With the atmosphere in the NIA was electric as fight fans wait for the main event between Tom ‘Kong’ Watson and Jack Marshman, there is just the small matter of an equally impressive undercard to get through.
Opening up the night was Manchester fighter Lee Johnson taking on Luke Barnatt and, after a bit of eyeballing from Barnatt during the introductions, it’s soon down to business with the fight going to the ground following an early standing exchange. Once on the ground, Barnatt soon takes control of things, forcing his opponent to tap out with a tight rear naked choke after just over two and a half minutes of the first round.
Mark “The Hand Of” Godbeer takes on Catalin Zmarandescu in the second bout of the night and, with a clear weight difference between the two fighters (Godbeer the heavier of the two), it’s something of a surprise when Zmarandescu takes his opponent to the ground early on. Sadly, Catalin fails to take advantage of his position as both fighters are stood up by the referee. As the fight heads towards the end of the first round, Zmarandescu is felled by Godbeer who then lands a series of rib-cracking knees to the side of his opponent. With their man clearly in some discomfort during the break, it comes as no surprise when Catlin’s corner concedes the fight.
Scotland vs. Bristol next as Rab ‘Baloo’ Truesdale takes on Sam Mensah and with the Scot clearly popular with the crowd; Mensah has a fight on his hands. Taking Truesdale to the ground with a strong knee, Mensah struggles to gain advantage despite numerous attempts at choking out his opponent. With things not going well for the Scot, the fighter quickly ups his game forcing his way out of the choke swiftly gaining control before landing a number of brutal punches down on his beaten opponent.
A familiar name to BAMMA fans, Leeroy Barnes makes his return to the cage taking on Matt Ewin. With both fighters spending the early part of the fight testing the waters, Barnes eventually takes his opponent to the ground where the two fighter’s trade blows. With Ewin gaining control on the ground, an impressive move by Barnes sees him bring the fight up off the canvas, as the end of round 1 sees the crowd on their feet. Round 2 starts as round 1 finished with both fighters standing before the fight again goes to ground. With fantastic ground work and defense from both fighters it was clearly going to take something special to win this one and, with less than 3 seconds until the end of the second round, Barnes takes Ewin down with a guillotine choke forcing his opponent to tap out.
Dale Hardiman takes on Lithuanian Antanas Zazbutis in the next bout and, with a clear reach advantage over the Lithuanian, it is no surprise that Hardiman prefers to stand and trade than go to ground. With the Lithuanian fighter struggling to get Hardiman to the ground, he throws every move in his armory at his opponent with little lasting damage. As the fight heads into the second round, both fighters take it to the ground with the Lithuanian soaking up punches and choke attempts from the taller Hardiman, who loses the benefit of his height advantage. With Hardiman just ahead as the fight heads into the final round, the Lithuanian goes for broke and, in the eyes of the crowd, has clearly done enough to win the fight. It’s a pity the judges don’t share the audience opinion giving the decision in favor of Hardiman.
With only a few days notice, the colorful Mark Tucker takes on local boy Tom Breese next and with the crowd clearly behind the home fighter, Tucker is going to have to pull something special out of the bag to take this one. With his opponent benefitting from a height advantage, Tucker struggles to make any real headway with his kicks fairly ineffective. A cut opens up over Tuckers’ eye but the fighter still valiant defends his way through to the second round where an explosive knee to the ribs from Breese brings Tucker to the cage floor. Clearly in some discomfort from what was a devastating knee, Tucker is forced to tap out.
Another late change to the card sees Frenchman Patrick Vallee take on crowd favorite Andrew Punshon and with Vallee acknowledging the crowds good-hearted jeers with a wave and a sly smile he soon shows he isn’t just here to make up the numbers as the fight quickly goes to ground. With both fighters cancelling each other out with some excellent groundwork the fight heads into a second round where the Frenchman executes are solid armbar leaving Punshon with no option but to tap out.
Playing mind games before a fight is all part and parcel of MMA and, as David Round goads his American opponent Jake Murphy, you hope that he has enough about him to match his confidence. With his opponent not wanting to make the trip from the States a wasted one, he soon takes the fight to Round with some impressive wrestling and boxing work, the latter opening up a nasty cut on the face of the Welsh fighter. With clearance from the ref, the fight heads into round two and the American soon rocks his opponent with a head kick/punch before the fight again heads to the floor. Sadly for Round, Murphy is just too strong on the floor pulling off a rear-naked choke which proves just too much for the beaten Round.
Heading into the final part of the night now and the NIA is filling up nicely as everyone gets ready for the big one. Before the main event though there were two more fights to get through firstly Jason Jones versus Przemyslaw Mysiala and, following a swift exchange between the two fighters, Jones takes Mysiala to the ground. It doesn’t take long before Jones regains control opening up a large, bloody cut over the eye of Mysiala. Making fight conditions almost impossible, the amount blood pouring out of the cut forces the referee to stop the fight before doctors are called into the cage and Jones is declared the winner.
All sports have their characters and MMA is no different. With his opponent Jason Ball striding round the cage, Colin ‘Freakshow’ Bell makes his colorful entrance to the cage in freakshow clown mask accompanied by two chained gimps. All the showcasing is forgotten as the fight starts and ‘Freakshow’ makes full use of his height advantage. Clearly aiming to frustrate and wear down his opponent, Bell stays on his feet for the majority of round one and two while round three sees Bell box, kick and tire out his opponent right over the finish line. Unsurprisingly the judges vote in favor of the ‘Freakshow’ who proved just that little bit too much for his opponent.
And onto the final fight of the night as Tom ‘Kong’ Watson returns to BAMMA for the first time since his third round knockout of Murilo Rua. Taking on Jack Marshman for the middleweight title, Watson was intent on leaving the cage with the belt and wasted no time in setting out his intentions. Marshman on the other hand, and to the approval of a good chunk of the crowd, had other ideas opening up a small cut over the eye of Watson. With the bout heading into round two, Watson delivers a flurry of devastating leg kicks to Marshman who is now clearly struggling to stay in this fight.
Still managing to fight his way back into things, it takes an unfortunate slip to bring Marshman to the cage floor where Watson seizes his opportunity and finishes the fight off giving Marshman little option but to curl up and try to hold out. Sadly, after a relentless onslaught from Watson, the referee calls time on the fight leaving Marshman the beaten but valiant runner-up to Watson who proved that, on the night, there are few fighters who can match him.