BAMMA 27/Bellator 169 Talking Points: An Emphatic Evening in Ireland

BAMMA 27/Bellator 169 was a night that had almost everything – great fights, okay fights, and terrible fights. It had knockouts, it had submissions, and it had fairly tepid decisions. Regardless, the Irish crowd made the occasion special, even in moments when it wasn’t – the magnitude of MMA support in this country is staggering. In celebration of a successful card here are a handful of talking points that emerged from last night’s proceedings.

 

The ‘Strabanimal’ James Gallagher keeps his pursuit of stardom intact.

As expected, James Gallagher got the job done. It didn’t happen as quickly as he would’ve liked, but that 3rd round submission was one of substantial importance. At this point in his career, any victory is valuable – but for this fight, a decision win would’ve had its detriments.

Top Irish Prospect James Gallagher
Top Irish Prospect James Gallagher

Luckily, there was no need to consider that. Anthony Taylor proved himself quite the awkward opposition, if not all that technical. Lingering on the outside with nothing to offer but sporadic lunges forward and the occasional haymaker effort, he still managed to keep Gallagher frustrated.

That was until the 3rd, when Gallagher confirmed the differential. Mounting Taylor, the American looked utterly lost. At one point, he comically stuck his tongue out as he carried Gallagher across the cage, as if all was well. Like when you’re clueless in an exam, but you proceed to write paragraphs of nonsense anyway, just so those around you don’t realise your failure.

For a man with only 5 professional fights, James Gallagher’s popularity is stirring. Bellator want their Irish star, and with the right nurturing, they might have got one.

 

Anthony ‘Pretty Boy’ Taylor is an infectious individual.

Anthony Taylor
Anthony Taylor

Being around Anthony Taylor during fight week was interesting, to say the very least. Though he did his best to become Ireland’s nemesis, beyond that feigned persona he is actually extremely likeable. Forever smiling, polite, and always willing to engage in conversation, the lad is a bit of a sweetheart.

Where his career goes from here, I have no idea. I don’t think anybody really does. But I will be watching his next fight. Such is the power of personality. Later in the evening, as we left the arena, the last words we heard him say were as follows:

“That guy kicked me so hard I almost shit myself.”

 Brutal, eloquent honesty.

 

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee confirms that he is a prospect to be wary of.

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee remained undefeated and did so in spectacular fashion. Though things didn’t last long, this was one of the evening’s finest moments. Both men started things with an erratic pace, but much to the crowd’s distaste, Jai Herbert was getting the better of the striking exchanges. But suddenly, a moment of uncertainty cost him dearly.

With his back to the cage, Herbert seemed to get stuck in place temporarily – and that was all the time McKee needed. With a swift combination of the hands and a lovely left which shut the shop, it was done. Clean. And we have a new Bamma Londsale Lightweight Champion. After losing his father, this moment will have meant even more to Rhys McKee.

Skeletor is a good example of how an amateur career need not be glittering to be prosperous. Though his amateur record was capricious, he utilized that period to learn. Now, he has stepped into professional life in style, and the Northern Irish lad is one to continue watching.

 

Dylan ‘The Nuke’ Tuke needs some more time to mature.

Despite having no walk-out music or grand entrance, Dylan Tuke received a rapturous welcome from his hometown crowd. Prior to the fight, I tipped him as one to watch. His previous fights justified that, and I maintain that there is something unique and interesting about this young man.

Sadly, the deafening response he received was flattened quickly, just like him. A stern left-hook from England’s Cameron Else dropped him after just 20 seconds. Mark Goddard waved it off before any further damage could be applied – undoubtedly the correct call.

Cameron Else probably didn’t even need a shower after that. And that impressive finish will do him the world of good.

Perhaps Tuke’s previous ability to sustain tremendous damage and still win was at the root of this loss. However, another way to look at the situation is this: before he magically submitted Adam Ventre in the 2nd round, Tuke was momentarily dropped multiple times. Almost every hard strike ‘The Nuke’ received seemed to cause him trouble.

