On Saturday 14th May, The Tanko Main Event returned with another spectacular night of elite level Thai boxing to a full house at the USN Bolton Arena.

Headlining the event was: French-Italian maestro, Fabio Pinca vs the UK’s Reece McAllister, for the ISKA 67kg world title; a co-main between Andrew Lofthouse and Shane Farquharson; and Emma Bragg vs Dakota Ditcheva, for the ISKA 50.5kg British championship as well as a host of talent from the UK and Europe.

With up-to 15 fights overall including seven A-class fights, The Tanko Main Event certainly wasn’t lacking fire power.

The first of the seven A-class fights on the card was, Mark Skeer vs Jack Kennedy and the first two rounds were very active and close between the two, with Kennedy just edging it in round two. However, Skeer clearly had round three in the bag and although the pair of them were not throwing as many kicks as in the first two rounds, Skeer would finish the round the more offensive of the two.

However, round four was when the fight ultimately turned around in Kennedy’s favour despite Skeer seeming to be quite effective with his clinch-elbow engagements. The body language of both fighters would tell a completely different story especially at the end of round four when Skeer returned to his corner looking deflated and Kennedy full of confidence with his hands up in the air.

It was a very competitive and exciting fight to watch between Skeer and Kennedy with the latter sealing the victory by unanimous decision (UD). Both fighters showed that they are very durable, tough and talented but the fight was a lot closer than a UD would suggest and could’ve gone either way.

Panicos Yusuf vs McLachlan at The Tanko Main Event
Panicos Yusuf vs McLachlan at The Tanko Main Event

Panicos Yusuf got the better of Keith McLachlan in the next fight but McLachlan was not going to stop without putting up huge resistance to Panicos. McLachlan had a very cool, calm and relaxed aurora about him initially but that didn’t mean he was at all passive in any sense. Panicos was the more explosive of the two and had that extra spring in the balls of his feet and performed in a manner reminiscent of an aggressively strong Thai, equipped with an arsenal of troublesome techniques at his disposal.

The first two rounds between Panicos and McLaughlan were fairly even but it was from the third round onwards that Panicos went ‘super saiyan’ on his opponent; utilizing a devastating clinch-elbow game and attacking the body which, ultimately troubled McLachlan resulting in two knockdowns in the second round. Somehow, McLachlan managed to survive even more punishment from Panicos in the third round – many other men would have fallen there and then from the constant pressure that was relentlessly applied by Panicos.

In the fourth round, the damage inflicted on McLaughlan in the previous round was too much for him to shake off and he was unable to, evade, counter-attack or attack Panicos and was somehow surviving in auto-pilot. McLaughlan surprisingly survived another round despite still being hurt from Panicos having targetted his body earlier in the fight and still persevered despite severely struggling in the later rounds. The referee rightfully stopped the fight in the fifth round but McLaughlan showed how mentally resilient he is under pressure.

The next A-class fight was between Brad Stanton and Isaam Salmi in what was a very exciting fight to watch. Stanton virtually bulldozed Salmi in the first round with such aggression and deadly intent and the second round was full of ‘Thai style’ violence too. The pair of them came out of their corners like a pair of Hulks wanting to smash each other but it was Stanton who was always the more menacing, so much so, the referee stopped the fight in the second round to protect Salmi from receiving any further blows from the whirlwind, Brad Stanton.

If Stanton’s demolition job wasn’t enough for the spectators to feast on, rising star, Dakota Ditcheva showed that anything a man can do, she can certainly do just as well if not more impressively.

Emma Bragg vs Dakota Ditcheva at The Tanko Main Event
Emma Bragg vs Dakota Ditcheva at The Tanko Main Event

Dakota Ditcheva didn’t just make light work of Emma Bragg in their ISKA British title fight, she physically and mentally destroyed her opponent from the moment the first round began. The phrase ‘technical violence’ alone can not compliment the hurricane like battering that Ditcheva put on her opponent from the opening round. For someone that is so smiley, friendly and softly spoken, you would never imagine that Ditcheva could possibly transform into an ‘engine of chaos’ inside the ring.

Unfortunately for Emma Bragg, her title hopes vanished within the second round as Ditcheva’s overall approach was too devastating and the onslaught of clinch-knees was too much. It was very clear to see that Bragg had been ‘broken’ in the ring by Ditcheva and I genuinely hope she can rebuild her confidence from being on the wrong side of such a heavy defeat.

Dakota Ditcheva is a serious talent and at only 17 years of age has taken the fight world by storm with many convincing victories to-date. With the overnight withdrawal of Iman Barlow from GLORY Kickboxing’s inaugural women’s 50.5kg tournament, Ditcheva would be the ideal candidate to replace Barlow in time for, GLORY 31 – Amsterdam in July.

Jacob Smith secured a unanimous decision over Criag Jackson but again this was another fight that according to neutrals, was a lot closer than a UD would suggest especially with the equal volume of strikes that were exchanged between the two. However, Smith did give Jackson a bloody nose from a teep to the face during the fight.

