Flying Knee: Meet the best MMA fighters from our region
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It’s often called the fastest growing sport in the world, and this region is a hotbed of mixed martial arts talent. MARK HEATH looks at fighters for you to follow in his latest Flying Knee column.
1) Arnold Allen
Top of the list has to be ‘Almighty’, the region’s only (so far) fighter in the world-famous UFC, the Premier League of MMA.
The 23-year-old featherweight is one of the hottest prospects in the sport, having won his first three fights in the UFC and boasting a 12-1 record overall.
The humble southpaw, from Trimley St Martin in Suffolk, defeated fellow prospect Makwan Amirkhani (13-3, 3-1 UFC) at the O2 Arena last weekend, and could be propelled into the world top 15 rankings soon.
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2) Kerry Hughes
Hughes is an explosive fighter with dynamite in her fists. Coming from a Muay Thai background she is rarely in a dull fight and boasts a KO victory over multiple-time Muay Thai world champion Amanda Kelly in her 3-2 pro career to date.
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Suffered a setback in her last fight, losing her BCMMA bantamweight title to Zarah Fairn Dos Santos after being caught early by a peach of a right hand, but jumps right back into action on BCMMA 19 on May 6.
Colchester’s Hughes also has a fascinating back story, having lost almost half her body weight before embarking on her fighting career.
3) Wendy McKenna
Like Hughes, Colchester’s McKenna fights out of regional MMA powerhouse gym BKK Fighters. She held both the flyweight and straw-weight amateur titles for BCMMA before turning pro and winning her paid debut on BCMMA 17 in December.
She made the move up to Cage Warriors in Dublin earlier this month, where she dropped a controversial split decision to local hero Catherine Costigan at the 3Arena at atomweight.
McKenna (1-1) is also proud mum to Cory, who is making big waves as an amateur....see below.
4) Iain Martell
The ‘Badman’ has all the tools needed to be an absolute megastar in the game - bricks for fists, powerful kicks, a strong wrestling game and the X-factor stuff too, good looks, charisma, eloquence.
Indeed, if this list were based on potential alone, middleweight Martell (12-1) would be in a class of his own.
The only problem is that the Norwich fighter has been inactive in recent times, with his last MMA fight a complete obliteration of the much-travelled Sean Lomas last June. He is also a high-level K1 kickboxer and regularly trains his boxing at the Kickstop in Norwich. Could be a megastar if he commits to the sport.
5) Corrin Eaton
A charismatic featherweight from Ipswich, Eaton could well be the next fighter from the region to make the UFC.
Hugely entertaining to watch - if not the most technical - the former Chantry High School student (9-2-1NC) boasts a big fan following and made-for-TV style.
He also benefits from learning his craft under the legendary now-retired UFC veteran Brad Pickett and head coach Mickey Papas at Team Titan in North London.
6) Jamie Powell
A super-talented flyweight, Powell suffered the first loss of his pro career at Contenders 17 in Norwich last December, tapping out to a choke from slick Spaniard Daniel Barez in the third round after a gruelling fight.
The 24-year-old from Wisbech (7-1) is sure to bounce back strongly, with his boxing background and strong wrestling making him a tough match-up for anyone in the 125lbs division.
Was due to compete on a season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, before the UFC scrapped the idea at the last minute.
7) Sean Carter
‘Sexy Curls’ is a veteran of the sport, known for being as entertaining outside the cage as he is inside it.
The 32-year-old lightweight (12-4) is another from the BKK Fighters stable and is currently riding a two-fight winning streak.
Carter, who’s fought on Cage Warriors several times, is superb on the ground and compelling on the feet – his fights are always exciting.
8) Andre Goncalves
Portuguese and proud, Thetford lightweight Goncalves (3-1-1) has all the ingredients needed to be a success in the sport.
He gives great quotes and is likeable and charismatic outside of the cage - and inside he’s all action, with strong boxing – honed at Attleborough BC - and power wrestling.
Bounced back from the first loss of his entire career to crush Linas Meistavicius at Contenders 18.
9) Jack Mason
An MMA pioneer from Essex, Mason has been fighting as a pro since 2005 and boasts a 29-16-1 record.
Last fought at Bellator 158 at the O2 last July, and has since been helping to promote the sport through his excellent BCMMA promotion in Colchester.
Nicknamed ‘The Stone’, we hope to see the middleweight back in the Cage Warriors cage before too long.
10) Cory McKenna
The first amateur on this list, and with good reason, McKenna has the makings of an absolute megastar.
The 17-year-old, from Colchester, is 6-0 so far and has already beaten the world silver medallist to claim the BCMMA amateur straw-weight belt which her mum used to hold.
Lethal on the ground and always getting better, McKenna could well be the youngest-ever female fighter in the UFC.
11) Leigh Mitchell
Rounding out our list is another amateur out of BKK Fighters, the reigning BCMMA amateur flyweight champion.
Mitchell (5-2) was incredibly impressive in outpointing Jack Eglin at BCMMA 18 in February, combining fast hands with brilliantly-timed takedowns and a smothering top game.
He’s still learning the game, but the future looks very bright indeed for Mitchell.
Honourable mention: Joe Harding, James Webb, Craig Edwards