(Bushido Challenge II: A New Dawn)
Uprooting from promoter Travis Flannagan’s native county of Norfolk and heading to Nottingham’s Harvey Hadden Arena proved to be an astute and fruitful move. Nottingham has a rich UK MMA heritage and this stamping ground in particular played host to many legendary Cage Warriors events, showcasing some of the best talent Europe had to offer and delivering bouts that would go down in history as some of the best the domestic scene has ever witnessed. Bushido Challenge once again brought top tier talent to the arena and there were match-ups with connotations on both UK and European top ten rankings.
Undefeated prospects Eugene Fadiora and Danny Mitchell were both willing to put their unblemished records on the line in a title tilt that would crown the Bushido Challenge welterweight champion. Whilst it is becoming more apparent that fighters are happy to pad the early days of their career out with less challenging fights, it was refreshing to see two burgeoning young athletes forsake the safe haven of handpicked opponents and take each other on in their toughest test to date.
Both men looked composed as the bout got underway. Mitchell used leg kicks to good effect but a Fadiora flurry against the cage was set to dictate the rest of the fight. One of the shots connected well enough to break Mitchell’s nose and the rest of his time in the cage was spent struggling to breathe through the heavy bleeding. Although it didn’t end the contest, it did contribute to the visible change in momentum. Mitchell managed to secure a takedown despite this, however, and landed some effective strikes before a fierce upkick served as a warning for “Aranha” to be careful in his entry. The first stanza went back and forth from there, with Fadiora gaining top position and dropping some elbows. It ended as Fadiora successfully escaped an armbar attempt and scrambled to land in side control as the horn sounded.
The second round again saw success from both fighters, but it was clear that the broken nose was sapping Mitchell’s gas tank at a rate of knots, and the frenetic pace of the fight would also be contributing to the decline. He battled on to land some stiff jabs and attempt a rolling leglock but Fadiora continued to land good strikes as he exited the clinch and heavy knees and elbows added to Mitchell’s list of woes.
As the third round rolled in, Mitchell shot for the takedown in the hope of dragging Fadiora to the mat in order to look for a fight-ending submission; his recent brown belt promotion in BJJ showing just how capable his skills are. Fadiora reversed and landed on top, but Mitchell looked for the armolock off his back and looked to have it nearly secured. Fadiora gritted his teeth and used the successful defence to pass Mitchell’s guard, and this was where the fight would end. After trapping an arm in a crucifix position, Mitchell’s face became the steak and Fadiora’s fist the tenderiser. Unable to escape, the accumulation of unanswered shots forced the referee to step in and halt the contest almost halfway through the second round. Mitchell proved his toughness, but it was the Wolverhampton-based fighter that proved to be more effective on the night. With the biggest win of his career and the belt strapped around his waist, Fadiora will now be looking for more tough tests to help him work his way into the top of the rankings.
Two men that are already riding atop of their division in Europe are James Doolan and Artemij Sitenkov. In the co-main event of the evening, many were expecting a battle of attrition between the talented bantamweights. It wouldn’t end after a gruelling battle though; instead Sitenkov needed just thirty-four seconds to pull off one of the slickest subs of the year so far. After sensibly opting to pull guard and avoid the stand-up skills of Doolan, Sitenkov was held up against the cage with the Scottish fighter bearing his weight. A switch of the hips whilst in mid-air caught Doolan unaware and just moments later he was face down on the canvas, frantically tapping as Sitenkov made a case for being the top bantamweight in Europe, with only Doolan’s Dinky Ninja teammate Paul McVeigh currently standing in his way.
Another man looking to stamp his mark on the 135lbs division was UTC’s Vaughn Lee (formerly Harvey). Lee made the drop for the first time after campaigning as a featherweight for the majority of his career. He looked right at home at the new weight, dominating the experienced and durable veteran Steve McCombe in the first round. The scrappy Irishman known as “Taz” appeared to want to fight on the ground, shooting from a long way out early but being unable to secure the takedown. As he tried plan B and pulled guard, Lee slammed him up against the fence and dropped some heavy ground and pound, only retreating to let McCombe return to the feet. Lee continued his assault and looked relaxed as they ended on the ground, but with him on top and dropping heavy punches that forced McCombe to give up his back. The textbook rear naked choke finish showed that Lee has all of the tools to be successful in this division and signals his intent at a run towards the top.
The Wolfslair’s Lee Barnes and BST’s Nasef Alganga brought some serious brawn with them into their welterweight matchup. It’s hard to believe Barnes used to cram his sizeable frame in to the lightweight limit, but he looked in great shape and ready to go in his latest outing at 77kg. It was Alganga who took the initiative early, landing a takedown and scoring with some ground and pound. He looked to take the back but Barnes remained calm and battled back to the feet, where he was the aggressor. A takedown, this time in Barnes’ favour, saw them hit the mat again but Alganga also managed to scramble back to his feet. As they clinched once more, Barnes saw his opportunity to lock on a guillotine choke, squeezing with all his might in an attempt to elicit the tap. Alganga couldn’t defend and finally succumbed to the choke, granting an elated Barnes the win.
Flyweights Karl Harrison and Sham Haque may have weighed in at the same limit, but there was a clear disparity in size by the time the men had reached the cage. Harrison was the bigger man and he used the extra weight and power to make short work of his adversary. A big right hand floored Haque early and it was followed up by some relentless ground and pound, the referee stepping in after just twenty-eight seconds.
One of the bouts with the most intrigue featured two of the country’s best up-and-coming featherweights. The winner of Alex Enlund vs. Dino Gambatesa would certainly start turning heads, and it was “The Gypsy’s Dog” that put on a technical display and deserved to be lauded following a brilliant performance. Gambetesa came in having faced elite opposition in the past, his only loss coming to Brad Pickett, but Enlund would force him to tap out and concede a second defeat. Enlund opened up with a good right hand followed by a takedown which landed him in the guard of his opponent. He passed Gambatesa’s guard and threw some elbows, but when he got the mount Gambetesa hit a reversal that saw him scramble to the back. Failing to secure the position, Enlund reversed and again landed back in the mount position. It was Jiu Jitsu 101 from there, and he took the back and applied the rear naked choke to finish. Enlund became 4-0 (1NC), and is certainly a featherweight set to make waves on the domestic scene.
Prior to Enlund vs. Gambetesa, John Cullen and Dave Hill opened up the professional card. Cullen is known as a tough and well-rounded battler, whilst Hill is a consummate grappler that had an undefeated record to protect. This was another contest with serious implications for the winner. In Hill’s toughest test to date, he passed with flying colours after controlling Cullen for the duration of the bout before choking him out. His single leg execution was clinical and Cullen had few answers on the mat. A Pellegrino-esque slam at the end of the first wasn’t even enough to dislodge Hill, who was like a leech when he had the back. Although the second round was more competitive, with both men getting good positions, it was Hill that found the fight-finishing choke in his arsenal. Cullen, as tough and stubborn as ever, opted to go to sleep rather than tap and Hill proved that he can notch up the wins against highly-ranked opponents.
The semi-pro undercard showcased some fine local talent with Ansah, Edwards, Hall, Aplin and Haque coming through the testing ground with wins under their belts.
Ed Ansah used superior striking to grind out a close decision and UTC teammate Leon Edwards also showed class on the feet before taking home a submission victory.
Richard Hall was too powerful and experienced for Manvers fighter Daniel Dwyer as he got the takedown early and used a failed Peruvian necktie attempt to tee up a triangle choke victory.
Marc Aplin’s furious ground and pound dispatched Luke Dalton and Shaj Haque survived a tough first round against Brent Crawley to win the latter two and get the nod off the judges.