Cage Warriors 154 Preview; Loughran vs Hazan for 135lb Title

Cage Warriors, hot off the heels of a very successful Dublin show, make their way back to Rome, Italy on Saturday with CW 154. The land of pizza and pasta opens their Fiera Roma arena to the baying Italian fans for an extravaganza worthy of an emperor, and with Ian Dean in charge of the matchmaking, we’re likely to see nothing but thumbs up. Fifteen fights are scheduled to take place, including an Irishman competing for the Cage Warriors Bantamweight Championship.

“Don” Caolan Loughran (7-0) is a man who’s shot to fame since strapping on those yellow gloves. Early in his professional career, he was criticised for the strength of schedule of his opponents. All of those doubters have now been silenced. The Tyrone man has proved since that it’s not all talk and that he can back it all up. The Team Kaobon prospect debuted against Bakhtyaar Oryakhail and scored a second round TKO victory on the feet. A homecoming came next, another impressive second round TKO win over Festus Ahorlu in Belfast. The title shot was secured in his last fight, a career best performance against former flyweight champion Luke Shanks, using ground and pound to rack up his third second round TKO in a row. The Irishman has a funky striking style that has flummoxed his foes to date, and he matches it with a strong wrestling game. Dylan Hazan (9-0) will make his first appearance at bantamweight after making a name for himself at flyweight. The Italian will be looking to keep the title on home soil after previous champion Michele Martignoni vacated in search of flyweight gold. Hazan is a dominant wrestler who likes to take you down and hold you there. The Bari man will then look to land his big ground and pound. The 28-year-old has had plenty of success with this tactic so far, Loughran is a different beast though. A man waving a tricolour will walk out with the strap, will Ireland add another champion to the list?

Leon Aliu (10-2) returns to the promotion following an unsuccessful outing in the Contender Series. The Italian picked up a big knockout win over James Webb back at CW 138. The 33-year-old is a guillotine specialist and causes big damage with his striking game. Darren Stewart (13-9) is a tough ex-UFC test. “The Dentist” picked up a much needed win last time against Guilherme Cadena via ground and pound. The Englishman likes to bludgeon you with his knees and elbows, marrying it with big punches. He’ll look to clinch and make it dirty against the cage.

Carlo Pedersoli Jr (14-4) is an absolute legend of the local scene. “Semento” picked up a lovely rear naked choke victory over Madars Fleminas at the last Rome show. The Italian is a UFC and Bellator veteran and has been in exciting fights up and down the continent. The 29-year-old is a karate stylist and has strong BJJ with an eclectic mix of submissions. Giannis Bachar (7-2) is on a six-fight win streak and has been seen on Brave CF and Titan FC cards. The Greek’s success has come mainly on the feet, using his powerful punches to get knockouts. This will be his first fight in two years, so ring rust may play a factor.

Tanio Pagliariccio (8-2) is the rarest of living species, an SBG fighter on a Cage Warriors card. The Italian won a decision over Benoit Blanc last May and is hoping to pick up another big win on home soil to launch him up the flyweight rankings. The 24-year-old is pretty solid in all aspects, his most outstanding feature to date has been his guillotine, a John Kavanagh favourite. Gerardo Fanny (12-3) is a former title challenger looking to build back towards the belt. The Dutchman has that « je ne sais quoi » about him and he’s not shy to throw some flashy stuff. The 29-year-old knees are weapons of mass destruction, whether they hit in the clinch or as he traverses through the sky.

Simone Patrizi (5-1) is a new kid on the block and arrives from Centurion FC. The Italian is one of many from Rome’s Aurora MMA on the schedule, and he’s tasked with opening the main card. The 28-year-old is a solid grappler who looks to do damage with ground and pound. He’s also competitive in the striking realms. Ermil Xhaferi (4-0-1) is an IMMAF veteran and is a former foe of Pa Legane. The Albanian has a tidy submission game and has proved to be able to go toe to toe on the feet with his opponents to date. This is the top level of European MMA, so it will be interesting to see who’s skills translate better.

