Cage Warriors 100: Preview

All eyes will be on the Ice Arena in Cardiff, Wales, as the most highly anticipated weekend of UK martial arts in 2018 kicks off. Cage Warriors 100 takes centre-stage this Saturday, 8th December, an event preceded by the Cage Warriors Academy grand-prix finals. If that wasn’t enough, fans can satisfy their appetite with some more grappling action as Polaris 8 concludes the weekend on Sunday 9th in the same venue.

The centenary event of UK MMA’s premier promotion features 2 title fights, and a main card full of high-level matchups, in what Cage Warriors have described as the ‘biggest event in the promotion’s history’. Despite one of the biggest names in European MMA, Paddy Pimblett, falling off the card due to injury, it’s still hard to argue with that claim.

Main Event: Jack Shore vs Mike Ekundayo (CW Bantamweight Title)

The main event sees Jack Shore (9-0) taking on Mike Ekundayo (7-0) for the Bantamweight title. Someone’s ‘0’ must go. If you only watch one fight this weekend, this is the one. Paddy Pimblett may be the king of Liverpool as far as Cage Warriors events go, but Jack Shore is the prince of Wales. Shore has amassed a boisterous following, and with this event set to take place in Cardiff, expect the roof to be raised off the Ice Arena. Atmosphere aside, this is a phenomenal matchup from a sporting perspective as both Shore and Ekundayo are undefeated in their amateur and professional MMA careers.

After an undefeated amateur career, capped off with an IMMAF European Open lightweight title, ‘Tank’ Shore turned pro and quickly racked up a 9-fight win streak since 2016, eight of those occurring inside the distance. The lone decision victory came over UFC veteran Vaughan Lee, a fight that served as Shore’s biggest test to date. Despite beginning his martial arts training in kickboxing, it is Shore’s relentless pressure and grappling game that ‘Tank’ has become notoriously known for. Make no mistake though, this is no one-trick-pony. When matched with Judo champion Mattia Galbiati, the gameplan was pure and simple: to strike. After getting the better of the striking exchanges in the first 2 rounds, Shore scored a KO victory over Galbiati with a thunderous knee at the beginning of the 3rd round. As his skillset continues to expand, the best is surely yet to come for the Welsh star.

Mike “Airlines” Ekundayo is the man that stands in Shore’s way. The Nigerian fighter grew up in Brixton, London, and originally discovered MMA through the UFC video game. After deciding that MMA was his calling, Team Titan was his first gym choice and he hasn’t looked back since. The former Rise of Champions bantamweight champion looks to add a second professional title to his collection with a victory over Shore. Similar to his opponent, ‘Airlines’ is no stranger to the grappling game. ‘I put people on flights’, Ekundayo jokes. He may laugh when he says it, but there’s truth to his nickname. The Rise of Champions bantamweight title fight saw Ekundayo go back and forth with Jonas Magard in a grappling battle for the full first round. The second round was a different story though, as Ekundayo landed a beautifully executed trip, tossing his opponent to the canvas, and it wasn’t long before ‘Airlines’ had mounted Magard’s back and completed a rear-naked-choke to claim his first pro title.

When faced with a tough opponent in Ed Arthur in his promotional debut with Cage Warriors, Ekundayo passed the test with flying colours as he dominated Arthur; an opponent with wins over former CW champion, and current UFC bantamweight, Nathaniel Wood, amongst others. ‘Airlines’ explosive strength and well-timed level changes had Arthur on his back time and time again. This is a fascinating matchup between two powerful grapplers, which may end up turning into a striking war for the vacant 135lb title if their primary skillsets cancel each other out. While there may be uncertainty as to how this fight will unfold, one thing is certain, the atmosphere will be electric as these unbeaten pros go to war.

Co-Main Event: Dean Trueman vs Aiden Lee (Cage Warriors Featherweight Title)

In the co-main event, the Cage Warriors featherweight title is on the line as Aiden Lee (7-2) faces off against Dean Trueman (9-4). A massive opportunity presents itself to both fighters attempting to claim the notorious belt. Since Conor McGregor won the title at CW47, every champion since has been successful in making the jump to the UFC, with the exception of the aforementioned Paddy Pimblett. In July, following then champion Nad Narimani’s call-up to the UFC, Cage Warriors announced a four-man tournament for the vacant title. The semi-final matchups saw Dean Trueman vs Lewis Monarch, and Aiden Lee vs Paull McBain take place at CW98 in Birmingham.

Trueman, a gritty veteran of the UK MMA scene, bested Monarch in a unanimous decision victory that saw a wide array of strikes including a superman punch off the cage in the first round. Expect him to utilise every weapon in his arsenal in the final against Lee. Don’t expect him to take a backward step.

Lee, a slick guard player from Team Renegade in Birmingham, finished McBain at the end of the first round of their semi-final matchup. It’s easy to see how training with the likes of UFC fighter Tom Breese has helped to finetune Lee’s BJJ skills, as he spent the majority of the first round entangling McBain before finally locking in the standing RNC to secure a date with Dean Trueman in the final.

