It’s happened, MMA has returned to Leeds. After nine months of meticulous planning, culminating in 48 hours’ worth of sheer panic, the guys at Almighty have show number one in the bank. So, how did it go?
Overall, the show was a success. We witnessed seventeen fights; twelve amateur and five professional. We saw two peachy knockouts, there were some slick submissions, we were treated to more blood than an early episode of The Walking Dead and we saw the crowning of the first belt holder for this fledgling promotion. There were obviously teething problems, the layout of the venue will need reviewing for future events, as the crowd was spread too far around the arena to generate a consistent atmosphere. The fighter’s walkouts could be cleaner if the cage entrance had been rotated 180 degrees and once the event brings in bigger crowds, the security will definitely have to be reviewed, as it would be all too easy for fans seated on the stage to storm the cage. However, these are easily resolved mainly aesthetic points, as the event ran smoothly, the action was superb, the timing was great, the MC on point and a good time was had by all.
The night was split into three sections; two amateur and one purely professional. The first section of the card contained four bouts. The show opened with a lightweight contest, dominated by Frederick Sjoie as he comfortably submitted Ray Skellern by rear naked choke in the first round. Fight number two gave us our first knockout of the evening in the light heavyweight bout between debutants Michael Mason and Richard Waite. As to be expected with a first fight, both athletes came out aggressively, with Mason landing the significant blows, giving him an immediate upper hand. He continued to land heavy overhand rights and right hooks, before Waite managed to take him down and recover slightly at the end of the first round. Round two was a dominant display from Mason. From the clinch position he stomped on the foot of his opponent and threw Waite to the floor. He then quickly transitioned to full mount, but rather than rain blows down on his opposite number, he attempted submission after submission, which Waite managed to fend off. As the third round started Mason adjusted his hips and threw up a devastating right roundhouse kick which landed plum on the side of Waite’s head. The Falcon Freestyle man stiffened and collapsed onto the canvas to raucous applause from the crowd.
Fight three was a lightweight bout between Adam Butterworth and Joakin Sharp-Bergersen. This was a clash of styles, as the Norwegian tried his utmost to drag the Brit down to the canvas at every opportunity. Butterworth had the clear advantage in the stand-up and coped admirably with the array of submissions Sharp-Bergersen tried to apply on him. After an entertaining back and forth, Butterworth managed to secure an armbar on Sharp-Bergersen with only three seconds remaining in the third and final round. Fight four saw Chris Green enter the cage for the fourth time in his amateur career to face debutant Luke Sutherland. Green wasted no time in welcoming the Spartan MMA man to competitive mixed martial arts, applying heavy pressure to Sutherland from the opening claxon. Each round followed the same formula, Green took Sutherland down and beat him up at every given opportunity, before defeating Sutherland by rear naked choke in round three. Although Green clearly won the bout, Sutherland shouldn’t be disheartened by his performance against a very strong opponent.
Section two opened with Ben Moss taking on a late replacement, Corrie Collins, in a catchweight bout. Moss meant business and quickly dispatched Collins, winning by first round kimura, to the obvious delight of his band of travelling fans. The sixth bout of the evening saw welterweights Ashley Gibson and Mark Grubic enter the cage. Both fighters started aggressively, but Grubic, already riding a three fight win streak, came out on top of the exchanges and dispatched his opponent with a first round TKO. Fight seven featured the first of three Polish fighters, when Steve Walker took on Marcin Bednarz in a light heavyweight clash. Bednarz landed some heavy shots, got some big takedowns and won via TKO from the mount position to much applause from the European contingent.
Popular flyweight Jack ‘The Captain’ Temple entered the arena next, taking on the experienced Reece Street. Temple quickly landed a takedown as a result of a Street slip as he attempted a front kick. Temple slickly took Street’s back, locked on a body triangle and sunk in the rear naked choke to take himself to 4-0 as an amateur. Fight nine was over before it started. Flyweights Nathan Allen and Khalid Patel had barely taken a breath before Allen woke up face first on the canvas after Patel rung his bell with a crisp right hook to his chin. The victory came after only eight seconds.
Fight ten featured the second Pole of the night, Sebastian Sroka, as he took on James Dowdle. The first round saw back and forth exchanges, with Sroka probably edging it as a result of the vicious body kicks he threw, leaving visible welts around Dowdle’s right kidney. The roles were reversed for round two with Sroka surviving full mount to reverse the Brit and cut him above his left eye. This didn’t deter Dowdle though, as he locked in a triangle looking to finish the fight. Sroka rolled, but Dowdle held onto the triangle, back into top position, raining down blows on his opponent immobile head. Sroka, unbelievably managed to escape again, gain side control and rain down blows on Dowdle’s already cut face, causing the referee to call in the cageside doctor. The medical expert called an end to proceedings, much to Dowdle’s frustration. From our position and from Dowdle’s reaction, it didn’t appear that the blood was affecting his vision; however, the decision stood and Sroka earned a debut victory.
Fight eleven featured AVT’s undefeated lightweight Dom Stringer (3-0) against Spartan MMA’s Luke Dalton (5-4). Stringer came racing out of the traps, forced Dalton up against the fence, took him down and delivered blow after blow with the referee calling a stop to proceedings after only 26 seconds of the first round. Fight twelve, and the last of the amateur card, saw Warren ‘Tank’ Mason take on a visibly nervous Kyle Jones. After a brief flurry of punches from both fighters, Mason ducked under and secured a double-leg. Jones gripped onto an attempted guillotine for his life, but the experienced Mason slowly worked his way out, isolated an arm and locked in a kimura for a comfortable victory.