Milton Cabral (4-2) landed a devastating head kick knockout on Paddy Wilkinson at CW 147. The Portuguese is a kickboxer who flies out of the gates and every shot is thrown with bad intentions. Knockouts are his key to victory. Khadim Dia (2-0) is a grappler. The Milan man has competed on Polaris BJJ in the past, and has won both his pro fights by submission.

Alessandro Giordano (6-2) came up short against Nathan Fletcher in December, not that there’s any shame in that. The 25-year-old is a skilful kickboxer who works his levels effectively. Enrico Di Gangi (3-1) makes his debut and trains out of ATT Rome. The 28-year-old is a good wrestler with a couple of rear naked choke finishes and one win via ground and pound. This is an all-Italian bout.

Francesco Mazzeo (1-0) makes his first appearance since December 2021. The Italian’s amateur career saw him win via knockout in both bouts. He opened his pro account with a ground and pound finish. Joan Arastey (2-1) tasted defeat for the first time against Dario Bellandi in October. The Spaniard is the only man to beat Omran Chaaban. The 32-year-old is a competent striker with a grappling background.

Sam Creasey (16-5) is a man who needs no introduction around these parts. The Englishman is the former CW Flyweight champion, a title he defended once. Excitement is mostly guaranteed, he’s aggressive in the stand-up and can latch onto submissions in an instant. The 35-year-old finishes fights more often than your average 125er. Michelangelo Lupoli (6-2) will want to keep the party going in Naples with a win here following their recent football title win. The Italian had a good win against Aaron Aby in August and can hang pretty much in every area of an MMA contest. His finishes have tended to come in kickboxing exchanges.

Edoardo Caiazza (3-0) is an IMMAF veteran. The Italian is a man of simple tastes. The 25-year-old is coming to knock your block off from the opening bell and nobody has managed to stop him yet. Marko Sarasjärvi (2-0) had a distinguished amateur career and has also appeared at multiple IMMAF tournaments. The Finn fought killers such as Lee Hammond and Salamat Isbulaev at that level. Yet to taste defeat as a pro, he’s shown very good BJJ skills and loves a rear naked choke.

Dario Bellandi (4-1) is one of the brightest local prospects. The Livorno man has won two on the bounce and is another decorated former IMMAF competitor. The Italian has a nice guillotine and his promotional wins have come via ground and pound and triangle submission. Daniel Karlsson (2-0) is a Fight Club Rush veteran. As a pro, his biggest moment so far was a knockout win in his debut. The Swede is a very active fighter, having fought five times since 2022.

Yoga Prabowo (5-1) is a tidy submission fighter who’s adept at taking the back. It will be a rare occasion where Indonesia is represented in European MMA. Andrey Tyshchenko (5-2) is a solid allrounder. The Ukrainian has a wicked head kick, along with a decent Jiu Jitsu game.

Jasmine Favero (2-0) has looked impressive so far. The Italian’s debut saw her finish Stephanie Evans with strikes, and followed that up with an Americana submission over Awa Sow. The former IMMAF fighter also has a lovely armbar in the locker. Izabela Walczak (1-0) trains out of the Uniq Fight Club in Warsaw. The Pole is a strong kickboxer and can keep a high pace. She had a good win at semi-pro on a Babilon MMA show in 2019, so she should be used to performing in a promotion with high production value.

Luca Borando (2-0) won his pro debut with an armlock. The Italian is yet another who came through the IMMAF scene and has yet to have his record blemished as a professional. Baris Adiguzel (3-0) trains out of the same gym in Nice as the UFC’s Manon Fiorot. The Frenchman was born in Turkey and doesn’t hang around long in the cage. His first two wins were via knockout, with the third coming via kimura, all three in the first round.

Gianluca Ancora (0-1) will be the first Aurora MMA representative to kick things off on Saturday. The Taranto man is looking for his first win. Cornellius RJ Aritonang (1-0) is another Indonesian on the card. He won his debut via first round rear naked choke.

Cage Warriors 154 is live and exclusive from Rome this Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. The action kicks off at 16:30.

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.

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