FIGHT! Report: BAMMA III – Watson vs. Horwich

Birmingham’s LG Arena played host to BAMMA’s biggest event to date and one of the UK’s finest fight cards in years. There was fine international talent on display as well as the cream of the domestic crop and a handful of favoured Europeans for good measure. With three titles on the line and many of the bouts having serious implications on the UK rankings, it all came down to the action to determine who would leave in higher esteem and who could possibly be heading home dejected.

The arena filled as the higher profile bouts got underway and the crowd were vocal, animated and largely in good spirits. Although Katie Price and Alex Reid bore the brunt of the criticism, the appearance of UFC champion Georges St-Pierre kept their appetites satiated.

Topping the bill was the BAMMA middleweight title tilt between Tom “Kong” Watson and Matt Horwich – a former IFL champion and UFC fighter – and the 145lbs and 155lbs belts were contended for by Adams vs. Omer and Sinclair vs. Weichel respectively.

Watson vs. Horwich

(Horwich lands a kick to the head. Photo by Dan Holmes)

It was a tale of two game plans in the headliner. There was an abundance of “Kong” fans in the audience, but unfortunately Watson couldn’t quite reach the same level of intensity as the banana waving army outside of the cage. The Greg Jackson trained fighter has a slew of talented wrestlers to train with across the Atlantic, including Georges St-Pierre and Rashad Evans, but he struggled to stop Horwich’s shot and was taken down almost at will throughout the encounter. The format was similar throughout most of the rounds as Horwich closed the distance by trying to walk through Watson’s punches and kicks and when he got a hold of his adversary, he inevitably dragged him to the mat. The saving grace for Watson for his ability to work back to his feet and also the tenacity he showed in fending off submission attempts.

Horwich looked to seal the deal in the first round with a tight-looking rear naked choke attempt. As the crowd rallied, Watson used the energy and his own determination to escape despite looking all but out of the contest. The roars were ferocious and served as a catalyst for his resurgence, with Watson then working back to his feet and looking to land elbows on his exit from the clinch, but the round ended with Horwich on top and “Kong” looking for a guillotine.

Highlights for Watson included a heavy body shot in the second , a couple of omoplata attempts from the guard and a hard right that wobbled Horwich in the third. The durable American continued to press forward, undeterred, and took the action to the mat. Watson sustained very little damage from the bottom and often managed to find a way to scramble back to his feet. In the final stanza, a failed twister attempt from Horwich meant Watson took top position and worked some ground and pound. Bucking the trend, he took “Suave” down in the dying moments and rallied with ten seconds to go, looking to finish strong to impress the judges.

Inbetween the judge’s decision being announced, Horwich dropped to the mat for some press-ups, with Watson returning the gesture. Unaffected by the shenanigans, the scorecards were read out at 48-47, 49-47 and 49-46 all in favour of Watson. The numbers may have been flattering for “Kong” as they don’t depict how close and tough the fight was, but he took the belt and will now be looking for bigger fights following the biggest win of his career over a very well respected name.

Ryan White vs. Seth Petruzelli

(Petruzelli works for the armbar against Ryan White. Photo by Dan Holmes)

Coming in as a huge underdog, Ryan White had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this encounter with former Ultimate Fighter star and EliteXC fighter Seth Petruzelli. Both men predicted a toe-to-toe battle pre-fight but Petruzelli stuffed a White takedown attempt early. Looking for the highlight reel knockout, “Silverback” threw a head kick that ended with him on his back with “The Great” White on top, in guard. A competent grappler as well as striker, Petruzelli worked elbows from the bottom and then worked for an armlock. White tapped verbally from the submission and looked hurt as he walked back to his corner after just 1:07 of action.

Rob Sinclair vs. Daniel Weichel

(Weichel reflects on the loss as Sinclair looks on. Photo by Dan Holmes)

Weichel is an experienced and respected competitor on the European scene, coming in with a solid 23-6 record. Whilst Sinclair was the title holder, he was the significantly less experienced man at 8-2. This never factored into the action, however, as the Burnley man looked composed throughout. Primarily a wrestler and grappler, Weichel looked for the takedown from the off. Sinclair’s takedown defence was exemplary and he fended off the leg attacks from Weichel, often ending in top position and opting to take the fight back to the feet. As Weichel struggled to complete another takedown, Sinclair caught him in a turtle position and rained down some heavy blows. With nowhere to go and eating heavy leather, the referee jumped in to stop the encounter at 4:03 from Sinclair’s strikes. This was a tough fight for Sinclair in which he managed to look at ease despite the calibre of opponent. Big things beckon for the Kaobon and Predators man.

Zach Light vs. War Machine

(Light feels the effects of War Machine’s choke. Photo by Dan Holmes)

In the only American vs. American bout on the card, neither man wasted any time in engaging. Light, now of team Kaobon after leaving the Wolfslair, was hoping the change in camps would cause a change in luck with his MMA resume not accurately reflecting his skills. Unfortunately Saturday wasn’t going to be the night he turned it around as a takedown attempt saw War Machine reverse and end up on top. In the scramble, he took Light’s back and wasted no time in putting his foe to sleep with a rear naked choke. Following the bout, War Machine tipped his hat to Light by saying, “Props to Zach for not tapping because if you tap you’re a pussy!”

