Rob Sinclair retained his BAMMA lightweight title by split-decision after five rounds of fighting in the headline bout of tonight’s London, England event.
But the decision didn’t reflect the course of the fight and was unfair to Sinclair, who had the upper hand for most of it. Sinclair’s distancing was excellent in places, hovering an inch outside Winner’s range and slipping in to initiate clinches and takedown efforts.
Despite having the shorter reach he was also often able to land his blows without taking any in return, although this was also down to Winner taking a very long time to get into the action. The first round was almost entirely Sinclair with very little in the way of offense from Winner, puzzling onlookers.
We know he carried a ligament injury to his left knee into the fight, hence the absence of any kicks with his right leg, and perhaps this weighed on his mind and made him hesitant. Whatever the reason, it is unusual to see Winner so reticent in letting his hands go and Sinclair took full advantage to start racking up the points.
It was not until the third round that Winner started to get going, becoming visibly frustrated and angry to the point that he some of his efforts looked designed to take Sinclair’s head off. The middle rounds of the fight were where he had his best moments and the fourth he ran riot, forcing Sinclair to move backwards constantly as he walked him down and hammered left kicks into him.
One curious aspect of the fight was Winner’s repeated gesticulation towards Sinclair, alternately inviting him to launch an attack or spreading his arms wide after a blow was landed to indicate that no damage had been felt. The only problem was that the showboating wasn’t followed by anything of substance - several times Winner invited Sinclair to hit him and Sinclair duly took up the invite, landed his blows and then circled off without feeling any retribution.
Winner did have some very good moments in the fight and was unlucky when he dropped Sinclair at the end of the third; having put the defending champion down he was dropping some right hands when the bell sounded and the round ended. In the fourth he hit a beautifully-timed knee-pick takedown which put Sinclair on his back but he wasn’t able to capitalise or keep him there.
After five rounds one judge saw the fight for Winner but the two others did not, giving it to Sinclair by three rounds to two. The final three frames had been very close and Winner completely ran away with one of them but it was too little too late. Had he been quicker out of the starting blocks he might have been able to take the win.
That said, Sinclair looked fitter than ever and fought a very intelligent fight. UFC veteran Curt Warburton is supposed to be his next challenger but Warburton is currently out of contract with BAMMA so that conversation will need to be had before any match can be made.
Jack Marshman vs. Andrew Punshon
Jack Marshman won his fight with Andrew Punshon in spectacular fashion - but lost the BAMMA middleweight title anyway. His failure to make weight the preceding day - he was one pound over - meant that he forfeited the belt.
Punshon would have been declared champion had he won but for Marshman the fight was non-title - and gallingly, had it not been then he would have been allowed to take home and keep the belt in the event of a win. Now he will have to win the belt again then defend it three times before it can go on the mantelpiece.
The fight itself was relatively quick but exciting. Punshon set the pace with a flying knee in the first second, baiting Marshman into throwing a heavy 1-2 response. Marshman obliged and Punshon duly ducked under and hit a takedown. “I fell for that hook, line and sinker,” Marshman ruefully admitted afterwards.
Punshon had a solid base in top position and Marshman is not noted as a BJJ whiz, so things looked bleak for the paratrooper former champion. But then Punshon started dropping one arm down to try and open Marshman’s guard and when he didso, Marshman saw the triangle opportunity. Punshon escaped - but then the exact same thing again moments later.
This time the triangle went on tight; Marshman used it to topple Punshon and started hammer-fisting lumps out of him while he was trapped. The referee was on the point of intervening even as Punshon - who was also having his arm stretched out into a quasi-armbar - began to tap. An impressive win for Marshman, who now rejoins the title hunt.
(I shook hands with Marshman moments after he left the cage. He is strong anyway but, pumped with adrenaline as he was, he had a gorilla grip. When I returned to my seat the two outside fingers of my right hand were killing me and were still painful to bend the next day.)
Denniston Sutherland vs. Leeroy Barnes
Jamaica-born Denniston Sutherland emerged as the conquering lion from his fight with Leeroy Barnes, which went at a tremendous pace for the three rounds it lasted and provided some entertaining moments. Notable were Sutherland’s trademark knees to the midsection, which he really hammers home. Barnes said afterwards that they didn’t bother him but from where we were sitting they looked nasty.
Leeroy gave as good as he got in places but he found himself wandering into bad positions repeatedly, particularly with a tendency to lower his head as he pressed into Sutherland. More than once he found himself in a tight front-headlock/standing guillotine effort because of this and even if he was weathering the knees, they were taking some of the wind out of his sails.
There were some flashes of brilliance in Barnes’ game, including a rolling kneebar attempt and a sudden drop to fish for a heel-hook. Sutherland was able to maintain his relentless grind and gradually take control of each round on the way to a unanimous decision.
