REPORT: Cage Warriors Academy South East 33
Cage Warriors Academy South East 33: Report and pictures
Of the 23 bouts on the card at the Charter Hall, just seven needed the judges to cast their verdicts in what was an explosive display of MMA from the sport's future stars. In the main event, Joshua Onwordi lifted the professional super lightweight title with a dominant display against France's Mikhael Bensimon.
Onwordi, now 4-4, took the Frenchman down early and softened him up with a barrage of heavy punches before sinking in the rear naked choke for a first round finish. The MMA Clinic Romford product has serious pedigree, having already fought five times on the main Cage Warriors show and, with gold around his waist, will be a man to watch going forward.
In the co-main, hometown favourite Charlie Falco got back in the win column with a blood-spattered second round stoppage of big-punching Italian Riccardo Pala. Falco, now 5-3, bounced back after losing his pro straw-weight title last time out with an emphatic victory over the man he beat to first lift that belt last July.
On that occasion it was a points win, but Falco left no doubt the second time around, putting Pala on his back in the first round after some even exchanges on the feet. Once there he unleashed his trademark spiteful, cutting elbows, leaving Pala's face a mask of crimson at the end of the first stanza. It was more of the same in the second, with Falco wasting little time taking Pala down and continuing the onslaught, spraying claret across the canvas and forcing the TKO stoppage.
Elsewhere on the card, six amateur titles were disputed. Team Underground's Aidan Rooney lifted the featherweight crown with a grappling-heavy split decision win over GB Top Team's Jacob Gifford, while Tony Di Gasparro claimed the European version of the belt with a first round stoppage of local talent Will Mattier.
Cameron Stewart grabbed the lightweight strap by almost sending French foe Luidgi Grimoire to the land of nod via first round rear naked choke stoppage.
Ref Charlotte Laurence stepped in to end the fight just as Grimoire, who'd won five fights in a row, flirted with unconsciousness. He rose to be revived on wobbly legs as Stewart, now 5-2, hopped over the cage to celebrate his win.
Giant light-heavyweight Karl Mullings summoned a stirring comeback to rip the 205lbs belt from the clutches of the fast-starting Mehdi Korai. The latter looked on his way to a stoppage win of his own as he chewed up Mullings' lead leg with kicks and landed several big punches. But the heavily-muscled Mullings turned the fight in an instant, detonating a balance-befuddling combo on Korai which sent him sprawling to the mat and forced the stoppage in the first round.
Norbert Pietrzak won heavyweight gold with a third-round TKO of 6ft 7ins foe Kevin de Matos in what had been an even fight. But Pietrzak moved to 3-0 by finding the big shots in the final round, forcing de Matos into a desperate takedown attempt and ending the dispute with heavy artillery from the top.
Finally, in the first title bout on the card, Italian Yassine El Madhi defended his bantamweight belt and moved to 7-1-1 with a first round RNC finish of Rhys Aiyeola-Keys. In a submission of the night showing, El Madhi left the game Aiyeola-Keys snoozing on the canvas after he refused to tap to the choke.
Earlier in the night there was a big win for Falco's gym-mate Ben Edwards, who moved to 3-0 by handing super prospect Tommy Reid, of Colchester's Combat Institute, his first loss in their welterweight fight. Edwards used a grappling-heavy attack to combat the top tier striking of high-level boxer Reid, and finished the fight from mount in the second round.
Fellow BKK fighters Ethan Lewis and Ethan Barry both finished on the wrong side of points decisions, with the former dropping a split verdict to SX MMA's Jack Williams in a fight of the night contender at 145lbs. Barry, meanwhile, almost pulled off a Hail Mary triangle submission win over the unbeaten Leon Zamuangana in the final minute of their welterweight clash, but ultimately lost out on a majority decision.
Dan Frank, of Thetford's Tsunami MMA, scored perhaps the KO of the evening when he dropped and stopped Siamand Pashang with a leaping right hook just 43 seconds into their lightweight fight.
Tarran Padda, of SX MMA, also enjoyed a highlight-worthy first round stoppage of Zak Pearson in their flyweight bout.
Finally, the thrilling back and forth featherweight clash between Jack Ashman and Tom Di Gasparro also merits a mention. Di Gasparro had his hand raised via unanimous decision, but Ashman also deserves serious praise after battling through two knockdowns in the last round to fight his way to the final bell.
Photos: Brett King