Evolution of Combat 4 took place in Glasgow on Saturday 20th April 2019 at the Maryhill Community Hall.
This was the promotions first venture to Scotland and they picked a venue steeped in Scottish MMA history, a place where the Dinky Ninja Fight Team helped make MMA in Scotland what it is now.
Picking a good venue is one thing but having good fights is another and again Evolution of Combat 4 delivered.
The show was kicked off by four grappling bouts, two of which were title bouts, then an absorbing K1 fight between Alex Burns and Jake Staerke, which ended up a draw.
Next up was the amateur card. There was an international flavour to proceedings, with 4 Icelandic, a Dutch and a Finnish fighter on the card. Most of the fights were evenly matched, some going the distance, some knockouts and some submissions.
Two young fighters Jack Leckie and Alex Meikle made their debut against each other and both guys gave their all in an entertaining fight. Leckie winning by unanimous decision but both guys can be proud of their debut.
Young Sean Clancy Jr, in only his second fight, still only 16 years old, faced a young Icelander, most of the Icelandic team had good grappling skills and Jon Ingi was from this mold, landing a takedown and looking to grapple however young Clancy Jr was able to capitalise and won by TKO due to ground and pound. A great learning experience for Clancy Jr.
Other notable mentions on the amateur card, were Thomas Callaghan, who had been out of action for a while, returned with a good performance to win by unanimous decision, Jeff Akhah won by TKO in a quickfire first-round win.
There was also some disappointment for some of the Scots involved as Sean Stroud, Justin Flannigan and Chris Gregg all suffered first-round defeats against decent opposition from The Netherlands and Iceland.
The pro card was up next with Fee Chrystall taking on Veera Nykanen from Finland, this was a competitive fight throughout with both fighters having their moments but it was to be Fee Chrystall’s night winning by split decision to record her first win as a pro.
The main event featured a Scotland v England bout with Higher Level’s Jason Woods up against Kaizen’s Adam Gregory. This was a fairly even match up with a lot of grappling involved until Gregory landed an axe kick to Woods who was still grounded, resulting in a disqualification win for Woods.
I spoke to Higher Level’s James Doolan, who had four fighters on the card, for his thoughts of the night.
It’s clear Doolan enjoyed the show and the setting.
“I liked the format of Evolution of Combat having the submission only grappling matches on early before the MMA fights.
“The venue has always been brilliant, the first MMA fights in Scotland took place in the central halls, I fought there 4 times myself back in the day, it’s always cool to go back.
“The show was really well run and the fighters were looked after. I think to have an ex-pro fighter in Dan Hope running it, he’s going to ensure that’s always the case as he will know it makes a difference. No massive intervals, raffles or gaps between fights is always good.”
Doolan was also happy with the officials that were used.
He said, “The fact they used MMA officials was decent as too often up here shows use whatever local guys are free on fight night and some of them, not all, shouldn’t be officiating fights.”
Doolan was happy with the matchmaking and hope’s to see the promotion return.
“The fights all seemed pretty well matched on the night, I know this is something Dan Hope is keen to keep as a standard on the show, on a personal note the guys worked hard and took financial risks bring in opponents for some of our fighters especially Fee Chrystall who’s hard to match and Justin Flannigan who had about 4 different opponents before fight night. Hopefully, the show returns to Scotland on a regular basis.”
Doolan gives us an insight into how he felt his fighters performed on the night.
“Performance-wise Sean Clancy showed great toughness and a well-rounded skill set far beyond any other 16-year old I’ve seen in his win over an older bigger Icelandic opponent. He’s one to watch for the future.
“Justin Flannigan never got going unfortunately and was made to pay for it against a good Dutch opponent. Back to the gym for him and some areas to address.
“Fee Chrystall and her Finnish opponent had the most technical fight of the night, Fee got the points to win which I felt was right just due to her landing more strikes in round 1 and 3. Happy for her as she puts everything into MMA and it’s hard for her with her being so small and not a lot of girls around to train with or compete against. She got to showcase a lot of the work we have done in the gym and the changes she has made since coming to Higher Level.
“In the main event, Jason Woods was getting beat before his opponent got DQ’d for axe kicking him in the face when he was in a downed position. Some ring rust there from Jason I think as he’s not fought in a while. I know he’s asked for the fight to happen again so we will see. Will go on his record as a Win via DQ but it wasn’t a win in any way. Lessons to be learned.”
