Cage Warriors 171 Preview; Return to Scotland, Bungard v Girlean

Cage Warriors make their long awaited return to Scotland with a show in the Braehead Arena in the country’s second city of Glasgow. Thirty-six athletes will compete at Cage Warriors 171 and have all come through SAFE MMA health requirements, a standard that the promotion takes very seriously and is currently industry leader in this corner of the world. The crowd will be boisterous and memories will be made.

Chris Bungard (19-8) did a lot of heavy lifting in selling the tickets to the sold out event. The 35-year-old hometown hero is certain to put on a show, and has done so in the past with the likes of Bellator and ACB. The Scottish Hit Squad man is an action fighter, can wrestle his butt off and has a fantastic submission offence. On the feet, he doesn’t show fear and will get into a battle. Dumitru Girlean (7-2) hasn’t heard the final bell in his professional career. The Italian works for a finish from the opening bell. The 29-year-old has a nice kickboxing game and a big right hand. The Verona native can also do damage on the floor and loves a choke. Where he has shown deficiency in the past has been in the submission game, where I expect “Cowa” Bungard to target the rear naked choke.

Reece McEwan (7-2) hails from nearby Greenock, close to the mouth of the River Clyde. The Griphouse man is looking to get back into title contention following defeat to Liam Gittins for the vacant belt back in November. The 29-year-old is a very good wrestler who utilises big ground and pound, along with a versatile choke game. Cameron Else (10-6) is a UFC and Bellator veteran. The Englishman is training in Las Vegas nowadays at Syndicate MMA. He began life as a Taekwondo and Jiu Jitsu player. The 36-year-old has a great kick game and is very solid with the rear naked choke. He was the first man to submit Paddy Pimblett, sending him to sleep with an anaconda choke. Else comes in as the “Auld Enemy” and wants to upset the applecart. For me, his method of victory is a quick sub which catches his opponent on the hop. I can see McEwan getting his wrestling game going and making this miserable for “Camchida”.

Sean Clancy Jr (3-0) has been the talk of the country in the lead up to this fight, with his teammates singing his praises. The young Scot trains at Higher Level MMA with the likes of Dylan Tuke and Stevie Ray, under the watchful eye of the well respected James Doolan. Following a stellar amateur career, he turned pro in April 2023 and turned in three wins in-a-row, utilising great striking and Jiu Jitsu to achieve a 100% finish rate. Lucas Rodrigues (6-6) will play the role of the tough veteran. The Brazilian hasn’t had a win since 2017, however he’s a handful on the feet and can put your lights out if you make half a mistake. This is an opportunity for Clancy to make a statement with a big finish.

Aidan Stephen (9-4) has been flying St. Andrew’s Cross in Cage Warriors for a while now and is one of the people who got the show back to Glasgow. The Scot is based up on the North Sea out of SBG Moray and he’s known as being a great wrestler with a good submission game. If he can get the grappling going, he’s also inclined to rain down some big ground and pound. Gianluca Scottoli (9-3) has a surname that might sound local, however he’s playing the role of spoiler on Saturday. The Italian is in great form with four wins on the bounce, and he won’t fear mixing it up on the deck. The 31-year-old has been a pro since 2011, with a hiatus from 2012-2021. The rust is officially off, and he’s got a very effective triangle choke that he loves to throw up. He’s had a hat trick of decisions in his last three. Stephen should be able to show wrestling dominance here, and maybe excel in the striking exchanges if he’s feeling spicy.

Scott Malone (9-6) is another Higher Level MMA talent. The Dundee man makes his tenth appearance in the famous yellow gloves. The 36-year-old is a fun bantamweight with a fan friendly style. The Scot can strike and grapple, and is always looking to finish. After losing his last two to Italian opponents, he’s looking for revenge over tricolour flag waving foes. Enter Nicolas Leblond (9-4), a man who has beaten the hometown fighter in his last two outings. The Frenchman has a slick submission game, and carries some power on the feet. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him choke out the local fighter again.

Keir Harvie (6-3-2) is also a James Doolan student. The Scot is a Bellator and EFC veteran and returns to CW for the first time since 2021. The 25-year-old had a long amateur career and has shown a well rounded game as a pro, winning by each method twice. You’ve got to watch out for his kicks and elbows in the striking, and the arm triangle in the ground game. Kaique Modesto (6-4) is one of the Brazilians working the European scene to try and come in and cause an upset. The Aracaju man is mainly a submission player, but does throw everything into his strikes so caution is advised. He has never been finished, so Harvie will have his work cut out for him.

