England’s Jordan Vucenic went toe to toe with rising French star Morgan Charriere for five rounds and came out victorious as the man known as “The Epidemic” claimed a split-decision win, and the featherweight title, at Cage Warriors 122 in London.
Vucenic (8-1) started strongly and used his range and jab to good effect to bank the early rounds against reigning champion Charriere (16-8-1), who was making his first defense of the title. The Frenchman upped his intensity through the middle rounds and briefly stunned the challenger, but he was unable to shake the composure of the 25-year-old, who dealt with everything the champion threw at him and kept firing back over the full five-round duration to earn the split-decision win with scores of 46-49, 48-47, 48-47 from the cageside judges at York Hall.
“I put everything that I’ve got into this sport. I love it, man. I don’t have a life outside of it. I put so much into it, it’s nice to get (the belt). It’s been a lifelong dream,” he said after his victory.
“I just treated it like sparring. It might look like I was being cocky to people at home when I talk and smile, but I just love being in there. It was just amazing to be in there. That was the best I’ve ever felt in there, as well. No pent-up emotion, no nothing.”
When it was suggested that a potential matchup with former featherweight champ Paddy Pimblett could be a possibility, Vucenic instead highlighted the fighter he thinks should get the first shot at his title.
Vucenic defeated Paul Hughes via split decision at Cage Warriors 119 to earn his shot at the title, and the Irishman bounced back from that loss on Thursday with a unanimous decision win over James Hendin. Now Vucenic says the time is right for a rematch, with the title on the line.
“Listen, I’m the champion, I’ve gotta fight whoever,” he said. “I like Paddy, but I think we all know who’s next in line, and I’m not going to deny who’s next in line, and it is Paul Hughes. I’m not going to shy away from anybody, I’m not scared of defending it against anybody. He deserves it, so he’ll get the shot.”
Pimblett delivers 97-second masterclass, calls for UFC shot
Former featherweight champion [autotag]Paddy Pimblett[/autotag] declared that his fight against [autotag]Davide Martinez[/autotag] at Cage Warriors 122 would be his last for the U.K. promotion, as he predicted he would be snapped up by the UFC after the event. He then stepped into the cage and delivered one of the most impressive performances of his lightweight career. Pimblett (16-3) finished Martinez (8-3) in just 97 seconds after a remarkable combination of techniques that started with a head kick, then, after a flurry of punches, a flying knee and a judo throw, finished with a rear-naked choke submission. https://twitter.com/simonhead/status/1373391179925106689 It gave Pimblett his second straight Cage Warriors victory, a year to the day after his first-round TKO finish of Decky Dalton at Cage Warriors 113, and backed up his pre-fight confidence as he delivered a clear statement to the UFC's top brass that he's ready and waiting for their call.
Harila makes big statement on Cage Warriors debut
Swedish lightweight [autotag]Tobias Harila[/autotag] made quite the impression on his Cage Warriors debut as he scored a hugely impressive first-round knockout of Scotland's [autotag]Aidan Stephen[/autotag]. The action quickly made its way to the mat, with Harila (9-1) establishing top position and settling into Stephen's half-guard. After freeing his arms, the Swede then unloaded a swift salvo of heavy ground strikes that separated Stephen (8-4) from his senses as referee Dan Movahedi dived in. It gave Harila a dream debut win as the 27-year-old known as "Bad Intention" lived up to his moniker with a swift, powerful finish to put the rest of the Cage Warriors lightweight division on notice. https://twitter.com/CageWarriors/status/1373380213548126212
Bouland weathers early storm, fires back for big TKO
[autotag]Liam Gittins[/autotag] came out of his corner like the Tasmanian Devil, but walked into a huge right hand from Belgium's [autotag]Brian Bouland[/autotag] as he paid for his over-aggressive start to their bantamweight clash. Gittins (6-2) came out all guns blazing at the start of the fight as he charged across the cage and let fly a blistering salvo of punches as he growled, roared, and shouted at Bouland (10-3), who was forced to back up to the cage and circle away from his opponent's wild punches. But then, 52 seconds into the round, Bouland planted his feet and fired back with a huge right uppercut that connected perfectly with Gittins' chin and sent him crashing to the canvas. Referee Rich Mitchell dived in to spare the Englishman further punishment and, despite Gittins' protestations, the fight was stopped to hand Bouland the 10th win of his career. https://twitter.com/CageWarriors/status/1373374253718994946
'The Show' Jean N'Doye lives up to his nickname with highlight-reel knockout
The featherweight main card opener saw a huge knee knockout from Frenchman [autotag]Jean N'Doye[/autotag], who starched England's [autotag]Corrin Eaton[/autotag] to score a stunning highlight-reel knockout. N'Doye (9-2), who was competing for only the second time since 2013, looked sharp in the striking exchanges throughout the matchup, but had to be wary through a grueling first round as Eaton (10-4) applied plenty of forward pressure as he mixed up striking with takedown attempts and grinding clinch work against the cage. After a back-and-forth opening round, N'Doye sharpened up his strikes in Round 2 and hit the jackpot with a perfectly timed knee that caught Eaton flush on the chin as the Englishman changed levels to shoot for a takedown. It gave N'Doye a spectacular knockout victory, with the fighter known as "The Show" claiming his first knockout victory since June 2011. https://twitter.com/simonhead/status/1373371198273417216
Preliminary card recap
In the night's featured preliminary card bout, England's Nathan Fletcher prevailed in a battle of unbeaten bantamweights that almost went all the way to the scorecards. Fletcher and Italy's Michele Martignoni battled back and forth through almost the entirety of their three-round bout, but Fletcher's relentless pursuit of a submission finally paid off in the final minute of the fight when he took Martignoni's back, locked up a rear-naked choke and applied the pressure to force the tap with just 38 seconds of the fight remaining. https://twitter.com/CageWarriors/status/1373359606739697667 The event kicked off with a bang, as French flyweight [autotag]Nicolas Leblond[/autotag] (6-3) unleashed a howitzer left hand to knock out [autotag]Darren O'Gorman[/autotag] (6-6) and claim his first win as a Cage Warriors fighter. https://twitter.com/simonhead/status/1373345974899376131 Also on the prelims, French lightweight [autotag]Yassine Belhadj[/autotag] (7-3) picked up a hard-earned unanimous decision win over England's gritty [autotag]Tom Mearns[/autotag] (6-7).
Cage Warriors 122: Full results
Jordan Vucenic def. Morgan Charriere via split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47) – for featherweight title
Paddy Pimblett def. Davide Martinez via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:37
Tobias Harila def. Aidan Stephen via knockout (ground strikes) – Round 1, 1:14
Brian Bouland def. Liam Gittins via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:52
Jean N’Doye def. Corrin Eaton via knockout (knee) – Round 2, 1:30
Nathan Fletcher def. Michele Martignoni via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 4:22
Yassine Belhadj def. Tom Mearns via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Nicolas Leblond def. Darren O’Gorman via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 3:20