Cage Warriors 145 Preview; Vucenic Hughes 2; FAI, Team Ryano & Team KF stars in action

Cage Warriors have a treat in store for us this Friday evening. Cage Warriors 145 goes down at the Indigo at the O2 in London, England. There’ll be plenty of Irish interest in a stacked twelve fight card, including one for a CW title. Not to be missed.

The CW Featherweight Championship is slated to be reunified in the main event of the evening. The current champion Jordan “The Epidemic” Vucenic (9-1) is a man on a seven-fight win streak against some of Europe’s top names, including a split decision against Friday’s opponent Paul Hughes (8-1). The Englishman looked sensational in his last bout against James Hendin at CW134. The 26-year-old is known for his high output striking performances with the ability and heart to overcome any battle. He edged the result on two judges’ scorecards last time out, with them giving The Epidemic the nod due to his slight striking advantage. Hughes had the better of the grappling that day. The Fight Academy Ireland man’s record is perfect except for that blemish back in December 2020, including winning the interim CW Featherweight Championship at CW128. The Ulsterman has long been touted as one of Ireland’s brightest prospects. He’s got a great all-round skill set and he mixes it up very well. His boxing is crisp and accurate, his wrestling is very strong, and he’s had no bother submitting some of the best grapplers in Europe. The first fight was decided on very little, we have two more rounds to play with this time. Simply put, European MMA doesn’t often get two UFC level talents facing off at this stage of their career. Must watch television.

James Sheehan (5-2) has been a revelation in 2022. The Team Ryano man has shown huge strides in his striking with two TKO wins on the bounce using his fists. The North Dubliner also has a strong wrestling game to mix into his overall game. “Jimbo Slice” has had a tough strength of opposition with both his losses coming to former CW champions, Ian Garry and Matthew Bonnar. A win here has him right in the title conversation. Jamie Richardson (11-7) is his most experienced opponent to date. The Englishman has found a new lease of life since dropping down from middleweight, beating Italians Alessandro Botti and Leonardo Damiani. The 26-year-old has an exciting striking style, always on the front foot looking for a knockout. We may see more of Sheehan’s wrestling here as a sign of respect to Richardson’s power.

Modestas Bukauskas (11-5) is back home after an unsuccessful 1-3 stint in the UFC. The Lithuanian was the CW Light Heavyweight champion before leaving for the big show. The Baltic Gladiator earned his shot with five wins on the trot by TKO. Earlier in his career, he also showed he’s got some nice grappling with some ground and pound and rear naked choke wins. He’ll be looking to get back to that form on Friday. Lee Chadwick (28-16-1) is a man who’s seen it all and has fought for big promotions such as Bellator and PFL, as well as BAMMA and ACB on the European scene. It’ll also be a return to Cage Warriors for the 45-fight veteran. The Englishman is a tough grappler with a mean guillotine and some nice leg locks. He’s a hard man to finish as well, with KSW Light Heavyweight champion Ibragim Chuzhigaev being the last to do so in 2016. The men who’ve beaten him are a who’s who list of great European talent. This should be a battle of great athleticism and pure toughness.

We have been impatiently awaiting the return of Mehdi Ben Lakhdhar (5-0-1) for a while now. The undefeated Frenchman is an amazing striker with big power and highlight reel knockouts. His draw with Joe McColgan was the 2019 fight of the year. Injuries have hampered his career in recent years, and he hopes to light that touch paper again and rise to the top of the division. Xavier Sedras (8-2-1) is a man familiar with long layoffs having been inactive in MMA between 2016-2021. The South African had a notable rear naked choke victory over Chris Bungard at BAMMA 25. The 30-year-old showed his striking talent with a knockout victory over Shaun Luther in his comeback fight last November. I’m particularly excited for this one.

Caolan Loughran (6-0) is a man who talks a big game and has backed it up so far. The Tyrone man has blazed a trail in the yellow gloves in his two bouts to date, winning both by knockout. He trains out of Team Kaobon in Liverpool and is known mostly for his kickboxing; however, he has shown he can grapple too. Luke Shanks (10-3) feels like he’s the man to shut Don Caolan up. The Englishman is the former CW Flyweight champion, and he was successful in his move up to bantamweight against Josh Reed at CW138. “The Apocalypse” is gritty and not afraid of getting bloody as he moves forward with his strikes. The 27-year-old has a slick Jiu Jitsu game to match his striking prowess. The big question for him is how much he will be rejuvenated at the new weight class. A Loughran win would be a big statement. Both men are hovering around the summit of the division.

