Inside the Ring, France Dominates the UK

By Pedro Wrobel May 22, 2005
COVENTRY, England, May 21 — Forget the crowd trouble, the rain and the FA Cup final. The real story yesterday was the ten fights on show. Leaving aside the disturbance at the end, this was one of the most enjoyable events I've ever attended.

The Skydome arena looks and feels like a warehouse. It's big and empty with a high metal ceiling and as I arrived at the venue I witnessed its reconstruction from ice hockey venue to MMA dream. The sheets of wood laid over the ice did not disguise the cold but as soon as the crowd was all inside and the adrenaline was pumping we didn't really notice such minor inconveniences as frostbite.

All it seemed to take was the erection of a cage, some curtains and some spotlights; and as the ambient light dimmed and the crowd began to arrive, we had us an MMA venue. With the atmosphere enthusiastic and electric, I felt excited and ready to go.

Biased as this may be, my top performers on the night were both British. Danny Batten did what no other English featherweight could do and defeated Emmanuel Fernandez in spectacular fashion — and by submission, no less. Dan "Fearless" Hardy, despite losing, displayed the sort of grit, determination and heart that just can't be taught. Hardy may have lost but in the eyes of everbody I spoke to, this loss may have just catapulted the Nottingham fighter into stardom.

As far as the French go, the most memorable performer for me was Bendy Casimir, who fought a kingly fight against a tough and determined Dave Swann.

The final score was 7-2 France.

In the main event of the evening, local kickboxing hero Barrington Patterson faced off against French grappler, Marc Emmanuel. Patterson received a massive cheer as he made his way to the ring, but even a partisan crowd was not enough to swing this bout in the big man's favor. Emmanuel was dominant from start to finish, eating a couple of shots from Patterson before taking the Englishman down to the canvas. The fight was stopped almost immediately as the French fighter was admonished by the referee for the use of an illegal downward elbow.

The fighters were restarted on their feet but Patterson was never in this. Emmanuel took the English fighter straight back to the canvas and mounted him. Patterson, who is clearly a novice on the ground, did nothing other than lie flat on his back and hold Emmanuel's head down, clinging to his opponent for dear life. This tactic would prove to be nothing more than a stay of execution and Emmanuel punished Patterson's ribs until the referee stood them up for inactivity. As soon as the fight was restarted it hit the ground again, with Emmanuel suplexing his opponent to the canvas and launching a barrage of punches. One of these hit Patterson clean on the chin and the Englishman was knocked out. This was a great stoppage by the referee, who seemed to be the only person immediately aware of the knockout. Patterson stayed down for around three minutes, being tended to by paramedics, but was able to exit the cage under his own strength.

In the night's only cage-based controversy, Matt Ewin retained his belt after his fight with Damien Riccio was ruled a no contest. Despite an early attack from Riccio which almost resulted in him winning by rear naked choke, Ewin was able to reverse the situation and put Riccio down on his back and open up with his trademark ground and pound. Towards the end of the first round, Ewin was even able to take Riccio's back, but he too failed to find the finishing choke.

The second round opened with an exchange of low kicks and then a huge slam from Ewin. Riccio managed to work his way back to his feet, only to be taken down again. At some point in this action Ewin suffered a cut and as the French official, Loic Pora, separated the two fighters it was obvious that the Englishman was bleeding from a wound above his right eye. The match was stopped and Ewin's cut treated. With the blood staunched, the fighters were restarted in the same position but scarcely a minute had passed before the referee stopped the fight again. Despite later claims that the referee was only stopping the fight for a second cut inspection, Ewin was incensed and angry, accusing Riccio of using his finger to intentionally re-open the cut. Both corners made their way into the cage and as the wrangling continued, video evidence was reviewed.

After around thirty minutes, the decision was made to rule the fight a No Contest since it was not deemed to be appropriate for the belt to chance hands on the strength of a controversial cut. A rematch was promised and these two will face off again in the near future.

There had been a lot of groundwork in the previous fights, so the presence of a bout between Mike Bisping and Cyrille Diabate under hybrid kickboxing rules was a welcome respite for the crowd. This was an extremely even fight between two very good light heavyweight strikers. Throughout the entire contest it was the shorter Bisping who was coming forwards, looking to land power shots and combinations that would knock his opponent down. Diabate, for his part, worked a cautious game, using his greater reach to pick his opponent off with jabs, knees and kicks. It was close but in my opinion Bisping edged the first three rounds through being more aggressive and scoring a knock down in the second round. The judges saw it differently, however, and a majority draw was scored after three rounds, meaning that the bout would go to a sudden victory fourth round. Bisping was gassed by this point and Diabate did enough in this round to be awarded the win via a unanimous judge's decision.

