Prospect Profiles by Brad MMA: Liverpool’s own Liam McCracken (Part 1)

We head back to the North West of England in this edition of Prospect Profiles by Brad MMA, particularly the beautiful city of Liverpool. Again we will scratch the surface of the amateur leagues from the area and look at another rising talent that has all of the tools to be a future world champion.

I think we can all agree that with the current day’s game, a fighter that solely relies on striking within their competitive MMA career is somewhat doomed from the start. As the sport evolves, so do the styles and coaching methods, which in turn hugely effects the new bloodline of young fighters that are being injected into the competitive ranks. Long gone are the days that British gyms lacked quality in the grappling department. Now, we see young, amateur fighters coming into the fray with a more complete toolbox of skills to express once locked in the cage.

Nestled in amongst the Stoneycroft district of Liverpool is the Aspire Combat Sports Academy (ACSA). Headed up by veteran Cage Warriors, ACB and Bellator fighter, Dean Garnett and BJJ black belt, Phil Turner, ACSA have its fair share of experience when it comes to providing their fighters with a complete skill set, especially on the mat.

liam macracken

One particular member of their team is 17 years old, Liam McCracken. Fighting as a junior amateur since 2015, McCracken has already accumulated seven amateur fights picking up four impressive wins. Delving into that further, two of those have come by way of submission and the other two have been lopsided unanimous decisions where it has seen Liam showcase an aggressive yet patient grappling game to dominate his opponent to the buzzer.

In 2018, it is clear to see that McCracken is really hitting his stride and developing into a tremendously exciting talent. After losing his initial fight under the Celtic Gladiator banner in February, Liam got back on the proverbial horse in June against Estonian born Sandro Gogoladze on the UK Fighting Championships 7 card.

Gogoladze was most certainly the longer-limbed fighter in the contest posing a threat from distance. However, from the offset, whether it be a coach-influenced game plan or his own fight IQ, McCracken pushed forward to dominate the centre and attempt to pressure his opponent against the cage. After an initial unsuccessful scramble for a double-leg, a persistent Liam grasped his hands around the hips and sent Gogoladze to the canvass via a slamming double leg takedown. From side control, McCracken manages to pressure Gogoladze into exposing his neck and without further ado, grasped a slick guillotine choke to put an end to the fight with only 1:40 on the clock in the first round.

Now, this is a good point to mention what I find most impressive about McCracken. Referring back to my mention of his ground fundamentals by way of his coaches at ACSA, it seems that there is a noticeable switch in his character once the fight hits the canvass. Whilst the fight is standing, Liam shows his determination and ferocity in trying to get the fight to the ground, but when he obtains that authority and feels comfortable, his mentality seems to switch to be a more patient, technical and calculated mindset in order to advance his transitions and work towards control. This “comfort” in these positions is surely derived from his time under Dean Garnett and Phil Turner.

After his win over Gogoladze, McCracken kept the momentum going with a unanimous decision win over highly touted Sam Gittins and moved on to arguably the toughest test of his amateur career within the Cage Warriors Academy North West promotion on December 1st to see out the year.

Cage Warriors Academy is the regional level of the main Cage Warriors promotion. Ingeniously, it develops young, talented fighters through the ranks of amateur, and then feeds them into the main Cage Warriors promotion and on to greener pastures. Top notch UK and Northern Irish talents such as Cory McKenna and Cage Warriors’ new signing Liam Gittins have paid their dues in the development program.

For the vacant Cage Warriors Academy North West junior bantamweight belt, McCracken drew MMA Academy Liverpool protege, Curtis Campbell. Campbell, another leggy, distance-based striker would attempt to avoid the wrestling pressure game of McCracken to no avail.

The first round was one-sided, seeing Liam assertively slam Campbell to the canvass on four occasions and look for control of the back. Unable to lock in a choke, the penultimate round commenced, seeing McCracken’s dominant groundwork prevail again. Observing a 17-year-old amateur having the experience to lace his opponent’s legs and remove his base against the fence to keep full control speaks volumes, and it is this type of virtuosity that is not only a pleasure to watch for grappling fanatics but sets a young fighter apart from peers.

