Cage Warriors capped off a pair of cards with an emphatic main event in Manchester last Saturday, as England’s Christian Leroy Duncan stopped champion Djati Mélan early in the third round to claim the promotion’s middleweight title.
Despite a clear size advantage for Duncan, Mélan was able to take control of the fight early with his grappling. The challenger opened the bout with lots of movement and stance switches as he worked at the champion with kicks, but Mélan was able to grab ahold of a leg and run Duncan to the fence before getting him to the mat. Duncan immediately worked his back to the fence but had to settle for defending from a seated position, as Mélan did well to control the Englishman’s legs and prevent any opportunity for him to stand up. Although the champion wasn’t particularly active with landing strikes from this position, he was clearly in control through the majority of the round as he tried to force Duncan to turn and give up his back. Duncan finally managed to work to his feet with just over thirty seconds left, but it was a promising first round for the champion.
Duncan started the second round much more aggressively, coming straight forward on Mélan for what appeared to be a takedown attempt that forced the champion to the fence. The two clinched briefly before breaking away and returning to space, but an eye poke from Duncan paused the action. A confusing situation followed where Mélan indicated that one of his contact lenses had fallen out, but referee Marc Goddard refused the fighter’s request to put a new one in and the fight resumed. Duncan got right back to work, kicking Mélan’s lead leg and body while also working his jab. The champion briefly grabbed ahold of a leg but Duncan quickly fought off the takedown attempt and returned to stalking Mélan along the fence. The Englishman continued to have success with his jab and kicks, with his feinted kicks particularly troubling Mélan as the round went on. His takedown defense also continued to hold up, and although Mélan managed to get the challenger to the canvas right before the bell Duncan was pretty comfortably in control for the majority of the round.
The contact lens drama continued in between rounds, as Marc Goddard stepped in while Mélan attempted to put a new lens in and threatened to take a point away if there were any further efforts made to replace it. The third round started largely the same as the second, as Mélan continued to struggle with Duncan’s feints and largely just circle around the edge of the cage with his hands in a high guard. An axe kick from Duncan missed but succeeded in backing the champion to the fence, and the challenger stepped forward to throw a perfectly timed flying knee that dropped Mélan to the canvas. Duncan landed a couple halfhearted follow-up shots before Marc Goddard stepped in, but it was clear that Mélan was finished as soon as the knee connected and he landed facedown on the mat.
This was the first loss of Mélan’s career. The Ivory Coast-born fighter won the middleweight championship in just his second bout for Cage Warriors with a decision victory over Matthew Bonner last December, and this loss now brings the his pro record to 8-1.
In addition to capturing the middleweight title, Duncan extended is undefeated professional record to 6-0. The Englishman spent the majority of his amateur career with Cage Warriors as well as the entirety of his pro career with the promotion, and has now earned stoppages in five of his six pro victories. Duncan had the support of the raucous Manchester crowd throughout the fight, and this highlight-reel finish was clearly the biggest win of the twenty-six year old’s young career