Oktagon 56 Preview; Aby v Creasy 2, Fleury, Frimpong, Rock Return

Oktagon will bring their massive show back to the United Kingdom this Saturday evening. Oktagon 56 goes down in Birmingham, the second biggest city in England and located in the midlands of the island. This will be the promotion’s third time on British soil, and there will be thirteen fights for the fans to enjoy, including one for a title.

A rematch three years in the making will top this card and the vacant OKMMA Flyweight Championship will be on the line. Aaron Aby (16-8-1) is an inspirational character who’s defied all odds to get where he is. The former Cage Warriors standout has overcome cancer and cystic fibrosis to put together a great career. The Welshman is a very good submission player with a mean choke game. He was victorious in his last outing against Christopher Daniel, winning a decision. Sam Creasey (18-5) is an ultra-experienced former CW flyweight champion. The Englishman makes his first appearance for Oktagon. The 36-year-old is a handful everywhere. His speed on the feet causes opponents fits, and his chokes catch even the best practitioners on the hop. Never a dull moment with Sam “Urai”. Creasey won the first outing via decision, and Aby will have to show a different game plan to come away with the gold, and striking will likely need to be the key.

Saturday will see a postponed TipSport Gamechanger Lightweight Tournament bout take place. Akonne Wanliss (7-2) was unable to take to the cage in Prague last March after a confrontation with Reza Medadi left him unable to perform. This will be a hometown show for the Jamaican born athlete, training in Team Renegade in the southern suburbs of the city. A massive Star Wars fan, “J3di” is a Bellator veteran and has a great rounded skill-set. He has big power on the feet and a slick BJJ game. Defeats have come to Alfie Davis and Kingsley Crawford, who aren’t canon fodder. As a result of the earlier squirmish, “Mad Dog” Medadi will be persona non grata in the corner of Sahil Siraj (9-2). The Afghani is a recent signing from KSW, where he has shown his explosive power and striking skill with a first round knockout victory over Ahmed Abdulkadirov. Based in Sweden, he’s known across Europe for that one-shot stopping power. Wanliss has a few more ways to win this one, however he’ll need to use his physicality to do so.

Shem Rock (9-1-1) returns after his weigh-in shenanigans cost him the opportunity to fight Jaroslav Pokorný last November. The Next Gen Liverpool man is a submission whizz with a strong wrestling game. The 30-year-old also has a decent kickboxing style, and is not devoid of power. Stefano Catacoli (7-1) beat Jan Široký in his Oktagon debut in December. The GB Top Team prospect is a decision fighter whose main finishing threat is in the grappling exchanges. The 25-year-old Englishman has a competitive striking game. Rock’s greater experience should allow him to get his wrestling game going, and likely to search for a rear naked choke to finish. Catacoli might cause some issues on the feet, however he’s still looking for his first pro knockout.

Will Fleury (11-3) returns to action with a chip on his shoulder and a hunger to fight for the championship. The Tipperary man trains out of SBG HQ alongside the likes of Johnny Walker and Karl Moore, and will be looking to show his raw, powerful grappling game to a new audience. The Bellator veteran has a rake of experience on the European scene and has beaten a lot of good talent. The 35-year-old lands damage when on top of you and has an ever improving Jiu Jitsu weaponry at his disposal. Daniel Škvor (7-3) is a former Glory kickboxer and an Oktagon mainstay. The Czech comes from a Muay Thai background and lands powerful knees and punches at will. The 35-year-old’s submission game is starting to show the fruits of his labour as well. Ultimately this will come down to Fleury’s takedown attempts. Škvor can hurt him on the feet, however he’ll be a fish up a tree with his back to the mat.

Andrej Kalašnik (10-5) is another Oktagon regular making the trip to Old Blighty. The Czech has found it tough as of late, winning only one of his last four. The Brno man has a power striking game and can also put a shift in on the mat. Liam Etebar (8-3) is looking to break a two-fight skid against extremely tough opposition. The Englishman looked great before coming unstuck at the upper end of European MMA, and will be keen to show he belongs here. He’s similar enough to Kalašnik in that he can cause problems on the feet, and he can do damage on the floor. This one will be a coin toss.

George Staines (1-0) is one of England’s top prospects. The Hull man had an extensive and impressive amateur career before turning pro last November with a submission win over Denis Frimpong in the Oktagon Challenge: England vs Ireland finale. The 23-year-old has a guillotine that would make the French blush, and he’ll snatch that neck if you leave it out for a split second. He’s also a very accomplished kickboxer, which should develop with time. Tomáš Cigánik (1-1) makes his Oktagon debut and flies into enemy territory. The Slovak is no stranger to the British Isles after performing as an amateur for Cage Warriors, Akuma and Clan Wars. The Trnava man has a kickboxing background. Staines has the fight IQ to follow the path of least resistance here, and that’s in the grappling realms.

