Cage Titans 22 Main Card Breakdown
Written by William Joseph
As we all know, Cage Titans can be ranked among the most consistent promotions in all of the North East, constantly providing fans with quality, competitive, well-structured fight cards, where the competition is always fierce, and the finishes are always spectacular. That said, the 22nd installment of the Cage Titans francise seems to have, on paper anyway, the potential to be their best yet. A card full of top talent, a bitter grudge-match, and a stand-up war that is sure to end in a knockout for the ages, Mike Polvere has once again set the standard for local MMA with a balanced and fascinating night of fights due to clash of styles. In all honesty this should just be called “Cage Titans; Strikers vs. Grapplers”! Without further ado, let’s get down to your main card analysis…
Undercard Fight/Fighter to Watch
Amateur Bantamweight Fight (135 lb), Andres Rodriguez (2-0) vs. Will Smith (1-0)
This is a genuine prospect fight between two talented amateurs who seem to have a real nose for the victory and smooth technique. The two are composed in the cage, demonstrate a good fight IQ and seem to be very capable athletes. Let’s see who takes the next step forward in the division!
Devin Carrier, 1-1, Lauzon MMA
Carrier may have a 1-1 record, but his fight in the last Cage Titans event turned some heads, as a diverse striking set showed that Carrier has the potential to put his hands on anyone in his division. Carrier demonstrated smooth, crisp boxing, which is an attribute we can expect from the entire stable of Lauzon MMA, but what made him stand out from peers at his gym was an exceptionally mixed attack, as the athletic lightweight came forward with kicks, knees and punches en gusto, battering an overmatched but game opponent to a unanimous decision victory.
Main Card Breakdown
Amateur Welterweight Title (170 lb), Paul Gaffney vs. Carlos Correia
Paul Gaffney is hardly afraid of a fight, as he took his belt as a champion should, wondering if the blood on his shorts was more his or his opponents. An aggressive striker with a solid base and good physical strength, Gaffney overcame some significant damage in his first title effort, gutting his way through the danger and asserting his dominance to earn a unanimous decision victory to claim the title. He holds a 4-1 record and has shown significant power in his strikes, throwing heavy combinations with his hands with easily enough power to put an opponent to sleep.
Across from him, boasting an unblemished 3-0 record, Carlos Correia of DCNU enters the cage on a wave of momentum of his own into his fight, riding his exceptional grappling chops to victory in all three of his career contests thus far. Historically, we’ve seen grapplers showcase great success against power-strikers, and its hard to imagine that a grappler like Correia will pick now to test his striking against the powerhouse in Gaffney. Expect Correia to utilize a clinch and grapple game-plan to drag Gaffney to the mat, punish him with strikes, and end the fight with his stifling top game.
The outcome of this fight is totally dependent on where it takes place. If Gaffney can use his takedown defense and keep the DCNU fighter off of him, I see Gaffney being able to land the big shot and pound his way to a stoppage. However, if Correia can get the power striker to the mat, I expect it to be a long, slow, and miserable night for Gaffney, as Correia will out-position him on the ground and grind his way to another decision win.
Prediction: Correia by Unanimous Decision.
Billy Connors (3-0) vs. Jimmy Manning (5-2), Amateur Lightweight (155 lb) Title
You want to talk about a striker vs. grappler matchup for the ages? How about a Muay Thai wrecking ball coming off of a pair of knockout victories, battling a BJJ Brown Belt with multiple submissions finishes ranging from chokes to armlocks? I’d call that well worth the price of admission. Jimmy Manning and Billy Connors are finishers in every sense of the word, though the means in which they finish may be different.
Remember those two knockouts I mentioned earlier that Connors had? Those fights together, lasted a grand total of 29 seconds. Yes, you read that right, Connors in his past two fights has notched 9 and 20 second KO’s respectively, one of which came off of an absolute missile of a head-kick. Connors hasn’t really shown whether or not he can defend the takedown particularly well, which is a legitimate factor going into this fight, but the reason he hasn’t had to is because he knocked his opponents out before they could even take a shot. Connors is a monster of a lightweight as well, physically strong and big for the weight class, and his power…clearly…is something to worry about. I see Connors using his range to land a piston right hand and devastating high kick early, while trying to remain out of Manning’s wrestling range as much as possible.
