(The Hyde MMA fighters prior to the event)
There is an aura around Leigh Cohoon. He may not have the most glamourous record (now 4-2) but there is an ‘X-Factor’ about him that it’s hard not to love, and now he’s got the UCC Welterweight Title around his waist, fans are sure to be seeing a lot more of him.
The 1,200 strong Mancunian crowd erupted when local-lad Cohoon’s music hit, whereas his foe, IFC Stockport’s Ben Eastwood entered the cage to much more hostile reception.
However, this didn’t bother him as the second the opening bell rang, he initiated a clinch and forced ‘Coony’ back into the cage. The bout then went to the floor due to a Cohoon leg trip, where the Hyde MMA man imposed his will; first taking side control, and then working his way into mount. Relentless ground and pound then ensued, until a referee stoppage was forced after just 1:13 of the first round.
Leigh was pleased about his emphatic victory. “I’m on top of the world,” he beamed after the fight. “I’m absolutely buzzing. I didn’t think he [Eastwood] would come out that aggressively, because I thought we’d be standing up a bit and I’d have to chase him and maybe hunt him down, but he came at me and managed to control me a little bit. So I got a leg trip, took him down and worked the ground and pound from there. I’m so happy now though, and I’ll defend my title as soon as, and against anybody!”
Another Hyde MMA star going for a title was Lee Johnson, who took on Andy Evans for the Middleweight strap. This was a close affair at all times, although one event at the end turned the tables in the favour of the victorious Evans.
In the first, Johnson threw a couple of good combinations before initiating a clinch. From there though, the tide turned as Evans got the takedown, but the ‘chopping and changing’ nature of this fight was shown when Johnson managed to work his way into full mount from here. The rest of the round had more favourable moments to Johnson, although it was a close run battle.
Round two was dominated by Samurai Jiu Jitsu’s Evans, who maintained top position and unleashed masses of ground and pound, particularly near the end of the round. Johnson showed heart just to get through this.
The final session was razor close. When standing, Johnson was applying pressure and throwing more, while Evans’ workrate was minimal, but he was connecting with harder shots. Up to about fifteen seconds shy of the closing bell, Johnson was edging the round, only for him to fail with a takedown attempt. This allowed Evans to take top position, and finish the session in the dominant postion, thus winning him the contest.
In a much anticipated rematch, Wolfslair’s Tony Moran tried to even the score with Shaun Lomas, only to be denied a ‘W’ yet again. While it wasn’t initially meant to be contested for a title, the fact both fighters came in under the Light Heavyweight bracket meant promoter Danny Hornsby put the UCC’s light heavyweight crown on the line.
Lomas had to dig deep just to get through the first round. Moran secured a takedown after a tentative opening, and then opened up with some ground and pound. He then went for an armbar, only for Lomas to use his weight to get out effectively, and implement a tai otoshi, earning himself top position. Moran scrambled to get out though, and finished the session with a huge right elbow on his downed foe.
The second was much more even. In the clinch, with Moran’s back against the cage, Lomas used violent foot stomps; the sound of which resonated through the whole of ‘The Ritz,’ before the pair went toe-to-toe and traded. Moran won the round after cementing a takedown though, from which he again worked hard on the floor.
The third was another crazy back and forth round, but Lomas, with just four seconds left, managed to get Moran to tap out with a guillotine choke. After this win, the new champion could barely walk, but at least he has somewhere to go from here. Moran on the other hand, now 2-2 is lost in limbo having failed to beat gatekeeper Lomas twice.
In the other title fight on the card (which was concurrently the show opener) Evade MMA’s Murat Polat defeated Mafikas Mamedovas to take the UCC Featherweight crown. This was all too easy for Polat, who displayed good striking before securing a takedown, taking the back and raining down blows until the action was stopped.
Aaron Wilkinson was meant to fight for the UCC Lightweight strap on Friday night but, after a pullout, a lightweight opponent could not be found. Enter Jack Toczydlowski, a game welterweight, who in the end just didn’t have the skill set to deal with the dynamic Wolfslair fighter in front of him. After being temporarily decked by a right straight, Toczydlowski shot for a takedown, only to get caught in a deep guillotine he was forced to tap from after just 29 seconds of the opener. Wilkinson, now 6-3, looked a real prospect.
Ali Arish remained unbeaten after coming through a hard fight with Marius Buzinskas unscathed, unlike his unlucky foe. Arish’s wrestling was the key factor throughout the bout, as he could dictate where the fight went. Buzinskas was up for the challenge, as were all the Antonio’s Gym fighters on the card, but he ultimately succumbed to the class of Moss Side Ground and Pound’s Arish, who finished the contest after 2:16 of the second with a heel-hook which forced Buzinskas to remain in agony after the bout had finished.
The tear-up between Kieran Mullin and Andrius Juska, which represented another Moss Side vs. Antonio’s Gym contest, was a hellacious battle. Juska started the fight by throwing huge bombs, and these continued in earnest after Mullin ended up on his back. Somehow though, Mullin, who looked to be all but out of the fight after some devastating ground and pound, managed to get up, secure the takedown, work his way into side control and get the ‘W’ after 3:31 of the first.
Popular Wolfslair man Alex Minogue made his pro debut on this show against Arturas Ziukas, but he by no means had it all his own way. Minogue utilised good control of the top position and maintained a good posture throughout the bout, en route to an arm bar victory 4:23 into round three.
Craig Chesters didn’t waste any time in beating Neil Harwood on the show, as just 1:27 in, the referee stopped the contest due to ‘Tyson’ relentlessly dishing out ground and pound from back mount.
In B-Class Pro action, Evade’s Tom Cox was unceremoniously beaten by the only victor from Antonio’s Gym at The Ritz, Darius Kuncevicius. Cox started brightly, but his Kuncevicius imposed his will on his 22 year-old opponent, and prevailed with barely 30 seconds to go of round one after Cox submitted due to ground and pound. Cox needed medical treatment in the cage after the bout.
In another B-Class Pro outing, Carl Byrne reigned supreme after aggressively decomposing Scott Pickles, and ground and pounding his way to an undebatable stoppage.
There was also disappointment for Hyde MMA’s Danny Boomer who, despite giving his all, was stopped in the second round by Lloyd Harrop. The winner, a member of Manchester Ground and Pound, came through sticky moments in the first, only for him to prevail after 4:06 of the second with a wide range of striking which made the referee step in.
The only semi-pro contest on the card was between Sean Teasdale and Sam Bolt. The latter emerged victorious from this after implementing a triangle, and forcing Teasdale to tap after 3:34 of round one.
Overall, the show was undoubtedly a success. The sellout crowd loved every fight, and proved that MMA shows in Manchester can work with the right planning and matchmaking. Danny Hornsby (promoter) and John-Joe O’Regan (matchmaker) deserve any and all the credit they get for this event, and in time, Hornsby’s ambition of making the UCC the ‘Cage Rage’ of the North West seems more likely fulfilled than not.
Information on future UCC MMA shows can be found at www.uccmma.com.