Jakub Dohnal (12-4) makes his twelfth walk for the promotion, winning the majority and only slipping up to the division’s top guys. The Czech is also a Cage Warriors veteran, losing out to George Hardwick. The 32-year-old’s main strength is his submission game, where he’s won five of his fights. Other than that, he can hang anywhere and is very good at getting a decision. James Hendin (8-2) is a very exciting martial artist who rose to prominence on the Cage Warriors scene, including unsuccessfully challenging Jordan Vucenic for the featherweight title. This German born fighter trains out of Team Fish Tank in the North of England, a gym packed with top U.K. talents. The 26-year-old will have you on the edge of the seat, an aggressive striker who can knock out all comers, a scrambler who can snatch necks in an instant and a hard out over fifteen minutes. Let’s see how the change of scenery affects his fight style, Dohnal is a tricky customer to face in a debut.

Denis Frimpong (2-2) is a character. If you’ve ever seen him on film or been in a room with him, he’ll have told you how good he is. The 29-year-old trains out of Manchester Top Team and also under the tutelage of striking coach Collie Mahon at the Dublin Combat Academy. The Irishman is a handful on the feet and has a decent submission game to back it up. Confidence is high and he’s an aggressive competitor. Callum Mullen (6-2) is still searching for his first Oktagon win, and he’s hoping Saturday is third time lucky after falling to defeat the last two times. The Englishman is a well rounded fighter who’s not afraid of mixing it up. His kickboxing game is powerful and he’s dangerous in wrestling exchanges. Frimpong can’t hang around too long with him on the mat defensively, he needs to use his combinations and power to trouble his opponent. Mullen has never been finished however and may feel he can sneak in a guillotine choke later in the fight.

Mick Stanton (12-8) is another new signing moving over from Cage Warriors. “The Huyton Hammer” was the middleweight champion until his loss to Dario Bellandi in November. The PFL veteran is one for the “records are for DJs club”. The 37-year-old is as tough as old boots with a strong grappling game with big power in the striking exchanges and in ground and pound positions. When he’s rolling, he dishes out misery. Kamil Wojciechowski (8-1) comes in from FEN where he competed for their middleweight strap last May. The Pole is a heavy hitting kickboxer who dabbles in arm locks. The 34-year-old likes to take care of business early and is a finisher. Stanton hasn’t been defeated by strikes since 2017, coincidentally to a Birmingham based Pole, Łukasz Świrydowicz. He also lost by submission to Marcin Wójcik, so maybe Polish fighters are his kryptonite.

Max Handangić (9-6-1) makes his return to the Oktagon cage for the first time since December 2022. The Bosnian had a rocky start as a pro going 1-4 in his first five. The 27-year-old has had a lot more success since then, winning eight of the last eleven. The Czech based man is a good kickboxer with vicious elbows and a serviceable submission ability. James Dixon (4-2) has been at this game a long time and had a stellar unbeaten amateur career. The Englishman didn’t turn pro until 2019, and has fought exclusively for Golden Ticket Promotions since. The 29-year-old is a heavy hitting striker who wants to be in the shower long before the third round comes around. Handangić‘s experience is going to be hard to get past.

Ammari Diedrick (4-3) is back in search of his first promotional win. The Englishman is a former Glory kickboxer who’s plied his trade around Europe with Ares and LFL. The Londoner is now based in nearby Derby, and he’s a heavy hitter who uses knees, elbows, kicks and punches to make the referee step in on the regular. Daniel Hromek (3-3) is likely to walk straight out to the middle and meet his opponent right in his element. The Slovak is a Muay Thai stylist who will be looking for a big punch to end it all. Fireworks are likely here, and I’d back Diedrick to get it done on home soil.

Beau Gavin (0-1) has been around a long time and we haven’t seen him since 2018. As an amateur, the Englishman has fought for Cage Warriors, BAMMA and at an early IMMAF tournament. Striking is how he won fights back then, throwing big punches. Mbaye Gaye (debut) turns pro after a perfect amateur career. The Englishman has shown he can mix it up everywhere, utilising good wrestling with some power on the feet. Someone’s 0 has got to go.

The YouTube free fight features the women’s flyweight division. Megan Morris (2-2) is a multiple time IMMAF veteran. The Englishwoman has fought for Ares and had a great debut win for Oktagon via armbar last October. Aitana Álvarez (5-5) is a fighter who’s found her groove, winning three on the bounce. The Spaniard is a KSW and Combate Global veteran, and is predominantly a plucky striker. She has a wrestling game however I’m not sure it’s at Morris’ level, and I’d imagine her game plan is to keep it standing and to outpoint her opponent. Both are young in their careers and looking for consistency.

Oktagon 56 is live from Birmingham on Saturday night from 17:00 Irish time on Channel 4, Oktagon.tv and DAZN.

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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