Tuesday 21 November 2017

Strong night for the Irish as BAMMA returns to Dublin

7 July 2017; Blaine O'Driscoll celebrates after defeating Harry Hardwick in their bantamweight bout at BAMMA 30 at the 3 Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
7 July 2017; Blaine O'Driscoll celebrates after defeating Harry Hardwick in their bantamweight bout at BAMMA 30 at the 3 Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

Europe’s preeminent mixed martial arts promotion BAMMA returned to Dublin for the third time in the last year on Friday night as the organisation continues to capitalise on a growing Irish MMA market.

Team Ryano’s Paul Redmond headlined the Irish contingent on the night and bounced back from a controversial split decision loss to Norman Parke in February to claim his 12th professional win and second victory with BAMMA since joining the promotion last February.

After a bruising first round with Rob Sinclair in which Redmond spent the majority of his time trying to shake his opponent off of him while pressed up against the cage, the former UFC fighter came out in the second round and was able to quickly find an unlikely finish catching Sinclair in a knee bar off his back.

With 13 Irish fighters on a 13 fight card, there were plenty of fighters for the partisan home crowd to get behind with eight stoppages in eight consecutive fights before SBG’s Richie Smullen and Next Generation’s Rhys McKee broke the trend with a fantastic draw in the 10th fight of the night.

After spending the majority of the opening round up against the cage and working his way off the mat, McKee gained control of the fight towards the end of the first round with an impressive array of strikes that very nearly led to an end of round stoppage, with Smullen just managing to survive until the horn sounded.

The second round was much stronger for the SBG fighter with the crafty lightweight able to dictate proceedings and bring Mckee to the ground, where he was able to get the better of the exchanges as he worked his way through McKee’s guard to land a mix of punches and elbows.

But just as it looked like Smullen was starting to gain the ascendancy, McKee was able to wriggle loose and assume top position before initiating his ground and pound.

With Smullen now in a very difficult position, the Dubliner was able to escape McKee’s mount and go straight back into grappling with the Northern Irish fighter until the end of the round.

Rhys McKee, left, in action against Richie Smullen during their lightweight bout at BAMMA 30 at the 3 Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rhys McKee, left, in action against Richie Smullen during their lightweight bout at BAMMA 30 at the 3 Arena in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Seemingly aware of how great the fight was being received by those in attendance, both fighters shared a brief smile in the middle of the cage as they knelt and nodded to each other with the crowd reaching its loudest point of the evening.

Their embrace was brief, with Smullen’s coach John Kavanagh quick to yank his fighter towards his corner and onto a stool.

Watching Kavanagh at these events is quite the sight to behold. The SBG coach runs a tight ship at his gym in Walkinstown, but at the 3 Arena he moves like clockwork.

One fight ends and before his last fighter has even left the arena floor, another emerges on their way to the next. The fights roll into each other and Kavanagh follows, immediately brushing off what may have happened in the last fight to focus on the next.

It’s quite remarkable when you see the attention to detail that he pays towards his fighters, and even in a room full of thousands of people, his voice remains clear and singular.

He also has his commitments away from the cage, as as soon as he enters the general pavilion he is swarmed by fans for pictures and selfies.

He takes his time greeting and talking to fans, taking pictures where they’re asked but he’s afforded some respite, with Republic of Ireland internationals Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick also in attendance, with the latter making his way to the arena just hours after he was found not guilty of violent disorder by a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court.

The two Ireland internationals were seated three rows back from the cage and were left alone until one fan asked for a selfie.

For the next 25 minutes they were swarmed but they stood there and obliged to every request for a picture, autograph or otherwise.

They are there in support of Redmond but they’re treated to a fantastic night of fights, with Kiefer Crosbie’s first round TKO of Waldemar Cichy, Richard Kiely’s one-punch knockout of Daniel Olejniczak and Ion Pascu’s first round stoppage of Henry Fadipe the standout highlights from the undercard.

The crowd remains a largely MMA based crowd. A lot of the fans in attendance have bought tickets through the fighters, most of whom seem to be family members of teammates at the same gym, but three cards in the last year, and five events in the capital in the last two years, signifies that organisers have identified Dublin as a bedrock for growth and future events.

The night's main event between Shay Walsh and Alan Philpott was unfortunately cut short after just three minutes when Philpott caught Walsh with an illegal head kick when the challenger was on the ground.

His moment of indecision abruptly ended the fight and resulted in a No Contest, with Walsh breaking his jaw for the second time in his career.

The stoppage was greeted with a chorus of ‘the referee is a w****r’ to leave a sour taste to what was an otherwise fantastic night of fights.

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