Three down, one to go.
Fight Island is – for now – drawing to a close, but Europe’s finest will once again be on hand to make sure it goes out with a bang. No conversation about the continent’s elite can be complete without mention of Cage Warriors alumni, and there’s plenty to talk about ahead of Saturday’s card.
Champions, two-time champions, heavyweight prospects and the next big thing; they’re all here as Cage Warriors’ invasion of Fight Island continues.
Nicolas ‘Lokomotivo’ Dalby
They called him The Sharpshooter; halfway through the fourth round of his first fight in the Cage Warriors cage, it was easy to see why. Nicolas Dalby had already forged a fearsome reputation on the Scandinavian circuit, but that infamous, picture perfect Question Mark kick turned Sergei Churilov’s legs to jelly and introduced him to a global audience. Once the newly-minted champion had defended his title over five gruelling rounds against Mohsen Bahari, the UFC were quick to snap him up.
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) March 22, 2019
Dalby’s run through the UFC was a roller coaster ride. A debut win was followed by a wild brawl against top contender Darren Till that was too close to produce a winner. Despite the fan-pleasing chaos of the Till fight, the Dane was released from the UFC following two subsequent losses. Nic has spoken candidly about the soul-searching and personal demons that followed, but it’s true what they say… you can’t keep a good man down. Dalby returned to Cage Warriors as an on-air personality and colour commentator, and would soon be back in the yellow gloves.
A crazy back and forth war with Carlo Pedersoli didn’t provide the ideal homecoming, but it was clear from his form that Dalby was back. Not The Sharpshooter though, this was something different. This was Locomotivo Dalby and the train kept on running. First stop was another Question Mark kick against undefeated Roberto Allegretti, then a consummate performance against Philip Mulpeter that earned him a second shot at Cage Warriors gold.
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) March 9, 2019
A signature KO of Alex Lohore on home soil followed, setting up the infamous ‘Night of Champions’ clash against Ross Houston. The bout quickly descended into a blood-stained hurricane of fists, feet, knees and elbows. While the history books didn’t record a winner, the bout went down as one of the most iconic in the annals Cage Warriors and the Locomotivo immediately had a new destination: The UFC. After securing a victory in his return to the sport’s grandest stage, Dalby will look to make it two in a row on Fight Island.
Tom Aspinall’s Cage Warriors career was short and sweet…moreso for him than his opponents. A product of the legendary Team Kaobon under Colin Heron, Apsinall is a huge, young heavyweight that oozes potential. Undefeated as an amateur, and with only a pair of blemishes on his professional ledger, Aspinall has put both his high level submission wrestling acumen and boxing prowess to good use in his formative years.
Another UK name heads to the UFC after coming through @CageWarriors
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) October 18, 2019
His first Cage Warriors appearance ended in less than ideal circumstances, checking a kick that shattered his opponent’s shin in gruesome fashion. He’d finally get to test his mettle properly at CW 107, scoring an impressive first round, first minute KO against Mickael Ben Hamouda. As is always the case with heavyweight MMA, a few big wins can sky-rocket a fighter into the upper echelons of the division; Aspinall will be looking to do just that against Jake Collier on Fight Island.
Jai ‘The Black Country Banger’ Herbert
One of the most exciting fighters to come through the Cage Warriors ranks in recent years, Herbert has been nothing short of a force of nature in the yellow gloves. Whether he was unleashing ‘The Cannon’ (one of the sharpest right hands in the game) or letting rip with blistering combinations of knees and punches, few have stood in front of ‘The Black Country Banger’ and had anything good to show for it.
Float like a butterfly…
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) July 3, 2019
After going the distance in his promotional debut back in 2018, Herbert would reel off four straight finishes, each more devastating than the last. A standing stoppage of the always game Joe McColgan was followed up by a signature barrage of strikes to defeat Steve O’Keefe. The Wolverhampton man finally won Cage Warriors gold with a workmanlike stoppage of the highly-touted Jack Grant, before a highlight-reel knee to the jaw of Cain Carrizosa cemented his place at the top of Cage Warriors’ lightweight pecking order.
