

Rhys McKee (10-4-1) returns to Cage Warriors following an ill fated UFC stint where it seemed he made the jump slightly too early. “Skeletor” is a beautiful striker who pieces you up from head to toe. He’s brave in the pocket and throws well timed combinations. He’s here to show that recent form was a blip and that he’s headed back for the top. A win here and a shot at the gold is inevitable. Aleksi Mäntykivi (13-6) is the welcoming party. He is fearless and won’t shy from getting stuck in on the feet. Kickboxing is his primary weapon and he’ll look to open McKee up with elbows. He’s moving up to 170lbs here so he’s potentially giving up a lot of size to the tall rangy Northern Irishman. Don’t be surprised to see bloodshed one way or the other in this one.

There’s a family feel to the proceedings with two sets of brothers on the card. The Hardwick Brothers are one set of siblings competing. George Hardwick (7-1) will take on Jakub Dohnal (9-1) in a big fight for the lightweight division. Hardwick has looked impressive lately, scoring a couple of Bellator wins and beating Dean Trueman at CW 124. He is a very strong grappler with a nasty guillotine. His boxing has been causing opponents fits of late. He really digs into the body and mixes up his selections well. Czech Republic’s Dohnal is an Oktagon veteran, the biggest promotion in Czech Republic and Slovakia. He favours a submission game and is dangerous both in his offensive moves and off his back. Hardwick will be right amongst the upper echelon with a win.

Poland’s Figlak brothers have blazed onto the scene. Neither are shy of talking the talk and then backing it up in the cage. Mateusz Figlak (5-1) has won his last three since defeat against Ian Garry at CW 110. He’s shown maturity beyond his years. He picks off his opponents with slick boxing, particularly impressive at working the body. He’s fierce when he smells blood, pouncing on any sign of weakness. If his striking doesn’t finish it, he’s got a smooth Jiu Jitsu game to fall back on. Norway’s Joachim Tollefsen (5-3-1) is the man looking to stop the hype train. He’s a good grappler who has very heavy top pressure. He likes to use ground and pound to force you to give up your back. A good step up in opposition for Figlak.

Another must watch fighter on the roster Steve Aimable (16-8) is down to fight Walter Cogliandro (10-1-1). “Diddy Kong” Aimable is electric in the cage and never fails to entertain. He’s a man in form after winning his last two matchups. He’s like a Tasmanian devil on the feet, willing to take one to land a few of his own. He stays active in the grappling exchanges and doesn’t accept a bad position. Italy’s Cogliandro also comes in with his tail up on the back of a couple of wins. This will be his biggest test to date having mainly fought on the Italian regional scene. He mainly fights in the striking realms and will be willing to stand and bang. This is low key one of the most entertaining fights of the trilogy.

Former title challenger Jamie Richardson (9-7) is looking to spring back after dropping the last two against Alessandro Botti (15-2). Richardson does his best work on the feet. He throws with big power and can take a shot back. He will take risks to end the fight early. Every punch will have bad intentions. Italy’s Botti has had a rough go of it after losing three on the spin in his recent Bellator run. He does have a lot of losses, in his defence, the vast majority are to mainstays on the European level. That said, he needs to raise his game to last in this one. He’s capable on the feet and in the submission game. His big issue is defence. Both men really need a win here.

Michał Figlak (5-0) has been a revelation since first putting on the yellow gloves. He is the better striker of the two brothers. He mixes his levels really well and his control of range is spot on. He’s very unpredictable and keeps the opponent guessing with his kicking. He is ruthless in fight ending scenarios. We’ve not seen much of it lately, however he is also solid on the ground. Kieran Lister (6-1-2) is a massive litmus test. A fantastic striker in his own right, his only loss comes via the current champion Joe McColgan. His last outing against Decky McAleenan was a thrilling encounter. He’s an all rounder with stopping power. The spoils are large for the winner of this one.

Harry Hardwick (7-3) is the lighter of the two Hardwick siblings. Like his brother, he’s a dual threat. His striking is very solid and has some nice chokes in his arsenal. One criticism is his fights can be a little close, so he’ll be looking to dominate a bit more to solidify rounds. He had an impressive victory over French standout Jean N’Doye in a close fight at CW 124. Konmon Deh (10-7) will be flying the tricolour and looking to avenge his fellow countryman’s loss. The Frenchman is a 10 year veteran and with MMA being illegal in France until recently, he had to ply his trade across Europe. He’s most likely going to try and keep this standing and turn it into a kickboxing match and use the range to avoid takedowns. He can be a bit of a slow starter and most of his finishes are in the later rounds. This is a great chance for Hardwick to make a statement.

Dylan Hazan (6-0) is Italy’s next big hope. He’s up against a resurgent Scott Malone (9-4). Hazan is a dominant wrestler. His plan is to take you down and grind it out. If it’s safe to do so, he’ll look to land big ground and pound. He will always prioritise position. He was victorious in his CW debut against Josh Reed. Scotland’s Malone will be a similarly tough test. He used the pandemic break to completely reset and find his form. He’s 3-0 since then, including a nice finish win against Serdar Altas at CW 125. He’s a real rough veteran who is looking to cause pain in every section of the fight. He can strike and he can cause damage on the ground. His biggest test here is to remain standing and see what Hazan’s striking is all about. Another good example of CW’s progressive fighter development and matchmaking.

Cage Warriors 129 is live from 16:25 this Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. 

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.