Paul Hughes produced a brilliant performance to unify the Cage Warriors featherweight title, then joined the London crowd in chants of “UFC! UFC!” as the fans declared the Irishman ready for the jump to the world’s biggest promotion.
Interim champion Hughes defeated reigning champion Jordan Vucenic via unanimous decision after five wild, bloody rounds at The Indigo at The O2 in London to stake his claim for a shot on the big stage.
After two epic walkouts in an electric atmosphere, Vucenic appeared to settle the quicker and connected with some sharp counter shots early in Round 1, but Hughes soon found his feet and scored with some solid kicks to the legs and body of the champion.
By the mid-point of the round, both men had eased into their stride and were throwing, and landing, a dizzying array of strikes in lightning-fast exchanges. The pair even had time to exchange a few words in the clinch as Hughes landed a succession of knees to a grinning Vucenic.
Hughes raised the temperature in the arena in the opening seconds of Round 2 when he connected with a big head kick, then stuffed a Vucenic takedown attempt as the champion looked to respond. The interim champion then locked up a body triangle as he made Vucenic carry his weight before eventually forcing the action to the mat.
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) November 4, 2022
Sat with his back against the fence, Hughes controlled Vucenic’s position and, with the champion looking to defend a rear-naked choke, connected with punches to the champion’s head in a bid to open up Vucenic’s defences.
Hughes continued his relentless pursuit of the submission through the remainder of the round, but Vucenic covered up and ensured he stayed out of danger, with the pair chatting to each other again as the seconds counted down at the end of the round.
After a clash of heads in the opening exchange of Round 3 forced a pause in the action, Vucenic ploughed forward and forced the action against the cage. Then, after a kick attempt from Hughes saw him slip to the canvas, Vucenic pounced and took the interim champion’s back.
Hughes expertly worked his way out of trouble and the action returned to the stand-up once again, where both men had success with their strikes, with Hughes mixing up his shots, while Vucenic bobbed, weaved and countered cleanly. Then, in the closing seconds of the round, Hughes landed a big shot to Vucenic that left him with a nasty cut on his right eyelid.
Both men traded shots early in the fourth round, until another big shot from Hughes sent Vucenic to the mat with blood spewing from his face. Somehow, the champion managed to survive as Hughes once again chased the stoppage.
The action ended up on the canvas, with Hughes on the champion’s back looking to find a submission or a TKO as a badly cut Vucenic defended valiantly. Somehow, despite Hughes dominating the entire round, Vucenic managed to survive the round to take it into a fifth and final frame.
With Vucenic badly cut and down on the scorecards, he came out for the final round firing big shots in a bid to swing the fight in his favour. But Hughes confidently stood and traded in the pocket, and dropped the champion with another big shot as his punch power proved the difference once again.
Hughes connected with more strikes from half-guard, with Vucenic seemingly unable to find an answer as the final round was spent largely on the canvas, with Vucenic trying to fend off a dominant final round performance from Hughes, who continued to chase a finish all the way to the final horn.
At the end of the bout, Hughes showed immense class as he put off any celebrations to stay on the mat with a dejected Vucenic as the pair shared words of respect at the end of their second epic Cage Warriors encounter.
As they returned to their feet, the faces of the two fighters told the story. Vucenic was battered, badly cut and bloodied, while Hughes was left relatively unscathed. And, when the scorecards were read, Hughes was left celebrating as he claimed the unified featherweight championship via unanimous decision with scores of 49-46, 50-43, 49-43.
A joyous Hughes then crowd-surfed around the Indigo as the arena turned into a party night as the fans hailed the new champion after the best performance of his career.
— Simon Head (@simonhead) November 4, 2022
‘Jimbo Slice’ makes it five in a row
The co-main event saw a well-contested stand-up battle as James Sheehan edged a decision over former middleweight title challenge Jamie Richardson.
Both men looked calm and composed in the stand-up as they happily stood and traded throughout two well-contested rounds. In the main, it was Sheehan pushing forward, with Richardson opting to work the outside and counter-strike, with occasional sprints of forward pressure.
With both men bloodied up, but focused on the job, the action headed into the final round with the fight still very much up for grabs. Sheehan pushed the pace and upped his output, then changed levels to take Richardson to the mat.
With Richardson’s arm trapped behind him, Sheehan hammered Richardson’s ribs with heavy punches that had “Young Gun” grimacing in pain. Richardson eventually managed to free his arm and return to his feet with just over a minute of the fight remaining, but Sheehan stuck to his man like glue as he chased another takedown.
With Richardson doing all he could to prevent the takedown, and Sheehan refusing to give up his attempt, the fight ended in something of a stalemate as the final horn sounded. It meant the result would be decided by the three cageside judges, who awarded the bout to Sheehan with scores of 29-28 on all three cards to improve his record to 6-2.
‘The Baltic Gladiator’ makes a winning return
Former Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion Modestas Bukauskas made a victorious return to the promotion with a unanimous decision win over former middleweight champion Lee Chadwick after a gruelling three-round light heavyweight battle.
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) November 4, 2022
After a cagey, uneventful opening round, Chadwick started to let his hands go at the start of Round 2 as he turned up the pressure on Bukauskas. “The Baltic Gladiator” then fired back with cleaner, crisper shots as the fight started to liven up in the middle round.
Chadwick continued to stalk Bukauskas around the cage, throwing big shots, and, while Bukauskas did well to take the sting out of many of the Liverpudlian’s shots, he was forced to work off his back foot and rely on well-timed counter-shots, though his punches did little to deter “The Butcher’s” relentless forward pressure.
Chadwick continued that high-pressure approach at the start of the third round as he closed the distance on Bukauskas and initiated the clinch, though he received a couple of solid knees to the midsection for his trouble before the bout eventually returned to the centre of the cage.
Once again, Chadwick moved in and forced the clinch, and once again Bukauskas connected with knees to the body before referee Dan Movahedi ordered the action back to the middle of the cage. Then, after a Bukauskas head kick was only partially blocked by Chadwick, both men swung for the fences in a wild final exchange as the bout went all the way to the final horn.
After a very tight bout with rounds looking tricky to score, it was Bukauskas’s cleaner work that earned him the unanimous nod, with scores of 29-28 (twice) and 30-27.
Ben Lakhdar sticks and moves to decision win
Undefeated lightweight Medhi Ben Lakhdar added another win to his record with a unanimous decision victory over Xavier Sedras to edge one step closer to a title shot at 155 pounds.
Ben Lakhdar settled into his striking early, and caught Sedras on his way in as he briefly stunned the South African fighter. Ben Lakhdar used his footwork well as he controlled the range expertly, stinging Sedras from range as he used his reach advantage to good effect in the opening round.
Round 2 saw Sedras come out swinging as Ben Lakhdar was pushed onto the back foot for the first time in the fight. Sedras also relentlessly pursued the takedown, but Ben Lakhdar stuffed each of the attempts before turning to his hands again from the mid-way point in the round and beautiful straight shot snapped Sedras’ head back as he started to find his range with his punches once again.
The final stanza began with Ben Lakhdar connecting early and pushing the pace on a willing, but tiring, Sedras. The French athlete’s energy levels were still high as he slid in and out of striking range, but Sedras continued to throw shots in a bid to clip his man and claim a dramatic last-round stoppage.
But Ben Lakhdar was too fast, too accurate and too slick for his opponent as he ran out a straightforward winner on the judges’ scorecards.
Loughran impresses to stake title credentials
In the main card opener, Caolan Loughran produced a hugely impressive performance to cement himself as a legitimate contender for the Cage Warriors bantamweight title.
Loughran stung Shanks twice in the opening stand-up exchanges as he made the former flyweight champion feel his punch power early, then showed his wrestling as he took Shanks to the mat.
Shanks struggled to free himself and, as he looked to find a way out, opened up an opportunity for Loughran to lock up two successive rear-naked chokes, which “The Apocalypse” did well to escape from on both occasions.
It was a dominant opening round for Loughran, who dismissively ruffled Shanks’ hair at the conclusion of the round.
Shanks went for broke early in Round 2 as he pulled guard and locked up a tight guillotine choke that saw Loughran’s face change colour, but “The Don” stayed calm and eventually found his way free.
Loughran then took control from top position, where he methodically improved his position, briefly mounting his man before taking Shanks’ back and locking up a body triangle.
Then, after flattening out his man, Loughran unloaded a salvo of unanswered ground strikes and, after Shanks failed to respond to referee Dan Movahedi’s calls to fight back and improve his position, the bout was waved off.
Caolan Loughran puts heavy pressure on the former champ and gets a decisive victory. A big feather in the title contenders cap
Whats next for Loughran?
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) November 4, 2022
It meant that Loughran improved his record to 7-0 and put him right in the championship conversation at 135 pounds, with the division sporting a fresh new champion in Italy’s Michele Martignoni.
Cage Warriors 145: Official Results
- Paul Hughes def. Jordan Vucenic via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-43, 49-43)
- James Sheehan def. Jamie Richardson via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Modestas Bukauskas def. Lee Chadwick via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Mehdi Ben Lakhdhar def. Xavier Sedras via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Caolan Loughran def. Luke Shanks via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 2, 3:46
- James Webb def. Paddy McCorry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ryan Shelley def. Josh Reed via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:00
- Harry Hardwick def. Steve Aimable via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
- Oban Elliot def. Sean McCormac via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Adam Shelley def. El Hadji Ndiaye via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Photo credit: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors