Saturday, 12 October 2019

Cage Warriors 108: Forget the 9-5, Mason Jones wants belts and riches

By Alistair Hendrie

At a time when plenty of fighters fall into debt, depression or drink after retiring, it’s refreshing to learn that Mason Jones, the young Welsh lightweight with his head screwed on, is already planning for the future. “It’s silly to not have an exit plan,” he says. “If you’re fighter who hasn’t been saving their purses and building up savings, why haven’t you? My dad has always encouraged me to look after my finances and if things go to plan I’ll be investing before I retire. Then once I’m done, I’ll have enough money to avoid the 9-5 and not worry about money. I want to have a comfortable lifestyle.”

Jones, though, stresses he’s not in MMA purely for the money. “I’ll get rich one day, I know I’m good enough, but I’m not in it for that. I do the sport because I want to be the best possible fighter, not just for the money – that’s just an aside.”

As well as considering endeavours away from the fight game, Jones has built a record of 7-0 once the cage doors close. The judoka thrilled fans with decisions over the likes of Konmon Deh and Donovan Desmae, hurling combinations at will and chasing advantages from the guard too. Those performances have helped him succeed Jack Shore as Cage Warriors’ poster boy for Wales, and Jones is now deep in camp for his Cage Warriors 108 main event against Aleksi Mantykivi on Saturday in Cardiff.

Read the rest of the article at Fighters Only

Check out Alistair Hendrie's Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain, featuring insight from Joanne Calderwood, Rosi Sexton and more

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Jack Shore sets up next crop of Welsh talent with UFC Copenhagen win

By Alistair Hendrie

Wales stood as one on Saturday night to herald Jack Shore, the unbeaten 24-year-old who displayed poise beyond his years to submit Nohelin Hernandez in his UFC debut in Copenhagen, Denmark. “The Tank” is the fourth Welshman to compete (and win) in the UFC, while he is also the second Welshman to win a UFC contest via tap-out. Now, with bantamweight Shore exhibiting such fight IQ and professionalism against Hernandez, he has laid the path for the upcoming line of Welsh youngsters.

Perhaps the next Welshman to enter the UFC will be another 24-year-old, lightweight Mason Jones, who tackles Aleski Mantykivi on October 12th at Cage Warriors 108 in Cardiff. Perfect as a professional at 7-0, in 2018 Jones wowed fans by trading furious submission attempts during his decision over Konmon Deh. Later, in April, he stood in the line of fire while outscoring the more experienced Donovan Desmae.

An all-action fighter who doesn’t mind getting hit, Jones has taken Shore’s place as Cage Warriors’ main attraction from Wales but it’s worth remembering that the Pedro Bessa student is much more than a YouTube highlight reel. His judo is excellent, his transitions on the mat are decisive and he kicks to the calf, solar plexus and head with an element of surprise. He has already demanded a few excursions as the away fighter, but he might reach the UFC before Cage Warriors can fulfil that.

Read the rest of the article at Fighters Only 

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Leon Edwards can break out against Jorge Masvidal after beating Rafael dos Anjos

By Alistair Hendrie

Speaking on the Fight Disciples podcast, former Fighters Only editor Nick Peet once said he wished Leon Edwards would market himself more. He wished the Brummie would build his profile to match his skills. He wished he’d grab the mic and challenge another of the leading welterweight pack. I’ve interviewed Edwards twice and can confirm he is a man of few words, but finally, Peet might have got his wish.

After shutting out Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday at UFC on ESPN 4 in Texas, Edwards came out of his shell and threw the gauntlet down to Jorge Masvidal. “I want to silence Masvidal, that fight has to happen, either in the streets or in the cage,” said the 27-year-old, speaking with Karyn Bryant and Tyron Woodley on ESPN. “I believe I’m better than Masvidal everywhere and I’ll get a chance to prove it,” he added during his post-fight scrum.

No prizes for guessing Masvidal’s thoughts after Edwards humbled dos Anjos. The 34-year-old tweeted: “Big difference between putting top ranked opponents to sleep and putting fans to sleep. Don’t call me out no more until I get that belt.” While Masvidal and Edwards are both angling for a shot at welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, this Anglo-American rivalry has been brewing since March, when Masvidal landed a sucker punch on Edwards backstage at UFC London.

Read the rest of the article at Fighters Only.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Should Urijah Faber really face Henry Cejudo after UFC Sacramento?

By Alistair Hendrie

They say life begins at 40 and Urijah Faber is evidence of that. “The California Kid” may be middle-aged, but in stepping out of retirement on Saturday and decking Ricky Simon in 16 seconds at UFC Sacramento, the former WEC featherweight champion could have earned a huge fight with Henry Cejudo, the UFC flyweight and bantamweight titlist.

