After 10 minutes of positional control by Jesse Taylor, a Gael Grimaud victory dance seemed to be the least likely of all potential post-fight scenarios in the Cage Warriors "Fight Night 6" main event.
But dance the Frenchman did after earning an improbable third-round submission victory over Taylor to retain his welterweight title at Khalifa Sports City in Isa Town, Bahrain on Thursday.
Taylor (20-9), a competitor on Season 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” looked more than ready to ruin Grimaud’s first title defense in the opening two frames. The Team Quest export scored a takedown approximately 15 seconds into round one and went to work from there, taking Grimaud’s back in search of a rear-naked choke. When Taylor wasn’t hunting for the choke, he controlled the contest from top position while landing moderate ground-and-pound.
The second period looked much like the first, as “JT Money” remained persistent in pursuit of the fight-ending choke. Taylor attempted the submission on three separate occasions in the round, and each time Grimaud (15-5) remained poised under pressure despite mounting little offense of his own during that time.
Taylor figured to follow a similar game plan in the third frame, but Grimaud stuffed a telegraphed takedown attempt and turned the tables by briefly getting his opponent’s back at the outset of the round. His positioning wasn’t ideal, however, but as he slid off of Taylor’s back, he transitioned to an armbar. Moments later, Taylor asked out, and referee Neil Hall called a halt to the action 55 seconds into round three.
“I wasn’t too worried about the situation, but I started my fight maybe too slowly for the first two rounds,” Grimaud said through a translator in a post-fight interview.
In the co-main event, Jim Alers (8-1) utilized a well-rounded striking attack and defended a multitude of submissions en route to a second-round TKO triumph against Matteus Lahdesmaki (12-8-3) in a featherweight bout. The two combatants entered the contest with a combined 16 submission victories between them, and much of the first round played out accordingly.
Alers scored a quick takedown, and Lahdesmaki immediately worked for a triangle from his back before transitioning to a heel hook. Alers escaped, but it was hardly the final salvo from the 28-year-old Shooto Lahti representative, as the Finnish fighter would also attempt an ankle lock as well as another triangle in the frame. The American survived everything Lahdesmaki threw at him, all while getting the better of the action on the feet.
“He was a lot tougher than I thought,” Alers said. “I knew he was gonna go for a foot lock, so I practiced [defending] them a lot.”
In round two, Alers continued to do damage on the feet, wobbling his foe with a short right hook that had Lahdesmaki seeking via takedown. He would find no comfort on the canvas, as Alers took control of the fight from the mounted crucifix position, landing punches and short elbows until the assault was stopped at 1:30 of round two. It was just the second stoppage by strikes of the Floridian’s MMA career.
“I told you guys I wasn’t a one-trick pony,” Alers said. “I have heavy hands and you saw it tonight. I haven’t ever gotten a TKO, so I’m happy I got one of those.”
Earlier, Ivan Buchinger (20-3) put the heavy leather on Diego Gonzalez (15-7, 1 NC) in their lightweight encounter, ending the contest with a series of power strikes at 1:30 of the opening frame. The 26-year-old Slovakian was content to remain on the outside against Gonzalez, mixing the location of his punches and kicks nicely while taking minimal damage in return.
As the opening round waned, “Buki” punctuated a one-two combination with an overhand right that floored Gonzalez. The frame expired as Buchinger moved in for the finish, granting Gonzalez a temporary reprieve. The Octagon Fighting Academy product quickly picked up where he left off in round two, dropping Gonzalez with a right hand before pouncing with a flurry of follow-up punches that forced referee Rich Mitchell to halt the action.
Smothering top control carried Eddy Bengtsson – literally – to a first-round submission triumph over Jay Mortimore (6-3) in a heavyweight clash. The Swede secured a double-leg takedown almost immediately and controlled the fight from there, moving to full mount twice in the opening stanza.
The second occasion proved to be the end for the Englishman, as Bengtsson (6-3) smothered him with his chest in a move referred to by the Cage Warriors announce team as “Mother’s Milk.” The tapout came at 2:46 of round one.
John Phillips (15-5, 1 NC) displayed a new dimension to his game in the first main card bout of the evening, submitting Tomas Penz (8-6) with a triangle choke at 3:21 of the second frame in a middleweight affair. Phillips wanted to stand with his Czech opponent, but Penz secured takedowns in rounds one and two after getting the worst of the exchanges with “The White Mike Tyson.”
Phillips, who has finished 13 of his 15 career victories by knockout or technical knockout, handled himself nicely on the mat as well. The Wales native punished Penz with elbows from the mount early in the second frame and looked to have his foe in trouble with a rear-naked choke. Penz escaped the predicament but succumbed to the fight-ending hold shortly thereafter.
In preliminary action: Brazil’s Alan Carlos (7-6) took a majority decision from England native Mike Ling (9-4) at middleweight; Frenchman Olivier Pastor (15-9, 1 NC) knocked out Wales’ Dino Gambatesa (8-7) in 52 seconds at bantamweight; and Scotland’s Allan Love (8-4) stopped Lithuania’s Ignas Petkus (4-4, 1 NC) with punches at 3:03 of round one in a 185-pound scrap.