Cage Warriors 159 is a few hours away, as Europe’s Leading MMA Organisation ramps up for another spectacular night of mixed martial arts at the Sycuan Casino Resort.
With a nine-fight bill capped off by a clash of UFC veterans, the return of some CW fan favourites and the debuts of potential future stars, all the ingredients are in place for a feat of fistic frolics.
Reis vs Jones: Nothing to prove, everything to gain
When the opening bell rings in Friday night’s main event, storied veterans with 28 years’ worth of combined experience will throw down for supremacy in the famous yellow gloves.
Wilson Reis (27-12) has become a fixture of CW’s California shows of late, even hopping back across the pond on New Years Eve to pick up a win against Tuomas Gronvall as part of the Team Europe vs Team USA series.
It was almost a decade removed from his last trip to the UK, a 2012 CW debut against Irish MMA icon Owen Roddy, perhaps best known today as a key part of ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor’s coaching set up.
In his fighting days though, Roddy was as game as they come and his bout with Wilson at CW 50 in Glasgow, still holds up as a classic to this day.
MMA took the Brazilian all over the world in the years between his CW stints, battling the likes of Scott Jorgensen, Jussier ‘Formiga’, Dustin Ortiz, Ulka Sasaki, and Henry Cejudo.
In 2017, he challenged the great Demetrious Johnson, ultimately coming up short after what was a competitive encounter.
In 2022 Reis returned to Cage Warriors and the promotion has since become something of a fortress for him, with four wins from as many outings.
That’s not to say that it’s been a walk in the park; Gronvall looked good early and Johnny ‘Cupcakes’ Campbell had him under the kosh in the first round of their March clash.
But Wilson did what Wilson does; personifying the craft veteran status he’s earned over the years and finding ways to win, whatever the challenge, whatever the odds.
Looking to put a stop to the current, three-fight winning streak, is a fellow veteran of the circuit and UFC alumni, Trevin ‘5 Star’ Jones (13-10).
Like Wilson, he’s a veteran of the game; 23 fights, ten years and very much still counting.
Despite riding a run of bad results, Jones had faced an absolute murderer’s row of opponents prior to fighting out his contract earlier this year.
His last bout in the promotion was a perfect example, going the distance with former bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt.
Also like Wilson, he’s no stranger to finding ways to win against seeming insurmountable odds.
Facing the highly regarded Timur Valiev in the latter’s UFC debut, on just a few days’ notice to boot, Jones saw a man oddsmakers had as an almost un-betable favourite stood opposite him.
As after an early drubbing had the bookies pre-emptively counting the money of anyone brave enough to bet the long odds, Jones turned in a ‘5 Star’ performance in the second frame, dropping and stopping Valiev with a salvo of brutal punches.
What lies ahead of Jones is a huge opportunity, not just the chance to scalp a world renowned exponent of the art on a global platform like UFC Fight Pass, but the possibility of a run in the footsteps of Rhys McKee, Nic Dalby and Modestas Bukauskas; fighters who have earned a second crack of the whip with the world leader following Cage Warriors glory.
What lies ahead for Wilson is slightly less clear, but at 38 years old and fighting like a man ten years younger, a final run at CW gold may not be out of the question.
Or perhaps it’s the plaudits of the partisan San Diego crowd that keeps him going?
Whatever the truth of the matter, he remains a huge threat at the top of the 135lb division.
Speaking of threats, promotional newcomer Toby Misech (12-7) will make his promotional debut in CW 159’s co-main event, looking to threaten the unblemished CW record of his opponent Roberto Sanchez (7-1).
Misech is a true world warrior; a throwback to the good old days of ‘whoever, whenever, however’. Hawaii-born and Hilo-tough.
The 35 year old has fought for a plethora of organisations under a plethora of rulesets; he’s no stranger to the bright lights of a big show.
Nor is he a stranger to high-profile opponents; he’s been the distance with a former world champion in ‘Dudu’ Dantas, and holds a sub-sixty second KO of UFC veteran Erik ‘El Goyito’ Perez.
Hernandez is perhaps the man with the most to lose though; the San Diego fan favourite is riding a spectacular run of form and having just turned 30 years of age, he’s entering his fighting prime.
On the back of three hard-fought, thrilling decisions and facing a ‘do-or-die’ opponent, Hernandez will no doubt be looking for a return to the form that saw him put paid to his first two CW opponents in highlight-reel fashion.
Elsewhere on the card, a former opponent of Hernandez’, John ‘Platano’ De Jesus (16-11), will look to spoil the CW return of Elijah Leggett (5-1) in a featherweight contest.
Leggett has never been finished and De Jesus has a reputation for pushing the pace; fans could well be in for another fifteen minutes of chaos.
Standout amateur wrestler Ian Daube (0-0) will make his MMA debut on Saturday night, meeting Sean Rose (1-1) in a heavyweight bout.
Daube was a California state champion in high school, finishing his run at that level with an impressive 135-13 before wrestling at both Oklahoma State and Cal Poly as a collegiate athlete.
Opening the main card is a clash of entertaining scrappers, as Alex ‘The Ice Cream Man’ Trinidad (5-4) looks for his first CW victory at the expense of the debuting Lucas Martino (3-1).
In the evening’s featured prelim, its a battle of bantamweights as James Settle (4-4) takes on Brian Mitchell (5-2).
A pair of flyweight bouts will see Anthony Warken (0-0) open the show against Manuel Madina (1-3), while David Lopez (3-1) meet Terrance Saeteurn (3-1).
We’ll also see the professional debut of Bobby Winther (0-0), who recently signed a multi-fight CW deal, as he takes on Marcus Walston (1-0).
CW 159 will air live on UFC Fight Pass and international broadcast partners.