Somewhere in the middle of Dream 16 and UFC 119 on an island that was once home to a mighty empire, a fight card went down called BAMMA 4. For those of you not residing in the Great Britain area, BAMMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) has been gaining momentum by putting on some decent fights. This card however, was the first time that a BAMMA title shot went to a fighter coming off a 6 fight losing streak. How could this happen? Well the back story to this amazing turn of events is that the middleweight title contender Alex Reid, also happens to be the new husband of the most popular glamor model in the U.K. which propelled him to fame in the winning role of a reality television show.
With the back story set, BAMMA 4: Reid vs. Watson also boasted some notable match-ups including the undefeated Renzo Gracie Black Belt, Gunnar Nelson (6-0-1), taking on the undefeated British fighter Eugene Fadiora (9-0-0).
I was fresh off the boat (from Australia) to bring you a run-down of how the evening went this past Saturday in Birmingham, England.
First up on the main card Tim Newman took on AJ Wenn in a lightweight bout. Newman started well giving Wenn problems in the exchanges and dominating the first round only for Wenn to turn things in the second. Newman took down Wenn by catching his kick, but gave Wenn the attempt to guillotine and then triangle his opponent in to submission at 1:21 in the second round.
Second on the bill two non-British fighters in Finland's Simeon Thoresen vs. the Italian, Marco Santi. After the initial exchange, Thoresen catches Santi with a right and the fight went to the ground. Thorensen controlled the fight from here on with a body triangle and worked to get the RNC at 3.59 of round one.
By this time, word has filtered through to those cageside that the main event between Reid and Watson had to start at 22:23 to tie in with the live coverage on the reality tv-show "Alex Reid: The Fight Of His Life". With all these quick stoppages the gaps between fights steadily got bigger and for a crowd of around 6,000, everyone was well behaved.
Next up was Nelson vs Fadiora at welterweight. Fadiora is a notable striker having finished more than half of his wins via TKO whilst the Icelandic Nelson is the out-and-out grappler who made a solid transition thus far into MMA, with decent training at the Renzo camp with the likes of GSP. The fight started with Nelson adopting his unorthodox karate style stance and before Fadiora could unload, Nelson went straight for the takedown. Fadiora looked to be defending it well, all be it pinned against the fence, only for the methodical Nelson to slowly creep up and advance the position. Once the fight hit the floor, it didn't take long for Nelson to establish position but it was only when he took the back that he started to throw punches to set up the RNC. It almost looked like Fadiora might win the scramble and escape, but then Nelson stuck like glue and finished the RNC at 3:51. The crowd seemed to cheer as Fadiora rose to slam, but there was a huge anti-climax when the fight finished without anyone really noticing.
The last fight before the main event was the Welshman, John Phillips (12-3-0) taking on Brit, James Zikic (18-5-2) in a middleweight bout between two very strong contenders. The fight quickly became one-sided with Phillips boxing credentials coming in to play, allowing him to land more freely. Phillips also looked more powerful and started to land heavy shots forcing Zikic against the cage. The resulting damage of his combinations was enough to buckle Zikic at the knees. Whilst still falling from the shock-and-awe, the referee intervened at 1:34 in the first round with a TKO going to Phillips.
This was perhaps not what the organization wanted in regards to their timing but the fights, mostly being one-sided, had all been a worthwhile spectacle. The problem now was the one hour and thirty minute wait for the main event. Luckily, a few familiar faces were spotted cageside in-between the novelty amount of plastic breasts. Paul Daley was in a good mood chomping on his Haribo Mega Mix and even commented that he is a reader of MiddleEasy whilst ADCC champion, Braulio Estima, was also in attendance.
Now here is where things get weird. After over an hour of waiting for the main event we (the photographers) were moved from cageside to the stands because the whole 'Glamour Model and Reality TV circus' was far more 'important'. We were also made to sign terms of agreement stating that we would not be shooting from the floor, or something to that effect. After the last fight, the security guy made it clear to us to stand behind the barrier and not in front of the paying public. Then begins the one of the most surreal entrances in fight history.
Alex Reid (8-1-8) was escorted by dozens of people dressed as transvestites or sporting stilts, wielding angle grinders and generally being freaks. When Reid reached the cage, an explosion of confetti met the crowd. Tom "Kong" Watson (12-0-4) then made his regular entrance sporting Gorilla mask and BAMMA middleweight belt and the vast support of the crowd.
Now with the pre-fight circus aside, the fight took an interesting twist. Watson was fresh off a loss to Jesse Taylor at MFC. In the first two rounds, Alex Reid landed some decent shots and won both rounds with superb technique. The third round was the turning point which showed that Reid's stamina was not on the same level of Watson. The fight went the distance, and Reid slowly waned. Its was a battle that was already being referred to as the UK's version of Bonnar vs. Griffin by fans. The end result was a unanimous decision to Watson and two messed-up faces.
I caught some of the fight from behind peoples' heads, but was told I had broken the terms of agreement and was ejected from the venue. Bummer.