CSFC 17: Fun Fights and Finishes Aplenty
Caged Steel Fighting Championship’s seventeenth event took place on Saturday 18th March at the Doncaster Dome Leisure Centre. Hundreds gathered in the arena to witness the event and support the wealth of local talent on show. With the closely matched card in terms of skill, both amateur and professional, few could predict how many of the bouts would end. As the old adage goes, “expect the unexpected”, and CSFC 17 did not disappoint…
The card began with four amateur bouts going to the judge’s decision, with Ash Marston (Ash Heidari), Nick Thorp, Jimmy Manders, and Matty Hillier all coming away with decision victories. Lightweight Ash Marston utilised a strong leg kick attack and powerful clinch grappling to grind out a unanimous victory over the debuting Jack Rich, who showed promise in his first MMA fight, remaining active off his back with multiple leglock attempts, despite being smothered by a more experienced grappler. In the next bout, a featherweight contest, Brandon Elwell can count himself unlucky not to come away with a decision victory. His aggressive combinations on foot appeared to be too much for Thorp, who had multiple takedown attempts stuffed across the three rounds. However, the judges saw differently, awarding Thorp a split decision victory, much to the displeasure of a raucous crowd. Next, facing Polish fighter Arek Kędziora at welterweight, Jimmy Manders displayed a diverse and technical boxing game, dropping his opponent in the opening frame of the bout with a sharp right cross. When the Pole tried to utilise his clinch takedowns, Manders used solid takedown defence to negate Kedziora’s grappling skills, often coming out on top in scrambles. This was enough for the judges to award him a unanimous decision victory. Hillier’s accurate counter striking and submission attempts from the bottom were enough for the judges to award him a split decision victory in his bout with Marcin Bednarz in a middleweight scrap, though there was little to separate the two fighters across three rounds.
After these four initial fights, however, no other bout saw its way to the judge’s scorecards. In the bantamweight division, Jack Holt faced Jack Flanagan in a bout that pitted two fighters with even win-loss records together. Despite what their records would suggest, the fight was entirely one-sided, with Holt landing a couple of hard leg kicks, then countering a double-leg takedown with a guillotine choke, forcing the tap at just thirty-three seconds of the first round. Next came another middleweight scrap between George Smith and Danny Mullins. Though Mullins had the superior record coming into the fight, Smith showed strong takedown defence and clinch grappling to negate the offensive work of Mullins, even using an omoplata attempt to reverse position on the ground and end the round in top position. At the start of the second round, after eating two hard overhand punches, Smith grabbed the reckless Mullins in an anaconda choke, squeezing until he felt his opponent tap.
The next fight was a female cage boxing contest, and was another that ended early. Katie Kerr had no match for the intensity and aggression her opponent, Natalie Whitehead, displayed. Whitehead immediately forced Kerr towards the fence and blasted her with crisp one-two combinations, forcing the referee to give a standing eight-count. Kerr verbally submitted at this point, awarding Whitehead the TKO victory thirty-four seconds into the first round. The first round finishes kept on coming. Light-heavyweights Marian Constantin and Qendrim “The King” Pallata faced off next. Despite landing a number of hard leg kicks in the bouts opening moments, Constantin was soundly out-grappled by his opponent, having an advantageous position against the cage swiftly reversed. Pallata displayed his grappling chops with a powerful body-lock takedown, immediately transitioning to full mount and landing a number of hard shots, until the referee had seen enough, stopping the bout midway through the first round.
The next contest lasted much longer, however. Featherweights Nathan Jessimer and James Rayworth waged war for almost three full rounds until the bout was stopped. Throughout much of the fight, Rayworth appeared to be the better striker, mixing up his striking to the head and body, wearing down Jessimer. However, Jessimer proved himself as a competent grappler, competing and often out-muscling Rayworth, though he was subject to a huge slam in the second round. In the third round, after Rayworth landed a hard one-two, Jessimer shot for a takedown, dragging Rayworth to the floor with him. From here he achieved mount, landed hard ground and pound, then transitioned to the back and swiftly ended the fight with a rear-naked choke. The next bout featured the heavily-supported prospect Louis Lee Scott facing off with experienced bantamweight amateur Warren “tank” Mason. Mason spent much of the fight on the ground, looking up as the upright Scott peppered his legs with hard kicks. Mason stayed in this position, trying to goad his opponent into grappling exchanges, but Scott, nor the referee, was having any of it. In the second round, Scott landed multiple leg sweep takedowns to force Mason onto his back, where he had showed little offensive threat. After stuffing a Mason double-leg attempt, Scott showed his grappling skills, landing heavy ground and pound from top position, then immediately transitioning to back mount and securing a fight-ending rear naked choke, much to the delight of his followers in the crowd.
