This weekend sees MMA return to the 3Arena as UK promotion BAMMA hold their 22nd event there. The card is a stacked who’s who of Irish MMA fighter not signed to the UFC. There is a very real chance that some of the victorious fighters at BAMMA 22 could grace a UFC card in 2016.
Conor McGregor will have seven SBGi team-mates in action. One of them, Chris Fields is in the co-main event taking on another French opponent, the fourth of his career. Fields will be looking to bounce back from the KO loss at his BAMMA debut in February but also to re-establish himself as one of the leading figures in European MMA.
Norman Parke will see four of his Next Generation Northern Ireland team-mates make the same walk he did last July. Rhys McKee and Mark Andrew deserve massive credit for stepping up on short notice to fight experienced opposition in John Redmond and Sean Tobin respectively in what will be both their pro debuts.
Paul Redmond and Neil Seery’s Team Ryano will be represented by three compatriots. Patrick Wixted’s record doesn’t do him justice and if he fights up to his ability will make a statement on Saturday.
Fighters from Rush Fight Academy, Trials MMA from Cork, Pankration Kickboxing in Limerick, Rillion Gracie Ireland in Donegal, Team Torres MMA, Fight Academy of Ireland and Chum Sut from the North will also fill out the card.
Here’s our picks of must see scraps from the 20 fights on the card.
Conor Cooke (Next Generation NI) Vs. Paul Byrne (SBGi)
‘Da Crook’ Cooke is a champion kickboxer is making his third appearance for BAMMA. He likes nothing more in fights than to bang it out on the feet. A technical striker five of his six wins have come by (T)KO but his six defeats have all come via submission.
Paul Byrne has been building a name on the local circuit and will look to add to his five wins in his undefeated career. Having recently joined John Kavanagh’s SBGi he is now looking to push on to the next level. With his five wins coming by (T)KO, we can expect a) this fight won’t be going to the floor and b) the judges’ scorecards probably won’t be needed.
Patrick Wixted (Team Ryano) Vs. Connor Dillon (Rush Fight Academy)
New School Vs Old School - Wixted has been training a long time but is still only 22. Having debuted as a professional in 2010 it was five years till his next pro fight. Having committed to training full time, we’ll see a lot from Wixted over the next 12 months. He’ll be looking for his first pro win against Conor Dillon.
Dillon is a veteran of the Irish MMA scene having debuted in 2009. He fought all the best featherweights available including ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor. After being out of the cage for over two years, Dillion will be looking to return with a win.
Darren O’Gorman (Trials MMA) Vs Frans Mlambo (SBGi)
This has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it. O’Gorman was a highly touted amateur and looked superb in his pro debut earlier this year at BattleZone Fighting Championships.
Frans Mlambo became the first Irish MMA fighter to become an amateur world champion. He won all four of his fights to take gold at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation world championships in July.
Regardless of the outcome we’ll be hearing more about both of these well rounded fighters in the future.
Adam Caffrey (Rush Fight Academy) Vs. Dylan Tuke (SBGi)
Two young guns from the Irish Amateur scene are making their pro debuts at BAMMA 22. Both have held numerous titles on the regional circuit and both are extremely well rounded for fighters so young. Similar to the fight mentioned above, we’ll be hearing a lot about both these guys in the coming years.
Tuke will have a significant height and reach advantage while Caffrey will make up for any deficit with crisp boxing and fast footwork. Both have the ability to win this either on the feet or on the mat. It’ll be fun finding out.
Honourable mentions go to
* Catherine Costigan will also look to get back to winning ways after her first career loss at InvictaFC in July. She has been a phenomenal ambassador for BAMMA in the lead up to the show. She fights a tough Norwegian lady from the world renowned Jackson-Winklejohn Gym where many UFC light-heavyweight champions have trained.
* Karl Moore possesses lethal KO power and a slick ground game to back up his striking.
* Sinead Kavanagh who picked up silver IMMAF amateur world championships is making her pro debut. After a success amateur boxing career Kavanagh has crossed over to MMA and looks like she’ll have an equally successful MMA career.