Caolan Loughran showcased his composure, then his sublime striking skills, as Cage Warriors crowned a new bantamweight world champion in Rome, Italy.
Loughran defeated previously undefeated Italian contender Dylan Hazan in the main event of Cage Warriors 154 at Fiera Roma, as the Italian capital played host to a spectacular night of fights.
The bout itself was a barnburner. Clearly fired up by the Rome crowd, Hazan came out looking to light up Loughran early. But, despite connecting with a host of big shots, the Italian wasn’t able to shake Loughran’s composure.
Loughran briefly stunned Hazan with a front kick to the face that left the Italian looking rocked for a moment. But Hazan recovered well and connected with more solid shots of his own.
Roared on by a passionate Rome crowd, Hazan swung for the fences as he looked to land a home-run punch on the Irishman, who stayed calm and composed under fire, as he remained in front of his opponent looking to counter.
After a wild opening round, Loughran seemed to leave his corner for Round 2 looking even more confident, and he started to take charge of the stand-up exchanges. Instead of looking to counter, the Irishman started to connect first as he forced Hazan onto the back foot.
Then, with Hazan becoming increasingly ragged in his attacks, Loughran lined up his man and connected with big punches that eventually led to the stoppage.
A big right uppercut connected clean, and Loughran moved forward, landing big, clean shots that forced Hazan back toward the fence. More big shots then sent the Italian to the canvas, where Loughran finished the fight with a flurry of ground strikes to force referee Rick Mitchell to step in and wave off the contest at the 1:44 mark of the second round.
Heavy hands, great shot selection, and a title-winning TKO finish for Caolan Loughran. He's the new @CageWarriors bantamweight champion. Brilliant finish. #CW154pic.twitter.com/odKcphAkce
— Simon Head (@simonhead) May 6, 2023
It was a hugely impressive performance from Loughran, who extended his perfect professional record to 8-0 with his sixth TKO/KO finish.
In the co-main event, England’s Darren Stewart leaned on his wrestling to secure victory over Italy’s Leon Aliu.
Aliu hammered Stewart’s legs with kicks early on in the fight, prompting “The Dentist” to switch gears and take the action to the canvas. His first emphatic takedown showed a clear wrestling advantage for the Englishman, and Stewart put that knowledge to good use as the bout progressed.
Stewart punched his way into takedown range and landed a series of big takedowns through Rounds 2 and 3. And, while he wasn’t able to find a finish on the mat, Stewart maintained solid top control on Aliu, who seemingly had little answer to the Englishman’s pressure.
Stewart scored well with elbows from top position in Round 2, and threatened to finish a tiring Aliu with ground strikes in Round 3. But, to his credit, Aliu hung tough to take the bout to the scorecards. But there was no home win for the Italian, as Stewart earned a unanimous decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28, 29-27.
The main card also saw stoppage victories for Giannis Bachar and Gerardo Fanny, who stopped Italian opponents Carlo Pedersoli Jr. and Tanio Pagliariccio, respectively.
And there was an Italian win to kick off the main card, as Simone Patrizi scored a third-round TKO finish of Ermil Xhaferi.
The event also saw the debut of six fighters from the MMA Fight Academy, a joint venture between Mola TV and Cage Warriors, who took 20 prospects and brought them together in one training camp in San Diego, with board, lodging, travel, and training all covered.
Six fighters from the team made their first appearances for Cage Warriors during the Rome event, with four of the San Diego-based prospects picking up victories on the night as Khadim Dia, Francesco Mazzeo, Luca Borando, and Cornellius Aritonang all claimed notable wins to kickstart their Cage Warriors careers.
Cage Warriors 154: Official results
- Caolan Loughran def. Dylan Hazan via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 1:44 – for vacant bantamweight title
- Darren Stewart def. Leon Aliu via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
- Giannis Bachar def. Carlo Pedersoli Jr. via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 2:25
- Gerardo Fanny def. Tanio Pagliariccio via TKO (retirement) – Round 2, 5:00
- Simone Patrizi def. Ermil Xhaferi via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 1:22
- Khadim Dia def. Milton Cabral via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Enrico Di Gangi def. Alessandro Giordano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Francesco Mazzeo def. Joan Arastey via TKO (elbow injury) – Round 1, 0:59
- Sam Creasey def. Michelangelo Lupoli via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Marko Sarasjarvi def. Edoardo Caiazza via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 1:36
- Dario Bellandi def. Daniel Karlsson via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:28
- Andrey Tyshchenko def. Yoga Probowo via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
- Jasmine Favero def. Izabela Walczak via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:13
- Luca Borando def. Baris Adiguzel via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 3, 0:50
- Cornellius RJ Aritonang def. Gianluca Ancora via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
Photo: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors