Archive for October, 2008

CXF holds inaugural “Thursday Night Fight Series” with MMA action

Posted in Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by jaytan716

Some call the night before Halloween “Devil’s Night,” and there probably couldn’t have been a more appropriate name for CXF’s inaugural “Thursday Night Fight Series” which took place on October 30th at the El Monte Expo Center.  “Thursday Night Fight Series” is CXF’s new program of bringing various combat sports (boxing, Muay Thai / kickboxing, and mixed martial arts) to local fight fans on a monthly rotating basis, making CXF the only full-scale fight promotion in the state of California.  The debut event delivered no less than ten exciting mixed martial arts fights, drawing a packed house.

Match 1, 145 lbs. – Francisco Rivera vs. Chris Drumm (Team Wildman)

Drumm wins by TKO in the first round.

Match 2, 170 lbs. – R.J. Clifford vs. Dan Hernandez

R.J. Clifford uses ground-and-pound technique to win by TKO at 2:37 in the second round.

Match 3, 174 lbs. catch weight – Devin Howard (Combat Sports Wrestling) vs. Mano Taha (Team Diamond)

The first round saw Taha drop Howard early with a punch that almost ended the match, but Howard was able to hold on and survive.  In the second round, Howard controlled the action with clinch work and a takedown.  The third round delivered the most action, as Howard and Taha scrapped on the ground in a clash of dueling heel hooks.  Neither could get the submission, leading Howard to move into top control, directing the rest of the match with ground-and-pound combinations and an attempted rear naked choke.  Judges awarded the match to Devin Howard via unanimous decision.

Match 4, 145 lbs. – Angelo Catsoures (Subfighter MMA) vs. Ruben Vera (Chute Boxe)

These two submission experts came out trading blows, but eventually went to the ground when Vera scored a trip takedown.  However, Catsoures was able to transition and catch Vera with a triangle choke at 2:01 in the first round.

Match 5, 145 lbs. – Andrew Patlan vs. Brian Abram

Abram scored a takedown early in round one with a textbook hip toss, but Patlan was able to work his way to his feet.  In round two, Abram was in punching control, and again took Patlan down to the ground.  In round three, Patlan stuffed a takedown attempt, and then bulled Abram into a corner with a takedown attempt of his own.  The two nearly fell out of the ring before referee “Doc” Hamilton restarted the match.  Patlan and Abram continued to battle over a takedown and guillotine choke, respectively, to the end of the match.  Judges awarded the match to Brian Abrams by unanimous decision.

Match 6, 185 lbs. – Reggie Orr (Millennia Fight Team) vs. Fernando Bettega (Chute Boxe)

Round one saw Orr and Bettega jockey for position with a lot of clinch work.  At one point, Orr dropped Bettega with a right hook, but it was not enough to put the Brazilian away.  Bettega came out swinging in the second round.  Orr landed a solid body shot on Bettega, who shot in for a single leg takedown.  The third round saw more of the same, as Orr controlled the pace of the match and the center of the ring.  Bettega unsuccessfully shot for another takedown, but ended up on bottom with Orr in his guard until the clock ran out.  Judges scored the decision unanimously for Orr.

Match 7, 125 lbs. — Sofie Bagherdai (Millennia Fight Team) vs. Angela Hayes

In one of the more anticipated fights of the night, Angela Hayes came in from Colorado Springs, CO to challenge local fan favorite Sofie Bagherdai.  The two women used most of round one to feel each other out, with Bagherdai throwing a lot of high kicks that hit their mark, but didn’t seem to do much damage.  Hayes countered with a clinch and side headlock in the waning seconds of round one.  They continued trading kicks in round two, with Bagherdai opting to target low with kicks and follow up with two single leg attempts.  She continued her single leg campaign in round three, finally taking Hayes down and working ground-and-pound to the end of the match.  Judges awarded the match to Bagherdai via unanimous decision.

Match 8, 265+ lbs. – Tim Persey (No Limits) vs. Ross Clifton

This battle of superheavyweights was short-lived, as “Big Perm” Persey pushed “Grizzly” Clifton into the corner.  Clifton came out of the corner off-balance and caught a punch by Persey that put him to the mat.  Persey followed up with punches for a quick TKO win in 21 seconds of the first round.

Match 9, 155 lbs. – Toby Grear (True Warrior Fitness) vs. Anthony McDavitt (Gazza Academy)

In what many will point to as match of the night, Toby Grear and Anthony McDavitt fought a war which was clearly driven by personal drama as well as professional competition.  McDavitt attacked with several single leg takedown attempts, which Grear neutralized with overhooks and knees into the ropes.  McDavitt did drop Grear with an overhand right and got top position in Grear’s guard.  But from there, Grear pushed the action from the ground, landing elbows and almost escaping with au up-kick and roll-out.  After the first round ended, McDavitt shoved Grear away, fueling an already heated battle.   Round two saw McDavitt shoot in several times for takedowns, with Grear evading and countering with body kicks and low kicks.  In round three, Grear picked his shots selectively before dropping McDavitt with a hard straight left, then following up with a single kick to the midsection before the referee jumped in and stopped the fight.  Toby Grear wins by KO in the second round.

Match 10, 205 lbs. – Jaime Fletcher (Combat Sports Wrestling) vs. Nick Braker (West Coast Jiu-Jitsu)

In the main event, Braker and Fletcher fought another war of attrition, as each vied for control against the other in the clinch and in whizzer position that seemed to travel all over the ring.  At one point, Braker tripped to the mat, but Fletcher wasn’t able to capitalize on the potential takedown.  The clash for control continued in round two, as Braker and Fletcher continued in the clinch.  There was a lot of respect going on, as both were very cautious in throwing knees, and even more guarded in blocking them.  Braker finally forced the takedown.  As round two ends, Braker is going for a takedown and Fletcher is working for a guillotine choke.  In round three, Fletcher came out swinging, and at one point almost dropped Braker, who continued to fight for the single leg.  Braker spent tons of energy trying for the takedown, but doesn’t seem fatigued.  Fletcher worked  knees from the corner and eventually pulled Braker into his guard for a guillotine choke, ending the match by submission at 2:41 of the third round.

On November 13th,  CXF returns to the El Monte Expo Center with more “Thursday Night Fight Series” action with a full card of boxing.  This event features the boxing return of former EliteXC Lightweight MMA champion Karl “K.J.” Noons (7-1, 5 KOs), who squares off against Ontario’s Alex Bogarin (8-6-3, 2 KOs).  Also in action will be the hometown heavyweight Javier “Monster” Mora (21-4-1, 17 KOs), stepping into battle with Jonathan “Too Sweet” Williams (7-5-1, 6 KOs).