Another impressive and well-drilled part of McCracken’s skill-set is his ability to mix up the entries into takedowns. A lot of fighters that have a predominant grappling style tend to repeat their same preferred takedown entry to their detriment – this is not the case here. Whether it be a snatched single leg from outside or a level change with a trip from the clinch, McCracken has an assortment of options to exploit to keep his opponent guessing.

The third round saw a somewhat desperate Campbell, now heavily down on the scorecards over two rounds, look for a much-needed finish to see out the contest. A shift in momentum and pace saw McCracken go on the defensive, receiving an airborne slam of his own in the process. However, his aforementioned “comfort” with all things grappling allowed him to avoid any serious danger and see out the final round for the unanimous decision win.

As McCracken’s 2018 comes to an end on a certain high, he is morphing into a legitimate prospect that has the scouse fight fans feeling the excitement. It will be interesting to see how he defends his amateur title in such a high-level environment as the Cage Warriors Academy. Everyone on their roster has a hunger to impress. They are well versed and eager to make a name for themselves to calve their path into the Cage Warriors professional world and onwards with the likes of Paddy Pimblett and Darren Till.

One thing is for sure, McCraken’s early start in the business has been a tremendous learning curve for him and his confidence and enthusiasm, along with his fan base, has only grown. It is exciting to see how his career will blossom come 2019 under the tutorage of Garnett and Turner.

I will be catching up with Liam in the coming weeks for an interview so standby for the second part of this instalment.

– Brad Dalrymple

Follow me on Twitter @Brad_MMA

Results and Rewind: Finishes galore at CW100

After 16 years of MMA history, Cage Warriors staged their biggest card of all time in Cardiff tonight to mark their 100th event. It’s a night that’ll be remembered for years to come, with two new champions crowned and every pro fight ending within the distance.

In the main event, home country hero Jack Shore remained unbeaten and raised the bantamweight title for Wales. In a near flawless performance, Shore shut down Mike Ekundayo’s takedown attempts and dominated the fight both on the feet and on the mat, securing a devastating TKO in the third round. It was total control for Shore in his most impressive performance to date, on a night that’ll go down in Welsh fighting history.

It was a perfect time to announce Cage Warriors’ return to Cardiff for CW104, which will take place on April 27th back at the Viola arena with Wales’ newly crowned champion on the bill.

In the co-main, the coveted Cage Warriors featherweight title that launched the careers of fighters such as Conor McGregor found a new home. Dean Trueman lifted the belt after a hard-fought battle with Aiden Lee that had the crowd on it’s feet. Lee threatened early on with numerous submission attempts, but the relentless grit and determination we’ve come to expect from Trueman won through and he struck his way to a third-round TKO.

 

Welshman Aaron Khalid brought home another win for the home crowd with a submission over Håkon Foss, and Nicolas Dalby weathered an early grappling onslaught by Phil Mulpeter to finish the Irishman with strikes. After the fight, Dalby had one thing on his mind – the welterweight belt currently held by Ross Houston, who was in attendance at the Viola Arena alongside current and former CW champs Brett Johns, Nathaniel Wood, Jack Marshman and Paddy Pimblett.

Scotland’s Scott Malone opened up the Main Card with a seamless first-round submission over home favourite Josh Reed, climbing ever further toward the coveted bantamweight title now held by Jack Shore.

Every fight on the pro prelims also ended within the distance, with 4 out of the 5 in the very first round, making CW100’s undercard one of the most explosive in their 16-year history. Alex Lohoré picked up yet another knockout win over a high ranked opponent in Tim Barnett, and Rhys McKee made his CW debut in style with a stunning TKO over Jefferson George. Aiden Stephen and Brett Hassett both impressed with high-level submission finishes.

Perhaps the most impressive of the prelims was Jai Herbert’s huge win over Joe McColgan, dispatching the Irishman just two minutes into the first round with a furious barrage of strikes. As he stated in his post-fight interview, “the division’s on notice now.”

Before the mammoth pro card, the night began with the Cage Warriors Academy Grand Prix finals, when 7 amateur winners were crowned the top in their divisions. Highlights included first-round finishes for Ismar Blagoje, Oban Elliot and Nathan Fletcher.

The full CW100 results are below:

Main Card

  • Jack Shore def. Mike Ekundayo via TKO (Round 3)
  • Dean Trueman def. Aiden Lee via TKO (Round 3)
  • Aaron Khalid def. Håkon Foss via submission (Round 2)
  • Nicolas Dalby def. Phil Mulpeter via TKO (Round 3)
  • Scott Malone def. Josh Reed via submission (Round 1)

Pro Prelims

  • Alex Lohoré def. Tim Barnett via TKO (Round 1)
  • Rhys McKee def. Jefferson George via TKO (Round 1)
  • Aiden Stephen def. Kris Edwards via submission (Round 2)
  • Jai Herbert def. Joe McColgan via TKO (Round 1)
  • Brett Hassett def. Michael Corston via submission (Round 1)

CWA Grand Prix finals

  • Ismar Blagoje def. Dawid Piotrowicz via submission (Round 1)
  • Christian Duncan def. Rafal Nauberg via a submission (Round 2)
  • Oban Elliot def. Danny Dixon by submission (Round 1)
  • Danny Williams def. Jordan Peake via unanimous decision
  • Chris Sterling def. Liam Molly via unanimous decision
  • Nathan Fletcher def. Jack Eglin via submission (Round 1)
  • Muhidin Abubakar def. Ciaran Muholland via unanimous decision

Amateur Card

  • Jack Tucker def. Kieren Bennett via TKO (Round 2)
  • Sean Scrivens def. Joe Macefield via unanimous decision

Next up for Cage Warriors is their much-anticipated return to Liverpool for CW101 on February 16th.

Results and Rewind: James Webb scores a hometown KO at Cage Warriors 99

Colchester’s own James Webb registered the biggest win of his career in the main event of Cage Warriors 99 at the city’s Charter Hall venue on Saturday, November 17.

Webb came into the bout on a run of three consecutive rear-naked choke submission victories, but he showcased striking power against a noted knockout artist as he stunned Jason Radcliffe with a left hook that upset the Londoner’s equilibrium and forced him to the canvas.

Webb moved in to finish the fight and referee Rich Mitchell called a halt to the action at the 1:26 mark as Webb positioned himself for a possible run at the middleweight title in 2019.

In the night’s co-main event, “Capcom” Cory Tait made a winning return to Cage Warriors with a crushing body-shot TKO of Gavin Kelly in their bantamweight contest.

Tait’s last appearance in Cage Warriors came back in 2014 and the man known for his spectacular strikes went back to basics for his attention-grabbing finish, as he landed a perfectly-placed body shot to secure a first-round TKO finish.

Danish featherweight Mads Burnell was cracked hard by a powerful uppercut from Lukasz Rajewski early in their bout, but the submission ace showed great powers of recovery before taking over and finishing his opponent via rear-naked choke submission.

“Mr. Bag and Tag” Nathan Jones battled all the way to the scorecards with Cage Warriors veteran Brad Wheeler in their welterweight contest as he ran out a unanimous decision victory.

And in the opening bout of the night “Young Gun” Jamie Richardson survived a heel-hook attempt from Phil Wells before turning the tables and finishing his opponent with elbows for an impressive first-round TKO win.

