If the action, the attendance and the views of the Cage Warriors promotion are anything to go by the sport Mixed Martial Arts has a very bright future in Ireland.
By Fergus Ryan
The Neptune Stadium was home to Cage Warrior 39 â€œThe Uprisingâ€ last Saturday night and those fans who braved the bitter elements were rewarded with a fantastic night of fights. A mix of local and international talent delivered some stellar match-ups that left Cage Warriors match-maker Ian Dean still buzzing on Sunday morning.
â€œLast night was amazing, simply amazing,â€ he told JOE.ie. â€œI'm very, very happy with how the event went. Every fighter on that card did themselves proud.â€
The card had a blend of young up-and-comers in Joseph Duffy, Conor Cooke and Declan Williams, some more experienced local fighters in Cathal Pendred and Martin Begley, a US veteran in Justin Robbins and three of the biggest names in the ladies 125lbs division in Rosi Sexton, Sally Krumdiack and JOEâ€™s featured fighter Dubliner Aisling Daly.
Aisling was looking to rebound from her August loss at Bellator 25 to tough American Lisa Ward, when she took on Molly Helsel.
JOE caught up with Aisling en route to the weigh-ins. She described her mood as â€œincredibly positive all things consideredâ€ referring to the fact that she hadnâ€™t eaten or drank anything since midday the previous day to make the contracted weight for the fight of 125lbs. The weigh-in wasnâ€™t till 3.00pm in the afternoon.
While this smacks of unspeakable cruelty to you or I, Daly reckons itâ€™s 100 times easier than the previous weight cut where she fought at 115lbs in the Bellator Womenâ€™s Tournament. Speaking about pre-fight jitters Daly said, â€œI have healthy nerves. Thereâ€™d be something wrong if I wasnâ€™t a little nervous but I feel good, I feel sharp and Iâ€™m staying focused on my fight plan.â€
Ash in action:
Sporting an 8-10 record, Helsel offered a stern test for Daly. â€œSheâ€™s well rounded and an extremely experienced opponent. Iâ€™m expecting her to be strong and maybe a little heavier than me by fight time,â€ said Daly. She continued, â€œIâ€™ll stick to my strengths and I feel Iâ€™m a more technical fighter in every area.â€
The Dubliner's confidence proved justified when she brought her record to 10-1 after a three-round barn burner. Daly took the decision on points in a bout that won â€œFight of the Nightâ€ bonuses for both herself and her opponent Molly Helsel.
Rosi Sexton, meanwhile, bounced back from a knock-out loss to beat gritty Amercian Sally Krumdiack.
Wily veteran Justin Robbins of WEC fame beat Declan Williams after three rounds packed with action. Joseph Duffy, featured as one of Sherdogâ€™s top 10 European prospects recently, returned from The Ultimate Fighter try-outs with something to prove against Conor McGregor.
The tension was building for this fight from the weigh-ins after an intense stare-down between the two fighters (pictured right). Duffy backed up his reputation as one to watch with a highly technical arm triangle choke after 38 seconds. Rising local star Cathal Pendred from Straight Blast Gym added to his win column with a unanimous decision victory over Jamie Rogers. Adding to his Cage Contender welterweight championship belt is his reputation as Ireland's top welterweight MMA fighter.
An unexpected highlight was the submission victory by Vladimir Malko over Tom Sullivan. Malko was supposed to fight on the TuffNut card in Waterford that fell victim to the weather. In an eleventh-hour change to proceedings, his fight was moved to Cage Warriors to everyoneâ€™s benefit.
Dean was glowing in his praise for the Cage Warriors Irish experience and expects to be back early in the New Year. The only problem now is finding some space in the calendar and some fighters who have not already committed to other shows.
Full results from the card
Rosi Sexton defeated Sally Krumdiack by TKO (Punches) at 4:07 of round two.
Justin Williams defeated Declan Williams by Unanimous Decision after three 5:00 rounds.
Aisling Daly defeated Molly Helsel by Unanimous Decision after three 5:00 rounds.
Joseph Duffy defeated Conor McGregor by Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) at 0:38 of round one.
Adam Edwards defeated Martin Begley by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 4:17 of round one.
Cathal Pendred defeated Jamie Rogers by Unanimous Decision after three 5:00 rounds.
Vladimir Malko defeated Tom Sullivan by Submission (Achilles Lock) at 1:57 of round one.
Conor Cooke defeated Gareth Pugh by TKO (Punches) at 2:33 of round one.
Patrick Vickers defeated Artem Lobov by Unanimous Decision after two 5:00 rounds.
Stephen Owens defeated Graham McCormack by Unanimous Decision after two 3:00 rounds.
Warren Mitchell defeated Sean Tobin by Majority Decision after two 3:00 rounds.
Kristian Reed defeated James Heelan by Submission (Triangle Armbar) at 1:34 of round one.