Curt Warburton vs Lee Wieczorek
UFC veteran Curt Warburton is largely considered a stand-up fighter; he has very good Muay Thai and he has wins over the likes of Ross Pearson to prove it (although he also has a loss to Pearson; they are 1-1 thus far).
But he also has an aggressive ground game and is freakishly strong for lightweight, something that has been attested to by numerous opponents over the years. Warburton has been working hard on his ground game recently and wanted Wieczorek on his back where he could work for damage from the top and take a kimura if the opportunity presented itself.
Wieczorek proved stronger than expected though and while he never really got any offense off in the fight he did hang in gamely and make a real hard job of it on the way to Warburton’s unanimous decision victory. The fight was heavy on wrestling - in a good, scrambley kind of way - and placed heavy demands on their cardio; thankfully both were fit enough to pass the test. But they weren’t helped by having their fight suddenly moved forward by over an hour - initially told they were fighting at 21:30, they were told at 19:45 that their fight had been brought forward to 20:00.
No explanation was given but it was presumably down to Ian Entwistle withdrawing on the day of the event because he “hurt his leg” somehow. Both Warburton and Wieczorek were livid but there was nothing they could do. After the quickest warm-ups of their careers they were in the cage and fighting it out.
In all probability the fight would have played out the same either way but the mental state is a hugely important consideration for any fighter and the impact of having your fight suddenly brought forward like that cannot be overstated. There is an almost ritual element to warming up and it was tremendously off-putting for both of them that they had to fly through their routines so quick and enter the cage half-cocked.
Warburton goes on to a lightweight title shot against Rob Sinclair but, as mentioned above, is currently out of contract with the organisation. They will have some apologies to make in order to get back on his good side - and that’s before talks can even begin.
Comeback of the Year contender: Jeremy Petley vs. Dyson Roberts
Petley was getting his ass kicked in every area by the bigger, heavier fighter. Its unusual to see a fighter from the North American continent outweighed by a British fighter on fight night. Usually its the other way round because the college wrestling system over there means that heavy weight-cutting is well entrenched in their mentality.
A jiu jitsu man by trade, Petley was singularly unsuccessful in his efforts to put Roberts on his back. Petley’s shot was unusual, going across the front of Roberts rather than into him, and the lack of penetration impact meant that Roberts was able to kill the efforts with heavy sprawling even with Petley holding on to a leg for dear life.
Petley spent much time in the turtle position underneath Roberts and an almost equal amount of time backpedalling on the feet and frantically trying to avoid the huge blows that were coming from his opponent. At the end of the first round all looked lost for him and there was an air of inevitability regarding the KO loss that was surely coming in the next round.
But Petley is very game and he redoubled his efforts in the second round, despite being tired from the wrestling attempts in the first. Round two went almost exactly the same as the first until Roberts reversed a Petley takedown effort and took the Canadian to the floor to work from top position again. This time Petley was able to escape and as they scrambled to their feet he found himself stood behind Roberts.
A split-second later he was on Roberts’ back, having jumped up onto him and to look for a rear naked choke. The arm was tight round the neck and both hooks were in deep. Roberts struggled and staggered but it was futile. He fell to the floor and was forced to tap.
The crowd went nuts. Nobody loves an underdog more than the Brits and even though Petley was fighting one of their own, they saluted his grit and his dogged determination with a rousing cheer. After the fight Petley unsurprising announced his intention to drop to featherweight to “try and be a force at that weight”.
BAMMA 10 FIGHT RESULTS
BAMMA WORLD LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
ROB SINCLAIR def. ANDRE WINNER
via Split Decision (47-48, 49-46, 48-47)
BAMMA-LONSDALE BRITISH MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
JACK MARSHMAN def. ANDREW PUNSHON
Via Triangle (RND 1, 2:31)
DENNISTON SUTHERLAND def. LEEROY BARNES
Via Unanimous Decision (30-27)
LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE ELIMINATOR FIGHT
CURT WARBURTON def. LEE WIECZOREK
Via Unanimous Decision (30-27)
TOM BREESE def. JACK MAGEE
Via Triangle (RND 1, 3:19)
TOMMY MAGUIRE def. ANTANAS JAZBUTIS
Via Unanimous Decision (30-27)
JEREMY PETLEY def. DYSON ROBERTS
Via Rear-Naked Choke (RND 2, 4:45)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT
SAM MENSAH def. MIKE “NIGHTMARE” NEUN
Via KO (RND 1, 0:08)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
MAX NUNES def. TONY MORAN
Via Triangle (RND 1, 2:58)
MARC ALLEN def. LEE TAYLOR
Via Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)