Cage Warriors flyweight champion Shaj Haque produced a superb display of footwork, counter-striking, and conditioning as he outworked former bantamweight champion Michele Martignoni in the main event of Cage Warriors 158 in Rome, Italy.
Haque used his unique blend of movement, conditioning, and fight IQ to defeat the uber-aggressive Martignoni vy unanimous decision with scores of 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 seeing him register his first successful title defense as he extended his win streak to six.
Martignoni came out in typically aggressive fashion at the start of the opening round, but found Haque a tricky target to connect clean with. Instead, it was Haque who connected with the most significant strike of the round as he briefly stunned the challenger with a well-timed left jab that caught Martignoni on the way in.
Martignoni continued his forward pressure in Round 2 and connected with multiple overhand rights as he found his range in explosive fashion. Haque took the shots well and continued to fire back, but the momentum appeared to be in the challenger’s corner as he stalked the champion around the cage throwing big shots.
The action continued in fast and furious fashion through Round 3, with Martinoni looking to connect with big punches, while Haque preferred to work off the counter and use his movement and takedowns to keep the Italian guessing.
The fourth round started with Martignoni connecting with a big knee as Haque looked to change levels in search of a takedown. But the champion appeared largely untroubled. Once again, Martignoni continued to push forward, but the Italian struggled with Haque’s perpetual movement as he pot-shotted the challenger with strikes while ensuring he never presented a static target for his opponent. Haque’s conditioning was also starting to become a factor
The final round saw Martignoni looking more tired and ragged, while Haque looked relatively fresh and slick. The champion landed the crisper, sharper strikes, and landed a big takedown. But Martignoni’s fighting spirit saw him battle back to his feet and resume his attack once again. The Italian swung for the fences in search of a fight-ending shot, but Haque stayed smart as he worked off the back foot, circling the cage and clipping the challenger every time he stepped into striking range. And, after five rounds of back-and-forth flyweight action, the pair both went toe to toe in the closing stages as they battled all the way to the final horn.
In the end, it was Haque who earned the decision as he retained his title and cemented his position as the premier 125-pounder in Europe.
Bellandi moves one step closer to middleweight title shot
In the co-main event, Italian middleweight contender Dario Bellandi produced a strong performance to defeat Naglis Kaniskauskas and put himself firmly in the title picture at 185 pounds.
Bellandi was one step ahead of Lithuania’s Kaniskauskas through the majority of the three-round battle as he ran out the winner with scores of 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 to extend his win streak to four and stake a claim for a shot at the middleweight title.
And, with Bellandi now on a similar timeline to the reigning champion Mick Stanton, who knocked out former champion James Webb in London at Cage Warriors 157 earlier this month, a future matchup between the pair could potentially be next.
‘The Dragon’ returns with blistering finish
Former two-division Cage Warriors champion Mason Jones made a big splash on his return to the promotion as he showcased the crowd-pleasing fighting style that took him to titles in two different weight classes for the promotion.
Jones, who departed the UFC to return to Cage Warriors earlier this year, was forced to wait for his comeback fight after a planned bout in Wales failed to come to fruition. But, on his long-awaited return in Rome, “The Dragon” showed all the skills that made him a star in his first stint with the promotion as he walked down, then finished, Brazil’s Alexandre Ribeiro in the first round of their lightweight bout.
Jones wasted no time in getting to work as he pushed forward throwing strikes and immediately putting Ribeiro on the back foot. The Welshman’s relentless forward pressure saw him walk down the Brazilian throwing shots, and it didn’t take long for one of Jones’ big punches to make a big impact on the action.
Jones stunned his man with a big shot, then, with Ribeiro covering up and looking to buy time, “The Dragon” unloaded a non-stop barrage of punches, following Ribeiro across the cage as the Brazilian tried in vain to find some space. Eventually, Jones trapped him against the cage and unloaded more heavy shots that forced the stoppage and improved his record to 12-2.
Torres edges di Segni after tight tussle
Brazilian strawweight Amanda Torres dropped Italian favorite Micol di Segni en route to a split-decision win in their 115-pound matchup.
Torres had the best of the action in the opening round as she took the fight to di Segni and dropped the Italian late in the round as she made a superb start to her first Cage Warriors appearance. Di Segni fought back in Rounds 2 and 3, but two of the three judges thought that the Brazilian had done enough in one of the remaining rounds to claim a crucial second 10-9 for her scorecard as she ran out the winner with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
Torres was understandably emotional after hearing the scorecards were in her favor as she celebrated her first MMA victory since 2018 with a significant win on European soil.
Pagani bests Power after three-round war
Italian lightweight Michael Pagani edged England’s James Power as the main card kicked off with a super-competitive battle between two undefeated European prospects.
The action was closely contested throughout the three-round battle, with Pagani just doing enough to earn the nod from the three cageside judges, who scored the bout 29-28, 29-28, 29-27 in his favor as the Italian extended his perfect professional career to 7-0 while handing Power his first professional loss.
Preliminary card roundup
The preliminary card saw a huge win for Leon Hill, who locked up a tight rear-naked choke to force the tap from Dumitru Girlean in the first round of their lightweight matchup.
Girlean made headlines in his last appearance when he claimed an upset victory over rising English star Adam Cullen. But this time it was Girlean who found himself on the receiving end as Hill locked up a rear-naked choke to improve to 6-1 with the biggest win of his career to date.
There was also an impressive submission finish in the featured preliminary card bout by Italian bantamweight Emanuele Zaccaria, who came through some adversity earlier on in the bout to eventually choke out Poland’s Sylwester Miller in the second round and claim his third straight win under the Cage Warriors banner and move to 6-1 for his career.
The standout striker on the prelims was, perhaps surprisingly, Daan Duijs, who picked up a first-round TKO finish of Alexander Sasha Pirev in their 139-pound catchweight contest.
Dutchman Duijs is better known for his mat skills, with six career wins coming via submission. But against Pirev, Duijs let his hands go to great effect as he finished his man with strikes mid-way through the opening round to claim the ninth win of his career, and his first stoppage via strikes since his fifth pro bout back in 2019.
Cage Warriors 158: Official results
- Shaj Haque def. Michele Martignoni via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) for flyweight title
- Dario Bellandi def. Naglis Kaniskauskas via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Mason Jones def. Alexandre Ribeiro via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:23
- Amanda Torres def. Micol di Segni via (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Michael Pagani def. James Power via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
- Emanuele Zaccaria def. Sylwester Miller via technical submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:23
- Leon Hill def. Dumitru Girlean via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:55
- Niko Ceraglia def. Simone Manno via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Gianluca Scottoli def. Sam Kelly via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Gianluca Rocca def. Guido Possidente via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 0:29
- Daan Duijs def. Alexander Sasha Pirev via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:40
- Giacomo Michelis def. Idriss M’roilvili via unanimous decision (29-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Emanuele Sabatino def. Aaron Johnson via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 2:45
- Emanuele Tetti def. Dario Palazzo via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:08
- Amir Malekpour def. Florian Doskja via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 2:27