This Weekend’s Warriors: The Irish Brave Bahrain

This Weekend’s Warriors is a weekly column brought to you by SevereMMA that previews the upcoming Irish MMA action, shining a light on Ireland-based pro MMA fighters competing around the globe on any given week.

It was a mixed bag of results, but what a week gone by for Irish MMA! Ian Garry soared to new heights in a star-making performance over UFC-vet Rostem Akman, earning a championship showdown with Jack Grant in June. Paul Hughes returned to winning ways with a tough-fought decision victory over fellow prospect James Hendin, reestablishing himself as a top contender in the Cage Warriors featherweight division. Decky McAleenan fought to a draw in an exciting affair against Kieran Lister, while it was a weekend to forget for James Webb and Darren O’Gorman, who both suffered KO losses. Outside of Cage Warriors, Omran Chaaban dropped to 1-1, losing a decision on UAE Warriors. Also, apologies to Bray’s Dario Sinagoga who flew under the SevereMMA radar last week. The former Legends MMA man scored a 1st-round KO on BFL 66 in Vancouver, where Sinagoga is now based, trained out of Diaz Combat Sports. 

Our attention now shifts to Brave CF 49 where the fighting Irish descend on Bahrain this Thursday. Blaine O’Driscoll takes on the toughest test of his career in the co-main event against UFC veteran Jose “Shorty” Torres. Matiss Zaharovs looks to extend his unbeaten professional streak against Russian Gamzat Magomedov. Meanwhile, Glenn McVeigh will look to earn his first professional victory when he clashes with Jordanian Frieh Harahsheh.

Who, Where and When?

Who: Blaine O’Driscoll (SBG Ireland), Matiss Zaharovs (SBG Portarlington), Glenn McVeigh (Fight Academy Ireland)

Where: Brave CF 49, Bahrain

When: Thursday 25th March, 2.30pm.

How to Watch:

Fans can watch the card LIVE on www.bravecftv.com. You’ll need to create a free account to access the stream.

Blaine O’Driscoll (9-3) vs Jose Torres (9-1-1)

The big fights keep coming for Irish MMA! Blaine O’Driscoll is wasting no time in making his presence known in the Brave CF flyweight division. The SBG Ireland man revealed on Saturday that he had signed for the Bahraini promotion, marking an end to his tenure with Bellator. Within a day of that announcement, O’Driscoll broke the news that he will step in on just 5 days notice to take on Jose “Shorty” Torres, after an injury forced Torres’ original opponent, Sean Santella, out of their contest. O’Driscoll and Torres will compete in a 61kg-catchweight bout, though the fight will serve as a quarter-final matchup as part of Brave CF’s flyweight tournament. 

2020 proved to be a breakout year for O’Driscoll. The former WWFC flyweight champion impressed with back-to-back 1st-round finishes over Ezzoubair Bouarsa and Salah Elkas under the Bellator promotional banner, earning him the coveted Severe MMA “Irish Fighter of the Year” award. Despite his performances in the cage, there was a missing piece to his Bellator run, namely a flyweight division to compete in. 

Speaking to Severe MMA, O’Driscoll highlighted his reasoning for signing with Brave:

“I see Brave as the place to be for flyweights. In my opinion, it has the best flyweight roster of any organisation, and it gets behind its fighters. I have been offered the opportunity to go straight into the quarter-finals of the tournament with a set path towards the belt. You don’t turn down chances like that!”

The Dubliner will have his hands full when he faces off with Torres. “Shorty” is a highly-touted prospect, regarded by many as one of the best flyweight fighters outside of the UFC. A former IMMAF bantamweight champion, Titan FC flyweight champion, and UFC flyweight, Torres’ sole loss in MMA came at the hands of recent UFC title-contender Alex Perez. 

O’Driscoll is raring to go though, and believes that he is more than ready for the challenge Torres’ poses despite the short-notice nature of the fight:

“People think the fact I had no camp is a disadvantage, but I disagree. Ask any fighter, we all overdo it in camp and end up drained and stressed out come fight night. I am fresh! I feel sharp and hungry to get in there and do it. I will be getting my hand raised on Thursday night!”

