To commemorate Cage Warriors' upcoming 20th year anniversary, I'll be highlighting five of my favourite fights in the organisation's history, throughout the week, leading up to Cage Warriors 141.
It's rare that a fight that ends in a No Contest is also heralded as one of the great fights in an organisation's history. At Cage Warriors 106, with Nicolas Dalby and Ross Houston locking horns, we were treated to sheer savagery.
It was a night of champions as six belts were on the line. Houston and Dalby both held Welterweight gold - the latter being the interim champion of the division. Houston had done a little bit of trash talking leading into the fight and, as such, the two refused to touch gloves as the first round of a soon-to-be all-time classic commenced.
Dalby immediately opened the round with a flurry of strikes and a head kick to back Houston up. Dalby recognised that his path to victory against the Scot could only materialise in close range as Houston's best tools are displayed on the outside.
Despite the forward pressure of Dalby forcing both fighters up against the cage, Houston managed to reverse position and initiate a devastating clinch game. With one knee strike to the head of Dalby, Houston popped a nous under the Dane's eye. The brutality of Houston's clinch game wouldn't end there, however. As the two looked to disengage from the clinch, Houston delivered a crushing elbow to the side of Dalby's head that immediately caused a big and gushing cut to open up.
Amidst the chaos of all the blood leaking onto the canvas, Dalby secured a takedown in order to slow the pace of the fight down. At that point, the fight was no longer for the faint-hearted. Dalby bled profusely over the face and chest of Houston as he attempted to work into an advantageous position. The more he squeezed and strained, the quicker and heavier the blood gushed. Houston scrambled back to his feet and managed to land a rapid uppercut before the round ended.
Referee Marc Goddard motioned for the cut man to clean Dalby up in order for the doctor to assess whether or not the fight could continue. Since the blood was not directly running into Dalby's eye, the doctor allowed the fight to go on. Not only was Dalby cut badly, the nous on his eye had only gotten bigger.
The tide turned completely in the second round. The first two strikes were heavy right hands over the top from Dalby that broke Houston's nose upon impact. It was now his turn to start bleeding. Dalby rushed the fight down to the canvas where he delivered short elbow after short elbow. The remainder of the round was contested on the ground as Dalby drowned Houston in dominant positions and kept the fight at an ugly, gruelling pace. Every time Houston attempted to scramble out of position, it was rendered ineffective. Not only was Dalby's pressure strong but the bloodied canvas was slippery. It would've been wildly comical if not for the fact that two professionally trained fighters were beating lumps out of each other in the process.
At the end of the second round, Goddard frantically paced the cage ensuring that both fighters were getting the right amount of medical assistance: Dalby for his eye (that was now swollen shut) and his cut as well as Houston for his visibly shattered nose. Somehow, both men were cleared by the doctor for another round of craziness.
Dalby and Houston went to war the minute the round started. Dalby cracked Houston with a few good shots while Houston landed a spinning backfist and then marginally whiffed on a spinning elbow. And it was from that spinning elbow that Dalby managed to initiate another clinch. This time, the Dane powered a massive knee down the middle which dropped Houston. The follow-up shots were clean - and certainly capable of ending the fight - but both fighters continued to slip and slide. Goddard stepped in, halted the action and asked the doctor to take a look at Houston and the general state of the fight. Goddard put his foot down as the doctor showed little concern for the conditions the fighters were scrapping in: "at the end of the round, I'm ending the fight."
When the round restarted, it only lasted a few seconds more. Both fighters were sliding on their knees while trying to get up to their feet. Goddard had seen enough. The fight was ruled a No Contest. Despite the echoes of boos in the arena, Goddard's stoppage was brilliant and a testament to his quality as a referee.
Dalby and Houston fought their hearts out, retained their belts and went on to bigger and better. Dalby joined the UFC and is still a part of the organisation with a record of 2-1-1. He's scheduled to fight Claudio Silva at UFC London on July 23rd. Houston joined the Bellator ranks and was thrown right into the deep end in his debut fight against Michael 'Venom' Page.
UFC Fight Pass subscribers can watch the fight here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/96102/nicolas-dalby-vs-ross-houston-cage-warriors-106