Cage Warriors 141 Preview; 2 Title Fights

Cage Warriors will celebrate their 20 year anniversary this Friday at the Indigo at The O2 in London, England. The event is the appetiser ahead of the big UFC Fight Night London card on the Saturday. Ian Dean has put on his matchmaking cap again and has come up with a bumper action packed card with fifteen fights, including two for Cage Warriors titles.

The main event event will see a new CW Lightweight Champion crowned. Former champion Joe McColgan relinquished the belt for personal reasons, leaving a vacuum in the division. George Hardwick (9-1) has been scheduled to compete for the vacant title at two separate shows so far, however opponents Mehdi Ben Lahkdhar and Danilo Belluardo pulled out before fight day. The Middlesbrough man has gone through his third championship camp to get to Saturday and will be chomping at the bit to get in there and do the damn thing. How did he get into contention? He’s currently on a five fight win streak across Bellator and Cage Warriors. He’s picked up three finishes on the bounce in the famous yellow gloves against Dean Trueman, Jakub Dohnal and Łukasz Kopera. He’s a mean boxer that works his levels. When he hits the body, he really digs in with them. In the clinch he has damaging knees and beware taking him down as he has one of the nastiest guillotines in the game. His opponent this time around comes from the Californian side of the promotion. Kyle Driscoll (13-3) makes the trip across the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to bring the strap home. The American trains out of AKA in San Jose, California. As you can imagine with the quality on the wrestling mat over there, he can wrestle against the best of them. He’s currently on an eight fight win streak, including three TKOs via punches, showing that he’s not a one track pony. This fight will come down to who can enforce their game the most. Neither man is shy of going the distance. If Hardwick can defend the takedown or find ways to get up if he goes down, he’s one of the worst men to get into an attritional war with. Potential challengers will likely be hoping the belt stays in Europe.

The co-main event features a man who debuted at CW 10, a mere seventeen years ago. “Judo” Jim Wallhead (31-11) is a legend of the U.K. scene. He’s fought all across the board, including in the UFC, Bellator, BAMMA and KSW. He’s probably got the best collection of gloves in the game. The 38 year old is as tough as old boots and will stand and bang with the best of them. He’s very well rounded with his Judo background and his concrete fists. There will be a feelgood homecoming feeling when he steps into the CW cage for the first time in six years. Daniel Skibiński (18-7) wants to ruin the party. He fights out of Ankos MMA in Poznań, one of Poland’s top gyms with an array of top talent training there. He’s on a two fight losing skid, however had won twelve in a row before that. He’s a good wrestler with good kickboxing. He times body shots very well and mixes his takedown attempts with big over hands. He ran out of gas in his CW debut, so it will be interesting to see how much he’s improved his gas tank, because Judo Jim will likely test it. This will be a fight between two gnarly veterans who aren’t afraid to put their bodies on the line.

The CW Flightweight Championship is the second title on the line on the night. The reigning, defending champion Sam Creasey (15-4) looks to make the first defence of the crown he won against Luke Shanks via guillotine at CW 129. In a strange turn of events, Shanks won the rematch at CW 132 via first round TKO to return the favour, however wasn’t eligible to win the belt due to missing weight. Sam “Urai” had won four on the bounce before that and he’s a mainstay in the CW 125lb division. He can do anything, he’s quick, very active on the feet and enjoys a good scramble. He’ll take whatever you offer him, and on this occasion he’ll know what’s coming. Dylan Hazan (8-0) is a stud out of Bari, Italy. The 27 year old is a world class wrestler. He has dominated opponent after opponent on the mat. He’s been adapting his game in recent fights to the rule set and has been landing more damage to add to the dominance. Hazan is the next big thing in Italian MMA and this is potentially his ticket to the top. Creasey has more experience and will look to use that to keep it standing and test out Hazan’s defensive stamina. CW’s past meets its future here, the present is up for grabs.

Darren Stewart (12-8) is another man who’d have no luck if he didn’t have bad luck recently. The London man is hoping to make his return to CW at the third time of asking on Friday night. He’s a 15 fight UFC veteran, a career he earned with four big CW performances that preceded it. He’s nicknamed “The Dentist”, which is a reference to his other job. He’s strong in the stand up and throws heavy punches and elbows. He’s also a hard man to take down. He’ll take on CW veteran Mick Stanton (8-6). “The Huyton Hammer” is a bruiser who’s got strong grappling with big ground and pound. The “Hammer” in his nickname also refers to his fists, which hit like trucks. Stewart will likely try to pick Stanton off on the feet and become only the second person to finish him with strikes. Stanton will try to be Stanton, grinding and punishing. Make a mistake and it’s a world of pain. This is a nice snapshot of CW and what they’re all about.

There’s a big lightweight bout to open up the main card. Agy Sardari (15-3) is a former CW 155lb champion and he’s looking to get back into the title mix again. The Dutchman was defeated by McColgan via submission at CW 124, and has won via TKO on the regionals since. He’s an accurate kickboxer who likes to be patient on the outside, out-pointing you and then pounce when you let your guard down. Off his back he’s got a decent triangle and is good at taking the back in scrambles. He’ll face Michał Figlak (7-0). Mike is a young Pole who trains out of Gloucester in England. Born in Poznań before moving to the U.K, The undefeated Figlak has been a revelation since joining the CW ranks with his brother Mateusz. He’s sensational on the feet and will rip off combinations for fun. He’s 5-0 now in CW and has beaten very tough opponents. We haven’t seen too much of his grappling, however he has that in his arsenal as well. Whoever wins this has a great argument to fight the main event winner for the strap.