This is the biggest fight of O’Driscoll’s career to date. A win over a fighter of Torres’ calibre would benchmark the 29-year-old as one of the best flyweights in the world outside of the UFC. The tournament format offers a clear path towards a title, something that Bellator couldn’t offer O’Driscoll. While that path may be clear, it will certainly be a treacherous one with the likes of Ali Bagautinov, Dustin Ortiz and more vying for the title. O’Driscoll has displayed a well-rounded arsenal and is a proven finisher, but he will need to elevate his game to the next level if he is to emerge victorious on this next chapter of his career. However it turns out, O’Driscoll vs Torres is a fantastic matchup that is certain to be a fast-paced, entertaining affair, so make sure to tune in!

Matiss Zaharovs (4-0) vs Gamzat Magomedov (4-1)

SBG Portarlington’s Matiss Zaharovs might just be the most underrated fighter in Ireland. Undefeated in his pro career, Zaharovs has looked fantastic thus far since making the switch from the amateur ranks. With 4 finishes in as many fights, it’s a bit surprising that the Latvian-born Irishman has flown under many people’s radar. Under the Brave CF banner, the Philip Mulpeter-trained fighter has dispatched Hussain Maki—via nasty checked leg kick KO—and Bilal Tipsaev, and has yet to see the judges’ scorecards. 

Zaharovs is set to face a step up in competition when he takes on Russian Gamzat Magomedov in a bantamweight matchup on Brave CF 49. Magomedov is a former IMMAF world champion, though Zaharovs believes it will be a similar outcome to when he faced Tipsaev when the pair collide this Thursday:

“I had two pull outs for this fight. Luckily enough, Gamzat stepped up and took the fight so hats off to him for that! This matchup is similar to the last one. He is a wrestler with an overhand right. I honestly see this fight turning out very similar to the last fight, but with more exchanges on the feet, “ Zaharovs predicted to Severe MMA.

While Zaharovs is an SBG Portarlington fighter, he explained to Severe MMA how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unexpected change of camps ahead of this fight:

“Training camp for this fight was done in Dubai at TKMMA. The plan at the start was to go out for 3 weeks and then come home and do most of my camp in Ireland, but my fights got cancelled so I decided to stay in Dubai and do my training camp here. Most places are open over here, so I could train comfortably, and I could adapt to the heat as Dubai has a similar climate to Bahrain.”

While still young in his career, Zaharovs is one to watch. He has displayed a well-rounded game since his amateur days and is a proven finisher. Magomedov poses the most formidable challenge of Zaharov’s pro career, and should give fans a sense of what to expect from Zaharov’s moving forward. 

Glenn McVeigh (0-1) vs Frieh Harahsheh (0-0)

Fight Academy Ireland’s Glenn McVeigh is back in bantamweight action this Thursday when he takes on debuting professional Frieh Harahsheh. 

In the words of Gennady Golovkin, McVeigh’s pro debut was a “Big Drama Show,” as he stepped in on 3 days notice to challenge amateur sensation and worldwide prospect Muhammad Mokaev. While the build up to fight night was filled with explosive interviews, tense hotel run-ins and fiery staredowns, Mokaev reigned supreme inside the cage.

This time around, there’s no drama. There’s no animosity. There’s just a fight on Thursday afternoon. If there’s one thing worse than starting your career 0-1, it’s starting it 0-2. McVeigh needs to go out there and let his fighting do the talking for him. A former multiple-time amateur champion in Cage Warriors Academy, Cage Legacy, Cage Conflict and Akuma FC, McVeigh is more than just a showman. Going the distance with one of the world’s top prospects on just 3 days notice is nothing to scoff at, and training with the likes of Paul Hughes and Joe McColgan in Fight Academy Ireland can only help your game. 

Speaking to Severe MMA, McVeigh expressed his excitement at returning to action, relishing the opportunity:

“It’s cliché, but I’m feeling phenomenal, the best I ever have. I can’t wait to show Brave something unique this whole week!”

I expect we will see a much different Glenn McVeigh than in the Mokaev fight, as he looks to score the first win of his pro career. 

Make sure to check out Seán Sheehan’s interview with Blaine O’Driscoll:

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