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10 Cage Warriors bouts that shaped the future of Irish MMA

The organisation returns to Dublin this Saturday night with a big card at the 3Arena.

Source: Cage Warriors TV/YouTube

ALMOST THREE YEARS since their last event in Ireland, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship returns to Dublin this weekend. The UK-based mixed martial arts organisation, which is headed up by Cork native Graham Boylan, will host Cage Warriors 81 at the 3Arena on Saturday night.

In the past it has been a vital platform for Irish fighters, with the likes of Conor McGregor, Joseph Duffy and Neil Seery all caught the eye of the UFC while competing under the Cage Warriors banner. This weekend it’s the turn of Karl Moore, Joe McColgan and Lloyd Manning, among others.

Here are 10 previous Cage Warriors bouts that played an important role in contributing to the huge success that was to follow for mixed martial arts in Ireland…

Cage Warriors 39: Joseph Duffy vs. Conor McGregor — Cork, November 2010

167850_185291731491002_7871536_n Source: Peter Waldron

In case you hadn’t heard, prior to Conor McGregor’s loss to Nate Diaz last year, Joseph Duffy was the last man to defeat the current UFC lightweight champion.

Before they became Ireland’s leading two fighters in the UFC, Duffy and McGregor locked horns almost seven years ago at Cork’s Neptune Stadium. The bout, which ended in a submission win for Duffy after just 38 seconds, turned out to be important for both fighters.

The defeat taught McGregor that he had significant improvements to make, while his status as the man who beat the biggest star in MMA helped Duffy to attract the attention of the UFC when he signed for the organisation in 2015.

Cage Warriors 47: Conor McGregor vs. Dave Hill — Dublin, June 2012

Hill Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

Having returned to featherweight following the aforementioned lightweight loss to Duffy, McGregor won six fights on the trot and earned himself a shot at the vacant Cage Warriors featherweight title against Englishman Dave Hill.

In front of a raucous crowd at The Helix, McGregor delivered a hugely impressive performance against a fighter who was renowned for his grappling prowess. The Dubliner was taken out of the first round for just the third time in 13 professional bouts, but the outcome seemed inevitable early on.

McGregor secured the first — and only, so far — submission win of his career, forcing Hill to tap to a rear-naked choke with 50 seconds remaining in the second frame. The new champion then scaled the cage, launched himself into the crowd and thus emerged the first indications that Irish MMA could finally have a star on its hands.

Cage Warriors 47: Cathal Pendred vs. David Bielkheden — Dublin, June 2012

CP Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

On the same night that McGregor brought a Cage Warriors belt back to Straight Blast Gym for the first time, his SBG team-mate Cathal Pendred also made a huge statement.

In the hall where he had only recently completed his DCU exams, Pendred took on David Bielkheden, a Swedish veteran who fought for the likes of Pride and the UFC before Pendred had ever even set foot in a cage.

Pendred would go on to become the Cage Warriors welterweight champion the following year, but with this unanimous-decision win over Bielkheden after an epic battle, he showed that he was capable of competing with the best fighters in Europe at 170lbs.

Cage Warriors Fight Night 7: Chris Fields vs. Pavel Kusch — Amman, September 2012

308495_460397180647121_1443290862_n Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

Chris Fields might not have joined his team-mates in the UFC later on, but the Dubliner will always go down as one of the most important trailblazers for SBG and Irish MMA as a whole.

Before the floodgates of success opened, Fields followed McGregor’s featherweight title triumph by adding the middleweight belt to the SBG mantlepiece after overcoming Ukrainian opponent Pavel Kusch in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Having taken just 25 seconds to submit current UFC middleweight John Phillips in his previous outing, Kusch went into the bout as the favourite. However, Fields executed his gameplan perfectly and dismantled the combat sambo expert until referee Marc Goddard stepped in to stop the fight in the third round.

Cage Warriors 49: Paul Redmond vs. Lewis Long — Cardiff, October 2012

fgdg Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

After emerging from relative obscurity to defeat Yuri Malko in his Cage Warriors debut, Paul Redmond was rewarded with a shot at home favourite Lew Long in Cardiff.