The promotion then gave the crowd another opportunity for a comfort break, to top up their drinks and maybe grab some of the hot and cold food on sale at the venue. After twenty-five minutes, the professional card started with Will Cairns taking on the well supported Tom O’Brien. O’Brien stalked across the cage, throwing shots at a retreating Cairns. O’Brien threw a flying knee, which grazed the independent fighter, Cairns. They locked up, O’Brien took Cairns down, landed in side control, put his knee on Cairns’ midriff then stepped over into full mount. Cairns unsuccessfully tried to push O’Brien off by pushing his opponent’s thighs, O’Brien held Cairns’ head with one hand then rained elbows down with his other arm. The referee thought about stopping it, hesitated, Cairns ate another 2-3 elbows then the official stepped in and waved off the fight. TKO, 54 seconds, dominant victory.
Fight fourteen started with a bizarre chain of events. Dan Cassell entered the cage, bouncing lightly on his feet, waiting for his opponent, Dave Spowart to join him. The officials at the cage door appeared to be unhappy with Spowart’s gloves, made him take them off and then unwrap what appeared to be loose thai wraps then put his bare hands back into his gloves. I didn’t have a completely clear view of this from my vantage point, so will hold my hands up if I’m wrong, but it appeared that Spowart then fought without his hands wrapped at all. Whilst this was going on, the rapidly cooling Cassell ended up putting his walkout tshirt back on to maintain his core temperature before the bout. Once the action finally started, Spowart came out attempting to land knees as he advanced across the octagon towards Cassell; Cassell comfortably took Spowart to the ground and pushed him up against the cage. Spowart briefly pushed Cassell off, who immediately dropped back into Spowart’s half-guard and punished his opponent with some vicious punches. It’s difficult to say whether Spowart lost consciousness from where we were sitting, but the referee was right to stop the fight after 1:32 of the first round.
Fight fifteen featured the most experienced athlete of the night, as household name Leeroy Barnes took on Brad Carter. This fight was a clinic. Barnes, a Cage Warriors and BAMMA veteran who trains with international fighters at Team Roughhouse showed his class. His initial approach was measured, no heavy interchanges, Barnes picked his shots, then took Carter down. He punished his opponent with two huge rights, a heavy left, another hard right then stood up and landed kicks on his opponent’s thighs. Barnes called Carter to his feet and picked his shots again. Clearly having already found his range, Barnes then dropped his hands, Michael Page style, slipped a wild swing by Carter with a bob of his head and dropped the Exiles MMA man with a brutal uppercut. Carter crumpled to the ground with Barnes sniffing blood. The Roughhouse fighter jumped on top of his beleaguered opponent then landed a couple more hard, hard shots; Carter turned to defend himself, giving up his back in the process and Barnes locked in a rear naked choke. A comprehensive victory for Barnes.
The penultimate fight of the night saw Aiden Lee take on the hugely popular Polish fighter Krysztof ‘Spartacus’ Adamczyk. The height difference between the two combatants was evident, with the southpaw Brit using his clear advantage to keep the Pole at range. Adamczyk, obviously becoming frustrated with being picked off started attempting takedowns from further and further out, allowing Lee to capitalize with perfectly timed knees to the forehead of his advancing opponent, flooring the shorter man on two separate occasions. At least one cut appeared on the face of the Pole with blood pouring out of Adamczyk’s head. The referee appeared to call in the medics to inspect the injury, but it was actually due to blows Lee accidentally landed to the back of Adamczyk’s head. Fortunately, they let the fight continue. Adamczyk persisted with takedown attempts eating punch after punch during every failed try. Naughtily Lee held onto the fence numerous times to prevent the Pole from completing a move. If I’m being picky, really Lee should’ve had a point deducted; not that it would’ve affected the outcome. Cries of “Spar-ta-cus! Spart-ta-cus!” reverberated around the arena as the Polish supporters in the crowd tried to cheer their countryman on.
At the end of round one the cageside official entered the octagon with a towel in his hand, attempting to mop up the blood on the canvas. The start of the second round was delayed by fifteen seconds as he’d not managed to clear it all up in the minute interval, the fluid was that well spread. Round two started and Adamczyk took a more measured approach. Perhaps it was borne of overconfidence, but Lee attempted an aggressive attack, which Adamczyk deftly slipped and turned into a takedown attempt. Again Lee held the cage, had his hand removed by the official, only to hold the cage again! The referee took his hand off yet again as the Pole switched to a single leg. With a feat of strength he finally managed to take the legs out from under Lee, but Lee’s superior core strength showed and he wound up on top. Holding the Pole’s head, Lee started to drop elbows, pausing momentarily to check with the referee that his shots weren’t illegal. Having been told that they weren’t, he continued raining down blows causing the official to stop the bout, declaring Lee the victor after 2:54 of round two.
The hastily rearranged main event featured The Unit’s Sam Halliday (2-2) against Union Palau MMA’s former Cage Warriors veteran Paul Marin (11-5) for the AFC Flyweight belt. Marin immediately took the centre of the cage, with Halliday working from the outside. The Yorkshire native threw some good shots, catching Marin on more than one occasion, but not rocking the Romanian. Just as Halliday started to look more confident, Marin ducked under, shot for the double leg and took Halliday down. Halliday attempted to immediately reverse him, and would have done if it wasn’t for the cage preventing it. Marin took advantage, raining down heavy blows. Halliday, desperate to not be defeated in front of his cheering fans managed to get back to his feet. Halliday was holding his own, throwing decent shots at the more experienced man, only to be thrown to the ground by Marin. Reacting quickly, Halliday locked in a triangle on his opponent, only for the Union Palau man to lift Sam above his head and slam him twice on his head on the canvas. Only after the second slam did Marin finally break free. He immediately started hitting the dazed Halliday with his trademark heavy hands, transitioning to full mount and finishing the fight with elbows to the head. Win for Marin.
A successful debut event for the UK’s newest promotion.