The full card results are below:

MAIN CARD

  • Jason Radcliffe vs James Webb (middleweight) via TKO (punch) after 1:26 of Round 1
  • Cory Tait defeats Gavin Kelly via TKO (body shot) after 2:40 of Round 1
  • Mads Burnell defeated Lukasz Rajewski via submission (rear-naked choke) after 3:23 of Round 1
  • Nathan Jones defeated Brad Wheeler via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
  • Jamie Richardson defeated Phil Wells via TKO (elbows) after 4:40 of Round 1

PRO PRELIMS

  • Mehdi “Iron” Ben Lakhdhar defeated Craig Edwards via TKO (knees and punches) after 3:02 of Round 1
  • Steve Aimable defeated Josh Abraham via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-26)

AMATEUR PRELIMS

  • Eric Veyrier defeated Steve Riformato via TKO (punches) after 0:43 of Round 1 (Veyrier wins vacant Cage Warriors Academy South East Middleweight Title)
  • Eduardo Gonzalez-Ayala defeated Gabriele Varesano via submission (armbar) after 1:26 of Round 1
  • Chey Veal defeated Mik Pereira via submission (armbar) after 2:54 of Round 2
  • Emanuele Palumbo defeated Kim Bravie via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) (Palumbo wins vacant Cage Warriors Academy South East Lightweight Title)
  • Ian Garry defeated Guolaugar Einarsson via TKO (punches) after 2:37 of Round 1

Prospect Profiles by Brad MMA: Liam Gittins

We head to North West England for this instalment of Prospect Profiles by Brad MMA, in particular, the county of Merseyside.

Merseyside is now hailed for its fighting brawn. In recent years it has been propelled by names such as UFC title challenger Darren Till, Cage Warriors’ fan favourite Paddy Pimblett, boxing star Tony Bellew and once Cage Warriors champion and UFC newcomer Molly McCann. With notable names like that being produced on a somewhat regular basis, it is clear to see why there is a certain buzz in the fighting world around the talent that has recently emerged from the area. Continue reading “Prospect Profiles by Brad MMA: Liam Gittins”

Live Results – Cage Warriors Academy: Belfast

Saturday 8th September – Devenish Complex, Belfast, N. Ireland.

The main event sees a bantamweight title fight between ZKJ’s Ciaran Breslin and Fight Academy Ireland’s Glenn McVeigh for the Cage Warriors Academy Ireland bantamweight Title.

Continue reading “Live Results – Cage Warriors Academy: Belfast”

Preview: Ones to watch at Cage Warriors Academy: Ireland

On Saturday 8th September, the Cage Warriors Academy takes over Belfast’s Devenish Complex in what will be an exciting and explosive night of amateur Mixed Martial Arts. Continue reading “Preview: Ones to watch at Cage Warriors Academy: Ireland”

Live Results: Cage Warriors 96 – Pimblett vs. Bak

Liverpool Echo Arena, Kings Dock St, Liverpool – Saturday 1st September 2018

CW96, Cage Warriors’ biggest Liverpool card of 2018, hits the Echo Arena on Saturday 1st September with two world titles at the top of a stacked card. In the main event, local hero and former Cage Warriors featherweight champion Paddy Pimblett will bid to become the organisation’s lightweight world champion when he takes on in-form Norwegian ‘The True Viking’ Søren Bak for the vacant 155lb title.

The four-fight main card also features the latest bout in the career of rising English lightweight Jack Grant, who will look to extend his winning streak to six with a victory over Aleksi Mäntykivi. And the main card will kick off with the return of former Cage Warriors welterweight champion Nicolas “Locomotivo” Dalby, who will take on undefeated Italian prospect Roberto ‘Minotauro’ Allegretti.

Results will be updated below and on the @MMAMotion Twitter page:

Main Card

  • Søren Bak def. Paddy Pimblett via Unanimous Decision
  • Jonas Billstein def. Mick Stanton via submission
  • Jack Grant def. Aleksi Mäntykivi via KO (Round 1)
  • Nicolas Dalby def. Roberto Allegretti via submission (Round 2)
  • Tim Barnett vs. Matthew Bonner majority Draw

Preliminary Card

  • Mahmod Faour def. Elliot Jenkins via TKO (Round 2)
  • Sam Creasey def. Coner Hignett via TKO (Round 1)
  • Mehdi Ben Lakhdhar def. Anthony O’Connor via KO (Round 2)
  • Liam Gittins def. Kevin Cordero Lopez via KO (Round 1)