Manning is a deserving champion, fighting hard for the finish at every chance he gets. He’s a submission wiz on the ground, transitioning between attacks with fluidity and demonstrating great composure and mental clarity while fighting off of his back. Frankly, whether it’s you on your back or Manning, the ground isn’t a place any of Jimmy’s opponents feel comfortable, and for good reason, he’s a hell of a grappler who doesn’t give up easily. That said, Manning has been known to eat some shots in fights, which may be a difference maker against a savage striker like Connors.
Like the Gaffney Correia fight, it’s all dependent on where the fight takes place, standing Connors is a beast, on the ground, you’re in Manning’s world. I’m a striker myself, so I guess I’ll let my bias make my decision here, but it really is a toss-up. Regardless, this has potential for Fight of the Night, and I would try not to blink.
Prediction: Connors via KO in the 2nd.
Ricky Proctor vs. Jeff Perez, Amateur Featherweight (145 lb) Title
Ricky Proctor and Jeff Perez have smashed everyone who has come their way as of late. Proctor utilizing the aggression and pace that has made a living legend out of gym-owner and Proctor coach Joe Lauzon, while Perez has demonstrated the cold, calculated and violent effectiveness synonymous with the art of Muay Thai. This, fight fans, is going to be a good old-fashioned street fight between two gritty and hard-nosed fighters.
Proctor is a very well-rounded champion, demonstrated in his victories over wrestlers, submission fighters and strikers alike. He can box, he can grapple and he can wrestle, and his championship training and experience has shown that he has the ability to fight until the final bell sounds. I like Proctor as a fighter, and I like the way he uses his aggression to keep his opponents on their back foot the whole time, forcing them to be more concerned with defense than actually mounting any offense. That said, against Perez, I don’t see him being able to do that as easily as he has in the past.
Perez is a nasty striker, in every sense of the word. In his last fight, Perez battered his opponent from pillar to post, leaving him a bloodied mess on the matt, waving his hand for the ref to save him. Perez has dispatched his last three opponents with relative ease too, winning decisions and stoppages alike, demonstrating good cardio to compliment his powerful hands and kicks. He’s aggressive in pursuit of the knockout, but will that play into the hands of the equally aggressive Proctor?
I think so. Proctor is more well rounded than Perez, and while he isn’t as good a striker, he’s good enough to keep Perez honest. When Perez fights his way into Proctor and looks for that big shot, look for Proctor to land the takedown and finish the fight with a submission. Fight of the Night Contender.
Prediction: Proctor by Submission in the 3rd.
Manny Bermudez vs. Max Barrett, Amateur Bantamweight (135 lb) Title
Mad Max and Manny Bermudez are fighters through and through, individuals who talk less and fight more, and let the destruction they leave in their respective wakes do all the talking for them. Max is a devastating and rangy striker who seems to evolve a little more every time we see him. Manny is a submission wizard with rapidly developing striking skills. This fight takes place between two individuals living in the same town, and that town is now divided and forced to pick between two of their finest fighting sons. So will it be “Mad” Max or Bermudez who becomes Abington’s new Warlord? On January 24th, the revolution is here, as Max looks to unseat the current champ, and gain the hometown glory and Manny looks to continue his rule with an iron fist.
Max is a rangy kickboxer with finishing power in all of his limbs, though his hands seem to be his most reliable weapon. He’s a talented and diverse striker. His granite chin matches well with those sledgehammer fists he has as well, both of which he hones with striking super-schools Team Sityodtong and CCFA, making Bermudez less-than-likely to notch any sort of stoppage from strikes, and “Mad Max” all the more likely to land a knockout blow. However, Max has had issues with submission defense in the past, which is where Bermudez shines, so he will have to make sure his defense is perfect.
