14th September 2013, Birmingham NIA
To echo the sentiments of many other observers, BAMMA 13 at Birmingham NIA last Saturday was a bit of a weird one. The UK's premier MMA organization has decided to up the ante by re-structuring the format slightly to incorporate 'World championship' titles in the various weight classes, with a swathe of journeymen fighters brought in from around the world to add a level of legitimacy to proceedings. Hence, BAMMA 13 was billed in the press as the 'Night of Champions.'
I was in the bar for most of the prelim action. My bad. The first fight I saw was Welshman Jack 'Hammer' Marshman take on Romanian kickboxer Ion Pascu. With a record of 11 wins from 13 fights with 8 knockouts and a large Welsh contingent in the crowd, the former British middleweight champion was expected to make short work of his eastern European opponent. Not so much. Marshman was dropped in the first round with a straight right, face-planted, and didn't get back up.
The first title fight of the night between English prospect Scott Askham and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 'specialist' Jorge Luis Bezerra for the vacant World Middleweight Championship, went more according to plan, with the Doncaster boy battering his smaller opponent around the Octagon for 15 minutes before winning the decision to take his record to an impressive 12-0, and the title. The only disappointment here was that Askham couldn't find a finish.
On to the main card (I have no idea why the World Middleweight Championship was on the undercard) and we saw the return of Colin 'Freakshow' Fletcher against another Welshman, Tim 'Superhuman' Newman. Ever the showman, Freakshow came out to considerable fanfare, with an entourage that included dwarves and sword-swallowers, which was probably a first. One of the biggest personalities in British MMA has flattered to deceive in his last two fights, successive decision losses to Norman Parke and Mike Ricci that saw him rather harshly cut from the UFC. By his own admission, Freakshow wasn't at his best, neither physically or mentally, for those fights. Here, he was back to his destructive best, dropping Newman twice in the first round with punches and coming close to finishing the fight several times with some vicious ground and pound. To his credit Newman fought on gamely, and could even have pulled off an arm bar, but it wasn't to be and he ended up on the wrong end of a decision victory. Welcome back, Freakshow.
The next fight between England's Curt Warburton and Tunisia's Mansour 'Tarzan' Barnaoui for the vacant World Lightweight Championship was less a fight and more of a demolition. 32-year old Warburton came in with an impressive record of 12-3 but didn't even get out of the blocks here as Barnaoui, a late call-up, swarmed him and finished the fight with punches in the first round to the delight of his small band of travelling support. The post-fight 'interview' was hilarious, as the guy obviously doesn't speak a word of English and just stood there in awkward silence as Frank Trigg fired questions at him. Still, a good performance by the 20-year old who last fought just three weeks ago at M1 Global Challenge 41. He now boasts a record of 10-2, but has fought largely average competition. If he goes into every fight with this much brutal intensity and destructive intent, the sky's the limit for him.
And so on to the vacant World Welterweight Championship between 'Judo Jimmy Wallhead, one of the biggest stars of British MMA and American journeyman 'Fast' Eddy Ellis. As it turned out, 'Fast' Eddy wasn't very fast at all, and copped a good one at the beginning of the fight that knocked out his tooth. He was in trouble, but like a solid pro hung on and saw out the round. The expected onslaught from Judo Jimmy, roared on by a vociferous crowd, didn't happen, and he allowed Fast Eddy to get a foothold in the fight, which ground on for the next two rounds without any significant incident. Judo Jimmy looked out of sorts, and strangely lethargic. Fast Eddy, coming in to the fight on a six-fight win streak but boasting an unremarkable overall record of 18-15, and hadn't fought for almost two years, did enough in the judges eyes to steal the title.
That left just one more fight, and the second phase of the much-hyped televised portion of the show featuring a Light-Heavyweight clash between golden boy Max Nunes, who went into the bout with a perfect record, and Dutchman Jason 'the Villain' Jones. There can't be many sports where a 32-year old with a record of 19-10 gets plucked from obscurity and handed a title shot. As with a few other fights tonight, he was fully expected to lose. But despite being younger, bigger and faster than his adversary, Nunes was outclassed and soon tapped out to a choke. Another future prospect effortlessly disposed of.
All-in-all, not a good night for British fighters. Perhaps the true level of MMA in this country has been exposed, as three of the four titles went to overseas's fighters. The night belonged to Freakshow, who finally lived up to his potential. Roll on BAMMA 14 on 14th December, which, we are told, will feature Paul 'Semtex' Daley as headliner, the man who will forever be remembered for punching Josh Kroscheck in the back of the head after the final bell at UFC 113.
I can't wait.