This Weekend’s Warriors: Cage Warriors 112, Cage Conflict 3: Unrivalled, and Probellum 1.

Welcome back to This Weekend’s Warriors, a column focused on professional Irish MMA fighters competing at home and abroad. With the news of the UFC’s return to Dublin later this year, the talk of the town has been that Irish MMA is back. This weekend’s schedule would seem to confirm that opinion with Irish athletes competing on Cage Warriors 112, Probellum 1, and Cage Conflict 3, all of which take place on Saturday night.

Cage Warriors 112 – BEC Arena, Manchester

The first Cage Warriors event of 2020 sees Paul Hughes, James Sheehan, and James Webb in action.

MMA Cork’s Arran Maguire was set to join the Irish contingent on the card, however, his opponent withdrew from the contest earlier this week. This was to be Maguire’s first bout since November 2017, but his return to the cage will unfortunately need to be postponed.

Paul Hughes (4-0) looks to keep his unbeaten professional record alive as he takes on France’s Youri Panada (4-1) in a 150lbs contracted fight. Hughes is coming into the contest with a full training camp behind him for the first time in his career, and if he wins on Saturday night he has assured me that he will be putting the Cage Warriors featherweight division on blast. If all goes to plan for the Fight Academy Ireland man, you can expect him to cut a promo on the mic in search of an opponent for the upcoming Cage Warriors Belfast show in May.

James Sheehan (1-2) will make the walk to the cage on Saturday night for the first time since his enthralling war with Team KF’s Ian Garry back in February 2019 on the CW101 show. Despite dropping a decision to Garry, Sheehan’s stock was definitely on the rise as the two put on an entertaining spectacle for the crowd in attendance. The Team Ryano welterweight welcomes Kyran Sturrock (0-0) to the pro ranks as he looks to bounce back to winning ways.

Ireland’s adopted son, the former Cage Warriors middleweight champion James Webb (6-2-1) is back in action also. Webb has won Irish hearts and minds over the last few years at Team KF, and for that reason we’ll claim him as our own on Saturday night. Webb lost his 185lb title to current champion Nathias Frederick after 9 rounds of brutal war, in which the first contest ended in a draw. I spoke with Team KF head coach Chris Fields last week, and he believes that returning to 3-round matchups will bring out a rejuvenated James Webb in Manchester on Saturday. He takes on Cage Warriors veteran Mick Stanton (6-3) in what is likely to be a number one contender fight.

Probellum 1 – The Eventim Olympia, Liverpool

Team Ryano’s Keith McCabe (3-5-1) meets James Lewis (5-4) in a welterweight contest after signing with the promotion ahead of their maiden MMA event. McCabe dropped a close decision to Philip Mulpeter at Bellator Dublin last September. Despite the impressive display from both fighters in a contest that was Fight of the Night in many eyes, McCabe didn’t appear on the next Bellator Dublin card. A 3-5-1 record isn’t an ideal start to any pro career, but McCabe’s is one that doesn’t tell the full story. Lewis is currently on a 2-fight skid, and this is a solid opportunity for McCabe to make a statement and lay the foundations to build some momentum behind him.

Ivan Blanita (1-0) takes on debuting professional Balraj Singh (0-0) at 155lbs. Blanita had an impressive amateur career, capturing the Akuma and Cage Legacy lightweight straps. The Team Ryano fighter won his pro debut on Clan Wars 34, and he will look to continue winning ways this weekend. Fun fact: his brother Constantin fought on the recent Bellator Dublin show, picking up a win over SBG Ireland’s Asael Adjoudj.

A fighter that is perhaps flying under the radar in Irish MMA is Caolan Loughran. Originally from Tyrone, Loughran (2-0) iis now fighting out of Team Kaobon in Liverpool, alongside the likes of Darren Till. Loughran also had an extensive amateur career, and he has gone undefeated since turning pro. Despite securing two 1st-round finishes, it’s difficult to put too much weight on those wins, as his opponents have a combined record of 0-69. Loughran will face Spain’s Daniel Lopez (3-5), who is currently on a 4-fight skid, all of which came via submission.

Team Ryano prospect Adam Darby had been scheduled to make his pro debut on the card, however, an injury forced him to withdraw.

Cage Conflict 3: Unrivalled – The Devenish Complex, Belfast

Northern Ireland’s Kyle McClurkin (2-1) headlines Cage Conflict’s third event this Saturday in Belfast as he takes on Matthieu Letrasse (0-0) in a middleweight (185lbs) title fight. The FAI man suffered defeat at the hands of Will Fleury in his pro debut, but since then McClurkin has looked impressive during back to back stoppage victories over Diarmuid O’ Buachalla and Cathal Manning, claiming the Akuma FC middleweight title against the former.

In the co-main event, Decky Dalton (10-4) defends his Cage Conflict featherweight title against Kalifa Seydi (2-1). A veteran of Irish MMA, Dalton’s career has had its share of ups and downs. After winning his first 6 pro fights, Dalton went 1-4 in his next five fights. Things have started to click for “The Diamond” in the last two years though, and the champion will be the favourite going into Saturday night’s contest as he looks to make Seydi his 4th win on the bounce.

Team Ryano’s Diarmuid O Buachalla (1-2) also features on the card in a rematch against Shaolin MMA’s Andreeas Binder (0-0). The pair squared off inside the Clan Wars cage in October, but the fight was ruled a No Contest due to an accidental illegal elbow. Saturday night will provide a second opportunity to determine an outright winner, this time under the Cage Conflict banner.

A 12-fight career may not sound like much, but Ben Davis begs to differ. Davis (7-5) began his professional MMA career in 2008 and has fought the likes of Norman Parke and Owen Roddy along the way. Davis will return to the cage for the first time since 2017 on Saturday when he faces Andrea “The Butcher” Marrazzo (3-5)

There you have it folks. I HOPE I’ve included all of the Irish pros fighting this weekend, but I’ve missed anyone then let me know over on Twitter. The aim of this column is to shine a spotlight on Irish MMA, so any and all feedback is welcome. Until next time, enjoy the fights!

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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