Left to Right: Ivan Salverry, John Phillips, Tom Watson, Murilo Rua and Matt Ewin. Photo by SyFy UK via www.bamma.net
BAMMA 6 will take place Saturday, 21st May from Wembley Arena in London, England. Headlining the card will be BAMMA Middleweight champion Tom "Kong" Watson defending his title against Pride veteran Murilo "Ninja" Rua, older brother of former UFC Light-heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Also on the main televised card are two other Middleweight match ups as heavy handed John Phillips takes on UFC veteran Frank Trigg, and Matt Ewin takes on late replacement Ivan Salaverry as original opponent Phil Baroni had to drop out due to injury.
The 3-fight main card will be broadcast live on SyFy in the UK, The Fight Network in Canada and available as an online Pay Per View for the rest of the world at BAMMA.TV.
Also available for purchase at BAMMA.TV are the 4 main preliminary bouts Valentino Petrescu vs Joao Paulo De Souza, Jason Ball vs Leonardo Santos, Che Mills vs Marcio Cesar, and Neil Wain vs Marcin Bartkiewicz.
Taking a leaf out of the UFC play-book, BAMMA will also be broadcasting one preliminary fight for free via their Facebook Page showing Scott Jansen vs Craig Chesters.
The rest of the card won't be broadcast live and won't be available online officially until next week.
Main Card (9pm GMT / 4pm ET / 1pm PT)
185lbs Middleweight Championship
This will be Tom Watson's first fight since his entertaining brawl with recently retired foe Alex Reid at BAMMA 4 in September of last year. Many were disappointed with Watson's performance and surprised by Reid's, and dismissed Watson as nothing more than a middle of the road fighter. That still may be true but Watson made the mistake of taking a fight 2 weeks before Reid when he fought and lost a decision to Jesse Taylor in Canadian promotion MFC. This time out though his opponent Murilo Rua has his undivided attention, and through spending time training with Greg Jackson's camp in New Mexico and Firas Zahabi's Tristar gym in Montreal Watson is taking the right steps to prepare for this make or break fight in his career.
Ninja Rua has never been able to live up to his younger brother's success in MMA partly because of not finding his right weight class early on (fighting as heavy as Heavyweight at one point) but also lacking the dynamic athleticism of his sibling. Ninja's found mixed success as a middleweight and he'll be coming off of a decision loss after putting together a 4 fight win streak.
This fight is a pick 'em: Ninja has been through some wars in his career and turns 31 on Sunday, Watson hasn't faced the competition Ninja has but is a couple of years younger at 28 and hasn't taken the damage Ninja has in his career. Ninja can be Knocked out or TKO'd and can also lose a decision but his BJJ and Muay Thai are still strong suits that need to be respected, Watson originally comes from a Boxing background but is striving to be a well rounded Mixed Martial Artist and has had the benefit of forming a fight strategy with some of the absolute best fight minds in the business. Alex Reid was a money fight for Watson but this is the most important fight of his career thus far and will say a lot on whether he has what it takes to make a splash in UFC / Strikeforce or even against the top guys in Bellator. Prediction: Watson takes a decision though hopefully one without judging controversy.
Frank Trigg vs John Phillips (185lbs)
In a match that could be dubbed the Battle Of Bad Nicknames, Welshman John "The White Mike Tyson" Phillips (yes, really) takes on UFC veteran Frank "Twinkle Toes" Trigg. Phillips does indeed hit hard and has a thick upper-body that just suggests 'Power' but despite a background in Amateur Boxing and having been part of the Welsh Commonwealth Boxing team he's not the most technical of strikers either, winging hard hooks to the head and body and keeping the pressure on until his opponent goes down.
Fortunately for Phillips Frank Trigg has shown an increased susceptibility to being separated from consciousness and a lacking stand up defense having been blasted out of the UFC by Josh Koscheck and Matt Serra. Trigg's success in this fight is dependent on him utilising his wrestling which he has been getting back to at Xtreme Couture with the help of Randy Couture and head ground fighting coach Neil Melanson. Trigg may be more comfortable at 185lbs now and certainly has some skills to give Phillips problems, but Phillips despite being a slugger is also developing a ground game through a Gracie Barra affiliate linked to his Predators MMA gym. We may see it put to good use for the first time in his career if Trigg does the sensible thing in taking him down and trying to keep him there.
Trigg has bounced back from his latest failed UFC run with a win last year at the Israel Fighting Championship - and by TKO no less - so we can hope he's not just turning up to BAMMA for a check. But, he is going up against a big middleweight who has legitimate fight ending power and who wants to work his way up to another crack at Watson who he lost to a few years giving me the feeling Phillips' motivation may be greater than Trigg's. Prediction: Phillips by TKO in the 2nd.
Ivan Salaverry vs Matt Ewin (185lbs)
This fight seems quite fitting as both fighters can be considered veteran journeymen of their respective MMA scene that are coming out of retirement to face each other. Matt Ewin is a Cage Rage veteran and came out of retirement back in April scoring a TKO win after having not fought since 2008 where many thought he had appropriately ended his career on a 4 fight win streak around the time Cage Rage went down with the sinking ship that was the Pro Elite federation of MMA promotions.
Among MMA hardcore fans Ivan Salaverry is a bit of a folk hero having been the first notable fighter in MMA to get a submission win by Body Triangle against Tony Fryklund all the way back at UFC 50 in 2004, but more importantly popularised the mounted crucifix technique - often nicknamed The Salaverry in tribute - that has been used to successfully end fights by Ground'n'Pound by the likes of Roy Nelson, Paul Kelly, Matt Hughes (twice) and our current Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Salaverry doesn't appear to have fought since being dominantly submitted by Rousimar Palhares in 2008 at UFC 84.
This is pretty much a classic Grappler vs Striker match in Salaverry and Ewin respectively. Ewin is slightly older but has had the benefit of shaking ring rust off just a couple of months ago while Salaverry is more experienced but inactive since 2008 and is coming in on short notice to replace Phil Baroni. Ewin had been training for a stand up war which may benefit Salaverry if he's coming in with a wrestling or submission strategy. Until his last couple of fights Salaverry had proven to be difficult to submit or finish and while Ewin is a competent fighter I don't see him having the submission ability of Palhares or the ragdoll and KO power of Terry Martin. Prediction: I'll be rooting for Salaverry because of his catch wrestling connection through AMC Pankration having himself been one of Josh Barnett's early coaches along with Matt Hume, but my head says Ewin will get the decision because he's been preparing for a fight and Salaverry is coming in on short notice.
Preliminary Card (7pm GMT / 2pm ET / 11am PT)
Joao Paulo de Souza vs Valentino Petrescu
Another striker vs grappler type match up, Petrescu has a tendancy to end fights by TKO but can on occasion slap on a submission if need be. De Souza can win by TKO on the ground but recently his win streak has consisted of close decisions. Both fighters have similar records and the fight hinges on Petrescu's ability to keep it standing. Petrusco as been the more active of the two fighting twice in the last 2 months and I expect him to come in shape and try to tear Do Souza's head off.
BAMMA World Lightweight Championship Contender
Jason Ball vs Leonardo Santos
Bloody Elbow's Dallas G Winston did an excellent story on 7 time World BJJ champion Leonardo Santos that I recommend you check out. His first couple of career losses came to Takonori Gomi when taking the fight on short notices as well as respectable chute boxe featherweight journeyman Jean Silva. Since then he's won 7 of his last 8 fights with the loss coming by way of an unfortunate split decision. Ball is a journeyman brawler in the UK who has some submission wins of his own, but a fair number of his losses have also come by submission to opponents not at the same grappling level of Santos. Unless Ball has remarkably improved I expect Santos to choke him out in the first and cement his number #1 contender status to champion Rob Sinclair.
Che Mills vs Marcio Cesar
Che Mills was heralded going into the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter as one to look out for but disappointed early losing to a James Wilks heelhook in the opening elimination round. Cousin to Paul Daley, Mills hasn't been able to shine like the dynamic 'Semtex' but can boast a couple of stoppage wins over Dream Welterweight Champion Marius Zaromskis when both were in Cage Rage. He still appears to have a weakness against submission specialists as his armbar loss to Yuya Shirai indicates and that's a problem for the Englishman as opponent Marcio Cesar has 9 submission victories out of his 14 wins and has only one loss by TKO. Coupled with the Ball vs Santos fight, expect another UK fighter to be submitted in back to back fights.
Neil Wain vs Marcin Bartkiewicz
Neil Wain is a Heavyweight brawler with some power in his hands and was fed to Shane Carwin many moons ago on a European UFC card. Wain appeared to get the better of some of standing exchanges but Carwin was able to take him down, mount him and land some thunderous Ground'n'Pound on his way to a referee intervention. Wain is a throwback to the days of Tank Abbott who can easily be defeated against the right opponent but fortunately for Wain he may have found his Polish KSW counterpart in the 3-3 Bartkiewicz. Pray for an early stoppage for either man so we can be spared the embarrassing sight of 2 heavyweights gassing out after the first round and a half.
Facebook Fight (6:30pm GMT / 1.30pm ET / 10.30am PT)
Scott Jansen vs Craig Chester
Both guys records aren't going to set the world on fire, and considering Jansen is more submission prone then Melvin Manhoef and Chael Sonnen combined and Chester is early into his career 2-1 this fight feels like a showcase for Chester to prove himself on the relatively bigger stage BAMMA affords. if Chester can't get past the 6-9 Jansen his fight career maybe over almost as soon as it started.