Bermudez is a strong striker in his own right, utilizing his long frame
to land a stiff jab and reach up high with some good kicks. That said, Manny’s bread and butter comes from his aggressive submission game, centered around using those long limbs of his to pick up submission after submission. His wrestling is strong too, pairing well with his strong jiu-jitsu, making him a nightmare matchup for anyone less than an expert once the fight hits the mat. However, what concerns me about Bermudez is how many times he got cracked in his last bout against 125 pound champion Kris Moutinho. If the smaller Moutinho had a bit more weight behind those shots, the fight could have ended very differently. Against a striker with the power Barrett has, removing those opportunities to get tagged is the #1 concern for Bermudez.
Prediction: Bermudez by submission in the 3rd
Sean Lally vs. Tunde Odomusu, Pro Catchweight (180 lb) Fight
In a battle of hard-hitting big-boys, Sean Lally and Tunde Odomuso will take the cage and swing that big-boy leather at one another until someone hits the mat. Both fighters don’t seem to have much of a knack for the ground game, as both have suffered all their professional losses by submission. I expect the two to engage in an entertaining stand up war between two large, powerful men and try to end the fight quickly. Odomusu has yet to be finished by strikes, but Lally has suffered Tko’s in his amateur career.
Prediction: Odomuso via TKO in the 2nd
Anthony Carmenatty vs. Nick Iacofano, Pro Flyweight (125 lb) Fight
Carmenatty is a remarkably game fighter. He will fight anywhere, anyone, anytime and at any weight. He’s scrappy and aggressive and always puts on a good show. That said, his aggressiveness and fight anyone mentality has lead him to an 0-4 record and he has been finished on multiple occasions. Cemenatty is as tough as they come, but he is running into a former amateur buzzsaw in Iaciofano, who went a flawless 4-0 as an amateur now looks to add his second professional win to his unblemished fighting career. In MMA anything can happen, but this certainly looks like a fight favoring the well-rounded and equally aggressive Iacofano, who will more than likely walk away with the second W of his pro career.
Prediction: Nick Iaciofano by submission in the first.
CO MAIN EVENT:
Ralph Johnson vs. Chip Moraza-Pollard, Pro Middleweight (185 lb) Fight
For this fight I need everyone to think really hard about the words “jiu-jitsu” and “wrestling” and “game-plan”. Think really hard about those words. Now throw them in the garbage and banish them from memory for this one fight. Ralph Johnson and Chip Moraza-Pollard have had quite enough of that grappling nonsense, thank you very much. These two are just looking for a good, old-fashioned, honest-to-God fistfight. Savage strikers who have demonstrated absolutely devastating techniques in their seasoned careers, this right here is a fight for the fans between two individuals who are more than capable of knocking out anyone from Flyweight to Heavyweight with their staggering power.
Ralph Johnson, frankly, is a wild-man. Armed with a Mohawk, tattoos, metal music and absolute bricks for hands, Johnson is, you could say, something of an artist when it comes to savagely attacking people with his fists, shins, knees and elbows. The man comes with the sole intention of knocking his opponent into another dimension, and has no qualms about going out on his shield in pursuit of that knockout blow. Against Pollard, this is a very real possibility. Just as possible as Johnson finding his mark on Pollard. Johnson is a power fighter and what he may lack in some techniques, he makes up for in length, aggression, size and power. He has some serious issues with grappling and submission defense, but thankfully will not have to worry about those aspects of the game in this striking-heavy affair.
Chip Moraza-Pollard is a professional level striker. I have seen Chip fight on multiple occasions and can say with honesty (as can most of the MMA community) that Chip is easily a UFC-caliber striker. Nicknamed “The Surgeon” for a reason, Moraza-Pollard picks apart his opponents with a terrifying precision, systematically breaking down opponents in all facets of the stand-up game from kicks to knees to punches and elbows…ultimately, his opponents simply melt under the onslaught. Chip lands at high volume and high impact early and often, and rarely finds himself on the wrong end of exchanges. In many ways, Chip is a foil to Johnson and vice versa. While Johnson may have more power than Moraza-Pollar as a result of his hulking frame, Chip has the smoother technique and enough power to knock out Johnson. He has a much smoother stand-up style of fighting, and moves and angles extremely well against most all strikers he faces. He has had significant trouble, however, with wrestlers and grapplers, who (wisely) choose to avoid exchanges all together in pursuit of the takedown.
