TheScore was cage-side to see every punch, kick and choke at last week’s Cage Contender event in Belfast.
LAST WEEKEND’S Cage Contender event in the King’s Hall, Belfast, produced a night of fights worthy enough to rival the excitement and drama of any UFC production.
A heavily-stacked card showed off some stars of the future in the pre-lims, but the best of the action was served up on the main card with every fight producing either a KO or submission, making it an easy night for the judges.
With nearly 3,500 fans in attendance, TheScore had a seat cage-side getting a close up view of all the fast-paced action.
Heartbreak for Rooney
While most fans were looking forward to the co main events of Moore Vs Lister and Wain Vs Robinson, TheScore had a vested interest in the Rooney vs Holohan bout, having followed ‘The Rage’ in the build-up to his fight.
It was billed as ‘the fight the whole of Ireland wanted to see’ and although many believed it would be a close fight that could go the distance, it was anything but. Despite looking relaxed and quietly confident beforehand, Rooney struggled to get going from the outset and after a few exchanges early in the round he was caught cold with a head kick just a minute into the fight.
An obviously devastated Rooney had little to say after the bout, although he did concede: “That’s the nature of the sport. I’ve no excuses. I was in the best shape and more ready than I have ever been for a fight, just didn’t get the chance to get going and got caught. Full credit to Paddy, he fought a good fight and all the best to him in the final.”
The unbeaten ‘Hooligan’ impressively moves to 8-0 and faces Artemij Sitenkov next out for the bantamweight title.
Wain retains the belt while Lister scrapes the win
The main event of the evening was a re-match between Neil Wain and Colin Robinson who were looking to re-enact their three round war of Cage Contender XI. In a fight that turned out to be the polar opposite of their last scrap, Wain dropped ‘Big C’ a number of times in the first before finally finishing him off with some thunderous shots to retain the Cage Contender heavyweight championship.
Rodney Moore almost pulled off the surprise of the night as he took former UFC veteran Dean Lister deep into the third round of their back and forth battle. It looked ominous for Moore early on as he was taken down and mounted by the current ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion, who rained hammer fists and elbows down on his opponent.
Moore vs Lister. Pic: Brian Kirk.
Moore survived the round and came out strong in the second avoiding Lister’s somewhat weak single leg shots before dropping “The Boogeyman” with a strong knee to the body.
Heading into the final round in such a close fight, Moore was spurred on by the great home support and was winning the stand-battle. As Lister hit the canvas once again, Moore made the fatal mistake of landing on top and it wasn’t long before he was reversed and on the end of one of Lister’s famous heel-hooks. Moore tapped as soon as it was locked in but enhanced his reputation with such a resolute display.
There were wins for Greg Loughran and John Michael Shiel on the main card, while Stephen Kilfin looked the pick of the pre-lim fighters with his impressive win over Marty Kayas. Joe McColgan, Gavin Kelly, Martin Kelly and Nial Houston were also winners on the night.
Irish MMA is in a healthy state
The overriding feeling after leaving the event was that Ireland has a thriving MMA scene with plenty of exciting up-and-coming fighters ready to cross over to the big time. Rodney Moore believes that we have many reasons to get excited about the sport here in Ireland. “I’ve fought all over Europe and fought in America before and the young guys here think they have to go to there to train. But here in the North and the South were as good as anywhere in the world.”
That sentiment is echoed by Cage Contender chief executive John Ferguson who claims that: “Irish MMA is in a good place at the moment. We’ve got some great guys at the top of their game and we’ve got some great guys coming through at intermediate levels. There’s a great spread of talent who have great technique and dedication, it’s in a great place now.”