The sporting world may be on a virtual shutdown this weekend, but there is one live event that fight fans can sit down and enjoy. Cage Warriors is the UK’s best and most prolific MMA promotion, with the organization renowned as a top proving ground for UFC stars of the future.
The likes of Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, Nathaniel Wood, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Brett Johns have all made their way into the UFC after enjoying success inside the Cage Warriors cage, and now a new generation of fighters are looking to prove their worth and potentially earn a shot on the sport’s biggest stage.
With a host of MMA events postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Cage Warriors 113 has somehow still stayed on, with the promotion moving from London to Manchester to keep its fight card alive. Most of the fights offer clear favourites, so where does the value lie ahead of Friday night’s fights? Let’s take a look…
UFC middleweights Darren Stewart and Bartosz Fabinski were meant to face separate opponents at UFC London this weekend, but after the event, and their respective bouts, were postponed, Cage Warriors offered to rebook them in a new “UFC bout”. A few phone calls later, the pair were matched head to head in Friday night’s new main event.
Poland’s Fabinski is strong, tough and durable. He’s lost just once in his last eight fights – a submission defeat in his most recent outing – but has otherwise looked a solid if unspectacular operator in the UFC’s 185-pound division.
"I'M STILL STANDIN' BRUV!"
4️⃣ UFC wins in his last 5️⃣ for Darren Stewart ? pic.twitter.com/mfsRpEQ6j6
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) October 20, 2019
Stewart, meanwhile, arrived in the UFC with a reputation as a knockout artist, but took four fights to finally get his first win – a knockout – inside the octagon. He’s won four of his last five, with his only loss in that run coming via razor-thin split decision against rising middleweight star Edmen Shahbazyan.
Stewart’s wrestling has improved noticeably over his last few fights, which should help him keep the fight standing. And if it stays in the striking realm, “The Dentist” has all the striking skills needed to give “The Butcher” a nightmare in Manchester.
I like Stewart (4/11) to win, with the 9/5 available on a KO/TKO victory the best route to a solid return.
Unbeaten Welsh lightweight contender Mason “The Dragon” Jones has his sights set on the UFC and knows that capturing the Cage Warriors lightweight title on Friday represents a major step towards achieving that aim.
The Cage Warriors 155-pound title has helped propel the likes of Conor McGregor, Stevie Ray, Chris Fishgold and Jai Herbert to the UFC, and now Jones hopes he can follow in their footsteps by claiming the vacant title this weekend.
Jones takes on Northern Ireland’s Joe McColgan, who was involved in Cage Warriors’ “Fight of the Year” last year as he battled to a draw with Mehdi Ben Lakhdar in London last September.
Check out the highlights from his 2019 Fight of the Year with Mehdi Ben Lakhdar! pic.twitter.com/NTi9rQ6M0D
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) March 17, 2020
McColgan is tough, gritty and certainly won’t be beaten easily, but I believe Jones (2/9) is the real deal and will get the job done on Friday night. The Welshman told me earlier this week that he had already prepared for a five-round fight, and that preparation may well pay dividends as he pulls clear on the scorecards in the final rounds to claim a win by decision.
There’s a chance he could pick up a late-round stoppage, but I think we’re likely to see a drawn-out, back-and-forth war, with Jones’ quality shining through to claim the win, and the title. The 10/3 available for a decision win looks like solid value in a fight that could well go all the way.
Former BAMMA title challenger Nathan “Mr. Bag and Tag” Jones has rediscovered his form since joining Cage Warriors, and now he faces a real test as he takes on French contender David Bear in a fight that could produce a challenger for the vacant Cage Warriors 170-pound title.
Bear is the pre-fight favourite. He’s 8-1 and has claimed his last five victories inside the distance, with four of them coming via submission. Knowing these stats makes the Method of Victory odds particularly interesting.
Both men love to grapple, and 4/9 betting favourite Bear is a very tempting 9/2 shot to claim the win by submission, while Jones is priced at a similarly-tempting 7/2 to win by the same method.
However, with two men with grapple-first skillsets going head to head, there’s a chance they could cancel each other out. Then it’s a case of finding a differentiating factor, and with Jones’ level of opposition looking stronger, I think it’s worth leaning towards the underdog here. The 13/2 available for a Jones win looks excellent value, and gives us a chance to “Bag and Tag” a tidy profit if the Brit can do the business in Manchester on Friday.
Believe me when I tell you that there’s no one more fired up to fight this weekend than Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett. The former Cage Warriors featherweight champion challenged for the lightweight belt in his last fight and, after looking close to getting the finish, ended up losing out on the scorecards.
But that was 18 months ago. Since then, “The Baddy” has been frustrated as no fewer than FOUR opponents have fallen by the wayside before fight night as he has found it impossible to find someone to get in the cage with him and fight.
Now, after losing TWO opponents for this weekend’s event, Pimblett takes on Irish fighter Decky Dalton in the opening main card bout of the night, and while Pimblett is grateful to finally have a dance partner, he’s also laser-focused on getting not just a win, but an impressive one.
One of the wildest submissions we've ever seen ?
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) March 18, 2020
Dalton is a solid operator who has worked the regional scene in Ireland and the UK for years, but Pimblett has operated at a higher level and is heading into the bout as motivated as we’ve ever seen. Dalton is tough and durable, but I think Pimblett’s grappling acumen will play a decisive part this weekend as the Scouser gets the fight to the mat and locks up a submission to get the win inside the distance.
The 6/4 available on a Pimblett submission win represents excellent value against a man who is stepping on just one week’s notice.