“Henry, what’s up dog?” said Faber, taking the mic after the bout. “I remember 10 years ago when you challenged me to a fight as a friendly gesture – I’m down to mix that up.” Cejudo responded in kind, tweeting: “Careful what you wish for my corn-rolled princess. You could be the next legend to bend the knee to Triple C.”

Although Cejudo will be out until early 2020 after undergoing shoulder surgery, Faber has made a shrewd and audacious move by targeting his younger rival, presumably for the 135lbs strap. The Californian understands Cejudo’s market value and gets how the UFC could lap up his own storyline – a legend and UFC Hall of Famer returning from the wilderness, taking on the insurmountable king. After all, this is Faber’s best opportunity to earn gold.

Read the rest of the article at Fighters Only

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Sweden end Germany hoodoo to advance to women's World Cup semi-finals

By Alistair Hendrie

Sweden are through to the women's World Cup semi-finals, banishing the German ghost in a manner so fearless it bordered on cavalier. Sweden hadn’t overcome Germany at a major tournament since 1995 and Sweden’s Chelsea defender Magdelena Eriksson, speaking before the match, said her country were determined to gain revenge for defeats in the 2003 final and the 2015 round of 16. Peter Gerhardsson’s charges advanced with a direct approach this time around, but it wasn’t without peril.

Before Sofia Jakobsson’s classy finish and Stina Blackstenius’s poached winner, Lina Magull put the Germans ahead, contorting her body to score a sumptuous half-volley. The Germans dominated a breathless period of added time too, Sara Däbritz and Marina Hegering both almost levelling. The Swedish goalkeeper, Hedvig Lindahl – who was nearly dispossessed during a madcap dribble in the first half – typified the mayhem and was all at sea when the Germany substitute, Lena Oberdorf, headed wide from close-range on 87 minutes.

That said, Swedish were decent value for their success and were never likely to go through without a hiccup here or there. Jakobsson evaded a slack German back-line, latching onto early long balls. Kosovare Asllani, dropping into midfield, hustled back loose passes. Blackstenius, who could have scored two or three, dribbled with intent around the “D” and exacerbated the chaos in Germany’s rear-guard.

But it was Sweden who were the slowest to start. Magull shot straight at Lindahl, Svenja Huth threaded in through-balls and Lindahl cleared from danger when roaming into a disaster of her own making. Magull’s opener was sublime. Cushioning Däbritz’s pass by the penalty spot, the Bayern Munich midfielder swiped the ball out of the air with an athletic half-volley. Her set-up and conversion, in one movement, were as quick as a flash. A goal of the tournament contender, for sure. 

Would Swedish heads drop, given that only two countries had beaten them more times than Germany? Would Sweden lose all hope against opponents who hadn’t conceded a goal in this World Cup? Not so. The Blagult equalised within six minutes, Jakobsson escaping a creaky defensive line to fire across Almuth Schult. The 29-year-old took her goal skilfully but Die Nationalelf allowed a single hoof to travel over 60 yards and bounce before it reached Jakobsson.

From there, for the rest of the opening 45 minutes, Sweden flourished. Aslanni robbed Carolin Simon in the final third. Blackstenius almost profited from Caroline Seger’s punt over the top. Every time Sweden lofted a ball high into the early evening Rennes air, Germany’s minds scrambled and their shape crumbled. Schult sprinted off her line in panic to clear another ball forward.

Germany needed half time. Such was their luck, straight after the restart, Blackstenius’s rebound put them behind after Schult parried Fridolina Rolfö’s downward header. It was an untidy effort, shanked into the roof of the net, but the Linkopings striker couldn’t miss from six yards out.

The 23-year-old, who opened her World Cup account against Canada in the second round, appeared rejuvenated by her tenth international goal and could have earned a brace, but she clipped low and wide after an industrious and jinking foray forward. The teams paused for a second cooling break on 75 minutes, and Germany thrived in the commencing act.

Their manager, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, had thrown on 17-year-old hope Oberdorf on the hour, shifting Alexandra Popp further forwards. Make no bones about it, Germany were throwing everything upfield. Oberdorf missed a guilt-edged header. Lindahl burst to the edge of her area to mop up Eriksson’s backpass.

Surely an equaliser beckoned. In the six minutes of additional time, Däbritz bolted a first-time shot at Lindahl, while Hegering headed over having outfoxed Hanna Glas. She couldn’t attain for her earlier error and with that, the German ghost would be confined to horror stories of the past.

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