We announced earlier in the week that Cage Warriors 44 would stream live right here at BloodyElbow.com on Saturday, October 1st at 4 PM ET. Since there is a rather large contingent of our readership that isn't borderline obsessive like myself about regional or international mixed martial arts action, here's a primer of tomorrow's card:
Lightweight title: Joseph Duffy (10-0) vs. Ivan Musardo (17-6-1): At 10-0, one would expect British prospect Joseph Duffy to be well on his way to greatness within the ranks of the UFC by now. Unfortunately, his fifteen seconds, technically three-and-a-half minutes, of fame came during the elimination round of The Ultimate Fighter season twelve. In that time, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Kyle Watson found his way to Duffy's back and choked him out, ending the hype abruptly.
Since the show's taping, Duffy has amassed a 4-0 record under the Cage Warriors' banner, submitting Conor McGregor and Tom Maguire, knocking out Oriol Gaset, and beating Francis Heagney on the scorecards in his most recent performance at Cage Warriors 43 in July. Of those opponents, none mimicked what Watson brought to the table in Las Vegas in June, nor the level of competition he would face in the major leagues.
Duffy's opponent on Saturday, Swiss-based Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Ivan Musardo, is a step in the right direction however. Aggressive, tough, and durable, Musardo is one of the stronger lightweights roaming the European scene. Not only will he provide a stiff test for Duffy, but he possesses the grappling acumen to give him trouble.
Musardo isn't without his own weaknesses however. He's a wild, sloppy striker, aggressive to a point in which his defenses fall to the wayside, and doesn't possess a lasting gas tank. In the early rounds, Musardo is a threatening grappler who could do exactly as Kyle Watson did. As the fight drags on, Duffy holds the advantage.
This is ultimately Duffy's chance to indirectly beat Watson by defeating a man who can dominate him convincingly on the ground. It won't erase the lost opportunity of making it on The Ultimate Fighter, but it will be an accomplishment that fulfills a milestone in his career. A step further in his progression. As long as Duffy can outlast Musardo's onslaught in the opening round by avoiding takedowns, his stand-up game should be enough to bombard Musardo from bell to bell for the rest of the fight. I'll take Duffy in a long distance race, but Musardo is far from an easy opponent. In fact, he's a live underdog with potential to play spoiler. Duffy via decision.
Catchweight (181 lbs.): Brian Foster (15-5) vs. Jack Mason (17-8): Foster has had a difficult time getting back into the cage since late last year. After the discovery of a brain hemorrhage in the lead-up to his UFC 129 showdown with Sean Pierson, Foster's career was up in the air. Successful brain surgery corrected the issue, but an unfortunate, cringe-worthy incident during training burst one of Foster's testicles, sidelining him even further. Now, after almost a year long layoff from the sport, Foster returns, but not under the bright lights of the UFC's Octagon.
Foster asked to fight outside of the organization in his return fight, likely as a means to getting his bearings correct before returning to fight the creme of the crop that the UFC has to offer. Mason isn't exactly a world beater by any means, and it's a chance for Foster to acclimate himself to the full speed of a real fight once again.
Mason's stand-up game has all sorts of holes in it. He's flat footed, not overly technical, and leaves himself open defensively. Foster has shown versatility in his striking game. He's unpredictable at times, powerful, and possesses the wrestling game to maintain his legs under him against solid competition. The only true threat to Foster is the fact that Mason will be the bigger fighter at the catchweight.
I'm not convinced it's an advantage however. Foster trains with the legendary Matt Hughes. He's a solid wrestler in his own right with an improving and explosive stand-up game. Five pounds isn't going to make a bit of difference if Foster bombards Mason from range, and I think that's exactly where this fight will end. Foster uncorks some nasty strikes, downing Mason, and pounding him out. Foster via TKO.
More picks after the jump...
Lightweight: Ashleigh Grimshaw (10-7-1) vs. Graham Turner (17-6): Show stealer? It's possible as both Grimshaw and Turner are prone to chipping away at their opponent's defenses on the feet. Grimshaw looked great in his TKO win over Patrick Peresa, but I'm still hesistant to pick him due to his love affair with his right hand. Turner is a bit more diverse, utilizing kicks and punches to batter his opponents. I think Turner can edge Grimshaw over three rounds, but he'll need to keep his legs under him to do that. Turner via decision.
Featherweight: Kevin Donnelly (6-3) vs. Brad Wheeler (6-5): Wheeler's impressive performance against Ian Entwistle at Cage Warriors 43 creates some bias in this match-up, but it's difficult to dismiss Wheeler's dominance of the young prospect. He absolutely demolished Entwistle on the feet before submitting him. It's a close contest on paper, but I'll limb my pick on the slight underdog in Wheeler. Wheeler via submission.
Heavyweight: Rab Truesdale (3-0-1) vs. Dayman Lake (1-0): There isn't much to say about these two fighters. Truesdale has proven knockout power like most heavyweights. Lake has crushed most of his amateur competition, and he submitted his opponent in his professional debut. He also possesses a grappling background, something Truesdale lacks. Lake has also been training for this fight for some time while Rab is a late replacement. With that said, Lake should be the favorite, but this is a heavyweight tilt at the lowest level. Anything can happen. Lake via submission.
Rest of the Card
Featherweight: Steve O'Keeffe (4-1) vs. Dean Reilly (5-2)
Catchweight (167.5 lbs.): Ian Entwistle (4-1) vs. Charlie Leary (2-3)
Flyweight: Niko Gjoka (5-6) vs. Neil Seery (8-8)
Lightweight: David Howell (2-1) vs. Kieran Malone (2-4)