Viewers were treated to their first three-round war of the series and one of the most exciting professional debuts in recent memory as Oktagon Challenge: England vs. Ireland rode into week three.
After an incredible amateur career, the hype around George Staines’ progression to the professional ranks was rife. “Saint George” certainly did not disappoint in his bout against Team Ireland’s Matthew Elliott on this week’s episode.
The bout opened up with plenty of feints from both, before the pair were jostling for position up against the cage, with Elliott getting the bout to the floor just over a minute in.
Staines’ relentless scrambling saw the Team England man escape out the back door, before immediately thereafter having to defend a triangle attempt. As the halfway mark hit, Elliott had his biggest submission attempt so far with a nasty-looking armbar.
With 1:45 left on the clock, the tables began to turn when Staines found himself in Elliott’s guard and started hammering down strikes for the remainder of the round.
Moments into the second round both men were landing cleanly on one another. Elliott made a solid entry but Staines, in front of his corner, managed to negate the danger and once again found himself in a position to fire some heavy shots into Elliott against the cage, with the referee calling for more action from the Team Ireland man.
It took Elliott until just before the last minute to escape the punishing barrage of strikes he’d been subjected to for the duration of the round but was unable to land anything significant and before the round was done, found himself pinned against the cage eating strikes once more.
It was much of the same in the third round with Elliott having no answers for the unforgiving pressure of Staines, who barely seemed to slow down from the first second of the opening round to the final bell.
Staines looked calm and collected throughout the entirety of the bout and secured a unanimous decision win.
The challenge which ultimately led to the two facing off, pitted Team England and Team Ireland against each other in a mediaeval-styled event. Ladened in armor, the teams had to build a castle using the blocks they were provided with, with the quickest team to complete their tower set to be rewarded with four extra cannonballs (cabbages) for the second part of the challenge.
Team Ireland got off to a fast start. However, when it quickly became apparent the blocks would only fit in one specific order, England handed the reins to Lego fanatic Staines and the English quickly had their castle erected.
They then had the opportunity to try and destroy each other’s castles using the aforementioned “cannonballs,” with one member at a time allowed to stand in front of the castle to try and protect it. Hascen Neri Gelezi pulled out a Man of the Match performance with a string of saves that Premier League goalkeepers would have been proud of.
England ultimately won the challenge, and stand-in head coach Martin Stapleton called for the Staines vs. Elliott bout.
Viewers were also given unrestricted access to arguably the toughest moment a fighter will go through before the bout – the weight cut. The cameras followed Staines through his hot baths and toweling regime to make the required weight limit.
Ever the protagonist, Team Ireland’s Denis Frimpong continued his berating of the English team this week. After being confronted by Jake McHugh for leaving the “memorial” following the Englishman’s defeat in last week’s episode, “The Menace” turned his attention to Staines and managed to get a small rise from the usually serene Englishman.
Looking ahead to next week, it appears Staines may have sustained a concussion during his bout with Elliott, with the severity not yet being revealed, but it doesn’t look good with presenter Bryan Lacey revealing “It’s serious.”
By Jake Smith