Also coaching at the show was New Life Gym head coach David Galbraith who had two fighters appear on the card.
It seems Galbraith was also happy with how the show went.
“I really liked the show as they channelled their energy into the right areas meaning it was a transparent legitimate show. All matches were fairly matched, all the officials were completely unbiased, the cage was in good condition and they had an ambulance on site.”
Galbraith continues, “This was our first outing in Scotland for almost 2 years. I got linked to the promotion via Dan Hope who is a good guy. You can see through his actions he wants what’s best for the sport and the fighters who participated in his events.”
Galbraith then explains how the Maryhill Community Hall brings back memories for himself and talks about how his fighters fared.
“I’ve known Thomas Callaghan since he was a kid. I’ve lost count of how many injuries he’s had and the challenges he’s faced mentally with anxiety and low confidence. Most kids would have quit after the first hurdle but he just kept coming back. Around July last year the day before our gym got flooded we went down to Sunderland for some fights so we had a lot of time to chat. He told me he wasn’t sure if he could compete in MMA again. I promised him I have a solution to his issues and we would gradually work on those issues to get him back in the cage. I wasn’t to know we would be flooded the next day and Thomas actually came to my rescue as I was about to lose everything. From there we built up Thomas and he totally transformed himself into what could be something special.
“I said to Thomas before he fought that our resurgence logo was inspired by the painting of the rising Phoenix which was painted on the side of the building he was fighting in. The very building I fought Stevie Clarke in for my first fight in 2 years which was a turning point for me as I was told previously by doctors I would never fight again due to a bad injury.
“His (Callaghan) performance was outstanding and he implemented everything we asked of him against a very tough Icelandic fighter from a very good camp. Thomas’s story is remarkable and this is just the surface of it. Jill has put in a lot of work with Thomas’s striking which really showed on Saturday. His opponent wanted no part in it as soon as Thomas landed on him he shot for the takedown which we had planned for.
As for his other fighter Chris Gregg, Galbraith breaks down Chris’s fight.
“Chris’s fight camp went really well on the build-up as he was off the back of a trip to Thailand where he won the equivalent of a pro rules Thai fight. He was on a four-fight winning streak and was looking in great condition on the lead up to this bout.
“During the fight itself, I felt we had everything under control up until he got subbed. He implemented many instructions in the gameplay and had to change things slightly which seen him inside his opponents’ guard. He made one mistake and his opponent capitalised on it resulting in the armbar. A tough lesson for Chris but one we will learn from.
“His opponent has loads of talent and I’m sure we will see him go far in the sport. He definitely had that X-factor about him. It’s back to the drawing board for Chris and we will iron out the issue which led to the defeat. Chris is aspiring to go pro so these lessons are important at amateur hence the reason we took the match as we knew it was a tough fight. Regardless Chris is a friend and a dam good fighter.”
Galbraith explains that he will look to have his fighters appearing more Evolution of Combat events.
“We will be supporting future shows and will be happy to travel down south to take part. It wasn’t a big shiny spectacular show but the foundations are solid so we are in. These basics can be overlooked a lot of the time so it was a privilege to have our guys fight on the show and also sponsor the show.”
Thanks to James Doolan and David Galbraith for their honest and frank assessments of the night.
I also spoke to Dan Hope from Evolution Of Combat on how he felt the night went.
He started by saying how great the Glasgow atmosphere was.
“The atmosphere in Glasgow was incredible! Every competitor gave it there all.” Hope said, “I feel we managed to bring the high standard of event production from England to Scotland. Everyone involved was incredible and can’t thank them all enough. The support from the Scottish gyms was great.
“I’m looking forward to watching the footage in full. The international card we put on had exciting fights from start to finish. Just wish I was in the audience and not running about organising everything haha.”
So will Evolution of Combat be returning? It seems likely.
Hope said, “We will look at adding another date in Scotland in the future. We will match or surpass what we did this weekend with the support of the Scottish gyms.”
From what I have seen, Evolution of Combat would be a welcome addition to the Scottish MMA scene and hopefully, they can add more shows to their calendar in Scotland. Ideally, base themselves at the Maryhill Community Hall to build and grow their brand and they could really take off. There is a dearth of shows put on within the city of Glasgow and would be great to see an event call the city home.