Welsh MMA has grown significantly over the past few years, with several fighters representing the country in MMA’s leading promotion – the UFC. However, almost every one of those fighters made their names in UK-based promotion, Cage Warriors.
After the success of the Cage Warriors Academy Welsh event in Ebbw Vale on Saturday afternoon, here are five fighters that you should watch as they rise through the ranks in their aspirations of MMA glory.
Starting things off, we have 16-year-old, Befan Hall. Still so young, Hall is certainly someone to keep your eye on. As only an amateur, but progressing with help from Shore MMA gym, the home of UFC bantamweight, Jack Shore, he kept his perfect record intact after beating Cory Bethall in the first fight of the day.
The fight started with Hall immediately pushing for the takedown and getting some effective ground and pound work in early. In the second round, he found the finish after yet another terrific takedown and what can only be described as experienced grappling. The heavy punches on the floor were too much for Bethall who saw the referee wave it off with Hall the victor.
It wasn’t just the method of victory that highlights Hall as someone to keep an eye on but his grappling and especially his takedowns. Aspirations of reaching UFC gold, keep your eyes on his rise.
Someone who seemed to be somewhat a fan-favorite on the night was 15-year-old Ioan Thomas. Walking out and receiving thunderous applause, Thomas, who also fights out of Shore MMA, picked up his win inside the cage and did it in impressive style.
His fight began with some heavy pressure from his opponent, Callum Davies, but despite this, Ioan secured the takedown and almost got the job done early with his ground strikes. In the second, he continued to maximize his takedowns and his wrestling and just as he did in the first, almost had the fight stopped with some vicious ground strikes getting through.
It wasn’t until the third and final round that his wrestling proved too good for his opponent and after beating his opponent up for three solid rounds, the ref stopped the fight and the crowd exploded. It became clear after Ioan’s fight that Shore MMA was going to have an impressive night and the levels of wrestling and jiu-jitsu were going to prove too much for most.
Still so young, it’ll be worth seeing how far the Welsh fighter can go.
A strong contender for the finish of the night was 22-year-old James Wamsley. Fighting out of LD Fighters in Exeter, he came into his fight with another perfect record. Wamsley took on Lewis Williams and their scrap did not disappoint. Both guys came out and secured takedowns early.
On the feet, the two traded heavy blows back and forth with both landing, but just 56 seconds into the fight, it was James who landed the knockout blow which sent Williams down to the canvas. A devastating right hook, followed by a McGregor-style strut made this fight/finish a real spectacle for all in attendance.
“As far as that tragic walk off is concerned, I had no idea how to react and apparently that’s what came naturally to me.”
Wamsley remains still new to the sport, having only trained for just over a year and just two fights under his belt but the ferocity and the power are certainly something to keep your eyes on.
Those in attendance on Saturday were treated to numerous first-round finishes and a fourth of the night came from Torquay-based, Josh Archer. Fighting out of Lions Den gym and Fightworx MMA, his fight began with Archer getting his opponent, Elis Westacott (fighting out of Shore MMA), down with a right hand that knocked him off balance.
After some ground strikes and a first submission attempt, Westacott was forced to tap after the second attempt. A rear-naked choke that showcased Archer’s impressive work on the ground in his MMA debut.
“I love everything about MMA. The training, the nerves before a fight, and the thrill of winning”.
With two Thai Boxing fights also under his wing, his range of martial arts highlights him as a real prospect, and still only 24, the English fighter is becoming a real prospect.
Finally, we have 20-year-old Kenzie Jones. Yet another Shore MMA fighter and yet another amazing show of grappling and jiu-jitsu. A current record of 4-0 and a career trajectory that can only go up, Jones picked up another impressive finish to his MMA resumé.
The Welshman began his fight with Kirk Heely, with a big head kick and got the takedown in the early stages. Jones brutally dropped Heely onto his head and after some more quality grappling, he got the submission just a minute and a half into the fight. A d’arce choke submission and another win for Team Shore.
Another young fighter with dreams of competing in the UFC, the featherweight amateur will continue to work towards his goals and is someone I advise you to keep up to date with.
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Featured Image credits to Cage Warriors Academy Wales