JOHANNESBURG – South African mixed martial arts (MMA) fanatics will finally slake their thirst this weekend as the Extreme Fighting Championship kicks off 2018 with their first event of the year, following the traditional three-month hiatus. Like all sports which incorporate speed, momentum, power and monumental cojones, MMA is best observed in a live environment where the digital lenses and uplinks of modern broadcasting technology still deceives the viscera spectacular.
Two days off the heels of International Women’s Day, we get to witness the inaugural Women’s Strawweight Title being contested between Danella Eliasov (2-1) and Chiara Penco (2-0) as the main event, a slot, belt and purse which I hope will attract more athletes to 52kgs whilst we await Lino (3-1) vs Pare (5-1-1) at Flyweight and the continued growth of the Bantams. Eliasov is the favourite at 6/10 vs 12/10.
Stepping in at short notice in place of a flu-ridden Boyd Allen (15-3) is Paulo Bananada Silva (22-12) hoping to crank the lightweight belt off Igeu Kabesa (9-1). There aren’t many more beautiful sights in African sports than Kabesa transitioning in full-flow like a river in torrent, but Silva has a propensity to slap on a guillotine from any position, standing or mounted and I personally live for bouts like this: pure grappling versus jiu-jitsu, which isn’t to say that both these lads have cracking talents in other skillsets. Kabesa is the favourite at 6/10 vs 12/10.
But then you could say the same thing about the preceding matchup that sees a jits-duel of note between Reinier de Ridder (8-0) from Combat Brothers and Renzo Gracie Holland against Bloem’s BJJ beast Warren Allison (7-4). The Grizzly Bear from Langenhovenpark has put away some top names lately - following his loss two years ago to Bahati - most notably Roelof Scheepers and Gideon Drotschie with the latter being a first round KO. Training now with mat-master Deon Bruning and looking more at home than ever at Middleweight, Warren first fought in the EFC against Soldierboy eight years ago and is one of the most unassuming veterans on the roster, which makes his scrap against De Ridder even more fascinating. The Dutch debutante comes from Breda, the home of kickboxing legend Ramon Dekkers as well as Golden Glory, the camp of many kickboxing standouts like Marloes Coenen, Semmy Schilt, Gokhan Saki and Nieky Holzken. So while I have no doubt regarding De Ridders five-limbed prowess, it’s really his Jits that has left opponents laid by the wayside. Remaining undefeated by applying a sweet variety of submissions with a particular penchant for the armlock, we will surely see some aggressive transitions and wrist-control with Warren himself holding victories by arm-triangle, rear-nakeds and a delicious kimura trap-system. De Ridder is the favourite at 4/10 vs 16/10.
The only main-card bout not containing an EFC greenhorn is Gordon Roodman (3-6-1) facing Mzwandile Hlongwa (1-0). Whilst the former is no stranger to EFC fans, you may be hard pushed to remember the latter who last had a regular fight in the promotion at EFC 49, two years ago, with a first-round KO over Mark Kamba (1-2). A well-built middleweight fighting out of GBH, it will be interesting to see if both time and Hassan have been able to develop a naturally-gifted athlete with a superb amateur career into a pro-winning machine. Don’t forget he was a tad unlucky in his TF1 run with a decision loss to Batamag Bertrand (1-0) and must surely identify this bout against ‘Rage’ as the ignition of what should be a cracking career. Unfortunately, he’s up against a fan-favourite who possesses neither reverse gear nor quit; Gordon’s record is a result of trying to klap anything that moves regardless of consequence and has gone out on his shield more often than not. Losses are for the bookies, not for the fans and if you were in Carnival City on the 4 March 2016 to witness his ridiculous war with Hlongwa’s teammate Georgi Georgiev (2-2), you’d understand. Can’t see this going past the first. Roodman is the favourite 6/10 vs 12/10.
The first main-card bout has Bokang Masunyane (4-0) welcoming Brit newbie Connor Hignett (5-2) from Merseyside. BK is a fan-magnet with an incredibly entertaining style which combines athletic takedowns and lightning-quick grappling with an almost acrobatic risk-taking. Despite his showmanship, it’s obvious he’s been able to listen to the sagisms of Quan and Wessels having three consecutive decision wins in his past three pro fights. He’s certainly has a lot to say to his opponent who comes with a tonne of international experience, with fights in ACB, Tankō, Shinobi, ICE and Cage Warriors. Despite his moniker ‘Hand Grenade’ Hignett is a Submarine, with a skillset that pulls his opponents into deep water before slapping on a submission, his last victory four months ago at ACB 75 was a first round leglock. In fact, he has a propensity to take the fight to that mat as quickly as possible with several locks and choke wins in the first. Should be fun. Masunyane is the favourite at 6/10 vs 12/10.
I’ve dealt with the undercard elsewhere but if you fancy a flutter on the undercard heroes, the remaining preliminary odds are:
Coxen vs Kalunda – Kalunda the favourite at 12/10 vs 6/10.
Gancalvez vs Kanyinda – Goncalves the favourite at 4/10 vs 16/10.
Harle vs Djikasa – Djikasa the favourite at 15/10 vs 5/10.
Cronje vs Kabeya – Cronje the favourite at 1/3 vs 2/1.
K. Hlongwa vs Rossouw – Rossow the favourite 14/10 vs 11/20.
Khusu vs De Beer – Khusu the favourite at 1/4 vs 5/2.
Kena vs Kasanda – Kena the favourite at 141 vs 5/2.