After this, there were two more quick-fire victories. In the first pro fight of the evening, middleweights Ashley Gibson and Matt Pepper squared off. Despite starting strongly with a hard leg kick, Gibson proved to be outmatched on the feet. Pepper threw a right hook that landed right of Gibson’s jaw, rendering him unconscious just twenty-one seconds into the first round. The following bout also saw a first round stoppage. Branden Guest and Stanislavs Daleckis faced off in an 88kg catchweight bout. Despite showing promise with his striking early, Daleckis was taken down early in the fight and controlled, with Guest landing heavy punches and elbows from top position. One such elbow caused a large cut above the eye of Daleckis, forcing a time-out. The Doctor unfortunately cut the bout short after this, deeming that the cut had affected Daleckis’ vision enough that it would compromise his safety. This meant that guest was awarded a TKO victory.
Another cage boxing match followed this, pitting against each other heavyweights Athos Konstandi and Matty Omar. Despite having similar frames, the contest proved to be a mismatch; throughout two dominant rounds, Omar knocked his opponent down a staggering six times! Konstandi had no answer to the power punching of Omar, who seemed to cause damage with every punch he threw. Eventually his corner had seen enough, throwing in the towel early in the second round. After this, another quick stoppage followed. The CSFC Amateur Light-Heavyweight championship was on the line, pitting together champion Piotr Chmielecki and challenger Jack Scott. Though title fights often see two well-matched opponents face off, this championship bout proved anything but. Within thirty seconds, Chmielecki landed a huge body kick, scored a powerful takedown, assumed full mount and then pounded away at Scott until the referee had seen enough. Chmielecki moved to 4-0 with this victory, and seems an interesting prospect to watch.
However, for all the quick knockout victories and exciting fights, the highlight of the evening came in the next bout. Immediately preceding Steve Webster and Ricardo Franco‘s professional lightweight bout, a woman proposed (successfully) to her husband in the cage, lightening the mood and sending the crowd into a frenzy of cheer. This set the tone for what would be an unusual and highly impressive finish victory for Rico “BON BON” Franco. The taller, longer fighter, Franco used his jab to stay on the outside of the aggressive Webster whilst the bout remained on the feet. Using strong wrestling skills, Franco then scored a huge overhead slam, getting a huge pop from the crowd and ending him in side control. From here, Franco’s submission offense came into play; at the instruction of his corner, Franco set up and locked in the extremely elusive #twister submission. The twister is an extremely rare and difficult submission, popularised by Eddie Bravo‘s school of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, and it requires a huge amount of technical proficiency in order to pull it off. The entire crowd erupted, applauding the genius of the fighter. Even his defeated opponent recognised this, congratulating Franco heartily. The victory puts Franco on the UK MMA map as a highly creative and resourceful grappler.
Though the spectacular submission may have been the high point of the evening, the remaining fights did not disappoint. Shaun Lomas, long-time Scottish MMA pioneer, and Kevin Mullen fought at middleweight in the proceeding bout. Despite being far more inexperienced than his battle-worn opponent, Mullen used his superior reach to stay on the outside of Lomas’ power punches. Mullen also displayed a diverse array of strikes, landing multiple push kicks, a stepping elbow, and a number of powerful leg kicks throughout the round. Towards the end of the first round, as Lomas threw a leg hook, Mullen used the opening to land a devastating body kick, immediately crumpling Lomas and forcing the stoppage. In his post-fight interview, Mullen claimed that “he was back”, and that the rest of the division should be put on notice after an impressive TKO victory.
The next fight pitted wrestling standout Mush Aslani against BJJ purple belt Benjamin Bennett in a professional contest. Throughout the first round, Aslani displayed why he is such a revered wrestler, often taking Bennett down at will, and landing hard ground and pound whilst in top position. However, Bennett showed the crowd his submission skills, frequently attacking the legs of Aslani with heel hooks in an attempt to get the fight back to the feet. Aslani also landed a number of hard overhands on the feet, showing a diversified skillset. However, early in the second round, a body-lock takedown attempt form Aslani ended up in a grappling scramble. With his experience and proven ability on the ground, Bennett used this opening to quickly take his opponents back, locking in a rear naked choke and forcing the tap. It was a highly impressive, come-from-behind win for Bennett, who claimed in the post-fight interview that he “will see what happens” in regards to his next opponent.
The final fight of the night was contested in the middleweight division, between Rob Fulton and Glenn Irvine. Though the bout was supposedly an evenly-matched contest, it proved anything but. Irvine established his striking prowess early, peppering Fulton with leg kicks and staying on the outside of Fultons power shots. Then, as Fulton circled right against the cage, Irvine saw his lowered hands and capitalised, landing a huge right hook that landed flush on the jaw and knocked Fulton unconscious. It was a highly volatile end to an extremely entertaining night of fights. The capacity crowd was in full voice for the duration of the event, loudly supporting the hometown fighters. Their enthusiasm was met head on by the fighters, who produced a staggering 14 finishes in 18 fights. The evening will only continue to strengthen the reputation of CSFC as a top MMA promotion in Yorkshire, and I, for one, am anticipating the announcement for the next Caged Steel event with much optimism. Nights like this are the main reason as to why MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world, and when in the atmosphere of a live event, it’s so easy to see why.
Editor: Chris Cruddace