Cage Warriors featherweight champion Paul Hughes moved a huge step closer to potential two-division glory – or a shot in the UFC – with a crushing first-round finish at Cage Warriors 161 in Dublin, Ireland.
The event, which took place at the RDS, saw Hughes take on Belgian finisher Jan Quaeyhaegens in a lightweight title eliminator bout, and the reigning 145-pound champion showed that he’s a serious threat to the 155-pound title with a statement-making victory.
Quaeyhaegens took the center of the cage immediately and looked to impose his pace and striking on the Northern Irishman, but Hughes looked calm and composed, and unbalanced the Belgian with a chopping leg kick early on.
The pair continued to trade on the feet, with Hughes fending off Quaeyhaegens in the clinch and forcing the taller man against the fence while landing some solid punches to the body and head of his opponent.
When the pair separated and returned to the center of the cage, Quaeyhaegens connected with a solid straight right. But, as the Belgian looked to step in with a follow-up strike, Hughes unleashed a perfectly timed counter left hook that folded his man to the canvas for a stunning one-shot knockout.
It was a big statement, and a big finish, from the man Conor McGregor had christened “Big News,” as Hughes lived up to his fighting moniker with a show-stopping TKO as he made a statement both to the lightweight champion George Hardwick and potentially, the UFC matchmakers.
Jones continues winning return
In the co-main event, former two-division Cage Warriors champion Mason Jones extended his undefeated record under the Cage Warriors banner with a second-round finish of former lightweight title challenger Yann Liasse.
Jones, who captured the Cage Warriors lightweight and welterweight titles before moving to the UFC, is looking to get back to the lightweight belt he never lost in the cage, and he moved closer to that goal with victory over Luxembourg’s Liasse, courtesy of a ground-and-pound finish.
Liasse looked to tie up Jones in the clinch in Round 1, but the Welshman did well to keep the southpaw on the back foot with constant forward pressure and a good mix of punches and kicks.
Liasse had some success of his own, with some solid shots landed, but Jones’ volume and power gave him the advantage as they returned to their stools at the end of the opening round.
Jones kept his foot on the gas in Round 2 as he consistently found a home for his punches as he made Liasse miss, then made him pay with good head movement and smart counters.
Jones’ relentless forward pressure forced Liasse to change levels in search of a takedown, but “The Dragon” made him pay with some vicious ground strikes to force the bout back to the feet again.
But with Jones totally dominating on the feet, a tired and hurt Liasse went for an ankle pick. Jones easily countered, half-mounted the Luxembourg fighter, then went for a rear-naked choke finish. To his credit, Liasse managed to escape, but Jones answered his submission escape with a barrage of ground strikes to force Rich Mitchell to wave off the fight at the 4:24 mark.
Night of submissions
The preceding nine fights produced six submission finishes as the fight card in Dublin delivered a feast of finishes.
Earlier on the main card, Dutch featherweight Jordy Bakkes claimed his first Cage Warriors victory with a second-round arm-triangle finish of Ireland’s Ryan Shelley, while Ieuan Davies needed just three minutes, 25 seconds to finish Leon Hill via triangle armbar. The main card also kicked off with a submission finish, as Paddy McCorry locked up a third-round guillotine choke to submit Samir Kadi.
The opening three bouts of the preliminary card also delivered submission finishes, as Sean Clancy Jr and Nik Bagley claimed wins via rear-naked choke, while Solomon Simon earned his victory via arm-triangle choke.
Cage Warriors 161: Official results
- Paul Hughes def. Jan Quaeyhaegens via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 2:47
- Mason Jones def. Yann Liasse via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 2, 4:24
- Jordy Bakkes def. Ryan Shelley via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 2, 3:44
- James Sheehan def. Olli Santalahti via unanimous decision ()
- Ieuan Davies def. Leon Hill via submission (triangle armbar) – Round 1, 3:25
- Paddy McCorry def. Samir Kadi via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 3, 3:41
- Taka Mhandu def. Alexander Sacha Pirev via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Ger Harris def. Ryan Hewitt via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Sean Clancy Jr def. Milton Cabral via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:08
- Solomon Simon def. Marko Sarasjarvi via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 3, 4:49
- Nik Bagley def. Micheal Quinn submission (via rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 1:42