The Severe Spotlight: Sam Creasey

This weekend was awash with MMA. The UFC, PFL and Cage Warriors all staged events. In the drowning waves of three events, it is easy to lose sight of dry land. Standout performances can be submerged amidst the task of keeping heads above water. Albeit a short fight, a buoyant performance was that of Sam Creasey, retaining his Cage Warriors 125lb title in the Ebbw Vale Centre, Wales.

Before we dissect the performance, let us first understand the weight of the context carried on the shoulders of Creasey as he stepped into the cage on Saturday night.

Saturday 23rd March 2018. Cage Warriors 92: Super Saturday. Two cards in one night. 9-1 Sam Creasey steps up for his first attempt at the 125lb Cage Warriors title. Creasey loses to Nathan Greyson via 3rd round TKO. Six months later, he turns in a spectacular performance against Connor Hignett, stopping him inside a round. A unanimous decision win over Andy Young sets up a quick three-month turnaround for his second crack at the title.

Saturday 29th June 2019. Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions. Six champions were crowned that night. Once again Sam Creasey was not one of them. Samir Faiddine claims the once again vacant 125lb belt with a KO/TKO stoppage in round 3.

Decision wins over the highly touted Nicolas Leblond, and the tough Aaron Aby sandwich a clinical third round stoppage over Adam Amarsinghe.

The third shot at the 125lb title is set. The same vacant tile that eluded him previously is on the line against yet another highly touted prospect in Luke Shanks. Not many fighters get a third shot at Cage Warriors gold, commentator Brad Wharton on the night verbalised the heartache of watching someone of Creasey’s likeability and work ethic not being able to step over the final hurdle, and the importance of this chance potentially being his last.

At 33 years of age, in that likely final chance to drag himself over the precipice of the Cage Warriors mountain; Sam Creasey stops Luke Shanks in round 3 with a guillotine choke.

As with all Sam Creasey stories, he is forced away from the path of least resistance. Post-fight, Shanks disputes the victory. Herein lies the beauty of the Creasey story; well within his rights to move on from Shanks and onto potential greener pastures, he opts for what he determines to be the honourable route, accepting a rematch.

Saturday 11th December 2021. Cage Warriors 132. Luke Shanks misses the flyweight limit by 2.2lbs removing the possibility of him becoming the Flyweight champion with a win in York Hall. A win he claims, stopping Sam Creasey in the first round to strikes.

Once again, chaos, turbulence and adversity stand in the way of Creasey who like in all situations before, smiles, picks himself up and walks onward. Back to the heavy bag in his back garden, back to walking his dogs in the hills, back to preparing himself to be a better martial artist than yesterday.

A chance to sear the undisputed brand into the leather of his Cage Warriors title July of 2022, at CW141. His opponent, Dylan Hazan, missed weight so drastically that the fight was called off. What was Creasey’s reaction? He headed straight to social media and thanked fans for the love and support and took another fight three weeks later against 10-2 Stipe Brčić.

That brings us to Saturday 13th August. Cage Warriors 142, Ebbw Vale Centre, Wales.

A stoic Creasey paces up and down his corner, brought to the corner, read his final instructions, a final nod to his opponent, and backs up to his starting position. An air of calm, tranquillity etched across his frame.

These things are often intangibles, but in contrast to his opponent who looked itchy, adverting his gaze to distractions outside of the cage, Creasey was tunnel vision, dialled in.

Creasey began this fight dominating the centre with footwork and feints alone. Stalking into the centre with his wide stance, he bounces his lead left leg into the pocket at an angle. His back leg does not stray from its linear position, his early movement depicts the shape of an anchor, his back leg the neck and his front foot carving the hook into the ground. That angle keeps Brčić honest, as the illusion of space is created. Creasey is not committing to enter the pocket, and is offering Brčić the outside space, but a left hook or right hand is there should he make a choice too rashly.

Hip/knee feints, footwork resets and head movement are the bedrock of the Creasey output as the battle for superiority of foot position continues. A culmination of reads have been read, the most prominent being that Brčić likes to start with a low leg kick, whether in orthodox or stepping through to southpaw and throwing, at the same time there is a tendency to drop the lead hand after bringing it high to the head.

Brčić is struggling to find a stance with which he can get a reaction from Creasey out of, and begins to switch with more ferocity.

The setup to the right hand is gorgeous. Creasey takes a slight step to his right, Brčić decides to strafe, hips squared laterally across the Creasey line, as he lands in southpaw, his lead leg is deeper in the pocket than he realises, so much so, the lead leg of Creasey is essential toe to toe with the Croatian.

Here comes the first bit of magic. Creasey lowers his level as he steps through with the right hand already loaded, shivering in the chamber of his arm. He sells Brčić with a look at his hips, telling the Croat that this wasn’t a switch step right hand, but instead a penetration step to his currently bladed stance. For a split second the hands come together, ready to down block – but as they come together, he see’s the shot headed to his chin and its too late.

The first shot thrown from Creasey sends Brčić to the canvas. Creasey advances, using the trifecta of a sprawl, along with a shovel uppercut and a left-hand post to disrupt the head of Brčić as he attempts to wrestle his way to safety. He rounds the corner into a front head lock as that shovel uppercut immediately finds its way under the neck, the left post grabs the fat of the glove, the outside of his hand, and his hips rise to allow sufficient space for Creasey to wrap his own legs around Brčić and prevent escape.

Brčić does a good job of delaying the finish, initially causing friction in the entanglement setup, forcing Creasey to settle for a half guard variation, trapping only one leg without a clean purchase of control on the hip.

Creasey has already transitioned to a high-elbow variation from his initial traditional setup. This is intelligent fighting. The value of the high-elbow variation is that should your opponent manage to fight the hips successfully, the arm locking the choke in place acts as a frame, so should the opponent find their way to what is often called the “safe” side in side control, they are not safe, the frame allows the choke to continue being applied.

Brčić didn’t get that far. He did manage to tripod, after posting on the hips and attempt to bail to his back, but Creasey aided by his concaved shoulders rolled with the momentum Brčić had created, taking the top position, and pulling his opponent up to allow space for him to insert a more traditional drape and frame configuration with his legs. He didn’t need to settle into that configuration, as Brčić was forced to tap.

Undisputed Cage Warriors Flyweight Champion is Sam Creasey. The road less travelled is one littered with gold, from his gloves to his soul, Creasey is covered in it.