The hugely anticipated Cage Contender Fight Stars lightweight tournament is just days away. A writer for The Fight Lounge; Mark Evans gives us his humorous thoughts on what will go down on the night.


So this weekend sees the return of MMA action to the Olympia in Liverpool with the kind of added spice usually reserved for that weekend curry after a night out with the lads. Thankfully, this kind of spice won’t require the need for toilet roll in the fridge, but it sure will need some serious guts to navigate the field of an 8-man tournament, with 10k on offer in the prize pool, with the main spoils of war being £4000 to the overall winner and £2000 to the runner up, followed by £1000 for losing semi-finalists and £500 for losing quarter-finalists.

There have been changes to the card most notably with Andre Winner having to drop out due to injury, however the tournament doesn’t hinge on one man alone and several of the names still on the card are more than capable of winning the whole thing so, all in all, this promises to be a great night of MMA for all concerned. This is without considering the excellent undercard with some up and coming talent such as Wootten, Pimblett and Rogers. So why not jump in, grab a seat, divulge in some of the excellent curry, chips and rice combo on offer in the Olympia and enjoy what is sure to be the finest display of 8 people battling it out for supremacy since Octomom shelled out her own personal fight club!

The draw has been made and the first fight of the night sees Martin Stapleton (9-1) up against Jamie Rogers (6-4). Martin is currently ranked #13th  to Jamie’s #34th on The Fight Lounge rankings, Martin had been out of the game for a couple of years between Sept 09 and June 12 and could conceivably have been higher up the rankings if not for this gap, though his opponent doesn’t have a huge advantage in the keeping active stakes with just 3 fights in the last 2 years. His most recent being the only win though he did take Cathel Pendred all the way to the judges’ scorecards back in November ’10.

Stapes, as he is known on the internets, is a solid all-round fighter, with a lot of people expecting him to go all the way in this tournament and I am included amongst that list, so no pressure Stapes. Rogers has decent hands and is happy to work in the clinch, but I see Martin’s overall experience and Marine strength being the deciding factor in this fight, I mean, the Marines beat the Aliens in Battle LA and, though I swear to god I am owed 2 hours for that movie, I sadly had to research them for this fight, it turns out although they can’t act, Marines are proper nails. Therefore my MMA/Movie analysis predicts a second round stoppage for Stapleton here.

The second quarterfinal sees Mihail Kazaku (5-2) v Arnold Quero (3-1) clash in a battle of the Europeans, Quero has yet to see the judges’ scorecards in any of his bouts, his one loss coming in his most recent bout against Nordin Asrih. He was looking comfortable until a big right from Asrih shook him and moments later led to his demise via a rear naked choke. Arnold displays a wide range of punches, kicks and knees and could be one to watch.

Kazuka’s losses have both come via TKO stoppage and from what shaky cam YouTube footage I have seen of him, I feel Quero has the distinct advantage on the feet, Kazuka has some grappling ability and this may be his best way to win the fight as Quero will be too quick on the feet for him, although Mihail does seem to like to trade with opponents and I fear this may be his downfall in this fight, Quero by stoppage late in the first via a flying knee with follow up ground and pound, hey if I am making the call, might as well make it an exciting one! Neither fighter features in the TFL UK rankings because of their European heritage.

The third of the quarterfinals has Chris Stringer (11-9-1) v Tommy Maguire (12-4) facing off in what may be the fight for the grappling and submission connoisseurs in attendance, Stringer ranked #33rd on TFL UK rankings has seen 8 of his wins come via submission but has also been caught in them 6 times as well, Tommy who is the younger brother of UFC Veteran John Maguire, is also well versed in submissions with 4 of his wins coming this way though notably he has racked up 6 wins via TKO showing he is well rounded and can finish the fight wherever it goes, Tommy currently ranks #23rd on TFL UK rankings. Its also worth taking note is that he has never been submitted up to this point in his MMA career. Both come from excellent gyms that have seen fighters go on to fight with the UFC, Stringer out of Kaobon and Maguire from Tsunami, so with the quality of fighters these pair get to train with daily, this fight promises plenty of action wherever it goes.

On paper Maguire has the better record and Stringer is susceptible to submissions, however I feel this will be a very close fight, Stringer has improved over time with 5 of the losses on his record coming prior to 2008, Maguire has put together a couple of decent win streaks himself, a 5 fight streak coming to an end in ’10 and is currently riding a 3 fight win streak. However the one trump card in Stringers pack is the fact that he has experienced and won a tournament before in Clan Wars in August of last year, this combined with home town advantage means I see Stringer taking this fight either by decision or by catching Maguire in the first submission of his pro MMA career, let’s say flying heel hook with X guard combo – again, it’s my call and my first article so may as well make it a good one and go out in a blaze of submission calling glory!

