What a day for Team England. The squad racked up six wins, a narrow loss, and a guaranteed medal on day two of the IMMAF European Championships.
Four of the wins came via submission or TKO, and two via decision. The loss was a split decision which could have gone either way.
Head Coach Paul Kelly said:
“Great day for the team. Not just the wins – six out of seven – but the team spirit is great, the team support is fantastic, the coaches are working well together, so right now I don’t think we could wish for a better day.
Jack Humphries entered the cage for the second day in a row and delivered an excellent performance, winning comfortably via unanimous decision. With his win, Jack is through to the semi-finals, guaranteeing England at least a bronze medal.
Aaron Givens then took the tally for Team England to 2-0 with a hard-fought decision win. He executed his gameplan, and explained,
“I knew exactly what I was going to do going in there. I did it. He was strong, I knew that, but I went in and lit him up with my hands and those kicks. Ready to go again tomorrow.”
Then Jake Stark walked to a TKO victory. From the first few shots, it was clear Jake was going to secure the win. Jake said,
“He’s a black belt, and I thought f**k it, I want to see where my level’s at, so I took him down a couple of times and dominated him. Completely dominated him. I did not get touched.”
Jack Henshall then faced a tough Ukrainian, who used his wrestling well. But Jack managed to transition to the back, sunk in a rear-naked choke, and won via submission.
The highly anticipated debut from Geroge Staines followed. George walked onto an over-hand right in the first few seconds of the bout, knocking him down and sending Paul Reed’s blood pressure through the roof. However, George recovered well and went on to dominate his Italian opponent in the striking and grappling exchanges. Staines eventually took his opponent’s back in the second round and won with a rear-naked choke. George said:
“I want to win. I want to be the European champion. And I’m sure I will be.”
Teddy Stringer – England’s most experienced athlete in IMMAF competition – then had his first match-up. In the first round, Teddy managed to grab hold of a leg and submitted his German opponent with a knee bar. Teddy downplayed his impressive victory, commenting:
“I’ve learned that it’s a long old week and that the more damage you take, the harder it gets as the week goes on. So I’m just here to get in, get the win and get out of there and make it to Saturday for finals day.”
Finally, Jordan Little faced Welshman Alex Gill. Gill is a notoriously strong grappler (black-belt in BJJ), so Jordan’s game plan was to strike as much as possible. Jordan managed to avoid being taken down for most of the fight, except for in the third round where a deep armbar almost forced Jordan to tap. However, Jordan slipped out, and the fight went to the judges. Alex Gill was awarded a split-decision victory, which Jordan was understandably disappointed with,
“I’m absolutely devastated. I put on probably my best performance to date. Props to my opponent – he was good. But I out-classed him everywhere… I out-struck him. I rocked him twice. He took me down, I reversed it and ground-and-pounded him. He got the win, so I’ll be humble and say congratulations to you – you’re a great fighter Alex. But I want to run that back because there’s no way I lost that fight.”
The day finished with 6 wins in the bag for England. Dan Cassell, one of the EMMAA coaches, summed up the team’s performance:
“The one thing I will say about every single one of these guys is they’ve bought into the system, they’ve bought into EMMAA, they’ve bought into the coaches, and they’re all becoming very coachable. They’re listening to us and it’s starting to show with our results. I think we’re going to see some gold medals at the end of this week.
What’s impressive is it wasn’t just wins, the majority of those wins were finishes. This tournament is known for grappling and we’re out-grappling these guys. And as I say, I think it’s down to the guys buying into the system – we are a team.”