This Weekend’s Warriors: Irish MMA Is Back!

Images via Dolly Clew / Lee Hamilton-Cooper

Irish MMA is finally back!

After a Summer barren of consistent Irish involvement in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, European promotions are resuming operation, and we now enter the busiest week for domestic talent in 2020. Cage Warriors are back with a bang as they host a trio of consecutive “THE TRILOGY” fight nights inside Manchester’s BEC Arena. Bellator are setting up shop in Milan, with their latest European Series card taking place on Saturday 26th September, and one Irishman will venture further afield to Dubai in search of combat glory. 

As always, here at Severe MMA we like to shine a light on MMA fighters from the island of Ireland competing worldwide. Let’s get started!

*Details on how to watch each event are listed at the bottom of this article.

Thurs 24th Sept: Cage Warriors 114. BEC Arena, Manchester

Jack Maguire (0-1) vs Ciaran Mulholland (0-1)

A domestic bantamweight clash between Jack Maguire and Ciaran Mulholland kicks off the action for the Irish this week. Cork vs Belfast. MMA Cork vs Titans MMA Belfast. The pair are no strangers to each other, having come up on the Irish amateur scene at the same time. At Akuma FC 10 in 2017, Mulholland was victorious in claiming the amateur flyweight title, and Maguire won bantamweight gold in the very next fight. Both Maguire and Mulholland will be looking for their first professional wins when they collide in Manchester, after they each suffered defeat in their pro debuts at CW110 in Cork last November.

John Mitchell (1-0) vs Alan Brykalski (1-2)

Mitchell will once again compete under the Cage Warriors banner alongside his MMA Cork teammate Jack Maguire, having both made their pro debuts in Neptune Stadium together last year. The former Cage Legacy amateur welterweight champion looked phenomenal in what many deemed to be a Fight of the Night contest against Eric Nolan in Cork, and now he looks to kick on and establish himself as one of the top prospects in Ireland. Mitchell takes on Alan Brykalski, who trains out of Lions Den in Exeter. Brykalski is coming off a 14-second KO in February and will make his Cage Warriors debut. 

Friday 25th Sept: Cage Warriors 115. BEC Arena, Manchester

Ian Garry (3-0) vs George McManus (2-1)

“The Future” is back in action. Team KF welterweight Ian Garry has tore onto the pro MMA scene in the UK & Ireland. An outspoken, brash, yet respectful personality, Garry has announced himself as one, if not the, top prospects in Irish MMA, going undefeated in 2019. After a unanimous decision victory over James Sheehan in his debut—which was an entertaining war of attrition between fellow countrymen—Garry notched back-to-back stoppage victories, adding a highlight reel KO over Matteo Ceglia to his resume followed by a clinical first-round submission of Mateusz Figlak when Cage Warriors returned to Ireland late last year. Garry takes on George McManus, who trains out of 1st Legion in Leicester. McManus is coming into the contest on a two-fight win streak, securing back-to-back 1st-round stoppages over Grant Gaunt and Josh Plant. Friday will be the first time McManus has competed since that submission over Plant back in October 2018.

Decky McAleenan (6-3) vs Adam Ventre (8-4)

Decky McAleenan is never in a boring fight, and I expect this one to be an absolute war. The Team Torres BJJ fighter got off to a rocky start in the famous Cage Warriors yellow gloves, dropping close decisions to Steve Aimable and Tom Mearns to open 2019. Unhappy with the judges’ decision in the latter, McAleenan went into his November contest against 47-fight veteran Antanas Jazbutis with a point to prove, and prove it he did. McAleenan dominated Jazbutis over three rounds, winning 30-26 on all three judges’ scorecards. His matchup on Friday against the self-proclaimed “BMF” of Cage Warriors, Adam Ventre, has potential for FOTN written all over it. The pair share a common most recent opponent in Jazbutis, with Ventre also emerging victorious with a unanimous decision result.This fight should be fireworks!

Unfortunately, Decky McAleenan vs Adam Ventre has been cancelled due to a positive COVID-19 test result.

Friday 25th September: UAE Warriors 13. Dubai, UAE

Dean Barry (2-1) vs Abdulla Al Bousheiri (7-1)

Dean Barry is a former multiple-time World WAKO kickboxing champion. After making the switch to MMA, the SBG Charlestown fighter lay down a marker in his 2017 debut, notching a KO inside the first round. After experiencing his first taste of defeat inside the cage at the hands of Anthony “Prettyboy”Taylor, Barry rebounded with another 1st-round stoppage, this time over Cory Samuels on Titan FC 55. The Tallaght man continues to fly the flag for Ireland abroad, and faces a tough test against Al Bousheiri over in Dubai. The Kuwaiti fighter is on a 6-fight win streak, all of which were stoppages. A former kickboxing world champion vs a devastating power puncher has all the makings of a highlight-reel finish for the victor. Tune in on UAE Warriors YouTube channel tomorrow from 3pm Irish time!

Sat 26th Sept: Cage Warriors 116. BEC Arena, Manchester.

Kyle McClurkin (3-1) vs Christian Leroy Duncan (0-0)

Kyle McClurkin has long been talked about by fellow Fight Academy Ireland teammates, Joe McColgan and Paul Hughes, as one of the best middleweights in Ireland. Since suffering defeat at the hands of Will Fleury in his pro debut in 2017, McClurkin has been winning in dominant fashion ever since. Three consecutive first-round KOs have secured McClurkin a Cage Warriors contract, and he will look to make a statement in his debut under the promotional banner this Saturday against Leroy Duncan. While this will be Duncan’s pro debut, he comes into the contest with extensive amateur experience, amassing a 17-6 record. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see an early finish in this one, but it will be interesting to see how McClurkin performs if he is brought outside the first round for the first time in his professional career. 

