Battle Arena 43: The Review – Part 2

So, fight fans. Yesterday we left you wondering “what happened in the other eleven fights, guys?”. Well, luckily for you, part two of The Review is here!

Fight ten, Jay Tovee vs Christian Johnson. This was a battle between a fighter and an athlete. Jay Tovee is one that I picked out as ‘one to watch’ in my preview, and he didn’t let me down. The South Coast man always looks at his calmest in the cage. As the fighters touched gloves, he nonchalantly bounced back and forth on his toes, looking like he had no hurry to even get into first gear; then BAM! Out came a three-shot combo, sending the Norwegian scuttling backwards to defend himself. Tovee had gone from neutral to fifth gear in mere seconds.

 Johnson, one of the Frontline clan, showed why this gym is developing a strong reputation and maintained his composure, defending well. He quickly turned the tide and locked up the Wuji man, taking him down, maintaining top control. This then set the stage for the first two rounds. Tovee would explode and fire off three, four and five shot combos, bringing forth sharp intakes of breath from the crowd; Johnson would backpedal effectively, then counter with a takedown and control position, without causing much real damage.

Round three saw both fighters attempt to press the pace a bit more. Johnson started to read Tovee’s attacks and dropped under to secure an early takedown. As the round wore on; Tovee, clearly frustrated at his opponent’s superior grappling skills just used brute strength to flip Johnson over. Johnson, the consummate athlete, quickly reversed Tovee and finished the fight in full mount; again though, not causing much damage to his opponent.

The fight went to the judge’s scorecards and Johnson took home a split decision victory. If Tovee focuses on his grappling, he could pose a real threat in the middleweight division. I maintain that he’s still one to watch.

The eleventh fight of the evening featured Liam Dahle and Chris Mason. Dahle dominated the first round, dropping Mason with a straight right, which nearly ended the fight early. Dahle then spent a good portion of the second in top position on the ground, as Mason struggled to find his range. Round three was a complete turnaround. Mason was clearly two rounds down on the scorecard, but kept his composure, pulling off a d’arce choke to secure an unlikely submission victory.

The twelfth and thirteenth saw victories for Joe Taylor and Callum Burkinshaw. Taylor securing a triangle and kimura against George Caruna in the first round and Burkinshaw mightily impressive in his unanimous decision against Adam Tricklebank, who showed true heart and determination after being lit up at times by Burkinshaw’s striking. Afterwards I was told that Burkinshaw is only seventeen. The potential in this young man is huge.

Fight number fourteen saw Dan Deane take apart Safraz Malik. Deane showed cleaner and more accurate striking on the feet before hip tossing his opponent, landing in full mount. He rained down shots on Malik, who had no choice but to give up his back, allowing Deane to sink in a rear naked choke. Deane told the crowd afterwards that he was suffering from the norovirus only five days prior, which makes his performance even more impressive.

Fifteen and sixteen were wars of attrition, as Magnus Jacobson and Simen Grottum went back and forth for two and a bit rounds each against Darius Leikus and Andy Emmett respectively; with both Norwegians securing hard fought third round rear naked choke victories.

Fight seventeen was quick (which was a mercy to my then full bladder) as Joakim Sharp-Bergersen won in the first round against Chris Steptoe with a triangle submission.

Now onto fight eighteen. Badar Khalid vs Shane Weller. Well, this had the potential to bubble over (but fortunately didn’t). The first round was relatively tame, with both fighters struggling to find their range. Round two was where it all happened though.

All of a sudden, Khalid’s striking clicked. I’ll be honest, he wasn’t dynamic in his choice of shots, but wow, he was hitting hard and regularly. Weller took some real punishment as the Prime MMA featherweight winged punch after punch at his opponent. Every punch came from the depths of his core and boy, was he enjoying it. As the crowd chanted “Badar! Badar! Badar!” he become more and more vicious, allowing a maniacal grin to creep onto his face upon seeing his dance partner suffering and crumbling. A heavy knee landed on Weller’s temple, immediately the referee jumped in and Khalid put his hands up to apologise as the Stamina MMA man wobbled backwards on his knees onto the cage. He tried to get up, he wobbled and fell again. He got up a third time and went towards his corner who shook their head at Alan Jackson who had no choice but to call the fight off and disqualify Khalid.

From what I could see, Weller was on his knees at the time, making the blow illegal. Khalid cut a figure of pure frustration. He knew that Weller was maybe one or two shots away from being out of the contest. The atmosphere was tense for a split second, but the professionalism of both corners shone through and calmness ensued. A real shame for Khalid.

The penultimate bout of the evening saw ‘the English Tim Kennedy’, James Prenderville, take on Frontline’s Sigmund Hollerud. Prenderville, a veteran of the British Armed Forces, has started to develop a reputation as a bit of a slow starter, and tonight was no different. Before the bout I was told “He needs to get beaten up a bit first before he gets going”, so round one was no surprise.

Hollerud started fast, lighting Prenderville up on his feet for the first minute before taking the Roger Gracie man down and landing some pretty tasty blows to see out a dominant round. If Hollerud hadn’t seen Prenderville’s fights before, he was soon in for a rude awakening. Round two was complete role reversal, as the Englishman went to town on his opponent. Prenderville was first to the blow in every exchange, pushing the pace and demanding the Norwegian fight him. The Frontline intelligence shone through with 20-seconds of the round left, as Hollerud caught a low kick, tripped Prenderville and ended the round in top position, buying himself a valuable extra 20-seconds recovery time.

It was evident that the Scandinavian corner changed the game plan in between rounds, as Hollerud, still getting lit up in the striking exchanges, closed the distance on Prenderville, eating a few shots, but got a grip on his opponent and took him down; much to Prenderville’s frustration. Without really trying to pass guard, Hollerud ate up valuable time before Prenderville managed to escape. A quick grapple later and Hollerud was back on top and saw out the round to out-point the Brit, winning a split decision.

The main event of the evening saw grappler Lukasz Szala face striker Lionel Alexis for the Battle Arena Regional Welterweight Title. As expected, Szala quickly closed the distance and took Alexis down, spending the majority of round one in top position. On the rare occasion that the fight made it back to the feet, Alexis had the better of the striking exchanges, but Szala was effective in his control of position. Round two followed the same pattern, until Szala secured a guillotine to take the belt back to Shudan.

MMA Battle Arena returns on April 8th with their ‘Champions Collide’ event at the Edgbaston Cricket Stadium. The card looks stacked already. We’ll be there, will you be?


Pictures courtesy of Laura Peil Photography