Tonight in Dublin, two growing MMA organisations will link arms for an eclectic experience. When news of the intertwining of Bellator 169 and BAMMA 27 appeared, I thought resigning them to a little-brother role was unfitting to BAMMA’s unquestionable importance within our domestic scene.
However, this opinion was naïve and negative. Instead of delving into business politics and questioning intentions, we should focus on the good this partnership does for the fighters – after all, they are the most important element of fighting.
This is mostly a British and Irish event. Don’t let the name Bellator fool you. Read through the card and you shall see the array of established and blossoming talent from our two little islands. Even if it’s just for one night, they get to experience the added sway which comes from being tied in with the world’s 2nd biggest MMA promotion. Success or not, the opportunity is there. And it could very well change the trajectory of their careers.
But what should any new fans of BAMMA look out for?
1) A title fight of hidden importance
Headlining the BAMMA portion of the evening is the Bantamweight Title match between Tom Duquesnoy (13-1) and Alan Philpott (16-8). The Frenchman Duquesnoy holds both the featherweight and bantamweight belts in the organisation, and not without reason. Training out of the famed Jacksonwink Academy, we are watching one of the sport’s most important prospects.
The highest levels seem unavoidable. His skills don’t talk like a 23-year-old, and although he hasn’t always been convincing, he has always been improving. And bizarrely, he comes from a nation where professional MMA is somehow still illegal.
Facing him in the cage will be Alan Philpott. The 24-year-old lad from Northern Ireland has the perfect opportunity to slow down his opponents seemingly unavoidable rise, and thus turn the attention on himself. Rarely do you see someone of his age with 24 professional fights. That speaks volumes for this lad. And nothing helps quell the confusion of a sketchy career than an unexpected victory.
2) Two highly touted female fighters looking to make their name
A late but most welcome inclusion to this card, Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh will face Greece’s Elina Kallionidou in a featherweight clash. These ladies have star potential, and with all the talk about a lack of talent in the featherweight ranks, they are a testimony against that.
Something of a rarity in WMMA, each has a reputation for consistent knockout ability. Kavanagh, who coincidentally fights under John Kavanagh’s SBG banner, is an ex-boxing champion, and a fearsome competitor. Kallionidou is only 18-years-old, yet already has three knockouts on her record.
But there is more at play within this encounter. Kavanagh fights for BAMMA, and her opponent is a recent acquisition for Bellator, though yet to fight for the company. The cross-promotion has allowed this promising fight to happen, which can only be a good thing.
Oh, and both are undefeated. One lady won’t be after tonight.
3) A 19-year-old Dubliner who is one of Ireland’s brightest
I firmly believe that in a few years, the name Dylan Tuke will be well known amongst MMA fans. And thanks to a fight removal, he finds himself bumped up into the main event.
Another undefeated youngster coming out of SBG, Tuke embodies excitement. If there is one thing to do to get yourself in the mood for tonight, watch Dylan Tuke vs Adam Ventre (below). One of the most exhilarating battles of the year, Tuke was knocked down multiple times throughout the two rounds, yet never kept coming forward, ultimately getting the win via submission. It will make you an instant fan.
But the brawler image stemming from this fight doesn’t tell the entire tale. Dylan Tuke has lovely striking, movement, and enough submission skills to finish a jiu-jitsu brown belt. And whilst he’s a way off from maturity, we get to watch him develop into a solid competitor.
After all, the picture of a heroic brawler laying it all on the line is deceiving. If Tuke wants to last in this game, he’s got to avoid getting into those kinds of wars repeatedly. Like drugs, they provide immediate satisfaction, but you’ll pay for it in the future.
4) The coming together of Ireland
There is a lot to be said about the ability combat sports has to bring people together. Okay, I acknowledge that it involves people trying to beat each other unconscious, but there is more to it than that. We stand in arenas and watch people put it all on the line in the name of pride and honour, and we celebrate together in their victory.
Tonight, in Dublin, it isn’t just about ‘The Republic of Ireland’. It is about Ireland as a whole. This small country has a history richer than most, and it has a penchant for giving birth to some of the world’s most remarkable fighters. When I think of an Irish fighter, I don’t think of a border. When I think of Norman Parke, I don’t add the ‘Northern’ disclaimer. A border is an imaginary line, and in that arena tonight, it doesn’t exist.
When they step into that coliseum-like 3Arena, the crowd will be supporting all Irish fighters, and politics will not matter.