Cape fighters lay down the gauntlet

Cape Towns MMA talent shone at EFC 58 at GrandWest at the weekend. From left, Shaun de Lange, Deon Bruning and Irshaad Sayed all pulled off impressive victories.

This weekend, GrandWest hosted what could arguably have been the best mixed martial arts (MMA) event ever held on the African continent. This is a pretty bold statement to make but let’s take a look at the evening’s happenings at the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) event, EFC 58.

In a stacked 11-fight card, there were a total of seven fighters making their professional debuts, four of whom are Cape-based, with two fighting out of Johannesburg and one from Durban. Often debutants get off to a slow start but that can’t be said of any one of the four bouts that hosted them in the preliminary matches.

Here’s a crazy statistic: of the 11 fights, only one went the distance. Other than that one fight, no bout went beyond the second round, meaning that over 90% of the match-ups were finished either by submission, technical knockout (TKO) or knockout. This is something fight fans eat up.

Then, that one fight that did go the distance was an all-out war that went on to receive the fight of the night award. We’ll get to that fight in a bit but suffice it to say that one fighter couldn’t even make the post-fight press conference as he had to be taken to the hospital with a fractured leg. It was a fight that never once went to the ground, and with fans lifting the roof of the venue, not many of them went down in their seats either. On top of that, it was only the opening match of the main card.

Following that, a Cape Town fighter went on to keep his 100% win record, a former heavyweight champion cemented his EFC return with a third straight win, two bantamweights clashed in a fight that earned them both performance bonuses and ended with a brutal knockout and one of Cape Town’s favourite MMA sons reclaimed a title after finishing his touted American opponent, who had looked unstoppable as the champion.

So that is a rough estimation of how it could be argued to have been one of the greatest fight nights EFC have ever put together but let’s break the night down a bit more.

The Cape Town boys put their stamp of authority on the evening right from the very start. In total, 13 of the 22 fighters are based in the Mother City or have their roots there, at the very least.

Faeez Jacobs opened proceedings by finishing his opponent, Durban’s Jessie Fleming, in round one, via TKO. It was the first of 10 wins for Cape fighters, with only one not swinging in the favour of the city’s fighters.

Next up was dual-debutants Caleb Ridley, fighting out of Parklands-based Silverback MMA, and Johannesburg’s Kevin Pheko. Ridley came under fire in round one, eating some big shots before taking the fight to the mat, where his unorthodox style and flexibility counted in his favour. In round two he was able to sink in a deep triangle choke, earning his first win in the EFC hexagon.

If any team stood out in particular, it was the fairly obscure newcomers, Supreme MMA, based in Kenridge. Their two fighters fought with such grit. First up was Duane Jones, who dominated round one, keeping his opponent Rodrique Kena at bay with rangey punches and kicks.

Jones seemed to slow down by round two, coming under pressure from Kena, neither fighter backing down. Although the fight went to a TKO in Kena’s favour in round 2, Jones earned himself a performance bonus, no doubt for the heart he showed throughout the bout.

Another standout team performance came from Gardens-based Pride Fighting Academy (PFA), who have produced a number of standouts over the years. Aadam Grant, making his debut, went down in round one after being illegally kicked while getting up off the ground but came back strong to batter his opponent, Pretoria’s Claude Ntumba, before submitting him via rear naked choke.

Then, a rising star on the Cape scene, Gary Joshua made light work of Johannesburg’s Jasen van der Merwe, going back and forth with strikes before sinking a well-timed guillotine choke, still in the first round.

The final fight of the prelim bouts was an all-Cape affair, as Silverback’s Regis Muyambo faced off against PFA’s Deon Bruning.

Muyambo seemed to have Bruning where he wanted him in round one, landing shots at will but the latter, 10 years Muyambo’s senior, stayed calm and in round 2 took it to the canvas, where he bullied Muyambo before the referee called an end to the match via TKO.

Onto the main card.

The welterweight clash between EFC veteran and former champion Dino Bagattin, fighting out of Fight Fit Militia (FFM), in Johannesburg, and Supreme MMA’s Shaun de Lange, a perrenial showstopper, was always going to be a fight of the night contender, though many presumed it would end with Bagattin’s hand raised.

De Lange would hear none of that and right from the start the two rangey strikers came out swinging. Bagattin’s corner bayed for him to stay composed and measured but the two went at each other like men possessed, De Lange taunting all the while.

With the bell ringing to end round 1, the two remained locking horns – the referee jumping in to separate them and the fans voicing their delight.

Throughout the fight both fighters went swinging for the fences, with De Lange getting the upperhand for the most part. It was a slightly puzzling end when one judge ruled in Bagattin’s favour, but the other two called it for the 23-year-old De Lange, who also earned himself the fight of the night bonus.

Parklands’ Sylvester Chipfumbu was up next against veteran Abdul Hassan, from Durban. After the previous fight, the measured approach both fighters took came across as a bit tame but it soon heated up as Chipfumbu found his range.

Round 1 went back and forth with Hassan looking to take it to ground and almost getting his way when he took Chipfumbu’s back.

However, in round 2, a cracking straight right dropped Hassan and Chipfumbu was awarded the TKO after rushing the rocked Durbanite, maintaining his unbeaten record.

Former heavyweight champ, Ruan Potts, who relinquished his title to make a run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on home soil and claimed his third straight win by defeating Karl Etherington, fighting out of Blackpool, England. The two heavies clashed against the cage before Potts was able to get on top of Etherington and finish him with some ground and pound.

The co-main event between Irshaad Sayed and Tumisang Madiba promised to be a cracker of a bout and it delivered. Madiba was powerful, fighting at a lower weight class than usual, and punished Sayed with some big shots but he was never out of the fight. In round 2 Sayed started finding his range with countershots and dropped Madiba with some vicious left hooks.

Before the main bout of the evening, between Las Vegas-based Dave Mazany and Cape Town’s Don Madge, who made the move to Joburg outfit FFM last year, the pre-fight video showed a confident Mazany. In it he made light of the Capetonian’s striking, saying that he had worked too hard to give his title away to a fighter who he deemed to have an “okay” liver kick.

The fight was fast-paced from the beginning, with both fighters landing good shots. Madge seemed to be finding his range well but Mazany, known for his wrestling prowess and fighting out of UFC legend Randy Couture’s Vegas gym, Xtreme Couture, was able to close the space and tie Madge up. However, by the middle of round 1, Mazany was already looking gassed and going into the second round he was rolling his shoulders as if trying to breathe life back into them. The attrition on the ground seemed to have tired him.

Nonetheless, the two still came out swinging but it was Madge’s “okay” liver kick that cracked through the arena. They went to ground, Madge taking Mazany’s back and with a confident nod to his corner he began working for the choke. His patience bore fruit and before long he had his arm deep under Mazany’s chin, earning the win by rear-naked choke.

At the post-fight conference, Madge reflected on his win: “This is so surreal. I have been grinding every day to get my belt back. Moving to FFM changed my life completely and I owe this victory to my team. I knew Dave was going to expect some hard striking. He came out really strong and I didn’t want to be too hasty,” he said.

Mazany said that he just didn’t fire on the night and congratulated Madge for the composure he showed in their bout. There was also talk of possible future bouts, with Sayed looking for an eventual rematch with bantamweight champion Demarte Pena and Chipfumbu saying he was interested in a strap in the near future too.

”I’ve given the crowd four fights, with four victories and kept a 100% win rate. After my fight I said I would like a shot at Zuluboy. He is the champion and that is where I am looking.

“He is fighting JP Buys next. JP is very technical and people underestimate him. I’ll fight any of them, my eyes are on the money,” said Chipfumbu.

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