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20 YEARS OF CAGE WARRIORS: Phil Wells x Jamie Richardson II (Cage Warriors 104)

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.

Just over three years ago, Jamie Richardson and Phil Wells locked horns for the second time at Cage Warriors 104. In their first fight, Richardson won via 1st round stoppage but the victory was marred after Wells confirmed he had torn his groin in one of the scrambles mid-fight. When the two met again just five months later, fireworks were to be expected. Somehow, Richardson and Wells manage to surpass expectations.

Although the fight is best known for its high-octane and wonderfully chaotic moments, most of the first round was conducted at kickboxing range with both fighters prioritising technique over wild flurries. Richardson's pawing jab was punishing Wells every time he stepped forward meanwhile Wells found a home for his calf kick that repeatedly halted Richardson in his tracks. The patient approach from both fighters was a clear sign of the respect they had for one another's power.

Toward the end of the round, Wells cracked Richardson with a crisp one-two and that's when the fight descended to sheer madness. Richardson immediately pressed through the power strikes of Wells in order to get some of his own shots in. With less than 20 seconds left in the round, Wells managed to force Richardson toward the fence and delivered a devastating right hook to the liver that drew a wince out of Richardson's face. Doubling over while in visible discomfort, Richardson survived the late flurry as referee Marc Goddard signalled the end of the first round.

In the second round, Richardson wasted no time getting in Wells' face. He found solace in the jab that had worked so well in the first round and continuously popped Wells on the nose. Richardson's speed gave him a considerable advantage whenever Wells decided to exchange in the pocket with him; Wells' only method of retaliation was to clinch up and nullify Richardson's volume.

In the clinch, Wells delivered strike after strike to the midsection of Richardson. When the two disengaged, Richardson pressed Wells and walked right into a knee. It finally appeared as though Richardson was starting to wilt and the speed advantage diminish.

Wells hunted Richardson around the cage until he found his clinch position again. This time, a perfectly placed knee to the body folded Richardson who went crashing down to the canvas. Wells' onslaught of strikes on the ground almost brought an end to the fight if not for a bizarre moment.

As Goddard looked to call an end to the fight, Wells inexplicably stopped striking as he believed the round had ended. Although the clapper had sounded, Wells still had a few seconds left. As he noticed his mistake, Wells returned to the ground-and-pound but then the round was effectively over. If not for the lapse in judgement, Wells may very well have enacted revenge in this brutal rematch.

Despite almost getting finished at the end of each round, Richardson bolted out of his corner for the third with all the energy of a man who hadn't just absorbed a tonne of damage. Wells continued stalking him around the cage and delivering strikes to the body but Richardson started to roar and egg his opponent on to hit him some more. It was the type of showmanship we see from fighters who have somewhat already accepted defeat and want to put on a show for the crowd. Richardson, however, had not accepted defeat.

Wells continued to dominate the round, landing successive strikes to the head and body of his opponent. Back in the clinch position that scored him the knockdown at the end of the second round, Wells rocked Richardson with a right hook to the jaw. Wobbled and almost out on his feet, Richardson did just enough to defend himself intelligently and return fire that Goddard refused to stop the fight. And what a decision it was by Goddard.

With less than a minute left of the fight, Richardson - who had absorbed so much fight-ending damage - somehow turned into the aggressor. He landed a huge one-two that stamped across Wells' chin and back him into the fence. Richardson fired a few more strikes for good measure and, despite not dropping, Wells' eyes rolled to the back of his skull momentarily. He was out on his feet and Goddard concurred.

From the brink of defeat not once, not twice, but three times, Richardson completed one of the great Cage Warriors comebacks. It's a fight that I'm certain will stand the test of time - an instant classic.

Richardson went on to fight for the Cage Warriors Middleweight belt a year later and, despite suffering defeat there, he has since bounced back with successive victories. At just 26 years of age, he's one of the organisation's most exciting fighters and I'd be surprised if he doesn't challenge for a belt again in the near future.

Wells, on the other hand, hasn't fought since he lost to Richardson. It's been three years of inactivity and, while I'm not sure if Wells has retired or not, he certainly doesn't seem to be looking to fight again. Irrespective of his future, Wells is a UK MMA veteran and will always be remembered for an all-time great fight.

There's also a dodgy rip of the fight on YouTube that I'll let you degenerates hunt out if you wish.

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