Paul Hughes (5-0) vs Aidan Stephen (7-2)

Paul Hughes is a finisher. To say that the Derry native has had an electric pro career thus far would be an understatement. The FAI featherweight commanded the attention of the masses with a blistering 1st-round demolition over Adam Gustab in BAMMA back in 2017. After a string of injuries left Hughes sidelined for 2 years, he has made up for lost time since his return to action in 2019, racking up 4 wins in the space of a year. Hughes started 2020 with a bang, scoring a thunderous head kick knockout over Youri Panada at CW112, and he will look to continue that streak and make further strides towards Cage Warriors title contention this Saturday at CW116. Hughes will take a step up in competition when he faces Scottish prospect Aidan Stephen. While he may not be undefeated, Stephen has only suffered defeat at the hands of high-level fighters such as Cal Ellenor and Steve Aimable. Stephen looked very impressive on the last card Cage Warriors put on prior to the COVID-19 pandemic too, stopping Jack Collins in the first round. This is a real litmus test for Paul Hughes, and should give an inclination as to where he stands in the CW featherweight division. With Morgan Charriere and Max Coga fighting for gold later in the night, there is a big opportunity for both Hughes and Stephen to make a real statement.

Sat 26th Sept: Bellator European Series 8. Milan, Italy.

Danni Neilan (2-0) vs Claire Lopez (4-2)

SBG Ireland’s Danni Neilan looks to extend her undefeated professional record this weekend when she takes on French strawweight Claire Lopez in Milan. It will be the first time Neilan competes abroad as a pro, having notched back-to-back decision victories on the last two Bellator Dublin shows. Lopez will make her Bellator debut, and she comes into the fight off the back of a KO win in July of last year.

Richie Smullen (5-2-1) vs Harry Hardwick (5-2)

SBG Ireland featherweight Richie Smullen will look to rebound to the win column when he takes on Harry Hardwick this Saturday. After an impressive start to his pro career, Smullen earned an opportunity on The Ultimate Fighter, which unfortunately didn’t go to plan due to injury. Smullen got off to winning ways after joining the Bellator ranks, but lost a close split decision to Albert Dias at Bellator Dublin in February. The Arklow man faces another tough test this weekend in Harry Hardwick. Hardwick went 2-0 in 2019, and looks to continue that streak when he takes on Smullen.

Frans Mlambo (8-5) vs Cory Tait (10-5)

In MMA, records can be deceiving. Despite 5 losses on his record, Frans Mlambo is one of the most exciting fighters in Ireland. Highly touted by the likes of Conor McGregor, Mlambo fought abroad under the Brave CF promotional banner for a number of years, going 4-3 in the Bahraini promotion. Despite periods of brilliance, “The Black Mamba” was unable to consistently stay in the win column. Mlambo found new vigour upon signing for Bellator, taking out high-level opponents in the form of Nathan Greyson and Dominique Wooding. Those wins earned Mlambo a high profile matchup against Ricky Bandejas at Bellator Dublin in February. Mlambo dominated the first round, and looked very impressive until Bandejas clipped him with a clean left hook to end the contest. Mlambo will have to regroup once again as he heads over to Italy to take on yet another dangerous opponent in Cory Tait. Tait is a Cage Warriors veteran coming off a submission finish over Ayton De Paepe last November, and “Capcom” will be making his Bellator debut when the pair step into the cage this weekend. 

Will Fleury (7-3) vs Kent Kauppinen (12-5)

SBG Ireland middleweight Will Fleury is best described by the recurring hashtag he uses. Will Fleury is a “raw bastard.” Any date. Any place. Any time. If there’s a tough matchup or talented opponent on the horizon, you can count on Fleury volunteering for the challenge. This type of approach to MMA can also lend itself to adversity though. In his last 6 fights, Fleury has 3 wins and as many losses. The Tipperary man needs to start building some momentum and string together a number of consecutive wins if he is to advance further up the Bellator middleweight rankings. This Saturday presents an opportunity to make a statement, especially with the main card being an all-middleweight affair, Fabian Edwards vs Costello van Steenis topping the bill. Fleury takes on Kent Kauppinen, a dangerous opponent who holds a 1st-round stoppages over Alessio Sakara and Andy Manzolo inside the Bellator cage. After a stint in boxing, Kauppinen will be looking to build some momentum of his own to kick on from the win over the aforementioned Manzolo. This one should be a barnburner!

How to Watch:

Cage Warriors 114 – Thurs 24th
Prelims: 7.30pm on UFC FightPass / Cagewarriors.com
Main Card: 9pm on UFC FightPass

Cage Warriors 115 – Fri 25th
Prelims: 7.30pm on UFC FightPass / Cagewarriors.com
Main Card: 9pm on UFC FightPass

UAE Warriors 13 – Fri 25th
Full Card: 3pm on UAE Warriors YouTube channel

Cage Warriors 116 – Sat 26th
Prelims: 6.30pm on UFC FightPass / Cagewarriors.com
Main Card: 7.30pm on UFC FightPass

Bellator European Series 8 – Sat 26th
Prelims: 5.45pm on Bellator YouTube channel
Main Card: 10pm on Virgin Media (Ireland) / Channel 5 (UK)

*Note: all times listed above are Irish time.

Andy is a writer, interviewer, and occasional podcaster. Andy's work features on SevereMMA.com, The Severe MMA Podcast, and EuroMMAHub.com. Andy heavily focuses on the Irish MMA scene. Feel free to reach out to Andy on Twitter @andyste123