If some of the decisions so far hadn’t been a bit controversial then Shane Farquharson’s victory by UD over Andrew Lofthouse certainly was. Nothing bad can be said about Farquharson, he was humble in victory, spoke respectfully of Lofthouse and came across as a genuinely nice guy and is a very good fighter.

Farquharson was able to start the fight a lot more convincingly than Lofthouse who, simply didn’t get going in the first two rounds. It seemed as if Lofthouse was trying to readapt himself and figure out what Farquharson’s tendencies were. This resulted in Farquharson being the more lively of the two for the first half of the fight.

Round three was when the tide started to turn in favour Lofthouse who, became alive and a lot more active than he had been in the first two rounds. Despite taking a left hook flush to his face, Lofthouse was unphased, performed much better and was changing levels to attack Farquharson’s body, especially with the right hand and was using the downwards lead elbow to the face but without any resulting cuts.

From round four, Lofthouse was physically forcing Farquharson backwards and even pulled off his trademark spinning elbow and a spinning kick but Farquharson wasn’t hurt by these despite being on the back foot for the remainder of the fight. However, the judges awarded a UD in favour of Farquharson when it could have been a split decision either way. Things could have unfolded differently if it weren’t for the slow start by Lofthouse in the first half of the fight.

Fabio Pinca wins the ISKA 67kg World Championship at The Tanko Main Event
Fabio Pinca wins the ISKA 67kg World Championship at The Tanko Main Event

The evening would end with a showdown between Reece McAllister and Fabio Pinca that would go the distance in what was another close and exciting fight. McAllister was the taller of the two and would look to capitalize on having longer limbs and keeping Pinca at range. However, Pinca’s vast experience of 120 fights would show on the night as he was able to close down the range and in round two, was able to cut McAllister on his left forehead.

Throughout the fight Pinca was just edging it ahead of McAllister who, wasn’t being dominated by Pinca. The rounds were much closer than a UD might initially suggest on reading the results.

Pinca would take the centre of the ring, looked to be more in control (despite being swept and thrown over the top rope by McAllister at one point) and would consistently be switching his stance and attacking McAllister with deliberate left kicks from southpaw, targeting his arms and body.

The main difference in the fight was that Pinca was able to mix things up better than McAllister who, wasn’t able to rely on using his straight kicks and punches to keep Pinca at distance as much as he would have preferred. However, having such vast experience that Pinca has is what help’s a very good shorter fighter against a very good taller opponent.

Overall, it was an excellent show by The Tanko Main Event and it was quite evident from how each and every fight unfolded that Tanko had invested a lot of time and energy into ensuring top quality match-ups (despite some pull outs in the build up) to deliver an evening full of entertaining fights.

For anyone who hasn’t been to The Tanko Main Event before, make sure to get tickets for the next one because this show is too good to miss if you appreciate the best of the best in Muay Thai on home soil.

For anyone new to the sport, you will certainly be entertained and guaranteed value for money not simply because The Tanko Main Event is stacked with talent but also because of the way that they eloquently prepare the venue for such a grand show, how well managed the show is on the night (with the added bonus of continuous fights) and last but not least because of the positive and even family friendly atmosphere that a Tanko Main Event delivers.

Tanko Main Event Results:

Tanko Main Event A-class Fights

Fabio Pinca def. Reece McAllister (via UD) – ISKA 67kg World Championship
Shane Farquharson def. Andrew Lofthouse (via UD) – 63 kg
Jacob Smith def. Craig Jackson (via UD) – 57kg
Dakota Ditcheva def. Emma Bragg (via round 2 TKO) – ISKA 50.5kg British Championship
Brad Stanton def. Isaam Slamm (via round 2 TKO) – 68kg
Panicos Yusuf def. Keith McLachlan (via round 5 TKO) – 63kg
Jack Kennedy def. Mark Skeer (via UD) – 66kg

Tanko Main Event B, C & N-class Fights

Scott Stewart def. vs Steven Gregory (via UD) – 82kg – B-class
Artur Saladiak def. Dilwyn Jones (via round 3 TKO) – 76kg – B-class
Matthew van Lierop def. Lewis Tams (via UD) – 78kg – B-class
Robbie Collins def. Glyn Blackburn (via round 4 KO) – 68kg – B-class
Jack McGuire def. Leyton Collymore (via UD) – 70kg – B-class
Jordan Trainor def. Liam Brennan (via UD) – 66kg – C-class
Stefan Sheridan def. Kieran Adamson (via majority decision) – 68kg – C-class
Adam Homer def. Jordan Nadeem (via UD) – 50kg – N-class
Stuart Stabler def. Leon Fletcher (via round 2 TKO) – 57kg – N-class
Lewis Davies def. Harvey Thornton (via UD) – 38kg – Junior