Cage Warriors 161 Preview; Hughes returns, FAI, Team Ryano, Team KF fighters in action

Cage Warriors are back on the Emerald Isle this Saturday with a card filled with Irish talent. The RDS in Dublin will host around 2,500 fans at CW 161, with eleven fights scheduled to take place in the Dublin 4 venue.

Paul Hughes (9-1) headlines the card in what could be a farewell performance, as he’s hotly tipped to go to the UFC in the not too distant future. The Irishman is the current CW Featherweight champion, and will move up to lightweight on this occasion. The Ulsterman is on a three-fight win streak, a fact made even more impressive considering they came against Morgan Charriere, Jordan Vucenic and James Hendin. The Fight Academy Ireland fighter is a gem on the feet, possessing a beautiful striking style, his boxing in particular. He can grapple with the best of them and isn’t afraid to take on opponents at their own game. Hughes could do with a finish to cement his claim to get into the big show. Jan Quaeyhaegens (11-4) will be the welcoming party at 155lbs. Known as “Q-Bomb” due to the power in his punches, the Belgian is a big threat in the striking realm. It’s not just fists that are flying, he’s lethal with elbows and knees as well. The 30-year-old doesn’t do decisions and leaves it all out there win or lose. It’ll be up to Hughes to stop the countdown before it hits zero.

Mason Jones (12-2) takes part in a humdinger of a co-main event. The Welsh Dragon is undefeated in Cage Warriors and is a former two-weight champion in the promotion. The ex-UFC man is aiming to build his skills up to have another crack at MMA’s top table. The 28-year-old is a delight to watch on the feet and has laid waste to plenty of foes in the yellow gloves. The Welshman has decent wrestling when he’s not knocking people out. Yann Liasse (9-2) made a name for himself over in KSW before switching over to Cage Warriors, where he was unsuccessful in a title shot against George Hardwick back in April. The Luxembourger represented his country at multiple IMMAF championships and is very solid wherever the fight goes. The 32-year-old is a great submission player, specialising in rear naked chokes. He’s also solid on the feet and poses a serious threat with his knees. Alongside all that, he’s got the best hair in MMA.

Team KF’s Ryan Shelley (6-1) tasted defeat for the first time in Dublin back in April against Tobias Harila, so will be spoiling to get in there again. The Dubliner has a Taekwondo background and he’s shown to be a good allrounder by adding solid grappling and submissions to his repertoire. He is tipped to show a meaner side on Saturday. Jordy Bakkes (5-2-1) is another one representing the BENELUX region. The Dutchman started out as a judoka and has one submission win via arm-triangle choke. The 29-year-old is a tough cookie and has never been finished. Decisions have been his currency so far.

James Sheehan (6-3) is also eager to get back to winning ways after losing to Oban Elliott in the 3Arena five months ago. The Team Ryano man has only lost to UFC fighters and Cage Warriors champions. The Dubliner has a great boxing game which complements his solid wrestling very well. He’s not one to take easy fights, and has been a credit to his gym so far. Olli Santalahti (13-5) is a tricky veteran who’s competed at a competitive level in Europe. The Finn has a damaging kickboxing style and is a submission threat in the scrambles. The 29-year-old is another whose losses were to top European talent.

Leon Hill (6-1) is on a six-fight win streak after losing his debut at extremely short notice. The Team KF man is nicknamed “The Professional” and it’s one the more fitting pseudonyms in the sport. The Louth man is a nightmare to have on top of you on the ground, and he loves to land damaging ground and pound. When those elbows rain down, you better not be under them, not that you’d want to stand with him either. Ieuan Davies (3-0) is a similar type of fighter. If you try to take him down, he’s very good at defending with a guillotine. The Welshman has a dangerous kickboxing game and also loves a bit of ground and pound.

Paddy McCorry (3-1) made one of the biggest statements of the night with his win in Dublin last April. The Fight Academy Ireland man thrilled fans with a head kick followed swiftly with a flying knee to put an end to proceedings. The 25-year-old is an exciting fighter who can do a bit of everything, and always puts on a show. Samir Kadi (4-1) had a great CW debut against the dangerous Michael Tchamou, winning with grounded strikes. The Frenchman will look to offer a similar style of offensive threat, he’ll go first to try and neutralise his Irish foe.

Taka Mhandu (3-2) is starting to show the signs of his overall game clicking into place. The Team KF man has always had the talent, it just didn’t always show. “The Cat” put on a striking clinic in July, stopping Grant Osborne in a punishing display. When on top form, his movement and footwork is pure art. Alexander Sasha Pirev (6-4-1) started his pro career as a knockout artist, and his next two wins came via submission. The Moldovan doesn’t hang around for the judges, he wants it done early, sometimes to his detriment. He has struggled on occasion on the feet, so can’t afford to be off his game on Saturday. His method of victory will come via grappling exchanges.

Ger Harris (3-1) will strap on the yellow gloves for the first time. The “GTA Selector” has represented his country at IMMAF level. The Irishman has a lethal armbar and is an overall handful in the submission game. This man is a star waiting to burst out. Ryan Hewitt (1-1) succumbed to a heel hook in his CW debut back in March. The Englishman prefers to stay on the feet where he can use his dangerous striking.

Sean Clancy Jr. (2-0) has been a delight at the start of his pro career, putting together two knockout performances in-a-row. The Scot has shown at amateur level that he has some submissions up his sleeve as well. Milton Afonso Cabral (4-3) is not a boring character and is known to Irish fans by his head kick knockout win over Paddy Wilkinson. The Portuguese isn’t hard to game plan for, he’s coming for your head.

Solomon Simon (2-0) was always a solid name at amateur and has been perfect since going pro. The Waterford man has represented his nation at the Four Nations championship, as well as the IMMAFs. The Team Ryano man has good wrestling and punishes with ground and pound. He also carries power in his striking. Marko Sarasjärvi (3-0) looked great in his CW debut, a rear naked choke win within two minutes back in May. That’s been his go-to move since his amateur days, sending opponents gently to sleep.

Nik Bagley (3-1) is another with great amateur experience, taking his time before turning professional. The Englishman is a great submission fighter, securing the tap in all three of his wins. Michael Quinn (debut) has been competing on the Irish amateur scene for quite a while, and will accept payment for the first time this Saturday, the Northern Irishman has a good submission game and is good at taking the back. This is his first bout since 2019 so it will be interesting to see how he’s developed since. 

Cage Warriors 161 is live and exclusive this Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. The action kicks off at 18:30.

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.

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