Late notice and a weight disadvantage were small hurdles for D.J. Linderman to clear as the Bellator veteran hammered out a well-deserved unanimous decision verdict over Bobby Brents in the heavyweight headliner of Cage Warriors’ Fight Night 5 from the New Boxing Arena in Amman, Jordan.
The 28-year-old Linderman stepped in for injured fellow American Chris Barnett on just four days notice to meet Brents, returning to the heavyweight division he toiled in before making the recent cut to 205 pounds. The Yreka, Calif., got the job done behind a solid jab and sturdy boxing, bloodying up the bigger bodied Brents, who had 25 pounds on him. "I knew he was going to go to the ground with it, so I said some things and changed it up," said Linderman of his handiwork.
Apart from the fact that both men traded low blows -- Linderman landing an errant knee while Brents cracked “Da Protégé” with a stray low kick to the groin -- there wasn’t much two-way traffic in terms of strikes. Linderman’s jab was crisp, his lead uppercut landed regularly, and he even worked an array of kicks into his attack.
Brents tried to threaten late with a guillotine, but it was too little too late as Linderman’s superior hand craft and head movement led him to scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Linderman improves his MMA mark to 11-3, while Brents falls to 12-3 with the defeat. "Mike Hayes is next. I'm taking that belt,” Linderman said of his fellow Bellator veteran, who picked up the vacant Cage Warriors heavyweight crown against Germany’s Andreas Kraniotakes in March. Linderman earned a unanimous decision over Hayes in May 2009 in Kent, Wash., when both men were toiling on the Pacific Northwest circuit.
The Cage Warriors middleweight championship will soon have an owner, too. It will belong to either Sweden's Victor Cheng, who soundly bested Faycal Hucin over three rounds or Ukrainian upset darling Pavel Kusch, who shockingly heel hooked tournament favorite John Phillips in just 25 seconds to reach the final.
Cheng pushed his MMA mark to 9-2 by utilizing his ground skills, as the Gothenburg native kept the natural-striking Hucin on the ground early and often. Hucin did himself no favors by losing a point for a fence grab in the second round, as the Gladius MMA product kept up his workmanlike attack. Cheng even had a glimpse of a potential finish in the final frame as he broke Hucin's balance with a left hook late, but couldn't follow up and settled for scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
The 23-year-old Kusch shocked Phillips, as "The White Mike Tyson" was given no time to show off his trademark standup. Kusch instantly dove for a leglock, switching from a straight Achilles lock to a heel hook. Phillips tried to roll, but exposed his heel, giving the Ukrainian the slim margin he needed to torque his knee and force a tap less than 30 seconds into the bout.
Kusch moves to 13-2 with the eye-opening result, while the favored Phillips falls to 14-5.
In the evening's most entertaining bout, British featherweight Liam James spoiled Frenchman Jean N'Doye's unbeaten record, earning a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over 15 minutes of savvy striking.
For three rounds, James attacked with heavy punches while N'Doye focused his attack around laser-guided low kicks and flying strikes. However, as the bout wore on, the Newcastle native took control with his boxing, despite being primarily known for his ground skills. As the final round wore away, James' punches were clearly the most effective offense, as N'Doye's muay Thai attack slowed, with his knees and kicks being blocked and checked.
Polish prospect Piotr Hallman made an emphatic lightweight debut, physically mauling Devon, England's Kevin Donnelly. Donnelly tried to take Hallman down throughout the contest, but was simply squashed and elbowed for his troubles. Each round played out nearly identically, as Hallman took over with ferocious ground-and-pound, finally forcing Donnelly to expose his back so the 24-year-old Pole could sink the rear-naked choke at 4:10 of the third round
After a slow opening round, 6-foot-6 British middleweight Mike Ling put his pointy elbows to good use, brutally cracking France's Eric Cebarac en route to a second-round stoppage. Cebarac, who was deducted 25 percent of his purse for weighing in at nearly 187.6 pounds Thursday, looked lethargic while on top early, and once he found himself below the lanky Ling, was simply overwhelmed by the onslaught until he was saved at 2:11 of the frame.
The undercard witnessed notable European action at bantamweight. Welshman Kris Edwards got his hand raised with an entertaining unanimous decision against Finland's Janne Elonen-Kulmala in a back-and-forth grappling bout. Edwards was swept via Kumala's kimura from guard twice and was nearly tapped in the final round as "Jamba" turned on the offense. However, Edwards was able to escape, his time on top and with back control earning him scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice.
Elsewhere at 135 pounds, Briton James Brum showed off a nasty set of elbows, pounding Sweden's Thomas Beck for 15 lopsided minutes. The bout was nearly stopped when Brum started his half guard assault in round one, but the tough Swede held until the final bell. The final scores showed off Brum's dominance, as he earned 30-27, 30-26 and 30-25 cards for his dominant, smashing game on top.
In the evening's opening pro contest, Egyptian light heavyweight Mohammed Ali pounded out a unanimous verdict (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over South Korean Doo Hwan Kim.
The card also boasted a seven-bout amateur undercard featuring talent from the Middle East and west and northern Africa: Tunisia's Waleed Nasseb tapped Ghana's Stephen Addey at 1:58 of the second frame with a rear-naked choke; fellow Tunisian Houthaifa Gdouda punched out Jordan's Hamzeh Naxush at 1:34 of the second round; Jordanian Yazan Janeb was all business in taking out Waleed Hassan of Sudan with strikes at just 1:46 of the first; Nigeria's Emmanuel Onoja knocked out Makrem Sanouni of Tunisia at 2:24 of round two; Yousef Abu Shreikh of Jordan knocked Egypt's Mohammad Atef flat in just 93 seconds; Egyptian Ahmad Ibrahim Aly knocked out Jordan's Ghassan Abzakh at 1:35 of the second stanza and Lebanon's Tarek Suleiman started the night by rear-naked choking Iraq's Yasser Abdul Razeq at 1:45 of the first.