The featured prelim includes one of CW’s most exciting fighters, Steve Aimable (17-8). “Diddy Kong” has won his last three and shows no signs of slowing down. He stands out with his colourful shorts, his flash striking and wild submissions. Brawl with him at your peril, he can knock out any man standing in front of him. He goes up against Canada’s Jeremy Petley (14-9-1). He trains out of the London Fight Factory and has competed a lot for Bellator and BAMMA. It’s likely he’ll try and use his strong grappling in this one as his kickboxing defence has shown holes in the past. Can he handle the wave of violence coming towards him?

Kingsley Crawford (8-3) is on a roll at the moment. He’s another with a three fight win streak, including some fantastic anaconda and brabo chokes along the way. The GB Top Team man is still only 24 years old and has no ceiling to his talents. His losses have generally been to great wrestlers. “The Silent Assassin” is dangerous everywhere. Reece McEwan (4-1) is potentially that Achilles heel. The Scot trains out of the infamous Griphouse in Glasgow. His wins have all used his strong grappling to get them into position, and then finishing with either a submission or ground and pound. I have a feeling this one is going to be won in the scrambles. Both lads have a wide array of submissions in their locker, whoever leaves a limb or neck in the open is likely to have it snatched.

Will Currie (7-2) is a future title challenger. If we’re talking about inventive grapplers, he’s your guy. He’s got victories via keylock, americana, arm triangle and rear naked choke. He showed an improvement in his striking last time out, finishing the fight in the first with punches and elbows. He’s must see tv. Next man up to test him is Naglis Kanišauskas (5-1). The young Lithuanian prospect has already fought at top promotions Oktagon and UAE Warriors. Along with his five wins, he’s got another two on top of it in custom rules bouts so has very similar experience to Currie. He is also a submission whizz. His poisons have included triangles, rear naked chokes and armbars. Also like his opponent, he won his last fight with a thirteen second TKO. Whatever happens in this one, it should be a fun battle of future prospects.

Nathan Fletcher (6-1) returns after losing his title shot against Dom Wooding at CW 127. The Next Gen Liverpool man is a rear naked choke machine, with five of his wins coming via his favourite submission. He showed improvements on the feet, however suffered a big knockout last time so it will be interesting to see if that dented his confidence. Araik Margarian (25-11) comes in with the experience advantage and is a submission fighter himself. The Frenchman is dangerous wherever the grappling takes place, however his last fight was a rear naked choke loss. Is that an omen for what’s to come?

A Swedish civil war will spill into the English capital on Friday night. CW viewers already know and love Tobias Harila (10-2). “Bad Intentions” is a must watch from walkout to the end of the fight. He’s like a terminator and will march forward without a care in the world to throw bombs. He can take a licking and it’s not going to stop him. Compatriot Samuel Bark (4-1) has come from the Fight Club Rush scene with a stop off in UAE Warriors. He is a Muay Thai fighter and he’s going to try and copy the William Gomis model of using technique and footwork to outpoint Harila. Swedish blood will be spilled and hopefully a rivalry will be put to bed.

There’s a fun little bantamweight bout hidden amongst the big names. Sam Spencer (6-3) is looking to bounce back after a defeat in his CW debut to Reece McEwan (all his losses have come to someone with Mc in the surname). He generally fights with his heart on his sleeve and is willing to go out on his shield to win. Most of his wins have been via TKO, with a few submissions and decisions sprinkled in. Adam Amarasinghe (6-3) is a fantastic striker with big power for the weight. He’s looking to get back to winning ways after losing to Creasey and a no contest in his last two appearances. He’s not one to shy away from a challenge. Both men take chances and I can see someone’s lights being turned off early.

There will be a battle of the Baltics on the prelims. Jesse Urholin (8-0) is a mean, mean man. The Finn like to take people down and beat them to a pulp with some of the most damaging ground and pound in the business. He’s 2-0 in the yellow gloves. Madars Fleminas (9-3) is fighting out of Grimsby these days. “The Latvian Express” has a solid wrestling background with an explosive hard hitting striking game. He has come acropper occasionally with submissions. Finland will try and drag it down and smash, Latvia will try and get a knockout on the feet. The space in between will be fascinating to see.

There’s a lot of prospects on the card, Lone’er Kavanagh (3-0) is one of the most exciting. The GB Top Team man has shown a vast skill set in his three finishes to date. His striking is beautiful and technical. On the mat, he’s done well with his wrestling and submissions. He looks like a guy who can win anywhere. Ander Sanchez (1-0) is an IMMAF graduate. The Spaniard burst onto the pro scene with a 30 second knockout punch against Connor Wilson at CW 135. Neither man has needed a judge’s scorecard yet, I wouldn’t bet on them needing them on Friday.

From one top prospect to another, Luke Riley (3-0) has looked absolutely legit so far. The Next Gen Liverpool man is part of the new wave of talent coming through the gym. He’s finished all three pro bouts on the feet, which is a testament to the quality of his striking. He’s also shown some good takedown defence. Simon Kevin (1-0) is the next challenger on deck. The Frenchman is a karate fighter who won his debut with a guillotine choke. He’s going to need that karate to manage the distance and if he’s unable to do so, it’s likely Riley will take over and finish it within the distance.

The opening fight on this stacked card contains IMMAF veteran Omiel Brown (3-1). The Team Renegade man has shown strength in all facets of the game and won his first two fights via guillotine. He had a nice second round TKO win last time out at CW 135. Alexander Lindgren (3-1) has an even deeper IMMAF background. He’s come through the Fight Club Rush system and boasts a couple of wins via TKO and one via D’arce choke. Both are at the same stage of their career and will be looking to make the jump forward.

Cage Warriors 141 is live and exclusive on Friday night on UFC Fight Pass. The prelims kick off at 17:30 BST and the main card gets underway at 21:00 BST.

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.