THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
With EliteXC having gone belly up, Cage Rage is no more, and from their ashes, a new mixed martial arts promotion has arisen here in Britain, Ultimate Challenge UK, who presented their first show, Bad Breed, at The Troxy in London, shown live here in Britain this past Saturday on Nuts TV.
The show begins with action from the welterweight division, with the debuting Chris Woolcott taking on Michael Pastou. Things began quickly with a clinch as Pastou went for the take down, and was successful with his attempting, immediately going for the ground and pound. Woolcott tried to work his way out, but it wasn’t long before Pastou regained control from the side, again unloading with some heavy blows, before quickly applying an key lock, with Woolcott tapping immediately. One way traffic in this one, with Pastou looking great as he dominated from start to finish with a great showing.
Then it’s on to the heavyweight division, two fighters making their MMA debuts, with Mark Stroud, going up against Dillian Whyte. The start was delayed because Whyte came to the ring without his gum shield! When the gum shield finally arrived, both fighters swung early, and a hard right from Whyte sent Stroud crashing down like the proverbial sack of spuds, with the referee stopping the fight straight away. Although it was a good shot that ended the fight, it was hard to tell how good each fighter was, because so little actually happened. But me thinks that perhaps the massive age difference between the two fighters was the deciding factor here. The fight time – just twelve seconds.
Action from the middleweight division followed, with Robert Salmond and Chris Harman. Round one began with the usual feeling out process, each men testing the waters with kicks and jabs, until they began to swing a few seconds later, before Salmond got a front face lock on Harman, connecting with a few good knees. Harman tried to work his way out of danger, but Salmond was having nothing of it, soon taking it to the ground and soon trying to take Harman’s back, before soon working for an armbar. But Harman was able to work himself free, and quickly moved into the top position. But once there Salmond tied up his arms, stopping him from working, before working for a key lock, but no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t lock the arm, with Harman soon slipping away. With both fighters returning to their feet, it wasn’t long before both men were trading kicks and jabs again as the round entered it’s final minute, with Salmond clipping Harman, before connecting with three knees to the head with a clinch, before both fighters traded as the round came to an end.
Round two didn’t last long. After a few seconds Harman came with a left hook from nowhere, knocking Salmond down to the mat. Harman went in for the kill with the ground and pound, and it wasn’t long before Harman’s constant rights forced the referee to call a halt to the proceedings, giving Harman the KO win. A very enjoyable fight, and a victory that nobody predicted after the first round.
The first of the title matches followed, with Tim Radcliffe facing Jason Young for the vacant World Lightweight title. The fight began with both fighters testing the waters with jabs, before Radcliffe went for the shoot and took Young down seconds later. Young soon got back to his feet though, although Radcliffe was still on the attack, and the fight went back down to the mat. Young then went for a guillotine which ultimately went nowhere, before Radcliffe transitioned quickly, and looked good in doing so as Young seemed powerless to stop him. Seconds later Radcliffe took Young’s back, and after his first rear naked choke attempt failed, Young managed to roll back to his own back, before Radcliffe took his back for a second time. This time he synched the rear naked choke in, and it wasn’t long before Young was tapping, giving Radcliffe the title victory in what could only be termed as an outstanding performance.
More title action followed, with Danny Cubbitt facing Tom Watson for the vacant World Middleweight title. With Cubbitt hailing from Norwich and training in my hometown of Cromer, I think you can guess who I was rooting for. The beginning saw the usual feeling out, with Watson testing things with a few low kicks. Cubbitt was constantly on the back foot as Watson came forward, before a clinch which saw Watson deliver a couple of knees. With the clinch ultimately going nowhere, Watson connected with a few good shots, and as Cubbitt slumped down to the mat after an uppercut, Watson went for the ground and pound, with the referee stopping the fight a few seconds later. Another good performance from Watson, but what else could you expect from the Kong man?
Main event time, with James McSweeney facing Neil Grove for the vacant World Heavyweight title. Round one, and McSweeney began quickly with an attempted Superman punch and a leg kick. But Grove was more than willing to trade with him, before Grove scored with a high take down after a clinch against the cage. McSweeney tried to squirm his way free, but Grove took him down yet again with a move that resembled a back suplex, and although Grove was using his superior power to control the fight, it wasn’t long before McSweeney took the guard position, and took Grove’s back seconds later, looking for a rear naked choke. These attempts ultimately went nowhere, and Grove soon regained control, ground and pounding. However, McSweeney then earned himself a warning for connecting with an up kick to Grove while the big man was still on his knees. When the fight resumed both men worked well, Grove continuing with the ground and pound, and McSweeney looking for the ground and pound, and as the clocked ticked down to the last few seconds, McSweeney went for another rear naked choke, with the end of the round saving Grove.
Round two, and both fighters clearly looked tired after their exertions in the previous round. McSweeney went for the shot, but Grove was able to defend before unleashing with more ground and pound, his favoured weapon being the big left hand, and with McSweeney failing to defend himself, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Grove the title victory. A tremendous fight between two of this country’s best heavyweights, and if the promoters have any sense they’ll give these guys a re-match in the future.
In conclusion – after the situation surrounding EliteXC, Cage Rage have dusted themselves off, changed their name to Ultimate Challenge UK, and have come back with on of the best shows I’ve seen from this crew in ages. There wasn’t one bad fight here, with some good performances from top to bottom, with the World Heavyweight Championship battle between Grove and McSweeney clearly the fight of the night, although I was a little disappointed that Danny Cubbitt didn’t win. Mind you, he was fighting Tom “Kong” Watson after all!
But anyway, this was a great show, but I’m left to wonder what will happen next to Dave O’Donnell’s band of merry men. With the Digital Spy website reporting that Nuts TV is closing down in the new year, does this mean the end of his shows on television? I hope not. Although Sky Sports are giving his shows a wide berth, and Cage Gladiators proving to be popular on ITV4, I’m sure that there’s another channel out there somewhere who would be willing to give Ultimate Challenge a go.