The 54th installment of Cage Warriors Fighting Championship brings fans a huge middleweight battle between veterans Jesse “JT Money” Taylor and John “The White Mike Tyson” Phillips for the CWFC strap. This is a great match-up for the promotion, putting together a classic striking versus grappling affair.

Taylor, the current champ and former finalist from The Ultimate Fighter 7, brings a professional record of 25-6. In his nearly seven years as a pro, he has finished 18 opponents. Taylor won the belt on Dec. 31, 2012, and, two months later, beat UFC vet and fellow TUF alum Kendall Grove by decision to secure a second belt from another promotion. The win over Grove brought his current streak to five in a row. Primarily a ground fighter, Taylor trains out of Dan Henderson’s Team Quest in Murrieta, Calif. He brings a specific skill set that will make him a tough challenge for John Phillips.

Phillips, of Swansea, Wales, will be fighting in his home country for Taylor’s title. He has been a pro for eight years and has earned a record of 16-5-1. Phillips is a striker, hence his nickname, and he has finished 15 of his opponents. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak, but hasn’t been in the ring since last July. Never having stepped into UFC competition, Phillips has taken on vets like Frank Trigg and Tom Watson, but both of those fights ended unfavorably for the Welshman.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Taylor – 9, Phillips – 10

In the striking department, Taylor, even with five pro knockouts, does not stand a chance. Phillips did not earn the nickname “The White Mike Tyson” because he’s poor on his feet.

Of his 16 wins, 13 have come by knockout. In his first 19 fights, all but five ended with Phillips knocking out his opponent in the first round. His last three fights have ended by submission, but that doesn’t take away from the crisp, powerful boxing that he has showcased throughout his career.

Taylor, on the other hand, has had a handful of TKOs peppered throughout his early career, but the stand-up game is not really his forte. He is very much a grappler.

If this fight stays standing, Phillips will punish Taylor for attempting to compete in the striking game.

Ground Game: Taylor – 10, Phillips – 9

As much confidence as Phillips will have in the striking aspect of the fight, Taylor has exponentially more skill on the ground. Taylor has lived a life centered around grappling, but more in the wrestling department. One can always tell the wrestlers in MMA because their submissions are never really diverse or technical, but they are effective.

Taylor’s submissions have always come by rear-naked or guillotine chokes, which are the two most frequented submissions by wrestlers. They are finishes that are more a product of body positioning than technical know-how. BJJ specialists are good at a variety of armbars, shoulder locks, cranks and snazzy chokes, which are not really in Taylor’s wheelhouse. However technical the 29-year-old is, it doesn’t really matter, because he has a strong build and can manhandle his opponents.

Phillips is no slouch on the ground, but that’s just not what his game is about. The interesting thing is that two of his three submissions happened in his last two fights, and he trains out of Gracie Barra Predators, which is obviously a BJJ-based camp.

Regardless of where he trains, if this fight hits the ground, Phillips will be in big trouble. Taylor is not only more skilled in the ground game, but he also is a lot stockier and will maul Phillips on the ground.

Wrestling: Taylor – 10, Phillips – 9

As alluded to already, the wrestling game is the most lopsided of the three categories. Phillips has no background in wrestling. Outside of using it just enough to let his hands do the work, he hasn’t done much in that realm.

Taylor is a lifelong wrestler and he trains out of one of the most wrestling-dominant camps in the entire world of MMA. “JT Money” wrestled in high school, was a junior college All-American and eventually transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where he wrestled at the NCAA Division I level. He has a two-inch height advantage and is built like Alcatraz Island.

As a longtime member of Team Quest, Taylor spars with some of the top wrestlers in the sport, and his wrestling is really the reason why his submissions come so easy. He is able to out-position most of his opponents on the ground, eventually getting their backs, where it’s “goodnight, Irene.”

For all intents and purposes, Phillips doesn’t hold a candle to Taylor in the wrestling department.


The X-factor in this fight has really been the theme of the comparison, Taylor’s ground game. His superior wrestling could easily nullify Phillips’ entire striking arsenal. Even if Phillips is able to tag his opponent a few times, he will be dealing with a slight reach disadvantage, and if he does get inside, Taylor will almost certainly use his superior wrestling to get this one to the mat.

Total: Taylor – 29, Phillips – 28

Verdict: If Taylor can avoid getting knocked out in the first round, he should easily win this one. Phillips does have the skill and power to hand Taylor his first knockout loss, but with Taylor’s current five-fight winning streak, including two fights in the last few months, he has the momentum and is the fresher fighter. Phillips has been on the sideline for nine months and might be dealing with a bit of ring rust. Taylor should take this one by submission.

Photo: Jesse Taylor (top) (Chris Dela Cruz/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator