The Severe Spotlight: Luke Riley

Two undefeated prospects walked into the Cage Warriors cage on Saturday night, put on one of, if not the best fight in Cage Warriors history and 58 seconds into the third round, Luke Riley lumbered himself over the cage wall, battered, bruised, cradling his broken hand to embrace the baying adoration from the crowd and his teammates.

For the second consecutive fight, we have seen Luke Riley walk into a performance and leave a piece of his soul in the caged walls for our entertainment.

The first thirty seconds begun like you would expect for a fight between not only undefeated prospects, but also two fighters very aware of the capabilities of the other. Both men jostled for the front foot, Riley with a wider stance and a tight guard, Lööf with a shorter gait, with his hands a little looser, offered each other some range finding questions, a teep from Lööf and a jab from Riley.

The jab of Riley becomes more prominent through the next minute, both to the body and to the head. Offensively used to force reactions, but defensively used very well. If Lööf entered a space Riley wasn’t happy with, a slick and fast jab appeared in the face of the Swede.

Lööf answers a jab from Riley with a stinging jab of his own, causing Riley to stutter for a second. The Swede thought twice about swarming before opening a barrage of hooks onto the Liverpudlian who for a moment, looked to be hurt. But as is becoming synonymous with Riley, in the chaos he gathered himself and circled off.

A nod to the Lööf naivety see’s a jumping switch kick countered well by a Riley right hook.

The next minute or so Lööf slows, likely because he is not used to fighters managing to survive flurries, but also acutely aware he had still a significant portion of the round to go, and potentially two more after that. But this allowed Riley to work his way back into the round, a right high kick followed by a right straight a nice land.

With 1:40 left on the clock, Riley lands a nice left hook that shoots his confidence up. He follows it up with a clean right hand that lands him in the clinch. A Lööf right hand separated from the clinch – the Swede did his best to keep Riley off him, but with 40 seconds to go, the shots from Riley had pinned Lööf against the fence.

Stumbling along the fence wall Lööf did his utmost to force Riley off him, but a man possessed was the Liverpudlian who wobbled him again with a left hook and barraged him with right hands as Lööf slumped against the fence. A wild end to the first round, and upon reflection Riley might rue some of the shots selected in some of those exchanges.

Round two began with Riley looking to work the body. A smart tactic given he had his man badly hurt only a minute and change ago. But it was Lööf who hurt Riley, a check right hook as Riley entered. Another sat Riley down. Lööf swarms the guard of Riley who manages to survive the first enslaught and work his way back to his feet.

Lööf elects from a double underhooks position to throw Riley, taking him down to the canvas. Whilst landing a good amount of damage to please the scorecards of the judges, the choice might seem like a mishap on the Swede’s part – as Riley spent periods of the grappling exchanges tying up Lööf and recovering.

That recover becomes apparent with 1:20 left on the clock in the second round. Riley landing combinations on a Lööf, backing up. A minute left and Riley tee’s off with a plethora of hooks, a knee up the middle and some crushing elbows to the side of the head from a single leg attempt.

The sweet, fleeting embrace at the beginning of the third round is such a beautiful note of irony. Irony for the blood spilled in the previous ten minutes of fighting, but also the fate of both fighters for the next 58 seconds.

Riley stamps a jab into the jaw of Lööf inside 6 seconds. He marauds forward, a left hook and a right straight drives Lööf back to the fence. Here, we see the true essence of Riley. Covered in mud from the trench the pair had built, the shot selection is sublime. Forcing Lööf to circle with hooks, squaring him up with knees up the middle, the hand fighting, the feints, the range control is a wonder to watch.

A leading elbow brings Riley into the inside space, a check hook, a body hook, and a punishing right hand add more red paint to the already stained canvas. The embers of the Lööf gas tank burnt out with two right hand attempts. Riley stabs a teep into the gut of Lööf before following him along the cage, and unloads yet another barrage of hooks into the hands, forearms, jaw, forehead and chest of Lööf.

Referee Marc Goddard notices a wobble in the legs of Lööf and expertly saves the young fighter. We do not need to see fighters crumple to the floor unconscious to know a fight is done. An exhausted Luke Riley strolls away with his unbeaten record intact.

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