A pair of UFC veterans and recent bare knuckle converts made their mark on the un-gloved combat scene at London’s IndigO2 on Saturday night. UK MMA legend Brad Pickett needed precious little time to close the show in the evening’s main event, while heavyweight slugger Mark Godbeer went toe-to-toe with a game opponent for a solid five rounds en route to capturing his first bare knuckle title.
‘One Punch’ – One Round
Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett went into Saturday’s British title contest as a man with little weight on his shoulders… and it showed. Returning to active duty for the first time since his 2017 retirement from MMA, the 40-year-old Pickett had cited the reduced physical demands of training for straight up pugilism as a key factor in making his combative comeback.
Contested in a smaller-than-traditional ring over rounds lasting just two minutes apiece, BKB’s format is geared towards bursts of furious action and Pickett delivered in droves against fellow UKMMA veteran Mark Handley. Looking fast and loose as he danced around the ring in the early offing, a glancing overhand shot to the temple from the Londoner put Handley down for the first time.
His opponent ‘Short Fuse’ – to his credit – climbed back to his feet, but Pickett’s piston-like left hand landed with a sickening, audible crunch of bone on cartilage, badly disfiguring Handley’s nose and leaving the referee no choice but to call time on the contest.
“It was great…” said Pickett of the experience. “Obviously my wife is going to love that I didn’t get punched. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m always in a fight and rarely do I not get hit, so maybe this is my calling?” Pickett wasn’t entirely without regrets though. “I’ve never been hit without a glove…” he chuckled “…so I would have liked to (have) known what that felt like, in a weird, masochistic sort of way!” It’s an ambition still very much on the bucket list for ‘One Punch’, who seemed cautiously optimistic about a return to the BKB ring. “I’m not injured in any way and I’ll be keeping my fitness up. There’s another one in 10 weeks…” he hinted “…I’ll speak to the wife and see if she’ll let me do it!”
‘Caveman Shit’: Godbeer Victorious in BKB Debut
Mark ‘The Hand of’ Godbeer received a rather warm welcome to the world of bare knuckle boxing in the form of a series of first round punches from opponent Mickey Parker, leaving him with a cut and swollen eye right out of the gate. The second frame saw the UFC veteran settle in and put his superior athleticism and technique to good use, landing the cleaner combinations and crisper single shots.
Godbeer appeared to drop Parker in the 3rd, but the referee ruled it a slip and declined to make a count. The heavyweight behemoths traded big punches in the fourth, but despite a badly swollen eye it was Godbeer firmly in pole position for the home stretch.
“It’s different, it really is…” said Godbeer of the experience. “You’ve followed my career, I will stand and bang with people. My eye is swelled shut… and that’s just from jabs. You can’t just brawl, you’ve gotta be smart.”
With five rounds under his belt, a seemingly reinvigorated Godbeer gave full credit to his opponent for re-awakening the beast within him after a turbulent few years in the combat sports game. I’d lost the passion for it…” he mused “…and for me to bring it back, I had to turn back into the street guy, y’know? That nasty, bad guy… ‘Fuck you, fuck everyone’. But this guy was tough, I take my hat off to him. He had this awkward style where he’d drag you into a brawl. This is proper gladiator shit…but I got the win, that’s all that matters”
With a title around his waist there should be no shortage of takers for Godbeer’s next bout in the BKB ring and big man seemed more than happy to oblige.
“I’ve got contract obligations with (MMA promotion) ACA…but I’ll definitely come back and do this…this is caveman shit!”
Chope Stopped Early, Franco Advances in Prizefighter
It wasn’t all plain sailing for MMA converts at BKB 16, as nomadic warrior Will Chope found out to his dismay in a lightning fast encounter with the ruthless Barrie Jones. Jones, with thirty-two bouts to his credit (as a gloved boxer), was arguably the best-credentialed pugilist on the bill and used his experience to tear through Chope’s defences. Ripping combinations to the head and body, Jones dropped his man twice before finishing with another flurry in the very first round.
Ricardo Franco, a student of UFC veteran Danny Mitchell, showed why he is the bookmaker’s favourite to win BKB’s Prizefighter tournament with a bone-jarring first round KO of Connor Tierney. Franco will advance to face Cinderella man James Conelly, who was eliminated in the opening round and brought back due to injury for the semi-finals, taking a decision over ‘Smudger’ Smith to secure his berth.
In a clear contender for fight of the night, Daniel Lerwell and CJ Mills sent each other to the mat on multiple occasions. It was Lerwell with the momentum on his side heading into the third, and after picking himself up of the mat he uncorked the perfect knock-out blow, putting Mills to sleep in front of the ecstatic crowd.
Thrills were also on hand in the evening’s co-main event, as Sean George defended his British lightweight title against the always game Marc Navarro. The challenger was relentless in his forward pressure, but it was the champion’s greater accuracy and combination punching that won the day.
BKB 16 appeared to be a roaring success on the night, playing to a sell-out crowd of around two-and-a-half thousand. The event replay can be viewed on demand via Fite.tv, and the promotion will return to the IndigO2 on June 8th, headlined by bare knuckle kingpin Jimmy Sweeney taking on a yet-to-be-named opponent.