Cage Warriors came back with a bang this past weekend with three consecutive cards of non-stop action. After a lengthy absence from shows, thanks to the global pandemic, Europe’s biggest MMA promotion had a lot to catch up on. The hype surrounding these shows was real after months without an event, but they knocked it out of the park with three back-to-back nights, stacked to the brim with fantastic fights.
With a dizzying mixture of finishes and multiple belts changing hands, the trilogy had it all. There was nary a moment to catch your breath once each show got underway, and in recapping them all it’s hard to know where to start. So let’s break it down show-by-show and go over the biggest moments from each.
Cage Warriors 114
Cage Warriors 114 was a night of finishes. In both the prelims and main card there was rarely a fight getting left to the judges, which makes sense when you remember how long these warriors had been stuck in lockdown waiting to mix it up again. I’m sure the fans appreciated this as it made the first show a great night of action for all viewing.
The first cards’ prelims ended with quite the shock as Cage Warriors newcomer Michal Figlak (3-0) finished the then-undefeated Welshman Oban Elliott (3-1) in the second round. I said in my preview that this was one fight not to miss, as Oban had been on an absolute tear since his amateur days, finishing every one of his opponents in the first round.
Oban had his toughest challenge yet in front of him in the undefeated Figlak, but I don’t think anyone expected such a one-sided demolition job as the Polish man provided. In matching the Welshman’s aggressive striking and out-wrestling him at every point, Figlak dominated from start to finish.
By the final moments of the second, we saw a defeated Oban just trying to survive until the bell, but a sharp right hand from Figlak sent the Welshman to the canvas, the ref stopping the fight moments later. This victory is monumental for the Cage Warriors newcomer, who is sure to move up the ranks quickly following this excellent performance.
In the main card, another Welshman in Aaron “King” Khalid (9-5) got himself back in the win column with a flash submission of Mick “The Huyton Hammer” Stanton. Only 30 seconds into the first round Khalid ended up on the mats with Stanton and caught The Hammer in a deadly anaconda choke, leaving him out cold after he refused to tap.
We also saw Michal Figlak’s brother Mateusz (4-1) catch known talent Madars Fleminas in a rear-naked choke in the first, making it a cool 2-0 for the Figlak brothers that night.
The main event for Cage Warriors 114 was an absolute treat. In the flyweight division, we saw resident champ Samir Silverback Faiddine (11-7) lose his belt to up and comer Luke Shanks after the remorseless challenger put in 5 rounds of pure graft. This was unfortunate for Faiddine since it was his first title defense, but after the shift that Luke Shanks put in, he earned that belt twice over.
The fight had a little bit of everything, but the story was ultimately about the unrelenting pressure and wrestling from Luke Shanks. Not one to rest on his morels and pick away, Shanks was forever moving forward, throwing strikes and blasting for takedowns on Samir with ground and pound to follow once he got it to the mats. He tried a few submissions at certain points, but props must be given to Faiddine who showed a champion’s mentality in never giving up and escaping each attempt.
That said, despite the champ’s best efforts, Luke Shanks simply proved too much to handle. His work ethic was unprecedented, and after 5 rounds, he had the belt to show for it. An amazing end to the first Cage Warriors show in 6 months.
Cage Warriors 115
Cage Warriors 115 saw yet another slew of decisive finishes. Those poor judges barely got a look in, but that’s probably for the best really isn’t it?
Ian “The Future” Garry (4-0) kicked things off with an emphatic finish of George McManus (2-2) in the second round. Garry is one Irishman I expect to see in title contention in the near future. His measured dismantling of McManus makes it 8 straight wins to his name. The kind of hard but clinical striking we saw from him Friday night put him a cut above the rest, while his spirited attitude outside the cage made him an instant fan favorite and media darling. Keep an eye on Ian “The Future” Garry.
Next up we saw heated Brazilian Wesley Maia (6-4) fight at a breath-taking pace against Englishman Adam Wilson (5-1). Wilson came into the fight undefeated at professional, while Maya had only one more victory than defeat. Despite this, the Brazilian came out impassioned, lively, and quick as a whippet, earning a stoppage between rounds on the bloodied Adam Wilson and proving that records aren’t the end of the story.
On a more somber note, Cage Warriors 115 also saw the retirement of UFC veteran Craig “The Thundercat” White (14-2). Craig came into his co-main bout on a losing streak of 4 against former Cage Warriors champ James Webb (8-2). Truly a battle of lofty credentials. Unfortunately for White, the former champ caught him in a head and arm triangle in the very first round, leading Craig to call it a day, leaving his gloves in the cage to mark the end of his career. It’s always sad to see a fighter retire after a loss, especially on such an unfortunate streak, but I wish Craig all the best in whatever comes next.