Elsewhere on the card…

[Welterweight] Nicholas Dalby (15-3) vs Philip Mulpeter (9-5):

After an almost 3-year hiatus from MMA, Mulpeter returned to the sport with a submission victory at Budo 26 before re-signing with Cage Warriors and securing a third-round RNC win over hometown-favourite Jan Quaeyhaegens at CW94 in Belgium. Under the tutelage of SBG Swords’ Chris Fields, ‘The Honeybadger’ looks to continue his rejuvenated streak as he faces a massive test in former Cage Warriors welterweight champion, and ex-UFC fighter Nicolas Dalby of Denmark.

Dalby vacated his CW title when he signed with the UFC, and after a mixed run of form which featured a majority draw against Liverpool’s Darren Till, Dalby was eventually released by the UFC, prompting his return to the CW cage. After a split decision loss on his return, Dalby recently returned to winning ways at CW96 with a second-round submission victory over Roberto Allegretti. But for both men, some of their biggest battles have come outside the cage. Mulpeter and Dalby have spoken candidly on their struggles with mental health, and their attitudes towards overcoming their inner demons serve as an inspiring redemption story regardless of who rises victorious on Saturday night in what is sure to be an exciting contest.

[Welterweight] Alex Lohoré (16-3) vs Tim Barnett (5-1-1):
Lohore vs Barnett is another big fight for the welterweight division. Lohore, the former BAMMA welterweight champion, made his promotional debut at CW98, stopping Sam Boult via TKO in the second round. Barnett, the former BAMMA Lonsdale champion, also has a single fight under the Cage Warriors banner, fighting to a majority draw in his debut at CW96, in a fight that saw Marc Goddard deduct a point from the former champion for grabbing the cage. Barnett felt that he won the fight aside from the point deduction, and looks to get his first win at 170lbs, since moving up from lightweight when he locks horns with fellow BAMMA alumnus Lohore in the Ice Arena.

[Lightweight] Rhys McKee (7-2) vs Jefferson George (7-6):
Irish MMA fans will have a particular interest in this fight. One of the most exciting prospects to come out of Northern Ireland in recent years, Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee, makes his Cage Warriors promotional debut. The former BAMMA lightweight champion was unsuccessful in his attempt to become a double champion when he jumped up to welterweight to face Terry Brazier for the 170lb title. ‘Skeletor’ returns to his natural fighting weight of 155lbs in his promotional debut, and fans can expect fireworks as he faces the formidable Jefferson George, a man who holds a win over CW lightweight contender Jack Grant.

[Lightweight] Jai Herbert (6-1) vs Joe McColgan (4-1):
The fireworks don’t end there! Another explosive fight in the lightweight division sees the return of ‘Fat’ Joe McColgan. After taking some time out from MMA to travel and work in New Zealand, the brash, outspoken Joe McColgan returns to Cage Warriors and has already called out most of the 155lb division. Despite Joe’s two finishes coming via submission, don’t sleep on his striking. McColgan has displayed polished boxing, and his only loss comes via split-decision to Arnold Quero. Similarly, Jai Herbert enters the contest with a single loss on his record, which just so happens to come against Rhys McKee. With five stoppage victories, four via KO/TKO, this one has the makings of a fight of night matchup.

Cage Warriors 100 will stream live on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday 8th December from 9pm GMT.

The full fight card, in what is sure to be an action-packed night can be found below…

Pro Card

Jack Shore vs Mike Ekundayo – Bantamweight Title Fight

Aiden Lee vs Dean Trueman – Featherweight Title Fight

Nicolas Dalby vs Philip Mulpeter – Welterweight

Alex Lohoré vs Tim Barnett – Welterweight

Rhys McKee vs Jefferson George – Lightweight

Jai Herbert vs Joe McColgan – Lightweight

Kris Edwards vs Aiden Stephen – Featherweight

Scott Malone vs Josh Reed – Bantamweight

Håkon Foss vs Aaron Khalid – Welterweight

Brett Hassett vs Michael Corston – Lightweight

Cage Warriors Academy Grand Prix Finals

Ciaran Mulholland vs Muhidin Abubakar – Flyweight

Nathan Fletcher vs Jack Eglin – Bantamweight

Liam Molloy vs Chris Sterling – Featherweight

Constantine Blanita vs Jordan Peake – Lightweight

Ivan Blanita vs Oban Elliot – Welterweight

Rafael Nauberg vs Christian Duncan – Middleweight

David Piotrowicz vs Ismar Blagoje – Light Heavyweight

Andy is a multimedia reporter, interviewer, writer, with a strong focus on Irish MMA. Co-host of The Auld Triangle podcast. Follow Andy on Twitter (@andyste123) and Instagram (@andystevensonMMA).

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