In what can only be described as complete and utter domination, Antonio "Junior" Silva took his second win under professional MMA rules and reinforced his claim as a very special talent. "Junior" is huge — 145-kgs of purely bad intent — and he uses all that force with devastating results. The fight opened with big bombs being thrown by Silva on the feet, and Tchinda, his opponent, retreating under the barrage. After a takedown and some heavy ground and pound from "Junior", the fight was stopped due to Tchinda having lost his mouth guard. As soon as the fighters returned to their feet, the Brazilian charged again and this time Tchinda had no way out. Trapped against the fence and with nowhere to go to escape the heavy strikes, Tchinda must have been glad when the referee stepped in after 3:03 of the first round.

Gregory Bouchelaghem defeated Ross Pointon by rear-naked choke in the sixth match of the night. The Englishman was game and aggressive but Pointon's power was dealt with and trumped by Bouchelaghem's skill on the ground. Following an exchange of takedowns, Pointon was reversed from the top position to the bottom after missing a keylock. With the Frenchman mounted on top of him, Pointon turned his back in an attempt to escape, gifting his opponent with the opportunity to finish him, which he did after 4:10 of the first round.

One of the most spectacular performances of the night came from Danny Batten, from the Ze Marcello/BTT camp, as he finally achieved the unachievable and defeated Emmanuel Fernandez. Batten fought the fight of his life, upsetting Fenandez with his low kick before the Frenchman shot in and took his opponent to the floor. The rest of the round took place on the ground with Fernandez on top and Batten on the bottom. Against expectation, most of the work was coming from the Englishman, who kept his opponent busy with attempted armbars, triangles and omoplatas. Fernandez did a good job of avoiding these and managed some light ground and pound, but nothing seemed to bother the snake-hipped Englishman.

The second round opened in similar fashion, with Fernandez shooting for the takedown and Batten immediately opening up with his arsenal of submissions. After 2:18 minutes of the round, Fernandez finally succumbed to a tight triangle choke, leading to moving scenes as an overjoyed Batten celebrated and an ecstatic crowd basked in the UK team's first victory of the night.

In an equally incredible display of skill, athleticism and determination, David Baron submitted Dan "Fearless" Hardy with a triangle choke. This was an absolute war from start to finish, with both fighters displaying the sort of tenacity that lesser men can only aspire to. The first round belonged to Baron, whose powerful takedowns and incessant submission attempts kept Hardy, the striker, out of his game. Hardy, for his part, could have tapped at a number of instances. I was sure that at one point his arm was going to break but somehow, some way, the Englishman gutted it out and kept coming.

The second round brought more of the same, but with Hardy managing to stamp his authority more and more on the Frenchman who must have been wondering what the hell he needed to do to keep his opponent down. Hardy landed some big shots in this round, pummeling and punishing his opponent whenever he got a respite from Baron's quick-fire submissions.

It was in the third round that Hardy finally succumbed, and what a pity it was too. This had been the English fighter's best round, and he seemed the more confident as he dropped shots on Baron from the top. Whether it was fatigue or carelessness, the end result was that Hardy was finally caught in a tight triangle choke and, this time, not even the "Fearless" one could get out, tapping at 3:10 of the third round.

Jim Wallhead has an impressive range of hip throws and he used them to entertaining effect in his match against the Frenchman, Boris Jonstomp. Unfortunately for Wallhead, his throws could not save him from the slick ground skills of his opponent, who weathered the early storm to take the Englishman's back and force him to tap out to a rear naked choke after 4:20 of the first round.

Bendy Casimir unleashed a torrent of aggression and fury at his opponent in the second fight of the night. Casimir was extremely impressive, getting the best of the early stand-up exchanges before executing some fast takedowns and continuing the assault with some fierce ground and pound. Dave Swann, to his credit, weathered the storm like a warrior, even managing to reverse positions a couple of times but it was all to no avail. Casimir secured the side choke and Swann was left with no option but to tap out after 4:07 of the first round.

Chris "The Freak" Freeborn should be illegal. The guy is only 21 years old, but has already fought more times than most UK-based fighters barring Paul Jenkins. On this occasion Freeborn cheerfully stepped up at 5pm on the day of the fight. Shortly after 6pm, he was standing in the middle of the cage, face to face with Mohamed El-Aouji. Despite the lack of preparation, Freeborn gave El-Aouji an excellent run for his money. The Englishman clearly wanted no part of the Frenchman's stand-up game, and worked to put the Frenchman on the ground. Unfortunately for Freeborn, El-Aouji was to prove his equal in that arena also, cinching on a tight triangle choke just as it looked like Freeborn was starting to take the upper hand, forcing the frighteningly brave Englishman to tap.
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