In a surprising turn of events, Cartwright utilized his known wrestling chops offensively for a change. Usually, the Mancunian keeps his wrestling for defensive measures, but this time he shot in on Gerardo in the early minutes of the first and took him straight to the mats. From there, it was all academic, as within moments Cartwright had Fanny locked up in a head and arm triangle which the Dutchman had no answer for.
Another short night at the office for Cartwright, who appears to have no equal competition left in European MMA. The Mancunian appears to have the ability to finish guys from anywhere he wants, and with his lively personality making media days a cinch, I expect a certain Dana White to be on the phone to this young man very soon.
Cage Warriors 116
If the previous two cards were nights of finishes, Cage Warriors 116 was the night of decisions. Though the card was no less electric because of it. In MMA, it’s somewhat rare to have a full card of absolute bangers, so it was fantastic to see three consecutive cards deliver exactly that.
Opening the main card we saw Jordan “The Epidemic” Vucenic gain a split decision victory over Steve “Diddy Kong” Aimable, in what I thought was a bit of an iffy decision. It was a close fight where both men brought their best, a battle mostly of tense striking exchanges between two highly focused fighters.
But by the end, I felt Aimable’s intelligent aggression and quick counters had him up on the scorecards by way of landing more significant strikes. Vucenic on the other hand scored his points mostly with some successful takedowns.
It’s the age-old question again in MMA of how to balance scoring for strikes against successful takedowns, positional advancement, and grappling. I think a new scoring system is sorely needed so we can move past the ill-suited boxing method. But if you’ve been an MMA fan for 5 minutes you’ve likely heard this a million times already so there’s no use going into that here. Regardless, an excellent fight to kick off Cage Warriors 116.
In the hotly-anticipated co-main event, it was a battle of the Celts as Ireland’s own undefeated Paul Hughes (6-0) fought Scotsman Aidan “The Phenomenal” Stephen (7-3). Hughes came into the fight on a 5-fight professional win streak, supremely confident his 0 was going nowhere. Stephens won his last bout, but lost the previous one, and came in focused and ready.
The bout was mostly a grueling wrestling match, as Aidan began grappling after feeling the sharp power of Paul Hughes’ rapid strikes. Aidan tried many a takedown attempt, holding Hughes against the cage as best as he could, but the Irishman showed an uncanny ability to strike his way out of a bad situation. Short, tight body shots thrown in combos of 4 or 5 at a time managed to temporarily force Aidan to disengage. Aidan’s lack of success appeared to demotivate the Scotsman since as the fight progressed, he looked less and less as if he wanted to be there.
Ultimately, the Irishman’s skill and uncompromising work ethic got him a rear-naked choke over Aidan after reversing the roles and taking him down. Paul Hughes put on a punishing performance at Cage Warriors 116 and proved that he’s at home in the upper slots of the main card.
In the final fight of the trilogy, the main event of Cage Warriors 116 and emphatically capping off three nights of high-level MMA, Mason Jones made history. The undefeated lightweight champ became the first Welshman to hold two Cage Warriors belts simultaneously. He’s the first man to do it since The Notorious Conor McGregor way back in 2013 before his UFC stardom.
Moving up to welterweight for his shot at a second belt, The Dragon fought natural 170lbs’er Adam “The Love Doctor” Proctor and finished him in the very first round. I said in my breakdown of the fight that this would be the toughest challenge yet in Mason Jones’ career. Adam Proctor had only one loss on his record, and he came into the bout on a staggering 6-fight win streak.
This victory for the Welshman wasn’t without its fair share of adversity mind you. After nearly closing the fight in the opening minutes, The Love Doctor, a grappling specialist and dab hand at rear-naked chokes, got access to Mason’s back, and very nearly sunk in a submission that could have made Mason’s early success for naught.
But Mason managed to survive. Then, relying on his superior striking from his years of kickboxing and a brief stint as a professional boxer, Mason continually landed shots on Proctor, eating a few in the process but ultimately getting the better of the exchanges and eventually wobbling The Love Doctor for the second time in one round. A quick flurry of ill-defended strikes against the fence later, and ref Marc Goddard was forced to step in and stop it. In the time it takes to make a pot noodle, Mason Jones closed the show and became the first Cage Warriors champ champ in 7 years.
And that’s The Trilogy all wrapped up. Three nights, three cards, and a whole lot of fun. European MMA is back with an enormous bang, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next.
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