Alan Omer vs. Mark Adams

(Omer’s body kick connects. Photo by Dan Holmes)

In a fashion not dissimilar to headline bout, there was a distinct game plan for both men as Omer was looking to trade on the feet whilst Adams opted to use his superior grappling in order to control the action. Omer was pressing on the feet and used his aggression effectively as he regularly found a home for his jab, although Adams did have some success with counters and leg kicks.

In the third round, Omer fired in with a hard right hand that found the mark. With Adams wobbled, the German tried to capitalise on it but the conditioning and toughness of the Kaobon fighter came into play as he grabbed a leg and managed to drag the fight to the ground and regain his composure.

The majority of the bout played out largely in Omer’s guard, with Adams working methodical ground and pound from top position but struggled to pass. Although he rarely looked like ending the bout, it was a testament to Adams’ wrestling when Omer failed to stop any of the takedown attempts. Both men could take positives from the fight but it was Adams that took the belt from Omer’s waist after five rounds to become the new BAMMA featherweight champion.

John Maguire vs. Simeon Thoreson

(Thoresen connects with a right hand. Photo by Dan Holmes)

As often happens in a fight where both men are consummate grapplers, a large portion of the fifteen minute battle between Maguire and Thoresen was realised standing. Thoresen is a lean, tall 170lber and he used this difference in length to utilise straight shots in the first round and keep Maguire at bay. Firing in body and leg kicks, Thoresen’s aim was slightly off as a low blow caused a halt to the action but they resumed and finished the round by engaging.

Another low kick saw Thoreson’s foot and Maguire’s box become acquainted once again, but they continued to battle on and Maguire found more confidence with his hands. A reversal from Thoreson’s takewdown attempt saw Maguire take top position but he was immediately threatened by a heel hook. Maguire’s escape from the submission attempt left his Oslo-based opponent on top and from here he had his strongest offensive stint of the bout. Thoreson found his way to Maguire’s back and managed to open up a cut on his opponent’s forehead en route. With a tight body triangle, he worked for the choke but time ran out.

The third round saw some back and forth action both standing and on the ground. Maguire attacked with an omoplata and Thoreson attempted a triangle but neither was enough to finish the fight. They ended with Maguire on top but Thoreson’s dominant second round and crisp straight punches were enough to earn him the victory.

Mike Ling vs. Carl Noon

(Noon fires off some ground and pound. Photo by Dan Holmes)

In an exciting back and forth battle, the vastly different physiques of the rising middleweights were certainly a factor in how the action played out. Ling, a rangy middleweight at 6’8”, used his range well initially and landed some solid shots. However, Noon’s muscled but shorter attributes meant that he had to throw with intent and work his way to the inside. He did, and overhand rights were his punch of choice. Noon sensed the crisper looking stand-up of his opponent was having an effect and successfully put the South Coast Submissions man on his back several times. Looking comfortable in top position, Noon administered some heavy ground and pound that was enough to scramble the senses of his opponent. He used the openings created by his punches to pass, work to mount and eventually take the back. From there, he worked for the choke and Ling eventually succumbed at 3:48 of the first round.

Dave Lee vs. Jeff Lawson

(“Armbar” Lawson does it again. Photo by Dan Holmes)

Both men are highly regarded featherweights on the domestic scene and were looking to stamp their mark on the division with a victory. Judo stylist Lawson is well known from his TUF stint and has fearsome submissions, but Lee is also a talented grappler with great BJJ and this promised to be an exciting contest. An overhand right from Lawson opened up the bout and Lee looked for a trip but Lawson’s Judo pedigree saw him reverse the attempt and he ended in a dominant position. With seven armbar victories already on his record, “Ippon” is obviously confident with the technique and as soon as Lee offered a slight chance in his direction, it was snapped up and Lawson sat back to finish the submission from side control.

Paul Reed vs. Ash Grimshaw

(Grimshaw finishes Reed after the crushing left hook. Photo by Dan Holmes)

There was some back and forth between the two men before the fight which added some extra hype to this featherweight battle. After a tentative start, both men began to engage and Reed countered well with Grimshaw the aggressor, swinging with real purpose. Reed scored a takedown and looked to ground and pound from the top position but Grimshaw eventually found his way back to his feet. Olympians man Reed utilised some knees to his advantage before driving Grimshaw against the cage and working niggling shots to score the points. Grimshaw executed a trip to end the round on top.

In the second, there was an exchange of left hooks early with Grimshaw’s being significantly more damaging. The power strike saw Grimshaw loop the shot in from the outside, navigating around Reed’s defences, dropping him to the mat. A serious of unanswered right hands separated him from his senses and Grimshaw took the victory as the referee stepped in to halt the ground and pound.

Neil Seery vs. Billy Harris

(Seery attacks from his back. Photo by Dan Holmes)

The flyweights took to the cage and went the distance in the second bout of the evening. Seery’s hands looked dangerous as he tried to impose his will with boxing. With his opponent the aggressor on the feet, Harris took the bout to the floor and worked from the top. Seery’s hip movement and submission threat kept his opponent on his toes but Harris’ dominance worked in his favour as he took the unanimous decision. Seery was left bleeding heavily from a cut under the eye as the final bell rang and his efforts weren’t enough to sway the judges in his favour.

Martin McDonaugh vs. Mike Wood

(McDonaugh celebrates his victory. Photo by Dan Holmes)

The opening bout saw novices McDonaugh and Wood square off. McDonaugh looked the more composed fighter and he sunk in a triangle in the first. Wood tried to battle his way out of the hold with hammerfists to no avail, and he tapped at 3:52.

For the full results from the show, head here.

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