This Weekend’s Warriors: The Irish Are Back.

Irish MMA fans…WE. ARE. BACK!

It’s been a while, so welcome to those who are reading for the first time, and allow me to make some introductions. This Weekend’s Warriors was 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.

I’ll admit, I’ve been MIA for a long time, but better late than never, right? It’s not you, it’s me.

Anyway, forget about all of that, and let’s get right down to it! Who is fighting this weekend? When? Where? How do I watch? As I write this on St. Patrick’s Day, my patriotism is flaring up, and I can’t wait to watch Ireland’s finest compete across Europe. So, let’s get down to brass tacks!

First up, we have Heroes Fight League 3, which takes place in Bucharest, Romania, and features a trio of SBG Ireland fighters competing.

Cian Cowley (2-5) opens up the main card, taking on Moldovan Alexandru Balaur (2-5). “The Warrior” returns to action for the first time since September 2020. Cowley’s MMA career has not gone to plan thus far, and he’ll be looking to snap a four-fight losing streak against Balaur. Though we’ve seen glimpses of the decorated Muay Thai practitioner’s potential, the lack of consistency in his performances to date has significantly stunted his MMA journey thus far. Simply put, Cowley needs a win. With that being said, we know how talented a striker Cian is, and I feel like this is the perfect rebound fight to kickstart a career resurgence for the Dubliner. Balaur is starting down his own four-fight skid, with another L added to his record just last week. The Chisinau native holds a black belt in Judo, and it’s likely we’re looking at a classic striker vs grappler matchup.

Lee Hammond (2-0) is continuing his active streak as a pro, notching his third fight in 4 months as he faces Bogdan Blăjan (2-1) in a lightweight co-main event matchup. Hammond has looked fantastic since making his professional debut. The SBG Ireland man put on a striking clinic against Ionu Brostic at Heroes Fight League 2 in November, before storming through Jamie Hay in front of boisterous 3Arena crowd at Bellator 275. Hammond is making all the right moves thus far. Signing a one-fight deal with Bellator allowed the 25-year-old to showcase his skills in front of a hometown crowd, while already having his next bout (vs. Blajan) lined up on Heroes Fight League. It’s likely that the Dubliner will be positioned into a title shot with the Romanian-based promotion should he defeat Blajan, and with multiple other lightweight matchups on the card, his next opponent may be decided tomorrow night.

Ion Pascu (21-10) is often the forgotten man in Irish MMA, but the Romanian-born SBG Ireland fighter continues to forge his own path. “Bombardierul” will headline the card in his native Bucharest in an 80kg catch-weight matchup vs. Rene Wollinger (11-7-1). Already a champion under the Heroes Fight League promotional banner, Pascu most recently won the middleweight belt in November, when he submitted Maxim Soroka via armbar. Pascu will look to extend his three-fight win streak when he welcomes Wollinger to the promotion.

Heroes Fight League 3 takes place on Friday 18th March, with the prelims beginning at 7.30pm local time (5.30pm Irish time). You can watch Cian, Lee and Ion by clicking this link.

Next up on Friday is Cage Warriors 134. What was set to be a momentous occasion in Irish MMA, the unfortunate news that Paul Hughes was ruled out of his title unification bout against Jordan Vucenic emerged earlier this week.

Decky McAleenan (7-4-1) will be the lone Irishman on the London card. As legions of Irish fans were (and are) expected to descend on Indigo at the O2, the Newry man will surely be greeted with a raucous ovation when he makes the walk to face Swedish prospect Tobias Harila in a lightweight bout. Harila is McAleenan’s third confirmed opponent of this camp, having previously been scheduled to take on Dan Collins, and then briefly Paull McBain. When I spoke to the Team Torres fighter earlier this week, he seemed completely unfazed by the chaos unfolding. Forget about the drama behind the scenes though. This fight is a banger! McAleenan is dangerous in all areas, and he’s proven to possess a fan-friendly style many times over at this point. Similarly, Harila is an absolute lunatic, who is going to walk forward into the fray every second this fight lasts. While it may not have been the intended matchup, I’m delighted it’s happening. McAleenan should be the larger man in the cage, as Harila moves up a weight class, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out. For McAleenan though, he needs to park any thoughts of putting on an instant classic for the fans in attendance. Decky is 2-3-1 in Cage Warriors, and at 30 years old, he needs to start putting together a winning streak if he is to push towards a title and ultimately progress to the UFC. The time is now!

McAleenan vs Harila is scheduled to be the second fight on the main card of Cage Warriors 134, which kicks off at 9pm on Friday 18th March over on UFC Fight Pass

Battle Arena Birmingham on Saturday 19th March features the return of Dylan Tuke (4-2), who takes on Moldovan Nicolae Pirogan (3-1) for the featherweight title. Tuke hasn’t fought 4 years, so it will be very interesting to see if he is still the prospect he once was. In more recent years, the Dubliner made headlines for his outside the cage actions, but it seems that Tuke is in a positive space now, training over in Scotland at Higher Level MMA, under the tutelage of James Doolan.

Battle Arena Birmingham can be purchased via PPV for £9.99 at the this link.

Tommy Quinn (9-5) returns to MMA after an almost three-year absence from competition. “The Roly Poly Kid” will make his KSW debut in a middleweight contest vs Albert Odzimkowski at KSW 68 on Saturday evening. The Ballymena veteran has previously fought in Cage Warriors and Bellator, and is based out of Newcastle.

KSW 68 begins at 6pm Irish time on Saturday 19th March and can be purchased for €9 via the this link.

Last but not least, SBG Ireland’s Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson (17-5-1) is back in UFC action! The Icelandic grappling savant hasn’t fought since suffering defeat to Gilbert Burns in September 2019. Nelson will lock horns with Japan’s Takashi Sato. Nelson will be looking to snap a two-fight losing streak, his last victory inside the cage coming against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira back in 2018.

Nelson vs Sato will take place on the main card of UFC London, which will be broadcast LIVE from 8pm on BT Sport 1.

Andy is a multimedia reporter, interviewer, writer, with a strong focus on Irish MMA. Co-host of The Auld Triangle podcast. You can find Andy's work on SevereMMA.com and MyMMANews.com. Follow Andy on Twitter (@andyste123) and Instagram (@andystevensonMMA).