Is it possible that the young Dubliner has a suspect chin? Or is it his exciting and open style which causes him to suffer? Hopefully, it is the latter. Too many talented fighters have been ruined by nature’s chin curse. I’m opting to stay hopeful that this was merely a misstep. Either way, he needs to solidify his defensive responsibilities, and at 19-years-old, there’s plenty of time to do so.

Losses like this are essential for progression. The Nuke will be back.

 

Sinead Kavanagh has Irish superstar potential, and Elina Kallionidou is tough.

SBG Star Sinead Kavanagh
SBG Star Sinead Kavanagh

Beyond the natural pressure to repay the passion of her hometown fans, Sinead Kavanagh was also required to help stop a slump for SBG fighters, with both Tuke and Brian Moore getting finished prior to her bout. Well, she did that and then some, continuing her fluid transition from boxing to MMA with an overwhelming display of skill.

All fights are uncertain, but this one held additional confusion. Put together at the last minute, BAMMA and Bellator linked arms and pushed two female knockout artists into the cage. Kallionidou, an 18-year-old with a 5-0 record, had only previously fought on the domestic Greek circuit. How would she cope with the undeniable step-up in competition?

Well, she was dealt no favours on her first Bellator appearance. Flung into the deep end, the young lady struggled from the beginning. The Dublin crowd synchronised their vocals with each shot Kavanagh landed. Aware of the talent disparity, the Irish girl pressed forward with her hands low and her chin high, and at no point did that come close to backfiring.

Throwing little but the occasional imprecise panic punches, Kallionidou looked close to done in each round. Miraculously, she lasted the 15 minutes.

SBG’s Kavanagh was openly, but unfairly, disappointed in herself for not getting the finish. That is no blemish upon her. Instead, credit must be awarded for the 18-year-old’s toughness; lesser fighters wouldn’t have survived.

 

Tom Duquesnoy overcomes adversity to remind us all he’s legitimate.

Greg ‘The Travelling Time Wizard’ Jackson made the trip from Albuquerque to Ireland to corner one of his finest prospects as he defended his BAMMA bantamweight crown.

With rumours floating around regarding the promising future of BAMMA’s two-weight champion Tom Duquesnoy, the pressure was turned right up. Although truthfully, when a talent is as renowned as Duquesnoy, every fight arrives with expectation. And every fighter put against him is immediately regarded as ‘lesser’.

The man looking to disrupt his upwards surge was Northern Ireland’s Adam Philpott. As it happened, ‘The Apprentice’ provided the Frenchman with his toughest test in a long while.  Both men were content to exchange in the 1st, with all of the proceedings happening on the feet. It was a bloody, bruised, and thrillingly close opening round. Perhaps the champion edged it slightly, but they made it tough for the judges.

For the first half of the 2nd, things remained much the same. Albeit, the champion was a little more mannered in his approach to things. His striking remained smoother, whilst Philpott tended to land the firmer head shots. The possibility of an upset lingered, until a sharp knee and elbow combination sent The Apprentice to the canvas. In true champion fashion, ‘Fire Kid’ smelled blood. He took his opponent’s back, and after a little struggle he eventually sunk in the choke.

Bloodied and triumphant, the French star raised his arms towards his future. 2017 is set to be a very big year for the 23-year-old, wherever he ends up.

 

Even McGregorless, the Irish fans are masters of atmosphere.

Take away the atmosphere inside the 3Arena on Friday night, focus solely on the fights, and you’re left with a fickle evening of fun highs and definite lows. Nonetheless, each Irish competitor was greeted like a hero. An atmosphere such as that has the ability to transform any night into something special.

Once again, the Irish fans sent a message to the world about how to treat your fighters, although following James Gallagher’s triumph some portion of the crowd immediately headed for an exit. I understand that match was billed as the ‘people’s main event’, but the real main event was yet to happen. This was a tad disappointing.

They didn’t miss much, as King Mo vs Satoshi Ishii was nothing but a masterclass of hesitation, but it does raise the question, ‘are they Irish fighter fans, or MMA fans?’ Perhaps I’m being unfair. After all, we were 6 hours deep into the event. It was almost midnight and the pubs were calling.

It is tiresome and thirsty work being the finest fans in the sport.