Contenders 22 preview: Everything you need to know
PUBLISHED: 15:27 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:37 14 February 2018
One of the region’s premier fight sports promotions returns this weekend for Contenders 22 in Norwich. Mark Heath takes a look at the card and previews the action....
Where and when
Contenders 22 will be held on Saturday at the new location of Epic Studios in Norwich. Formerly based at the Norfolk Showground, the promotion’s new home boasts a cracking atmosphere and multiple TV cameras which really bring the big event look and feel to life.
The first fight is expected at 6.30pm. There are 16 fights in total on the card, with the main event – more on that later – set for around 10.45pm.
You can watch all the action live on PPV at Fite TV - either through their website or app.
What can you expect?
Contenders is unique in that it incorporates all major fighting disciplines into one show – they feature MMA, K1 kickboxing and boxing on their cards, making for a true feast for fans of combat sports.
All bouts are held inside a championship-sized cage – the same as is used in the world famous UFC.
A new Contenders Kickboxing brand has just been launched – debut show set for March 31 – which will focus solely on K1, with fights inside a ring.
Titles on the line?
Oh yes – four of the five fights on the main card are for a belt. First up, Ipswich’s Jack Purdy, of Mamba Martial Arts, defends his 63kg K1 strap against Team Nogueira’s Alex Boura, before Piotr Panczak looks to win the 77kg K1 title back from the man who took it from him, David Balogh.
Then, the multi-talented Ollie Sarwa will attempt to add to his growing reputation by claiming the vacant amateur featherweight gold in his scrap with the explosive Luke Santarelli.
And the main event pits pro 66kg K1 champion Modestas Andrijauskas, another from Norfolk’s Team Nogueria, against challenger Ben ‘The Problem’ Woolliss.
Main and co-main
A couple of crackers here. Sarwa has really impressed in previous Contenders displays – fighting both K1 and MMA – and takes a 5-1 MMA record into this clash with Santarelli, who is 2-2 but boasts real power and stand-up smarts.
And the main event is absolutely fascinating. Andrijauskas won the belt with a brutal first round knee KO of Ipswich MMA standout Corrin Eaton and is skilled, rangy and ruthless.
But in Wooliss he faces a real powerhouse striker with very heavy hands and kicks - I’d be surprised to see this one go the full 15 minutes!
Rest of main card
Purdy opens the main card at around 9.35pm with his first title defence since winning the belt against Jake Catterall at Contenders 20. He’s capable of fighting several different styles – including suffocating pressure and stick and move – so it will be interesting to see what he goes with against Boura.
Aadeep Rana then faces Bachir Fakhouri in a 70kg K1 fight which might be a gun show - thunderous kicker Rana beat Zeith Mon in a blood and guts war back at Contenders 20, despite an injury which saw his foot swell up like a balloon.
And Panczak versus Balogh has a classic back story - former champ trying to win belt back from the man who ripped it from him. In their first fight, at Contenders 19 last June, Panczak suffered a serious knee injury in a matter of minutes courtesy of Balogh’s bombastic leg kicks – how will he cope with that again? We’ll see!
The beauty of shows like Contenders is that you get to see young fighters on their way up the fistic ladder - indeed the promotion has helped elevate several fighters onto bigger shows, both nationally and internationally.
Keep an eye on bantamweight Jake Nicholls, (8.10pm), fighting out of esteemed coach Windy Miller’s resurgent Bury St Edmunds-based Bluewave MMA squad. He is long, unorthodox and very entertaining - he’ll look to run his record to 3-0 here against Martin Gavin. Team-mate Jimmy Fell, who faces Reece Walmsley (6.40pm) is another intriguing prospect with a boxing background – look out for his left hook!
And Chey Veal, of Tsunami Norfolk, who pushed Nicholls all the way in my 2017 fight of the year, is another to watch out for – he fights Robert Redford at around 8.25pm.
Follow it with me
I’ll be cage-side at Contenders 22, calling the action live and tweeting my thoughts @mark__heath. Get involved using the hashtag #contenders22.