Contenders 23 preview: Everything you need to know, card highlights and how to watch
One of the region's premier mixed martial arts promotions returns again this weekend, with one of the best cards they have ever put on. Mark Heath previews the action at Contenders 23.
What, where and when?
Contenders 23 will be held at the Epic Studios in Norwich tomorrow. The promotion is known as one of the best regional combat sports shows in the country, mixing MMA battles with boxing and K1 bouts, all within the confines of a UFC-sized cage.
There are 11 fights on Saturday’s card – five pro MMA clashes, five boxing dust-ups and a K1 collision to start the evening’s action.
The first fight is set for 7pm, with the main event scheduled to start at 10.30pm.
Titles on the line?
It wouldn’t be Contenders without a few belts being on the line, and this weekend is no different – there are four straps up for grabs.
Steve Cronk and Maris Karis fight for the 74kg boxing belt at around 7.30pm, before Pawel Lukazczyk and Andris Kazoks trade leather for the 75kg boxing gold at 8.10pm.
On the main card, King’s Lynn’s ‘Super’ Stevi-Ann Levy defends her 61kg boxing crown for the third time against Emma Taylor at 9.20pm, while Julien Bouteix, fresh from his huge upset win over Richard Mearns at Contenders 20, will go for pro MMA bantamweight glory against David Basharat at 9.40pm.
It’s great to see local fighters at the top of such good cards, and the night-ending fight at Contenders 23 boasts a real feel-good story you can get behind.
Dereham’s lightweight prospect Scott Butters – who not long ago was told he could never fight again due to complications from a broken nose – will bid to move his pro record to 2-0 against Frenchman Jonathan Templier.
Butters looked sensational on his pro debut last November, stopping Yohan Salvador in the first round, and the likeable grappler could well be the next fighter off the Contenders production line to move up to the bigger international shows like Cage Warriors, Bellator and BAMMA.
“I’m expecting him to try and keep it standing, but he doesn’t mind being taken down and working off his back. That said, he won’t have ever been hit like I’m going to hit him and my ground and pound is so much nastier since my last fight.
“I’d quite like to keep it standing as it’s what I’ve been working on, but if I’m not having the success that I want I know that I can take him down, work my wrestling and get the submission.
“It means the world to me to be the main event in my hometown – it’s awesome, and gives me the platform to show what I really can do.”
There’s a cracker in the co-main too, as Luke Shanks, one of the country’s top flyweights, faces off with Greece’s Apostolis Geropoulos.
Shanks (2-0) is coming off a submission win up at bantamweight on the excellent ACB promotion, and has won both his pro fights by choke.
It will be fascinating to see if the BST Northampton talent can keep that streak going against his experienced foe, who boasts a 3-2 pro record and has held a bantamweight title in his homeland.
As already mentioned, Stevi-Ann Levy defends her 61kg boxing belt for the third time on the main card, and it’s a fight you don’t want to miss.
Levy is fantastic to watch, throwing slick, quick combos and boasting superb footwork. She’s also not averse to going to war if needed and showing her toughness.
A fixture on Contenders cards, she’s always one to look out for – and you can’t miss her in those trademark ‘Superwoman’ shorts!
Boxers from the Kings Lynn-based Heros Gym were the undoubted stars of the first-ever Contenders Kickboxing event last month, and there’s another healthy turn out here.
Aside from the aforementioned Levy, Andris Kazoks – who had the KO of the night at Contenders 22 – goes for gold, while George Jubby and Irvirdas Juskys will also lace up the gloves.
I was particularly impressed with the latter at Contenders Kickboxing, the ‘Punisher’ displaying the swagger and skills which could take him far in the fight game.
If you can’t be there in person – and I’d highly recommend getting to a Contenders show, you can watch live on FITE TV PPV.