What are you doing this Saturday? Me, I’m going to the biggest MMA card ever held in Scotland where we will see a legitimate World champion crowned, alongside some of the brightest lights of Scottish, indeed European MMA.
A hollow boast? No, because you see Cage Warriors, unlike a few promotions I could mention actually deserve to call their belt holders WORLD champions. They hold cards in multiple countries, even multiple continents. Their roster is full of world class talent who often go on to shine at the only higher level in the game, the UFC.
Throw in competitive matchmaking, top quality commentary, a truly international audience and all round passion and professionalism and Cage Warriors are quite simply one of the top promotions in the world…
…and they’re coming to the city I live in. How awesome is that?
Ok, it’s not the first time (they were here for CW50 in December) but this time, we get to see a title match. I could be wrong but I think this is the first time a legitimate MMA World title will be contested in Scotland.
Of course, the chances are that you’re not from where I’m from and as such it’s just another MMA card to check out when it streams live on MMA Junkie and the CW Facebook page. What you want to know is why is this card worth checking out, aside from the passionate, knowledgeable and devilishly attractive Scottish crowd?
Lets start with the main event. You’ve probably heard of Conor “Notorious” McGregor? Former two division Cage Warriors champion, now winning knockout of the night honours in the UFC? Well, Jim “the Beast” Alers (9-1) spent most of 2012 waiting for a crack at him, only to be twice frustrated by injuries, once to McGregor and once to him. In his thankfully injury free run up to this fight, he took the time to speak to us and you can check out that interview here.
As the long term #1 contender, Alers was a logical choice to put up for McGregor’s vacated title and comes in riding a five fight win streak, with a perfect record in Cage Warriors and a reputation for exciting fights, having never seen a fight go to the third round.
The Alliance Orlando product is best known for his jujitsu skills, specifically his propensity to finish fights with chokes but he’s a rounded competitor capable of mixing it up and finishing with his fists – just ask Matteus Lahdesmaki.
As this match is for a vacated title, we need another challenger and the foil comes in the shape of Finland’s Joni Salovaara (12-5) who is riding a 10-1 streak after losing four of his first six fights. He’s mostly earned his record to date in Finnish promotions like Fight Festival and Cage but most recently with a majority decision victory over the experienced Oliver Pastor at Vision FC 5.
Salovaara has a more balanced record than Alers, testament to his ability to grind out a decision victory but also to his strength of mind. I mean, he started his career with a 0-3 streak and kept coming back. He didn’t have a positive record until his ninth fight! Would you have kept on? Exactly.
Alers has to be the favourite, but Salovaara has more fights and if you chop off the first stretch of his career, he’s got a very similar record and indisputable talent and heart.
At the end of the day, these are two talented young guys fighting for one of the most career changing titles in the game. It’s gonna be epic.
In our co-headliner, we have a women’s bout between Scotland’s own Joanne Calderwood (5-0) and America’s Sally ‘Slick’ Krumdiack (9-6).
Calderwood’s rise over the first year of her MMA career has been nothing short of meteoric, from her debut on Scottish show On Top in February 2012, through her appearance on YouTube at Super Fight League 3 (which was where I first saw her) to her pair of striking masterclasses under the Invicta banner that have made her an international star.
Already a world champion kick boxer, hailed by her coach as one of the highest level strikers in all of MMA (hence the nickname ‘Jo-Anderson Silva’) Calderwood has also shown a developed ground game against far more experienced opposition.
Indeed, the biggest challenge she’s faced in her career so far has been finding opponents willing to throw down with a Muay Thai champion…
Having the stones to face the brand new hometown hero in her own backyard is veteran Sally Krumdiack, a champion at 125lbs for both Legends MMA and Freestyle Cage Fighting who has competed other some of the biggest names in WMMA in the past.
It has to be said, that Krumdiack has tended to lose when competing against top level opposition as her losses to Rosi Sexton, Tara LaRosa and Patricia Vidonic testify. That said, she’s a well rounded and experienced fighter who’s taken on some of the best and tellingly, has only been knocked out once.
This is a huge fight for Calderwood (and for the Scottish fans who might not get to see her for a while as she turns her attention to Invicta FC full time) in order to keep her considerable momentum on track, but Krumdiack is no can to be squashed and looks every bit the spoiler here, surely knowing that a win over the red hot Calderwood would mean a career renaissance for her.
A win for either girl means a lot, and while the Glasgow crowd will be hoping for a decisive KO win for their girl, I don’t see it being that easy.
There’s a likely grappling showcase on the cards between Middleweights Mats Nilsson (9-2-1) and Chris Scott (6-1).
Nilsson had been riding a five fight win streak before a decision reverse to now-UFC fighter Tor Troeng last May while Scott is riding a live five match streak of submission wins since his lone career loss to Dinky Ninja, Allan Love in 2009.
Nilsson was due to compete in the Kelvin Hall at CW50 against veteran Denniston Sutherland but had to pull out through injury, while Scott makes a return to the scene of his last fight, a second round submission victory over another Swede, Kristian Lexell at Vision FC 4.
Both of these guys have top notch submission games, and Nilsson in particular is one of the brightest prospects in Europe, so were really looking forward to this one.
Next up is a lightweight bout between Jason Cooledge (7-3) and well travelled veteran Jason Ball (19-11) in what could be seen as a grappler vs. striker contest although Ball hardly lacks submission skills.
Fresh off losing a decision in his Fight of the Night match with Paul McVeigh at CW52, Paul Marin (5-2) returns to Cage Warriors facing another experienced Irishman in the shape of Neil Seery (11-9).
I was expecting to see Seery confirmed for the announced Flyweight title tournament for Dublin in June, so I have to expect that this match is effectively a qualifier for a spot in that tourney.
Marin’s record suggests he’s a striker, but as anyone who watched CW52 knows he’s got some serious grappling skills as he went scramble for scramble with the respected McVeigh. Despite being the more experienced fighter, Seery has shown a tendency to get submitted over his career but has the advantage if coming in with a two fight win streak.
Hell, it’s flyweights. This is gonna be speedy and technical.
The main card is rounded out by Dinky Ninja, James Doolan (17-8-2) looking to build on his first round submission of Spencer Hewitt at BAMMA 11 and put together his first brace of wins since 2009 in a challenging spell where he’s gone 3-5-2.
Standing in the way of that intention and certain to feel the ire of the Glasgow crowd is England’s James Pennington (6-1) looking to bounce back from his first career loss, to David Grant at ShocknAwe 11 last July.
Doolan is by far the more experienced campaigner and while his losses have tended to come via submission, which is Pennington’s speciality, he’s no slouch on the mat himself (as Hewitt and more than a few others can attest) but also posses a well rounded grappling and striking game, so could use his experience to take the fight wherever he wants it.
Then again, Grant is teammates with the likes of James Brum and Phil Harris at Gym01 so I’d bet he’s gonna be well prepared.
There are only two prelims announced so far, and as ever Im looking forward to Dinky Ninja, Mark Connor waking the crowd up with some proper heavy metal as his entrance tune before trying his damnedest to put his opponent to sleep.
We’ll be there in person, so live tweeting will be difficult as the Kelvin Hall is a phone reception black hole, but we’ll post pictures and reaction the day after.
There are still a few tickets left, so please grab them from Cage Warriors’ website if you’ve not already got yours, or if your one of those poor souls who isn’t Scottish, you can watch the card live on CW’s Facebook page and then MMAJunkie.
I can’t wait.
MAIN (MMAjunkie.com, 9pm local.)
• Jim Alers vs. Joni Salovaara – for vacant featherweight title
• Joanne Calderwood vs. Sally Krumdiack
• Mats Nilsson vs. Chris Scott
• Jason Ball vs. Jason Cooledge
• Paul Marin vs. Neil Seery
• James Doolan vs. James Pennington
PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 8pm local)
• Rich Edgeworth vs. Jean N’Doye
• Mark Connor vs. Joe Laurence