James Webb (8-4-1) is one of three Team KF fighters on the card. The former CW Middleweight champion could do with a win here after dropping two in a row. The Colchester man is a very strong wrestler and a high level BJJ brown belt. On the feet he’ll sit you down if you give him the chance. Paddy McCorry (2-0) is showing a lot of stones by taking this fight at short notice. The Fight Academy Ireland man is as tough a two-fight veteran as you could get. His skill level is super high both in the striking exchanges and in the grappling realm. The 24-year-old has very little to lose and a lot to gain in this one.

Harry Hardwick (8-3-1) is on a mission to match his brother George’s feat by becoming a CW champion. The Middlesbrough man has gone 2-0-1 under the promotional banner to date. The Englishman is a nice all-rounder, a tough striker with good shot choices with a slew of submissions in his back pocket. A wave of momentum awaits in the surging Steve Aimable (18-8). If you have never seen a Diddy Kong fight, where have you been? The Englishman crams a lot of living into his fights and has found some form to slingshot him up the rankings. He’s known for his aggressive striking style and is fun in scrambles. Knockouts are his favourite; however, he does carry a submission threat as seen by his guillotine win over Walter Cogliandro.

Ryan Shelley (5-0) is also in action in London. Like his brother, he fights out of Team KF in Swords. The Dubliner eked out a win against Matthew Elliot last time with an intelligent understanding of the rules of MMA, landing more damage after being outwrestled. The featherweight has shown some dangerous grappling to go with his slick striking as a pro, notching a couple of rear naked choke wins in his first two promotional bouts. Josh Reed (12-7) is another viewer-friendly fighter. The Welshman is always here to take on all comers and put on a show. The Shore MMA man is a ball of energy and when he’s not trying to knock you out, he’s attempting to pop your head off with a submission. Fun awaits.

Festus Ahorlu (5-1) is looking to bounce back after his first professional loss. The Ghanaian is a powerful striker. He has a notable win against Mike Ekundayo, a fight which proved both his quality and his ability to go all three rounds and win decisively. Faisal Malik (5-0) has yet to taste defeat as an amateur or a pro. The Pakistani-Englishman has shown a great knack of getting opponents down to the mat and finishing it with ground and pound or rear naked choke. These two lads have bright futures ahead of them.

Oban Elliott (6-2) is to put it plainly, a gangster. Anyone, anywhere, anytime. The Welshman is on a nice 3-1 run at his new welterweight home. The Shore MMA is a wizard in the grappling with huge submission threat, and on the feet he’s brave and willing to take risks to hurt the opponent. It’ll be a middleweight fight this time around as the original opponent Daniel Skibiński pulled out. Sean McCormac (2-1) answered the call and said yes without a second thought. The Fight Academy Ireland man looked good in his CW debut, a decision win against Owain Williams. That gym is building some great well rounded martial artists and McCormac is no different. The 26-year-old is a threat in every element of the game, he just has to make sure he has the cardio to execute the game plan.

Adam Shelley (2-2) is another of the rake of Irish talent on the card. The Team KF man fell short last time and lost by TKO to James Power. The Dubliner is a Taekwondo practitioner who has adapted the style for MMA to add some grappling to the mix. He’s not a man to take an easy fight, and El Hadji Ndiaye (4-1) is another tough one. The Senegalese man also lost his last fight, a TKO loss to the great Adam Cullen. The Paris based fighter is a good grappler who likes to execute some ground and pound. This is an interesting style matchup.

Salvatore Liga (4-0) is looking to make a triumphant return to the promotion having picked up two victories in the yellow gloves back in 2018/19. The IMMAF veteran is a smooth operator and a modern MMA player who can knock you out or submit you, a real pick your poison. The Belgian has an exceptionally difficult assignment in Liam Gittins (8-4). The Next Gen Liverpool man doesn’t take easy fights and he gives everyone hell. The Nightmare is a terror on the feet and never stops chasing you down looking for the finish. If you find yourself in a scramble, odds are he’ll manage to take your back as well. A dynamic fighter.

Cage Warriors 145 is live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass. The action kicks off from 18:30 on Friday evening.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.