Jai Herbert is COLD.
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) July 22, 2020
With a London date planned for March 2020, the UFC were quick to acquire Jai’s signature. Dates and locations may have changed, but the plan remains the same: Herbert will now look to take his signature brand of high-octane offence to Fight Island… and he’s packed ‘The Cannon’.
Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee
By now you should have seen the viral video of Rhys McKee getting the news he’d been working towards his entire life. For those ‘in the know’ there was little doubt that ‘Skeletor’ would eventually end up in the UFC’s Octagon, but it’s safe to say that the 24 year old wasn’t the only one surprised when the news broke this week. It was the latest in a series of emotional moments for the Ballymena man, who has battled through adversity both inside and outside the cage in the early stages of his career.
The proven pathway. pic.twitter.com/oB3yA48LpL
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) July 19, 2020
McKee looked all set to challenge for a Cage Warriors title after putting away Hakon Foss in Cork last November. It added to a short but impressive ledger in the yellow gloves; his debut at Cage Warriors 100 saw him finish Jefferson George in the first round, while three months later he’d put on a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender against Perry Goodwin. Enter Covid-19 and that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men.
.@RhysMcKee made his CW debut in style
The lightweight division is stacked Who would you give McKee next? pic.twitter.com/oVdXfGzIbg
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) December 9, 2018
Now, after staying ready on the off-chance of a call up, the buzz surrounding another European prospect has opened the door for McKee. Khazmat Chimaev set social media alight with his performance against John Phillips last week, with the UFC scrambling to find a man brave enough to give him a second run out on Fight Island. When McKee was offered his name, the reply came as a shock to nobody: “Don’t know, don’t care… let’s do it!”
Pannie ‘Banzai’ Kianzad
Despite making just two appearances in the white gloves unique to Cage Warriors women’s divisions, Pannie Kianzad certainly made an impression. Cage Warriors 71 saw a host of Nordic-based fighters take to the cage in Amman, Jordan, but while the likes of Martin Svensson and current UFC star Jack Hermansson topped the bill, it was Kianzad, by virtue of her Arabic heritage, that got the true superstar reception from the Jordanian crowd.
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) November 15, 2014
A third round TKO of the durable Megan van Houtum propelled ‘Banzai’ into the main event of one of Cage Warriors legendary Super Saturday double-headers. In front of a capacity crowd, Pannie outpointed Eeva Siiskonen in a technical master-class. After a tumultuous run through the all-female Invicta promotion, Kianzad is now at home in the UFC, and will look for her second consecutive victory with the world leaders on Fight Island.
Nathaniel ‘The Prospect’ Wood
The Cage Warriors bantamweight title is synonymous with two things: Crazy fights and future stars. One man that epitomises both is Nathaniel ‘The Prospect’ Wood. The young Londoner did nothing but make statements in the Cage Warriors cage, whether it was shattering Steve McCoombe’s arm with a high kick on his debut, or returning to put on a series of show-stealing performances in 2017.
He looked every bit the veteran at just 23 years of age against Vaughn Lee, but his home-town headline slot against Marko Kovacevic was the real coming out party for the Brad Pickett protégé. A blistering knock out in front of a partisan crowd earned Wood the big, gold belt…surely a moment he’d struggle to top, right?
@TheProspectMMA doesn’t shy away from wild fights!
— UFC (@ufc) February 13, 2020
Wood made his first defence of the gold in a home nations clash against Wales’ Josh Reed, and a more intense display of guts, heart and fistic prowess you’ll never see. It remains arguably the greatest one-round fight in Cage Warriors history and to be frank, will take something very special to top. Six months later, Wood returned to the scene of the crime to score an iconic knock out at the expense of Luca Iovine, and a call up to the UFC soon followed.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 24, 2018
After a shock defeat at the hand of John Dodson, ‘The Prospect’ will look to get his UFC title run back on track at Fight Island.