Few observers expected Redmond to upset the highly-regarded Welshman, but the Team Ryano product pulled it off with a second-round submission. It was the biggest win of what turned out to be a superb 7-1 run with Cage Warriors, which eventually earned him a UFC contract.

Long is knocking at the UFC’s door himself having since moved up to welterweight. Wins over the likes of Ryan Scope, Matt Inman and Tommy Quinn have served to put the significance of Redmond’s win over Long in perspective.

Cage Warriors 51: Conor McGregor vs. Ivan Buchinger — Dublin, December 2012

McGregorBuchinger Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

Six months after winning the featherweight belt, McGregor returned to The Helix to challenge Ivan Buchinger for the vacant lightweight title.

There was much more expectation on his shoulders this time, but neither the pressure nor the step up in weight class were an issue, as he produced a stunning knockout with a left-counter after three minutes and 40 seconds of the first round.

The video of the KO went viral and the UFC were impressed. A month later he was signed by MMA’s leading organisation and subsequently vacated his Cage Warriors titles, although it wouldn’t be the last time he’d experience holding two belts at once.

Cage Warriors 55: Neil Seery vs. Mikael Silander — Dublin, June 2013

dhsdgh Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

In the spring of 2012, Neil Seery was on the verge of retiring from mixed martial arts following a swift submission loss to Artemij Sitenkov at Cage Warriors 46 in Kiev.

Three wins and 15 months later, Seery earned the chance to become the first ever Cage Warriors flyweight champion, although Finland’s Mikael Silander went into their inaugural title bout as a considerable favourite.

But Seery’s rejuvenation continued as he submitted Silander in the third round of a thrilling contest. Nine months later, the veteran Dubliner was facing Brad Pickett in his UFC debut.

Cage Warriors 63: Aisling Daly vs. Karla Benitez — Dublin, December 2013

jgkkuk Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

Aisling Daly was under pressure going into Cage Warriors 63. Entering the bout against Karla Benitez on the back of three consecutive defeats, she could ill afford a fourth.

A Muay Thai fighter, Benitez made for a difficult match-up for Daly. It was also the Dublin veteran’s first time dropping down to 115lbs after the UFC’s announcement of the establishment of a strawweight division.

Daly needed to deliver and she did so in style. After submitting Benitez in the second round, her next three fights were in the UFC before she recently announced her retirement.

Cage Warriors 70: Artem Lobov vs. Andrew Fisher — Dublin, August 2014

fffff Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

While his team-mates had left their mark during Cage Warriors’ memorable run of shows in Dublin, Artem Lobov had to settle for being a spectator.

However, Lobov got his chance to shine when the organisation was most recently in the Irish capital. The durable featherweight defied the odds to stop former Bellator fighter Andrew Fisher via TKO in the very last second of a three-rounder.

The win marked the beginning of an undefeated run of three bouts that Lobov — who’s set to headline UFC Nashville against Cub Swanson next month — embarked on before moving on to the UFC via a stint on The Ultimate Fighter.

Cage Warriors 74: Joseph Duffy vs. Julien Boussuge — London, November 2014

g Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

After briefly leaving MMA behind to pursue a career in boxing, Joseph Duffy had made a winning return to the cage in August 2014 when he stopped Damien Lapilus in the main event at Cage Warriors 70 in Dublin.

But it was three months later when Duffy made a statement that the UFC couldn’t afford to ignore. Taking on Julien Boussuge, Duffy landed a ferocious knee after just 36 seconds which rendered his French opponent unconscious.

Just weeks after the win, “the last man to defeat Conor McGregor” at the time put pen to paper on a UFC contract.

Past Cage Warriors bouts can be viewed in full on UFC Fight Pass.

After a year spent recovering, Catherine Costigan is ready to heal in the cage

Irishman Moore to face TUF veteran for Bisping’s old belt in 3Arena headliner

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Paul Dollery

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