The final fight making up the first round of tournament action sees Uche Ihiekwe (5-2-1nc) v Phil Flynn (7-7-1nc), this is a fight some people may think sounds familiar and so it should as they clashed at OMMAC 15 less than 2 months ago, that fight was ruled a No Contest after one of the cage posts intervened delivering a sneaky blow of its own just before Uche unleashed a torrent of knee’s from the clinch, Phil was visibly marked up from the clash with the post and it obviously played a part in the outcome of the fight, some people campaigned for a fight between Phil and the post but that had to be pulled after the post demanded TRT exemption and was refused. Both fighters had their moments in the short fight, Phil showing the strength and cage control to keep Uche pinned up against the cage and Uche showing lovely Muay Thai prior to the end of the fight.

Uche had an exemplary record as an amateur but hit a couple of bumps in the form of the unbeaten Mike Wilkinson and also Artem Lobov before turning things around with back to back wins prior to the Flynn bout, which has seen him rise to #29th in the TFL rankings. Flynn is an exciting fighter who for some reason loathes judges’ scorecards and win or lose just has no interest in the fight going that far with only one of his professional fights reaching the third round, which could help in the tournament format noting the fights are all scheduled for 2 rounds with an overtime round only if needed in the event of a draw.  Uche also seems to come out in a rash at the thought of judges’ scorecards with only one fight pro or amateur going outside the first round, this promises to deliver more drama than a Christmas episode of Eastenders. Hard one to pick again this, which is what makes this a fantastic tournament, each and every fight, even though not matched but drawn out randomly, promises more excitement than me getting a ticket to a Playboy Mansion all you can eat buffet! I am going to go again with the home town boy and Kaobon fighter Uche, a tactic I seemed to have now learnt from losing on every football match where I bet on the away team. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend blinking or scrapping around for that final mouthful of rice n curry sauce during this fight.

The tournament alone is worth the entry fee for this event but Chris Zorba and John Ferguson are like a pair of Ferrero Rocher waiters serving up even more sumptuous goodies for our pleasure in the form of the undercard with Lightweights Jamie Lee (1-0) v Danny Welsh (5-25), Bantamweights Paddy Pimblett (1-0) v Dougie Scott (0-1), Welterweights Dan Rishworth (2-0) v Russ Smith (6-2), Bantamweights again in the form of Mike Wootten (4-0) v Brent Crawley (4-1) and rounding off the undercard Featherweights Saul Rogers (6-0) v Shay Walsh (7-2). Each and every fight here is spoiling us as that advert likes to say, we will be able to bear witness to some fighters that one day we may well be able to see on TV and tell our friends that we were there when they were on the way up, kind of like MMA hipsters, but not as sad. Honest.

Paddy Pimblett will be looking to continue his unbeaten streak that’s been rolling since his days as an Amateur, Mike Wootten has a lot of attention as a prospect and has all the tools to take his career further, though both of these guys will have their work cut out on the night as neither of their opponents will be looking to give them an easy time. Brent, for instance, beat the much more experienced Mark Platts in his last outing at BAMMA 8. Saul Rogers and Shay Walsh promises to be an explosive fight, Saul has 5 submission victories in his 6 wins so far and Shay has 5 KO/TKO victories in his 7 wins, so there is more than a fair chance we won’t require the judges’ assistance to decide a victor in this fight.

I should  point out there are reserve fighters in the form of Alexei Roberts (5-2) and Stu Davies (8-19) , if any fighter on the main card doesn’t make weight or pulls out prior to their first fight, Alexei will step in as first reserve, Stu is second reserve in this scenario, however if the tournament gets off with no hitches but any winning fighter has to retire through injury etc and cannot continue, then a coin toss decides which of the reserves takes their place. If all fighters on the night complete all bouts and are ok to continue to the final, then Alexei and Stu will face off against each other after the 2nd semi-final.

So with all this tasty MMA on offer, you have to ask yourself if you are in the area, why on earth wouldn’t you go and catch this live, after all, you will be treated to a smorgasbord of up and coming talent, some of whom could easily be seen on the big shows in the future. This tasty undercard starter will be followed by a whopping main course of talent battling it out for the right to become tournament champion. Let’s be honest, tournaments don’t come along often enough these days and the chance to see one should be grabbed with both hands, taken down and choked out whenever possible.

Now I have to pick an overall winner for this, after much consideration and research, mostly of which involved considering which of them runs the fastest because if I don’t pick them, I need to make sure I can outrun them on the night. Oddly there is little in the way of statistics for how quickly these chaps can cover 100 metres. So with that in mind, I am going to have to pick Martin Stapleton as my overall pick to take the whole show, this means no disrespect towards the other fights as I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if any of them took home the title and the money, even predicting the quarter finals involved a lot of debate, I am still up in the air about the Stringer v Maguire bout in all fairness. However Stapes has that man strength and overall experience that I feel may just see him all the way to the win on the night, plus, there is a fair chance he is a tasty shot noting his nickname is ’50 Cal’ and although I may outrun him, I’m pretty sure I can’t outrun a ’50 Cal’ – even after months of practise on Black Ops.

So that’s it, all that’s left is for me to wish all the fighters the best of luck on the night and thank them and Chris Zorba and John Ferguson for putting this together and finally to Mike and Jackie at The Fight Lounge for giving me the opportunity to get my head stoved in by a bunch of fighters for not picking them to win the whole thing!

By Mark Evans