Thankfully for fans and Chip alike, he will find no such intentions from Johnson, and will get to display his skill-set against a worthy and capable adversary. This is a battle for the title of top middleweight striker in New England MMA, and a fight that’s sure to be as bloody as it is technical. I think that there is a significant chance that this fight ends early and in a brutally violent fashion, and that this fight WILL contain the knockout of the night. This is a harder fight to call than any other on the card, but I think that “The Surgeon” is just a little too fast for Johnson, and while Johnson will land some heavy shots and put on a show, Pollard will land the fight ending punch first. This is going to be a 1 round Fight of the Night contender. As a fan, I am beyond pumped.
Prediction: Chip Moraza-Pollard by KO in the 1st.
Johnny Campbell vs. Billy Gionavella, Pro Catchweight (130 lb) Superfight
This, ladies and gentleman, is a genuine super-fight between the two #1 fighters of their respective divisions, but what it truly is, is a hardcore grudgematch. Gionavella and Campbell couldn’t be any more different in their personalities, while simultaneously they could be any more similar in their mentalities in the cage. Campbell is brash, offensive, funny and entertaining. Whether you love him or hate him, people pack the room to see “Cupcakes” taunt, slip, roll and punch his opponents, and he loves every second of it. A foil to that, Gionavella is a strong silent-type, who looks to let his physical dominance and aggression talk for him in the cage. Once the cage doors close however, these two have the same mentality….kill or be killed.
Stylistically, however, they’re polar opposites. The man they call “Cupcakes” is a strike first, strike often style brawler, perfectly content to rely on a Sprawl and Brawl gameplan in all of his fights. Campbell has fast hands, a diverse attack and solid power for a small frame, and can end the fight easily standing. What has really made me impressed with Johnny in his past fights, however, is his takedown defense. Against talented wrestlers in Juan Puerta, Robbie Leroux and Kody Nordby, Campbell has shined in his takedown defense, actually using the wrestlers’ shots against them as opportunities to bludgeon the body and cripple their gas tanks.
Gionavella is a huge flyweight who could easily fight up a division, and has in the past, to great success. That said, he seems to have his weight under control recently (Though Campbell has made it clear he disagrees with that statement in recent interviews) and in his last fight with highly touted prospect Remo Cardarelli, proved he had the gas tank to put a savage beating on the younger fighter for the better part of five rounds. The gas tank is crucial for Gionavella, as Campbell’s seemingly super-human cardio gives him a significant advantage against grapplers who struggle to get the shot as the fight wears on. Gionavella is a savage on the mat though, notching every kind of submission he can in his victories, and thoroughly dominating all his competition in grappling exchanges by utilizing great positioning, smooth transitions and lightning-fast submission attempts to wear out and finish even the most seasoned fighters. However, I’m not sure he has the power to get Campbell on his back.
The most success we’ve seen against Campbell recently has come from Fernando Perez, who took a calculated striking approach into his battle with Johnny, forcing him into a technical striking dual that ended in a split-decision victory for “Cupcakes”. That said, Gionavella is a different fighter than Perez in regards to striking, and I don’t think that he has the technique or hand-speed necessary to engage Campbell in that kind of affair. This fight is honestly a stylistic nightmare for Gionavella, who’s suffocating top-game is going to be difficult to utilize if he can’t get Johnny to the mat, and if he does get Campbell down, I’m not sure he can keep him there. I expect this fight to be a lot of Billy looking for a takedown, and a lot of Campbell punishing him for his efforts. Gionavella will have to be equally prepared for an extended stand-up war with Campbell as he is to assert his own game-plan if he is to be successful, otherwise he will take a beating at the hands of the crafty striker in Campbell.
Prediction: Johnny Campbell via Unanimous Decision
“Of the Night” Predictions
Knockout of the Night – Billy Connors, Chip Moraza-Pollard, Ralph Johnson
Submission of the Night – Ricky Proctor, Jimmy Manning, Manny Bermudez
Fight of the Night – Ralph Johnson vs. Chip Moraza-Pollard, Ricky Proctor vs. Jeff Perez
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