Konstantinos Ntelis (8-2) is a fantastic young prospect with a lot of experience already. The 22-year-old is a great submission player who is adept at taking the back and can target the leg game too. The Greek works quickly and has five first-round finishes. Jan Quaeyhaegens (11-5) features on a lot of CW highlight reel videos. The Belgian is a violent man in the stand-up game, throwing limbs at reckless abandon and putting opponents out cold. Flying attacks, big elbows, massive punches, the 31-year-old earned the nickname “Q-Bomb” through his actions. This fight will come down to whether Ntelis can avoid the big shot and take advantage of potential submission defence issues.

Paull McBain (7-3) is a Cage Warriors regular who could do with going on a winning run after winning only one of his last four. The Scot prefers to do damage with ground and pound after working his wrestling, and then either finish there or lock in a submission. Alberth Dias (6-4) is a Bellator veteran and has a win over Richie Smullen. The Brazilian is tough and is accustomed to decision wins. The 32-year-old has one win by knockout and one by submission, however they came on the local scene in his homeland. This is a tough fight for McBain and would be a good name on his record if he wins.

Daan Duijs (9-2) is a talented young man who has won two of his three CW bouts to date. The Dutchman has a great wrestling game, which compliments his nice Jiu Jitsu game. He also causes big damage with ground and pound. In his last bout, he showed an evolution in his striking game, with a big left hand getting him the win. Jack Eglin (4-2) came through the CW academy system, and has had some really tough matchups early in his career. The Englishman is a good grappler who does damage on the floor, and is also a heavy hitting striker. These two guys are very talented and have had a lot of experience with good opponents. Coin toss territory.

Jordan Stronge (2-0) comes from the Scottish Hit Squad team. After an unbeaten amateur career, he turned pro in 2021 and kept the winning mentality. The Airdrie man hasn’t fought since May 2022, so cage rust might be a factor. Most of his success has been down to his grappling game. Jordan Little (debut) turns pro after a long amateur stint which includes multiple IMMAF tournaments. The Englishman is well rounded, however now is when records matter and he needs to prove he can compete in the paid ranks. Stronge should be the favourite.

Jamie McDonald (3-0) is a big light heavyweight training out of the Highlands MMA Centre with the likes of former champion Ross Houston. The Scot has had most joy with his submissions and ground and pound in his fledgling career to date. Neil Ariano (debut) is a Parisian who represented his nation at IMMAF level. The Frenchman is a knockout fighter. I have a feeling that Ariano will upset the crowd with a big shot.

Michael Blair (2-2) is a Scottish Hit Squad fighter looking for his first CW win. The 26-year-old has let his fists do the talking so far, with his wins coming on the feet and with ground and pound. For better or for worse, this man doesn’t do decisions. Dec Dean (1-2) is hoping for third time lucky in the yellow gloves after losing his first two. The Englishman likes to utilise his grappling to get the finish. Another coin toss.

Ronal Siahaan (8-1) is one of the Indonesian lads that CW have been developing. The Road to UFC veteran won his debut by decision. The 26-year-old flyweight has caught eyes with his powerful striking game, not too commonly seen at that weight. Igor Wojtas (10-9) is a Pole training with the Scottish Hit Squad. The 29-year-old is a fierce competitor who can hang on the feet and cause trouble in the scrambles. He’s got a chin on him too, so Siahaan will need to be on top form to earn his expected win.

Ian Postlethwaite (6-6) has a name longer than his fights usually last. The Scot has a good submission game, utilising chokes, arm and leg locks very well. He’s not so good at defending them though. Pav Sahota (5-2) is well rounded and loves a finish, but can manage a decision as well. Strikes are his main threat, however he can dominate the wrestling too.

Khadim Dia (4-0) has been impressive so far and is an Aurora MMA prospect. The Italian is a very good grappler who smashes the ground and pound and has slick submission skills. The 26-year-old got his first standing knockout in his last fight. Mush Aslani (4-4) was born in Iran and now calls England his home. The 31-year-old upset Adam Darby with a quick TKO in 2022, however is more of a decision fighter. I’m picking Dia by submission early on.

Cornelius RJ Aritonang (3-0) is another Indonesian being sculpted by CW. The 22-year-old featherweight scored a great knockout in his last outing back in November. He’s also got a grappling game. Thomas Hepburn (1-1) will be another waving the “Banner o Scotland”. He drops down from lightweight and will be looking to show his submission skills on Saturday evening. I fancy a Aritonang win.

Cage Warriors 171 is live and exclusive this Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. The action kicks off at 17:00.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.

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