Tickets for this event are available at www.californiaxtremefighting.com.  For more information, call 949-716-2557 or email Craig@mezsports.com.

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M-1 Challenge TV Report: Team USA vs. Team France

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by jaytan716

Tonight, Group A is the battleground, as Team France squares off against Team USA.  Victory for Team USA, who is currently in last place, would put them in a 1-1 three-way tie with Team Red Devil and, ironically enough, Team France.  If victorious, Team France will jump to first or second place (depending on individual match records) with a 2-0 record.

This meet originally took place on July 17th of this year at the internationally-renowned Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.  On the mic to call the match action are M-1 Challenge’s English announcers Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith.

Lightweight Division:  David Gardner (Team USA) vs. Samuel Judes (Team France)

David Gardner (14-8-1) is a journeyman fighter who now is based with Team Quest.  Samuel Judes (3-1) is a judo expert.

Round One:  Gardner has an obvious height advantage, probably by four inches.  He drops Judes with a solid right hand and takes the Frenchman’s back on the mat.  Judes turtles up and waits, but eventually gets up again.  Judes shoots in for a single leg in the corner, which Gardner uses to work for a standing kimura, eventually taking the fight to the ground.  Gardner is throwing punches from Judes’ guard.  Judes tries to use the ropes for leverage, seemingly unaware that this is illegal.  Judes escapes and goes for another single leg, but Gardner stuffs it and takes back control, dropping short right hammerfists.  Gardner is happy punishing Judes with strikes, but isn’t making much progress.  Referee Daisuke Noguchi restarts the match in the middle.  Gardner continues his assault until Judes flattens out and goes limp with his head under the ropes.  Noguchi stops the match at 3:38 in the first round,

Team U.S. chalks up the first win, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Jake Ellenberger (Team USA) vs. Farouk Lakebir (Team France)

Jake Ellenberger is another gun-for-hire fighter who’s enjoyed some high profile notoriety with matches in the IFL and BodogFIGHT.  Jake went 12-0 after his 2005 debut before losing a close decision to Jay Hieron in 2006.  Since then, Jake has earned TKO victories over the likes of Zach Light, Ryan Stout, Gil Castillo, and even a KO of Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons in November 2007.

One inherent disadvantage for Team France is that MMA is not yet legal in their country, forcing aspiring fighters to train and get matches outside their homeland.  This probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise, given France’s reputation as “the Country of Human Rights.”  As such, Lakebir, nicknamed “Paco,” has made Holland his home base for training.

Ellenberger and Lakebir burst out of the gate swinging.  Ellenberger gets rocked with a powerful overhand right, but he buys some recovery time with a clinch and high knees to the body.  The two fall to the ground and get up again in the clinch.  Very exciting first round action.  Ellenberger imposes his will on Lakebir with a clinch in the corner and high knees.  Lakebir unsuccessfully tries to counter with a single leg.  Ellenberger takes it to the ground with a spinning armdrag takedown.  Lakebir has no answers at this point and is simply holding on, hoping for a stand-up.  Sure enough, they’re back on their feet, but Ellenberger scores another takedown just as quickly and keeps the pressure on Lakebir to the round’s end.

Round Two:  Both fighters are clearly aware of who won the first round, as Ellenberger is composed, while Lakebir looks rabidly for an opening.  They trade leg strikes.  There’s not a lot of power behind Lakebir’s shots, but they’re far more prevalent.  Ellenberger catches Lakebir with an effective knee to the chin, but isn’t able to finish him off, and accepts half-guard control.  Referee Noichi Takamura orders a stand-up, which gives us some more leg kicks and punch combinations, but once again, Ellenberger takes it to the mat.  Lakebir shows some submission skills for the first time with a kimura.  He gains top control and is working ground-and-pound combinations and a rear naked choke, but it’s too little too late, as round two ends with the bell.  Judges award the match to Ellenberger via majority decision, with one judge calling it a draw

Team U.S. is up 2-0.

Middleweight Division:  Mike Dolce (Team USA) vs. Karl Amoussou (Team France)

The theme of this match is age vs. experience, as both these men come in with the same number of matches, but Amoussou has a ten-year youth advantage over Dolce (who, in his own right, is the strength and conditioning coach for Team Quest).  Amoussou, nicknamed “Psycho,” is a fan of head games, as he stars Dolce down with a homicidal stare ala Wanderlei Silva.  This is gonna be good.

It’s firsts of fury from the get-go as Amoussou drops Dolce with a wicked combination and goes for the kill with heavy ground-and-pound assault.  The ground fighting gets caught in the ropes several times, leading to restarts in the middle.  Finally, the fight resumes on its feet, and once again, Dolce and Amoussou swing for the fences.  Dolce scores a double-leg takedown, which results in another restart in the middle.  Amoussou goes for a triangle choke, but Dolce escapes and keeps the pressure on with steady ground-and-pound.  Another stand-up restart.  By now, Amoussou is clearly fatigued.  Both fighters are more selective with their shots, but Dolce still has gas in his tank.  Amoussou trips Dolce a few times with some low kicks, but doesn’t capitalize on them.  Ding.

Round Two:  Amoussou is squinting in his left eye, indicating some vision problems, but he doesn’t shy away from attacking with high kicks.  Amoussou scores a solid right kick to the body, which Dolce instinctively no-sells.  Seconds later, the pain kicks in, as Dolce turns his back and waves the Frenchman away.  Amoussou, unsure if the paperwork is fully signed on this match, pounces on Dolce with punches, but the ref jumps in quickly and ends the match.

Team France gets on the board with their first win of the night.

Light Heavyweight Division:  Barry Guerin (Team USA) vs. Christian M’Pumbu (Team France)

M’Pumbu, a Zaire native who was raised in France, comes in with an impressive 9-1 record, with six of those wins by submission.  He made his debut in mid-2004 and didn’t fight again until March 2006, but has been on a tear since then.  Barry Guerin is a Detroit native who now resides fulltime in Tokyo.  He teaches from his extensive background in martial arts, including taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, and pankration.

Round One:  Guerin is jumpy from the start, possibly in part because of the M’Pumbu’s huge height and reach advantage.  Guerin overcommits to an overhand right that misses by a mile.  The momentum sends him spinning to the mat.  M’Pumbu jumps on Guerin and throws ground-and-pound flurries until the expat American taps out at 32 seconds into the first round.

With the meet tied at 2-2, the meet victory comes down to the heavyweights.

Heavyweight Division: James Jack (Team USA) vs. Malick N’diaye (Team France)

Between weight and win-loss records, this looks to be a fairly even match.  James Jack is an MMA rookie in 2008, but he’s kept a very busy pace, going into this match with a 2-1 record.  N’diaye (1-1), is building his MMA record on the lower-level circuit in Japan, although both of his previous matches were in 2006.  Both are hovering around the 265 lb. heavyweight limit, with Jack at 263 lbs. and N’diaye at 271.

Round One:  Jack shoots for, and scores, a takedown, but N’diaye is quick to try for a  guillotine.  Jacks gets side mount and works for a keylock.  Unsuccessful, he moves to the side mount and drops hammerfists and elbows.  N’diaye doesn’t have an answer from bottom, but he does escape to his feet.  Jack shoots for takedowns several times, but N’diaye ends up on top each time.  Finally. N’diaye falls into half-mount and sinks in an Americana for the tap at 3:54 in the first round.

Team France snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, 3-2.

Best Match**: Mike Dolce vs. Karl Amoussou

Worst Match**: Barry Guerin vs. Christian M’Pumbu

** (based on footage aired)

It was a good night for Team France, who came back from a 0-2 individual match deficit to win their second team victory 3-2, subsequently moving them into second place in Group A.  Ironically enough, Team USA’s two individual match victories for the night push them out of last place, leapfrogging over Team Korea.  However, this moral victory could be short-lived, as the Koreans still have another team meet before the standings are truly even.  Similarly, top-ranked Team Finland has an artificial advantage over their Group A compatriots, as they are the only team with three meets under their belts.

Next week, Team Holland vs. Team Japan.

Verbal Sparring: Tony Lopez (King of the Cage Double Champion)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , on October 31, 2008 by jaytan716

JT:  You’ve had quite a year.  You won the KOTC Heavyweight title in July in Wisconsin, and now the Light Heavyweight title three months later.  How does it feel to be a double champion?

TL:  It’s kinda weird, because I don’t feel it until I talk to people.  Or when they find out I got the [Light Heavyweight title], they’re like “you got two belts?”  So then I have to tell everybody about the fight and I start feeling it the more I say it – “I got two belts.”  And it feels good.  Every time I say something or talk about it, it starts kicking in more and more.  But it’s a good feeling.

JT:  You join a very select group.  You and Dan Henderson are the only people to win two titles in larger, more recognized organizations?  It says something about you and King of the Cage.

TL:  Yeah, it’s awesome.  I was hoping Terry would give me this opportunity, to try and get both, and I’m just so grateful that he did.  So now it’s time to show my face by giving better shows and upping my performance.  [To] go out there and make it more brutal and bang hard.

JT:  More brutal than your match with Joey Beltran?

TL:  A lot more!  Because it was good way to finish it, but there wasn’t enough action before that.  I was disappointed in that.  Not enough exchanges of blows and blood.  I want more of that.

JT:  Do you feel added pressure to perform as a fighter?

TL:  I’ve always put the same pressure on myself, whether I have a belt or not.  I gotta go out there and bang.  Now that I have the belt, I want to put on matches that reflect the prestige [the belt] deserves.  I gotta make my wins a lot cleaner and smoother.  I’ve got to make it look effortless.  I gotta show what a champ’s all about.  A double champ!

JT:  How will making weight for two different weight classes affect your training & diet?  Will you monitor your walk around weight differently?

TL:  My normal weight is about 214 lbs.  That’s normal for a light heavyweight because you normally drop about ten pounds or so [prior to weigh-ins].  I drop weight to 205; its nothing.  Now for a heavyweight, I just do what I normally do, weigh in at 214, and take care of business [laughs].

JT:  Would you bulk up if you faced guys closer to the super heavyweight range?

TL:  No, because normally, the guys that I fight are anywhere from 240 to 265.  I always weigh the same.  I think it’s going to make it easier for me when I go down to 205 because I’m used to bigger guys with 30-40 pounds on me.

JT:  Which weight class do you think is going to give you a tougher roster of opponents?

TL:  I don’t really look at the guys in my weight class because I don’t like to know about them.  Because it messes with my mind and my training.  As a matter of fact, with this last fight with Fernando [Gonzalez], I knew he had cornered Jon Brock, whom I fought in January, but I didn’t really know who he was.   I’d seen a few pictures of him, but in my head, I built him up to be this six foot tall . . . just a monstrous body on him, everything I could think of.  So that way, when I saw him and he was nothing like what I saw in my head, it made it a lot easier for me.

JT:  How do you want your defense schedule to play out?

TL:  I’d like to go back and forth.  It doesn’t matter which one comes first.

JT:  Over the past few matches, we’ve seen you bring your “Kryptonite” character to life.  Tell us a bit more what that’s about.

TL:  I want to create a character that people can see and think “he’s not from here; he just goes out there and whoops ass.  I don’t know how he does it or what he’s gonna do, but he does it.”  I’m trying to say Kryptonite is here – he’s gonna whip on anybody.  He’s like the monster from another planet . . . When he gets hit, he gets mad, stronger, and more vicious.  That’s when you don’t want to be in the cage with [Kryptonite].  There ain’t nobody you can put in there who’s gonna defeat him. 

JT:  Do you know when you’re fighting next?

TL:  Hopefully by mid-November, I’ll have an idea of what weight I’m fighting and with whom.

One more thing I wanted to say is that for this last fight, I was fit about five weeks out prior to it.  From that point up until the fight, I think I trained maybe only five or six times;  I was moving to a new area, a lot of things just came up, and didn’t have a place to go [to train].  The night before the fight, I got a fever and my voice was just sapped.  So that night, the fans all saw Kryptonite at his weakest point.

JT:  And he still came away with the gold.

TL:  The next time I come in [and defend the title], you’re gonna see a different fighter.  You’re going to see more quickness, more movement.

M-1 Challenge: Team Spain vs. Team Russia Legion

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by jaytan716

Last week, the Team Finland vs. Team Red Devil meet aired several weeks ahead of its scheduled broadcast.  However, tonight continues the chronological sequence, as Team Spain takes on Team Russia Legion for third place in Group B.

Currently, Team Spain is tied for second place with Team Japan, standing 1-0 in team challenges and 3-2 in individual matches.  Team Russia Legion is just behind the pair, standing 0-1 in team challenges and 2-3 in individual matches.  A victory for Team Russia Legion would shift them into a three-way tie with Team Spain and reigning top dog Team Holland, pushing Team Japan to fourth place.  A dominating match performance of 4-1 or better would solidify Russia Legion’s second place status in individual matches, which could be just enough of an edge to help them usurp Team Holland from the #1 spot.  For Team Spain, victory will propel them to the top of the overall team standings.

This meet originally took place on June 27th of this year in St. Petersburg, Russia.  As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.

Lightweight Division:  Carlos Valeri (Team Spain) vs. Yuri Ivlev (Team Russia Legion)

Although Carlos Valeri has an experience advantage by five matches, his Achilles heel is in defending against submissions, having lost at least five times to chokes and armbars.  Yuri Ivlev’s previous match was an explosive bout that he conceded to Daisuke Nakamura.by decision.

Round One:  Valeri has a significant height and reach advantage over Ivlev, which illustrates a recurring “David vs. Goliath” that will play out for the rest of the night.  Regardless, Ivlev, a judo and sambo expert, is unphased, and attacks with a flurry of strikes, including a surprise spinning back kick to the head.  Valeri is trying to get control of the pace of the match, but Ivlev sticks with his fundamentals and takes Valeri down with a textbook hip toss.  Ivlev opts to keep the match standing. Once Valeri is on his feet again, Ivlev attacks with another combination of strikes and subsequent hip toss, right into an armbar.  Valeri doesn’t even try to fight it before he taps out at 2:31 of the first round.  Awesome finish.

This is what an MMA Jamie Noble would look like, if he were booked to win.

Team Russia Legion is on the boards 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Juan Manuel “Juanma” Suarez (Team Spain) vs. Islam Karimov (Team Russia Legion)

“Juanma” Suarez is undefeated, with a series of victories prior making his M-1 debut in May.  Islam Karimov, a sambo and karate expert, hopes to redeem himself after a TKO loss to Team Japan’s Ken Hamamura.

Round One:  Again, Suarez towers over Karimov.  But Karimov takes the fight to Suarez, forcing him into the corner with a front kick and punch combination.  Suarez jumps into guard, but Karimov controls the momentum and slams Suarez onto the mat.  The next few minutes are a jiu-jitsu chess match, as Suarez works for triangles and armbars, both off his back and in mid-air, as Karimov attempts another slam escape.  Suarez is meticulous with his grappling, but Karimov, for his part, is composed and doesn’t flinch at the sign of danger.  Finally, Suarez sweeps Karimov, gets his hooks in, and attacks from above with submission attempts and ground-and-pound openings.  Suarez gets to his feet briefly, but then passes guard and takes mount control just as the round ends.

This is a great jiu-jitsu demonstration for the uninitiated fan.  Round One goes to Suarez for the ground dominance.

Round Two:  Karimov quickly drops Suarez with a kick-overhand right combination.  Suarez goes back to the well and tries to jump guard, but Karimov has learned his lesson and works to keep the fight standing.  Karimov peppers kicks to Suarez’ legs.  Suarez finally gets up and lands some rights, driving Karimov back.  Another jump guard against the ropes.  Referee Victor Korniev orders a stand up.  Suarez campaigns for a position restart in the middle of the ring, arguing that he was attempting a submission.  Great success for Suarez!  Kimura, sweep, stand-up.  Jump guard, sweep attempt.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Karimov grounds Suarez to the mat with a waist clinch until the round runs out.  As expected, Suarez takes the decision.

Team Spain ties the meet at 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Eulogio Fernandez (Team Spain) vs. Ansar Chalangov (Team Russia Legion)

Eulogio Fernandez makes his MMA debut tonight.  Ansar Chalangov, a two-time UFC veteran from 2005-2006, was caught in a rear naked choke in his last M-1 Challenge match.  Aside from the obvious experience gap, the difference is a wash.

Round One:  Fernandez is jumpy and nervous.  Chalangov wants his redemption.  He shoots for a double-leg takedown and bulls Fernandez into the corner.  Fernandez keeps a tight guard on the ground, but Chalangov works from the feet, going for a standing toehold in the corner.  He gets caught in the ropes slightly, but Fernandez taps at 1:20 of the first round.  Chalangov breaks his 4-match losing streak.

Team Russia Legion regains the meet lead, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division:  Rafael Rodriguez (Team Spain) vs. Besike Gerinava (Team Russia Legion)

Rafael Rodriguez has several more matches under his belt than Besike Gerinava, but the Russian sports an unblemished 5-0 record.  Gerinava has strong takedown skills and is dangerous on the ground.  His previous outing was a decision victory against Yuji Sakuragi.

I didn’t remember Gerinava being so hairy in his match against Sakuragi.  Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, which makes Gerinava a Wookie.

Round One:  Rodriguez replaces Spanish MMA star Daniel Tavera in M-1 competition.  Gerinava charges Rodriguez and takes him down.  Rodriguez, who’s sporting a Dingo Warrior-style armband tied around his right arm, closes guard and keeps a clinch on the ground.  Gerinava escapes the guard and stands up.  Both try for leglocks.  Rodriguez sinks in a guillotine choke in the corner and weathers a Gerinava slam to the mat.  The Russian finally escapes the choke and opens guard with a can opener.  Gerinava takes side control, then the back, and sinks in a rear naked choke before Rodriguez taps at 4:57 of the round.  Jimmy Smith comments that with seconds left in a round, it’s better to pass out and hope to beat the clock rather than tap.  Clearly, Rodriguez’s strategy was “let the Wookie win.”

Team Russia Legion clocks in their third win, securing the team victory, 3-1.

Heavyweight Division:  Rogent Lloret (Team Spain) vs. Akmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion)

Rogent Lloret is a relative newcomer to the sport, but he’s already fought outside his home country, taking on far more experienced competition (including Jared Hamman and Brazil’s Edson Paredao).  Sultanov (3-0) is a wrestler who scored a quick armbar victory against Katsuhisa Fujii.

Round One:  The two heavyweights feel each other out before clinching up.  Lloret trips Sultanov to the ground, working eventually to full mount.  He spins for an armbar, but Sultanov escapes.  They scramble for position, but Lloret ends up back in Sultanov’s guard, then side mount.  Lloret’s record betrays his skills, as he is very composed and adept on the ground.  Lloret wins the round for control, striking, and submission attempts.

Round Two:  As could be expected, Lloret is more relaxed, while Sultanov seems jarred.   Sultanov tags Lloret nicely with a hard right, but quickly gets taken down again.  Sultanov attempts a leglock, but Lloret takes full mount and starts to drop bombs.  Sultanov creates distance from the ground by arching his back with accompanying body lock.  Lloret tries unsuccessfully for an Americana; he’s able to keep full mount with little threat of being swept, but his ground and pound isn’t effective enough to finish the big Russian.  Lloret works from above to the bell, walking away with a decision win.

Team Spain has the last laugh with the heavyweight moral victory, but Team Russian Legion wins the meet, 3-2.

Best Match**: Carlos Valeri vs. Yuri Ivlev

Worst Match**: Rogent Lloret vs. Akmed Sultanov

**(based on footage aired)

Now two months in, it’s fair to say that M-1 Challenge, as pre-taped one-hour MMA programming, is far superior to predecessors like IFL and BodogFIGHT.  Editing five matches into less than 60 minutes while keeping the integrity of the event is not an easy task.  That said, M-1 Challenge has provided great back-and-forth MMA action, especially considering that there are no household names fighting.  Announce team Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what’s going on in the ring.  Their chemistry is the best this side of Goldberg and Rogan.

For those of you in the Kansas City, MO area, M-1-sanctioned action comes to the U.S. at Harrahs Voodoo Lounge on Wednesday, October 29th.  Two meets will occur: Team Japan vs.Team Spain and Team South Korea vs. Team France, as well as UFC / Affliction veteran Whitehead and hometown hero Bobby Voelker in superfight action.  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 816-931-3330.  Visit http://www.TitanEntertainment.com for more information.

Next week, Team USA takes on Team France, from Tokyo, Japan.

M-1 Challenge TV Report: Team Finland vs. Team Russia Red Devil

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by jaytan716

This week’s episode of M-1 Challenge opens with a surprise discovery.  For whatever reason, HD-Net seems to be playing the series’ episodes out of order.

Last week, we reported on episode four, Team Japan vs. Team Russia Legion, with Team USA scheduled to make their M-1 Challenge debut this week against Team Spain.  However, this week’s episode appears to feature Team Finland vs. Team Red Devil.  To take the punchline even further, the summary info on the DVR setting reads “Spain vs. Russia Legion in mixed-martial-arts action.”

This kind of continuity confusion is something I’d expect more from a Vince Russo storyline, and as such, I make a note on my To-Do list to schedule a conference call with Mark Cuban and Vadim Finkelstein to get to the bottom of this.

In the meantime, we go to Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith for tonight’s event.  Originally taking place on June 27th of this year in St. Petersburg, Russia, Finland (Group A, 2-0 team record) sets out to claim its third team victory.  Standing in their way of that goal is Fedor Emelianenko’s Team Red Devil (Group A, 0-1 team record).

Finland sets out to take its third straight team win vs. Team Red Devil

Lightweight Division:  Niko Puhakka (Team Finland) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Red Devil)

Both Puhakka and Malutin enter with at least 20 matches, according to the tale of the tape, although Sherdog lists Malutin with significantly fewer victories.  Puhakka is pretty serious about his tattoos, with near-full sleeve artwork covering both arms and large pieces on his chest, shoulderblade, neck, and right temple.

Round One:  Lots of feeling out between fighters in the first minute.  Puhakka stuns Malutin with a right cross.  They engage along the ropes until Puhakka goes for a guillotine that turns quickly into an anaconda choke.  He spins around for a rear naked choke with accompanying body triangle.  Puhakka keeps Malutin’s back well, flattening him out several times and transitioning back into a body triangle every time Malutin curls up.  Malutin escapes and takes top positon, but Puhakka does a good job of minimizing Malutin’s offense.  End of round one.  Puhakka  wins for ring control and several submission attempts.

Round Two:  More feeling out.  Malutin charges in, but Puhakka gets the takedown.  Malutin reverses and gets the mount, but they fall into the ropes.  Restart in the center of the ring.  Puhakka gives up his back to Malutin, who seizes the opportunity, takes the back with hooks in, and stays on.  Puhakka rolls over several times, but Malutin stays on him.  It’s like the previous round, but in opposite positions.  Malutin finally wears Puhakka down and sinks in the RNC at 3:32 in the second round.

Team Red Devils are on the board 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Red Devil)

Tulirenta and Oganov both weigh in at 167 lbs.  Tulirenta is one year younger (and significantly taller), but Oganov is the professional senior by 23 matches.  Again, Sherdog would beg to differ the Russian’s record.

Round One:  The two trade kicks and punches cautiously.  Oganov engages Tulirinta and gets the takedown.  Toularenta prevents Oganov from getting side mount and sweeps the Russian for top control.  The two trade submission attempts, falling into the ropes before referee Daisuke Noguchi restarts them in the center.  Oganov is nullifying Tulirinta’s offense with a tight clinch on bottom, but he offers little else action.

Oganov gests the escape and both get to their feet.  Oganov picks Tulirinta and attempts a high slam that ends up resembling a front fisherman suplex.  He ends up falling with the Finn, but isn’t in position to follow through and capitalize.  Oganov throws Tulirinta, this time with a sambo throw, in the waning seconds of the match.  Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith gives Oganov the round.
Round Two:  Oganov comes out much more confident.  Tulirinta is not engaging as strongly.  Oganov stuns him with a series of body shots and liver punches that drops Tulirinta.  Referee Noguchi jumps in and stops the match at 0:56 in the second round, putting an end to Tulirenta’s undefeated win streak.

Team Red Devils are up 2-0.  This event is being held on the deck of a large luxury ship, which leads me to wonder how much the rocking off the ship affects a fighter’s stand-up.

Middleweight Division:  Niklas Winberg (Team Finland) vs. Dmitry Samoilov (Team Red Devil)

Samoilov went 0-1-1 in BodogFIGHT, but otherwise is a regular M-1 fighter.  Winberg’s previous two matches were in 2000 and 2001, respectively.  Both were losses.  Talk about a Quixotic comeback.

Round Two (match joined in progress):  Winberg and Samoliv come out banging.  Samoilov locks horns and sweeps Winberg to the ground.  He maintains control of Winberg by keeping knees on him and dropping punches.  Samoilov keeps this strategy while Winberg struggles to create distance with a butterfly guard and pushing off Samoilov.  Winberg almost gets to his feet, but Semilov gets his back and works for a choke.  Winberg struggles to escape as the match ends.  Judges all give the match to Samilov,.  Announcer Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith note that Winberg took the match on short notice.

Team Red Devils sweep the meet, 3-0 and secure team victory.

Light Heavyweight Division:  Lucio Linhares (Team Finland) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Red Devil)

Linhares normally fights at middleweight, but wanders his way into the light heavyweight neighborhood for this match.  Zayats is 4-1 going into this match, all under the M-1 banner.

Round Two (match joined in progress):  Zayats gets the takedown off a right cross.  Linhares works for a combination kneebar-ankle lock immediately, and almost gets it, but Zayats is able to escape.  Zayats gets top position; but.Linhaeres, a jiu-jitsu expert, continues to work for leglocks.  Zayats escapes and spins around for a guillotine choke.  Good ground work.  Linhares rotates around into side mount, then full mount before Zayats once again transitions into Linhares’ closed guard.  Zayats stands up and spins out, but falls back into guard when he goes back to attack.  Zayats isn’t able to get position for a ground and pound attack.  Linhares restarts his campaign for a heel hook or leglock, but Zayats is saved by the bell.

Linhares believes he’s won round two, which would result in a third tie-breaking round.  Zayats apparently won round one decisively, and the judges believe that he had enough top control to win round two as well.  Linhares and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith don’t agree, but that is how it will read in the record books.

Team Red Devils add a fourth shake of salt on the proverbial wound, 4-0.

Heavyweight Division:  Jarmo Nurminen (Team Finland) vs. Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Red Devil)

Record-wise, these two are evenly matched.

Round Two (match joined in progress):  Sidelnikov is wily, jumping around and using frantic footwork.  Nurminen shoots for the takedown, but Sidelnikov stuffs the shot and follows through with a flurry of punches.  Nurminen gets the full mount and transitions to a rear naked choke, but Sidelnikov escapes.  Nurminen hangs on for the double-leg takedown and drives the big Russian into the ropes, almost bowling over a cameraman standing on the apron.  Thankfully, the hard camera was in position to catch the near fall (pun intended).  Restart in the middle of the ring.  Sidelnikov transitions into Nurminen’s open guard and eventually works to an attempted armbar.  Both heavyweights are visibly exhausted, but they scramble for position on the ground until finally working their way to their feet.  Sidelnikov takes control with a sambo waist clinch.  Cue the triple German suplex spot now.  Instead, Nurminen escapes and goes for a double-leg takedown.  Sidelnikov mars the spot by liberally grabbing the ropes on the way down, but Nurminen uses his weight to bull his opponent down.  He would have been docked points if this had been anywhere but Russia.  Finally, the bell ends the round.

In a close call, Jarno Nurminen claims the match and a team moral victory.  With an unblemished 3-0 record and ironic resemblance, Jarno Nurminen inadvertently becomes M-1’s budding Ben Rothwell.

Best Match**: Lucio Linhares vs. Mikhail Zayats (despite a controversial decision)

Worst Match**: Niklas Winberg vs. Dmitry Samoilov

**(based on footage aired)

Team Red Devil’s performance tonight moves them from third to second place in Group A, right behind Team Finland, who still maintain the group lead by 1 team victory and a 9-6 individual fight record.  In Group B, Team Holland sits atop with a 1-1 team record and 7-3 individual fight record.  Tied for second place are Team Japan and Team Spain, both of whom have 1-0 team records and 3-2 individual fight records.

Next week, Team Spain vs. Team Russia Legion, with upper-level Group B ranking at stake.  If they can secure a victory over the Russians, Team Spain will solidify their second place standing.  For Team Russia Legion, however, victory will pull them from fourth into third place.

Unless, of course, I’m unable to get Cuban and Finkelstein on the phone together to work out the programming kinks.

Verbal Sparring: Fernando Gonzales (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2008 by jaytan716

On October 16th, Middleweight contender Fernando Gonzalez and Heavyweight champion Tony Lopez rendezvous at 205 pounds to square off for the vacant King of the Cage Light Heavyweight championship.  We sat down with Gonzalez to discuss his impending fight and the path leading up to it.

JT:  Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.  I know this is eating into your rest and relaxation time.  First, tell us about your background.  How did you get involved with mixed martial arts?

FG:  I grew up in Menisee.  It’s between Riverside and Temecula.  I started boxing when I was about five years old.  When I was in high school, I was really interested in the UFC, hearing about Tito and all those guys.  When I graduated, I was looking for something to help keep me out of trouble.

JT:  Was yours a rough neighborhood?

It wasn’t so much a rough neighborhood.  But it was more that . . . when there’s not much to do, you get yourself into shit, you know what I mean?  So this just kept me busy and not involved in all the other dumb shit.

I was lifting [weights] at a gym and one of the guys there was passing out flyers for a King of the Cage event.   So I asked him about it.  He said “I sponsor fighters . . . we got this studio where guys train.”  So I went and checked it out and I got sponsored that day.

JT:  What was the name of the studio?

It was Canyon Lake Martial Arts, [run by] Steve and Joey Harriman.  It was a karate studio, but they had a jiu-jitsu guy, Chris Brennan, who was also fighting at King of the Cage.  Chris started teaching me and a few other guys.  About a year and a half after training, I started fighting.  I trained with Chris for about three years.  From there I was training at the Fight Lab with Cory Cass.  Then I started going over to [Team] Quest, and I’ve been training with them since.

JT:  Who’s some of your regular training partners over there?

My main training partners are Jesse Taylor, Thierry Sokoudjou, and Isaias Alvarado.  Isaias is a really good kickboxer who will be coming out pretty soon.  Obviously, we’ve got Dan [Henderson]; we’re around the same weight class.  Vinicius Magalhaes, Dave Gardner, Brian Harper, he’s another King of the Cage fighter.

JT:  Do you have a certain approach or philosophy behind your training?

Train hard, you know?  Beat yourself up in the gym so you don’t get beat up in the fight.  That’s basically how we do it.  I work a lot with Master Bob Chaney also.  He’s my Muay Thai instructor, and he pushes me really hard.  Obviously training with Quest . . . some of the toughest fighters in the world are in our gym.  I got the best of both worlds on my stand up and my ground.

JT:  You’ve got a very even balance of wins, between knockouts, submissions, and decisions.  Do you lean towards one side, as a striker or a ground guy, or a bit of both?

I’m more all-around.  When I first started training with Chris, I worked almost a year and a half of nothing but ground.  I already had the boxing down.  I think that’s what threw people off.  Because I could strike and they think they’d beat me on the ground and then I’d be submitting them or ground and pound . . . but I’m real comfortable with both positions.

JT: What do you know about your opponent Tony Lopez?  Have you studied tape on him?  What do you think will be the toughest part of fighting him?

I didn’t really study too much tape on the guy, but I cornered against him when he fought John Brock.  [Tony’s] real durable; I think, the best thing he’s got going for him is that he’s so damn tough and he’s got a good chin.

JT:  Do you think that that’s going to be the toughest part of the fight for you?

Yes and no . . . I’m actually training my butt off really hard for this fight.  Honestly, I’m expecting a war with this guy. I’m not gonna say I’m knocking him out or submitting him. I hope that happens, but I really trained for the five rounds.  I have a pretty good idea of how he fights and my game plan is to just go out there and see what he gives me, really.

JT:  You normally fight at 185 lbs.  What are your thoughts on fighting up in weight?

I’ve fought at 205 pounds.  Like I said, I go with Thierry Sokoudjou and Krzysztof [Soszynski]. . Strength and weight-wise, I’m comfortable.  My best fight was at 205, when I fought Alex Stiebling, and I beat him at that weight, so I don’t think it’s going to make much difference.

JT:  After your fight with Lopez, who would you like to square off against next?  Would you want to come down to 185, or stay there and defend?

I wouldn’t mind defending once or twice, but I’m an 85’er, really.  And I’m still the #1 contender for that weight class, and I feel that I need to get that one too.  So hopefully I’ll get this one, then drop down and fight for the [185 pound title] as well.  I think that would be cool.  It’d keep me busy, defending both.

JT:  You took some time off from your last fight in April.  What have you been up to during that time?

I work at Pro-Am Kickboxing, where I instruct boxing and kickboxing.  I’d like to fight more frequently, honestly.  But if I don’t have a fight, I’m still training my butt off and trying to get better.

Sometimes it’s good to have time in between because when you’re getting ready for a fight really you’re not going to learn much more.  Because you’re preparing for the fight, like conditioning, and you’re really not going to learn anything else that’s going to help you to fight.  So I like to have a little off time so I can work some new techniques into my game and grow as a fighter.

JT:  Who are some of your sponsors?

I’ve got Combat Clothing, Skin [Industries], Dr. Toy Rancho Chiropractics in Temecula, Tribal Gear out of San Diego. . . I’ve got Siggy’s.  They’re one of my favorites.  It’s a restaurant and they’ve got a whole diet section, so I don’t have to buy food and stuff.  I got a good group of guys helping me out right now.  And Pro-Am has its own clothing line, Sanctioned Violence.

JT:  What has been your best and worst memory in your MMA career so far?

My best memory is probably when I beat Alex [Stiebling].  I fought him in WEC, and I think that was my best moment because when I was little I grew up watching boxing and watching Jimmy Lennon, Jr.  announce all these fights, and he announced my fight, so I was pretty stoked.  I got to take pictures of him and stuff.

I’d say my worst moment was when I fought Jay Martinez.  I went to fight him in Mexico City and I didn’t know there was elevation.  We’re out there fighting and after the first round I wanted to give up, but I was winning so I was like “I can’t do that.”  I ended up gassing out in the second and lost, but it was a good fight.  My hat’s off to [Jay].  I prepared for the fight; I just didn’t prepare for the elevation.  That’s the one that pisses me off the most.

JT:  Going into this week before your fight, do you have any last thoughts?

Not really.  I’m just keeping my head clear.  I’m just chilling out and relaxing before my fight.  Going through my routine like it’s just another fight.  It is for a title, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.  I’m just going to go out there and perform like I normally do and . . . I think I’ll beat him and I’ll come out victorious.

M-1 Challenge: Team Japan vs. Team Russia Legion

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2008 by jaytan716

M-1 Challenge is the latest MMA organization to acquire US TV distribution, broadcasting 20 episodes of their 2008 international tournament on HD-Net.  And although the Russian promotion has existed for over a decade, it’s only recently gained notice in North America, mostly due to promotion head Vadim Finkelstein moonlighting as the manager of M-1’s poster boy, Fedor Emelianenko.

This year, M-1 borrows from the late IFL’s team-vs.-team format, dividing 11 different “national” teams into two different blocks (Group A and Group B) and pitting them against each other in a round-robin tournament.  The countries involved are France, Finland, Germany (aka “Team Europe”), Holland, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United States, and Russia, which features two teams, Russian Legion and Russian Red Devil.  Currently, Team Finland leads in Group A, with a 4-1 victory over Team South Korea.  In Group B, Team Holland rules with a five-match straight sweep over Team Germany.

The rules are mostly PRIDE-based, with three judges scoring two five-minute rounds (with the possibility of a third round in the event of a draw).  Elbows to the head or the throat of an opponent are illegal, as is kicking or kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.  And much like the IFL, team rankings are based on team victories, followed by cumulative individual match victories.

We pick up tournament coverage with episode four, where Team Japan faces off against Team Russia Legion.  This event took place live at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 3rd of this year.

This week’s show opens with a quick recap of the previous event, when Team Finland dominated Team South Korea with a clear-cut 4-1 victory.  Standing out in that clash was heavyweight Jarno Nurminen and welterweight Janne Tulirinta, both of whom who scored dominating TKO victories.

Calling the shots for M-1’s English broadcast are Sean Wheelock (Major League Soccer, PRIDE 34) on play-by-play and Jimmy Smith (Fight Nation) as color commentator.

Lightweight Division:  Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan) vs. Yuri Ivlev (Team Russia Legion)

Nakamura is a Kiyoshi Tamura protégé who built up an impressive record in Japan’s DEEP promotion, but recently fought as a gun-for-hire journeyman since 2006, fighting in Cage Rage, PRIDE Bushido, K-1 Heros, and Dream.  Ivlev is a homegrown M-1 fighter.

Round 2 (joined in progress):

As the round opens, color commentator Jimmy Smith notes that Russia has the home team advantage, and that, going into the second of a two-round match, Nakamura should be motivated to prevent the fight from going to a judges’ decision.  Nakamura pays homage to his pro wrestling roots by sporting black trunks, shin pads, and wrestling boots with his name down the side.  The action is 90% standing, with Ivlev and Nakamura trading punches and knees.  There’s few combinations, and both fighters strangely keep their hands low.  In the last minute, Nakamura goes for a kimura, then an armbar, until the bell rings.

Ironically enough, the judges award the match to Nakamura.  Japan is up 1-0.  Nobody awards Jimmy Smith “best announcer” honors.

Welterweight Division:  Ken Hamamura (Team Japan) vs. Islam Karimov (Team Russia Legion)

Not the closest of match-ups, as Hamamura boasts a 13-4-1 record (mostly in DEEP), while Karimov comes in with a 3-1-1 record.  Sherdog has different records for them, but it still indicates a huge 13-match experience discrepancy.  Both weigh in several pounds less than the 170-pound weight limit.  Karimov is a kickboxer, while Hamamura claims a karate background (and a steady record of wins in a five-year career).

Round 1:

The first round offers a lot of solid up-and-down, back-and-forth action.  Karimov drops Hamamura with a sharp right to the temple, pouncing with right fists to try and finish the match early.  Hamamura scrambles, tries for a leglock, and eventually makes it back to his feet.  Karimov takes it to the floor again with a nice sambo throw.  Hamamura escapes again and the two trade leather.  Karimov is the proverbial house of fire, but Hamamura uses his height and a Muay Thai clinch to nullify the attack.  Another sambo hip toss from Karimov, but Hamamura transitions to a heel hook, then works his way into Karimov’s guard.  Hamamura ground-and-pounds his way to Karimov’s back, but the Russian escapes just before the bell ends the round.

Round 2

Hamamura’s style somewhat resembles Lyoto Machida’s, keeping his distance and attacking with kicks from afar.  Karimov is tired, but keeps the pressure on Hamamura, who takes the Russian down with a hip toss and gets full mount.  There’s not much behind Hamamura’s punches, but Karimov is simply covering up and not working for an escape.  Hamamura continues with his G&P assault until the ref stops the match.    Ken Hamamura wins by TKO at 3:09 in round two.  Japan is up 2-0.

Middleweight Division:  Yuta Watanabe (Team Japan) vs. Ansar Chalangov (Team Russia Legion)

Chalangov is trying to shake a three-match losing streak to Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, and Nick Thompson, respectively.  Going against conventional wisdom, Chalangov has moved up a weight class.  Watanabe is a Tsuyoshi Kosaka protégé and the third straight fighter to hail from DEEP.  M-1 and DEEP have a longstanding history of talent trade, which explains the Team Japan roster.

Round 1:

Watanabe and Chalangov feel each other out until Chalangov shoots for a takedown.  Watanabe drops Chalangov with a looping right, then follows-through with guillotine and triangle chokes.  Chalangov escapes with a slam.  The two struggle for ground control.  Watanabe takes Chalangov’s back and keeps control with a body triangle.  Watanabe gets a rear naked choke and finishes Chalangov in the first round.  Big upset victory for Watanabe, and just a big upset for Chalangov.

Yuta Watanabe wins by submission in 2:32 of round one.  Japan wins the team competition, 3-0.

At this point, Japan’s three straight wins earns them team victory for the night, but with individual match outcomes also affecting team standings, Team Russia Legion is still adamant about scoring a few wins before the night is done.  Fedor’s Red Devil team had the same problems in their first round meet against Team France.

Light Heavyweight Division:  Yuji Sakuragi (Team  Japan) vs. Besiki Gerinava (Team Russia Legion)

Gerinava goes into this match looking to continue his unblemished 4-0 record.  Sakuragi has four times the experience on Gerinava, but with a 9-13-1 Sherdog record, it would appear that Sakuragi is being brought in to be another victim.

Round 2 (joined in progress):

According to the announcers, Sakuragi lost the first round.  Gerinava attacks with several bombs and follows up with a judo throw that almost sends Sakuragi out of the ring.  Gerinava goes for a leglock, but Sakuragi escapes.  Referee Yuji Shimada orders a stand-up.  Gerinava takes Sakuragi down and gets full mount.  Ground & pound is in effect until Gerinava gets an armbar.  But he’s in bad position and against the ropes.  Yuji Shimada stands them up again.

Gerinava scores another takedown and goes into Sakuragi’s guard.  Gerinava pounds Sakuragi’s midsection with rough body shots.  Another stand-up, another takedown, and more G&P.  Sakuragi reverses and takes the mount, then slaps on an armbar in the last few seconds of the match.

Basiki Gerinava wins a unanimous decision, turning Team Russia Legion’s luck for the better.

Heavyweight Division:  Katsuhisa Fujii (Team Japan) vs. Akhmet Sultanov (Team Russia Legion)

Fujii is 35-years old and is 8-13-1.  Sultanov is 27-years old and 2-0.  Ahem.  Both Katsuhisa and Sultanov come from wrestling backgrounds.  Kazuhisa is a Kazayuki Fujita protégé, and is wearing wrestling shoes.  Announcer Sean Wheelock notes that kicks to the head are NOT legal if wearing shoes or boots.  That’s one weapon less in the arsenal of “the other Mr. Fujii.”

Round 1:

Mr. Fujii takes Sultanov down, but the Russian heavyweight reverses and takes Mr. Fujii’s back.   Sultanov sinks his hooks in and goes for a rear naked choke.  He steps over for an armbar and gets the tapout at 0:38 in round one.

Final team score is Japan 3, Russia Legion 2.  Team Japan scores an upset victory over Team Russia Legion with a sweep of the first three matches.  But Team Russia Legion comes back with a moral victory, stealing the light heavyweight and heavyweight bouts.

As TV programming, M-1 Challenge faces similar as the IFL: needing to edit matches down for time, a lack of recognizable (or English-speaking) fighters, little opportunity to showcase

fighters’ personalities, and as-yet unproven team-vs.-team concept.  That said, Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith are a very impressive team, especially considering that M-1 Challenge is their first pairing together.  M-1’s live production value, with the white ring, referee uniform, overhead lighting grid, fighter gloves, and ring entrance design clearly is PRIDE-inspired.

M-1 won’t pose any threats to the American MMA scene anytime soon, but in hosting a year-long tournament that involves 10 different countries, Vadim Finkelstein’s promotion is breaking some new ground in the international MMA scene.

Best Match: Yuta Watanabe vs. Ansar Chalangov

Worst Match: Yuji Sakuragi vs. Besiki Gerinava

**(based on footage aired)

Next week, Team USA takes on Team Spain, from Gran Canadia, Spain.