This Weekend’s Warriors: Kiefer Crosbie, Will Fleury, and Sinéad Kavanagh

This Weekend’s Warriors

Good afternoon, Ireland and beyond! I’m Andy Stevenson, and I am pleased to present you a new recurring column for Severe MMA, ‘This Weekend’s Warriors’, which will focus on Irish MMA fighters competing at home and abroad.

In this first edition, Bellator 224 takes centre stage as the action goes down this Friday 12th July at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The event sees three of SBG Ireland’s athletes—Kiefer ‘Big Daddy’ Crosbie, Will ‘Fuckin’ Fleury, and Sinéad ‘KO’ Kavanagh—making their U.S. debuts under the Bellator promotional banner, providing an opportunity to crossover into the American market.

Sinéad Kavanagh (5-3) vs Leslie Smith (10-7-1)
Kavanagh burst onto the professional MMA scene in 2015, living up to her nickname with a 17-second demolition knockout back at BAMMA 22. Despite a turbulent 2-3 run since signing for Bellator, the heavy-handed Dubliner has made a name for herself as a brawler within the promotion. Sinéad’s most recent victory over Maria Casanova lasted just 34 seconds before Kavanagh’s hand was raised. While her next outing didn’t go quite as planned, there was no shortage of action as Kavanagh received a rather gruesome gash above her right eye (courtesy of Janay Harding), which resulted in the fight being waved off after the first round.

If it’s a brawl the fans want to see, it seems Bellator matchmaker Jude Samuel is happy to oblige, as Kavanagh is set to welcome UFC/Invicta FC veteran, Leslie Smith, to the Bellator featherweight division. No stranger to trading in the pocket, Smith presents the toughest challenge of Kavanagh’s career to date and surely intends to make a statement of her own in her Bellator debut, coming off the back of a standing elbow knockout in her farewell outing in the UFC.

Kavanagh may have struggled to find consistency to date, as far as results go in the Bellator cage, but claiming the scalp of an 18-fight veteran such as Leslie Smith would surely push her towards the upper echelon of the women’s 145 lbs division. That, however, is no easy feat, as the outspoken ‘Project Spearhead’ representative possesses a varied striking skillset and a seemingly granite chin. This fight has the makings of a banger!

Will Fleury (5-1) vs Antonio Jones (7-2)

Will Fleury is no stranger to marching into enemy territory to claim victory. The self-proclaimed ‘Raw Bastard’ has fought against hometown opposition in Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, and on Friday night aims to dispatch Antonio ‘Doomsday’ Jones in quick fashion on American soil. Fleury’s pro career has seen steady progression thus far, welcoming tough fights against opponents with winning records. Fans may remember his most recent appearance on Bellator 217, when he submitted (then 8-1) Shaun Taylor in the second round in front of a sold-out 3 Arena.

Friday night shall be no different as the County Tipperary native takes on former Fury FC champion, Jones, in a 190 lbs catchweight affair. Jones will be looking to bounce back from the sole loss of his career, which came at the hands of UFC breakout prospect, Edmen Shahbazyan, on Dana White’s Contender Series last year. Fleury will need to be mindful of Jones’ heavy hands, but when I spoke to him yesterday his game plan was a focused one: ‘Be calm, find the holes and then be vicious’.

As far as what fans can expect? Fleury is here to finish fights. ‘Expect raw, passionate violence, leading to a first-round finish’, he added. Oklahoma, get ready!

Kiefer Crosbie (6-0) vs Mike Jackson (12-12)

Undefeated SBG Ireland prospect, Kiefer Crosbie, has an opportunity to extend his winning streak to seven in a row as a professional MMA fighter and to increase his record to 3-0 in Bellator. With five finishes (four of which coming in the first round) from six outings, Crosbie’s fighting style is equal parts exciting and ruthless. That lone decision victory of his career treated the Italian crowd to a vicious striking war against Orlando D’Ambrosio at Bellator 211. ‘Big Daddy’ followed up with an impressive first-round submission over Daniel Olejniczak in front of a rocking Dublin audience, proving that he is developing a rather competent ground game to accompany his electric kickboxing arsenal.

Standing in Crosbie’s way is Mike Jackson, a 12-12 journeyman, who despite not boasting an objectively impressive record, certainly has a significant amount more of experience inside the cage than the inner-city Dubliner. Jackson has fought the likes of UFC fighters Warlley Alves and Chance Rencountre, and his experience will provide a litmus test as to how Crosbie deals with facing an opponent with four times the number of professional fights as himself.

The stage is set for Crosbie to make a big statement in his U.S. debut and putting away a 24-fight veteran would introduce himself as a real prospect in the welterweight division. It’s still early days in Crosbie’s career, but if he can continue to prove himself against more experienced competition moving forward, the future is bright for ‘Big Daddy’.

Where and When to Watch

Kavanagh, Fleury and Crosbie are all set to compete on the prelims section of the Bellator 224 card this Friday 12th July 2019. Fans can catch the action on the Bellator App, with the prelims kicking off at 6.45pm ET (11.45 pm in the Ireland/UK).

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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