Undefeated French middleweight Djati Melan dominated champion Matt Bonner to capture the middleweight title at Cage Warriors 131, but he had to survive a late onslaught from the Englishman before he could get his hands on the gold.

Melan dominated Round 1 from the opening exchange as he swiftly took the champion to the mat and moved into mount. Bonner scrambled well off his back to move to a less dangerous position, but Melan stayed active and carried a constant threat, especially with his heavy ground strikes from top position.

It meant that Bonner was unable to get off any offense of his own in a tough opening round, while Melan completely dominated the champion to make the perfect start to the fight.

Round 2 saw more of the same from Melan as he walked down a relatively static Bonner before shooting in and taking him down to the canvas once again. The Frenchman’s superiority in the wrestling and grappling exchanges was clear for all to see, with Bonner reduced to survival mode, while the challenger once again moved into mount and unleashed more heavy-duty ground strikes.

It was a case of rinse and repeat through Rounds 3 and 4 as Melan continued to completely dominate the action, taking down the champion in every round and bossing the action on the mat. There was one brief scare in Round 4 when Bonner snatched a guillotine choke while being taken down, but the Frenchman managed to pull his head out of trouble and continue to completely control the remainder of the round.

It meant that Bonner needed a “hail Mary” finish in Round 5 to retain his title and, with Melan looking noticably fatigued, the challenger started to connect with some solid punches early in the round. Bonner also successfully shrugged off a takedown attempt and punished the Frenchman to the body as he tried to turn the tables. Bonner stalked an exhausted Melan around the cage and seemingly couldn’t miss with his left hand, but a last desperation takedown attempt from the Frenchman proved successful as he took a demoralised Bonner down to the canvas once again.

Bonner eventually mustered the energy to fight his way back to his feet with a minute left in the fight and unloaded a furious final flurry that came incredibly close to scoring a last-gasp TKO finish. Eventually, however, time ran out on the charging champion as the bout went to the scorecards.

The judges scored it 49-44, 49-44 and 48-44 for Melan, who looked as relieved as he was exhausted after a breathless finish.

Melan remains undefeated at 8-0, but with a pair of rising English contenders both picking up impressive victories earlier in the night, the newly-crowned champion will likely face another serious test of his unblemished record in his first title defence in 2022.

Duncan claims another eye-catching finish

Christian Leroy Duncan had already made a big impact on the Cage Warriors middleweight division as a talented, flashy striker. But the former IMMAF contender’s amateur record features a host of submission finishes, and the protege of UFC veteran Mark “The Wizard” Weir showed those submission skills for the first time in the pro ranks as he submitted Justin Moore in the first round of their 190-pound catchweight co-main event matchup.

Duncan came just inches away from claiming a spectacular quickfire finish as he grazed the charging Moore with a flying knee as the 16-fight veteran moved in to initiate the clinch.

But, after initially escaping Moore’s clutches, Duncan ended up in another clinch against the cage where, to the surprise of many viewers (including the commentary team), Duncan dropped for a double-leg and took his man to the mat.

With Duncan in top position, the undefeated contender swiftly moved to mount, then took Moore’s back as attempted to escape. Duncan then softened up his man with some solid shots to the head before locking up a rear-naked choke to force the tap.

It was Duncan’s first submission as a pro, but the eighth of his overall MMA career, including his amateur bouts. Most importantly, it showed the watching world that he has the well-rounded skillset to be a serious threat to the Cage Warriors 185-pound title.


‘Drago’ demolishes his opponent in swift fashion

Rising English contender Will Currie produced a performance full of calmness and composure before finishing his man in decisive fashion in the first round of his middleweight main card matchup.

Currie faced off against Bulgaria’s Nikola Zlatev, and clearly unnerved his opponent with his ice-cool approach as he refused to bite on the Bulgarian’s feints and instead walked down his man.

Eventually, Zlatev looked to take the fight to the canvas but, once there, it was Currie who showed his skills as he locked up a triangle choke off his back and connected with a salvo of elbows to the top of Zlatev’s head. The dual-threat attack proved too much for Zlatev, who tapped out at the 2:19 mark to give Currie the sixth win of his emerging career.

‘The Latvian Express’ claims upset victory

Welshman Oban Elliott headed into his bout with Madars Fleminas looking to move up the ranks and follow in the footsteps of Welsh Cage Warriors champions Jack Shore and Jack Marshman. But “The Latvian Express” had other ideas.

After a solid start from Elliott, Fleminas came into the fight toward the end of Round 1 when he took the fight to the mat and came to within an ace of submitting Elliott with a mounted guillotine choke that somehow the Welshman escaped.

But Fleminas wouldn’t be denied and, after taking his man to the canvas in the second round, he moved into mount and proceeded to pepper Elliott with a plethora of unanswered ground strikes that forced referee Leon Roberts to step in and wave off the contest.

Fleminas’ victory sees his record improve to 9-3, while Elliott drops to 4-2.

Crawford edges decision in back-and-forth war

In the opening main card bout of the night, Kingsley Crawford claimed a hard-earned decision win on his bantamweight debut.

Crawford, who had previously plied his trade at 145 pounds, dropped down to 135 pounds to face Liam Gittins, and kept his composure under some controlled early pressure from the Southport-based fighter before using his smarts to turn the bout in his favour and earn scores of 29-28 from all three judges to move to 7-3 for his career, and 1-0 as a bantamweight.

Cage Warriors 131: Official results

Main Card

  • Djati Melan def. Matthew Bonner via unanimous decision (49-44, 49-44, 48-44) – for middleweight title
  • Christian Duncan def. Justin Moore via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:24
  • Will Currie def. Nikola Zlatev via submission (triangle choke and elbows) – Round 1, 2:19
  • Madars Fleminas def. Oban Elliott via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:15
  • Kingsley Crawford def. Liam Gittins via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Preliminary Card

  • Tom Mearns def. Jean N’Doye via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
  • Luke Riley def. Yuki Angdembe via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:19
  • Samir Kadi def. Michael Tchamou via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 2, 2:50
  • Nik Bagley def. Scott Pedersen via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:53
  • Adam Cullen def. Mikail Bayram via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:49

Photo credit: Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors