Six fights to go, ladies and gents. I deliberately finished part one on fight eight, as I wanted fight nine to head up this part of the review. It won’t be a long write up, but hopefully will compliment the Battle Arena You Tube video of this, which doesn’t really do the finish justice. Anyway, on with the review.
Conor Webb came out confident and ready. Not over-confident, not cocky, just aware of the fact that he was prepared. He’d completed his training with a great team at Leicester Shootfighters, and wanted to put on a show for his supporters in the crowd. Tyrone ‘T-Rod’ Robinson walked out focused. Nodding his head as he walked towards the cage, as if he were reassuring himself of what he was about to get into. The Tap or Snap man hugged his cornermen and entered the cage. The MC read out the fighters’ names and respective camps, referee Alan Jackson gave the fighters their instructions, and off they went. Robinson put his hand up to sportingly touch gloves, which Webb accepted. After the respectful exchange both fighters bounced backwards, Webb stepped forward, Robinson threw a spinning back-kick, which landed flush on Webb’s liver, sounding like a gunshot, causing Webb to drop as if someone had actually fired a 12-bore to his midriff. Robinson raised his hands without going in for the kill; he knew his work was done, so turned away mimicking Mark Hunt’s trademark walk-away knockout. Readers, it’s taken you longer to work your way through this review than it would to watch the fight. 5-seconds. Yes, that’s right, a 5-second knockout. One shot, game over.
This was another quick, quick fight. Not quite as quick as the previous bout, but over before it began, nonetheless. Kyle Wilson faced Mario Stakov. Wilson is a little terror. He also starred on the last Battle Arena, securing a submission win in impressive fashion. This was another portion of the same, but far more explosive. Stakov and Wilson flew at each other, dropped to the ground, scrambled for position and quick as a flash, Wilson locked in a deep arm bar to take home the victory.
This was epic. Nathan Grubb from Leicester-based Impact MMA faced a man-beast in Tap or Snap’s Gaz Meridith. The Tap or Snap man had a noticeable size and weight advantage, which his used to great advantage in round one. Meridith was quicker to the punch, outstriking and out working Grubb throughout the first, keeping Grubb at range with an array of kicks, jabs, straights, then well timed upper cuts whenever Grubb tried to close the distance. Grubb did well to not allow himself to become overawed at the situation, soaking up the pressure with a calmness that you rarely see in debutants. As the first round wore on, Meridith’s pace slowed and Grubb took full advantage, ducking under and taking the Tap or Snap man down. The Leicester man immediately improved his position, Meridith gave up his back, and with ten seconds left in the round, Grubb tried to sink in a rear naked choke.
The buzzer went, both men returned to their respective corners, with Grubb looking the fresher of the two. As round two started Meridith was visibly breathing far heavier. Not that that stopped him though, as the fight went to the ground, Meridith spent the majority in top position, before nearly succumbing to an arm bar with ten seconds to go in the round.
Out they came for round three. Back and forth they went. Grubb almost took an arm home as a souvenir, Meridith almost finished proceedings with a guillotine; Grubb not only got out but reversed Meridith and put himself in full mount. Meridith held his opponent’s head for dear life, Grubb freed his head but had to give up the mount. That wasn’t the end of it by any means, as Grubb again finished the round in the dominant position desperately trying to take Meridith’s arm before the buzzer went. What a great, great fight this was.
As the judges gave their verdict to the officials, I mused that Meridith had probably done enough to win. This is why I’m not a judge. Grubb took the ‘w’ on his debut with a split decision win. Far from undeserved; a great performance from a talented young man.
Vaughan Perkins took on Will Welch. Looking at these two lining up was very much like watching Stefan Struve against Daniel Omielanczuk later the same evening. Perkins the smaller and stockier fighter against Welch, the tall and long opponent. This was tough to review. All three rounds went a similar way; Perkins tried to close the distance on Welch; Welch fought very much on the back foot, but tried to sink in submissions with his lengthy limbs whenever the fight went to the ground. I was certain that Perkins deserved the nod at the end of the nine-minutes, but again I was wrong. Welch took a split decision victory to joyous cheers from his vocal and excitable contingent in the crowd.
This fight was such a shame. The Battle Arena team pitted Kuljeet Hothi against Daniel Deene. I feel awful saying that, but it’s true, it just wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been. Let’s be clear about something, both fighters are clearly very good. They each showed flashes of breathtaking skill, but as soon as one of them did, the other locked them up and then they spent the next 30-45 seconds neutralising each other in the clinch. Deene has a lovely array of kicks, Hothi has neat and expressive hands; neither got to fully showcase their skill sets though. Deene took a unanimous decision victory. I definitely want to see them both fight again, just not each other.
Olly Shepherd vs Atilla Hanzel. Hanzel looks like an Eastern bloc Bond baddie, straight from The Spy Who Loved Me. He’s a good looking incredibly solidly set guy and damn, he can fight. I watched him crumple his last opponent on Battle Arena 40, showcasing a beautiful array of strikes. This time he wowed us with his ground game. Shepherd smartly took Hanzel to the ground, but when facing someone with the brute strength of the Romanian, struggled to hold him. After a minute or so of battling, Hanzel locked in a rear naked choke, taking the win.
The final bout of the evening, for the Battle Arena Regional Middleweight Title. This pitted Jay Tovee against Russell Wall. Tovee entered the cage, smiling and relaxed waiting for his opponent’s arrival. On came Wall’s music, a drum & base version of DJ Fresh’s Gold Dust and as if he were at Club Republic the night before, Tovee started singing along and dancing around the cage. Aa the fight started, the competitors touched gloves, then went hell for leather. It’s as if they were being paid by the punch, as every shot was thrown with thunder. It’s tough to explain, but the sportsmanship shown in this fight was just superb. There was no malice or bad intentions, but a clear and unspoken agreement to try and decapitate each other with blows.
Round two gave us more of the same, also interspersed with takedowns, reversals, submission attempts, with the accompaniment of heavy, heavy shots.
Round three saw a slight slowing of proceedings; but only slight. Wall and Tovee epitomised what Battle Arena is all about, leaving every last ounce of energy in the cage with this beautiful war. Tovee took the decision on the judge’s scorecard. This was another one I’d mis-scored, but the decision wasn’t a disappointment. These two guys just topped off what was a great night of action.