Archive for November 7, 2008

M-1 Challenge: Team Holland vs. Team Japan

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 by jaytan716

Tonight marks Round Ten of M-1 Challenge, a year-long round-robin MMA tournament which is best be described as the international (and far better presented) answer to the IFL.  In this meet, Team Holland takes on the hometown boys, Team Japan, for dominance in the Group B standings.

For the uninitiated, the format of this tournament splits ten “national” teams into two groups of five – Group A and Group B.  The teams in each group square off in best-of-five dual meets, similar to high school wrestling, in the traditional MMA weight classes of lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight.  The winner of that series earns a credit for a team challenge victory.

Group standings are based on a combination of team challenge victories and a cumulative score of individual match victories.  In the case of tied team records, such as Team Holland’s three-way tie for first place with Team Spain and Team Russia Legion, the individual match record prioritizes ranks.

In Group B, Team Holland is tied for first place with Team Russia Legion and Team Spain with team challenge records of 1-1.  However, Holland’s 7-3 individual fight record is enough to edge out the other two, whose individual match records are 5-5.  A win for Team Holland would solidify their top ranking with a 2-1 team challenge record.

Although currently ranked in fourth place, Team Japan (1-0), has the most to gain in victory tonight.  A team win would give them a 2-0 team challenge record, with (at worst) a 6-4 individual fight record.  An unblemished team challenge record should vault them over Holland, who would then be 1-2 in team challenges.

The rules are an abbreviated mix of PRIDE and Unified Rules values:  three judges preside over matches which are two five-minute rounds (with a possible third round in the case of a draw at the end of round two).  Leg strikes (knees and kicks) to the head to the head of a grounded opponent are prohibited, as are elbows above the neck.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on July 17th of this year at Korekuen Hall in from Tokyo, Japan.

Lightweight Division:  Bogdan Christea (Team Holland) vs. Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan)

This is a highly anticipated bout between two fighters who are undefeated in M-1 Challenge action.  Bogdan Christea comes into this match with one submission win and one knockout win.  Nakmura has a decision victory over Yuri Ivlev in what proved to be a fantastic battle.

Round Two (joined in progress):

Unlike his last M-1 match, Nakamura has opted to not wear wrestling boots.  This proves to be a good call, because right after missing a flying armbar attempt, Christea goes for a heel hook that would have put Nakamura in serious danger.  Nakamura counters with a tight kneebar, and for the first minute of the match, the two jockey for leglock submissions.  Both of them seem to be on the verge of scoring a tapout.  Nakamura eventually gets half mount and rolls into an armbar, but Christea escapes without much trouble.  These two are back-and-forth for ground control and top position.  Christea persists on going for Nakamura’s back, and continues to get it before Nakamura counters with an armbar, then a kimura.

At one point, the ref clearly calls “stop, stop, stop, stop. . .” for a break in the action.  Nakamura apparently interprets this as a stand-up, as he gets up, turns, and walks away.  Christea, however, either doesn’t understand English or he’s paying more attention to his cornermen, who are screaming “hit him, hit him, hit him!”  Consider this MMA’s case for the global re-introduction of Esperanto.  Chistea chases after Nakamura and pounds on him with punches.  To his credit, a fighter’s job is to continue fighting until the referee stops the action or pulls him off, which should be happening here, but the ref here is just too slow to get control of the match.  Nakamura quickly counters with a flying armbar, triangle choke, and armbar, making the false-stop a moot point.  Nakamura is tenacious for the tapout, but Christea reaches deep down and counters with ground-and-pound.  The two keep the scrap fast and furious until the bell rings to finish the match.

Tremendous match.  Judges score the match for Nakamura (who did keep the submission pressure on his opponent).  Japan has the first individual fight, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Romano de los Reyes (Team Holland) vs. Ken Hamamura (Team Japan)

De los Reyes, a native gun of the Philippines who now trains in Holland, is 1-1 in M-1 action thus far.  He’s fought steadily since 2005, notwithstanding a brief hiatus in 2007.  Hamamura is a veteran in his own right, fighting an average of 4-5 times per year since 2005.

Round Two (joined in progress):

The two trade stiff leg kicks, with De los Reyes coming up short.  Hamamura pushes the pressure and scores a takedown, but De los Reyes escapes easily.  It’s a stand-up battle, as they alternate between working for hand control (as seems to be Hamaura’s style) in between striking combinations.  Either that or these guys are just “high-five happy.”  De los Reyes works a counterattack strategy, as Hamamura has to chase him around the ring from the center.  Hamamura just doesn’t have a takedown with De los Reyes’ name on it.  Match ends with the bell.

Judges score the match by split decision (one judge scored a tie) for Romano de los Reyes.  Team Holland keeps it interesting with a 1-1 split.

Middleweight Division:  Jason Jones (Team Holland) vs. Yuta Watanabe (Team Japan)

Jason Jones is an explosive, no-nonsense fighter who has gone 4-2 since last year.  Watanabe is out to cause a ruckus tonight, flipping a stiff-arm to his opponent during his intro and refusing to touch gloves in the middle.  When a fighter decides to heel his opponent like this, I never expect good things for him.

Round One:  Jones charges in with a combination to kick off the action.  Watanabe is extremely stiff and jittery in his movement, in contrast to Jones’ calm demeanor.  Jones gets Watanabe on the ground with an explosive judo hip toss that that throws them both in the air.  Jones ends up in Watanabe’s guard.  With not enough action, referee Yuji Shimada orders a stand-up.  Jones blocks a takedown attempt and follows up with jabs that find their mark.  Watanabe swings when an opening presents itself, but Jones strikes are more effective.  Jones slips to his knees and Watanabe pounces on him, sinking in his hooks and working for a rear naked choke.  Jones even gets flattened out, but he’s blocking the actual choke by posting his chin under Watanabe’s arm, riding out the position to the end of the round.

Round Two: Jones bursts out of the corner again with combinations.  Watanabe shoots twice, scoring the takedown on the second shot.  He keeps top position and takes the back, working for a choke.  Shades of round one here.  Jones is in trouble, but defiantly escapes and spins around for top position, reigning down hammerfists from a full mount until referee Yuji Shimada comes in and stops the match at 2:03 of the second round.

Team Holland takes the lead, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Kamil Uygun (Team Holland) vs. Yuji Sakuragi (Team Japan)

Uygun & Sakuragi are approximately the same in match experience, although Yugun is still two years the junior.

Round One:  Uygun comes out swinging haymakers.  Not to be outdone, Sakuragi throws some as well, going so far to implement spin kicks and some “Shonie Carter Specials.”  Uygun grabs his waist off a back fist attempt and tries for the takedown, but Sakuragi blocks it with a standing kimura armbar.  Lots of solid low kicks and body kicks here.  Uygun should have an easier time taking Sakuragi down.  Sakuragi whiffs with a huge looping overhand right, which gives Uygun the opening to take the back and drive Sakuragi to the ground.  Sakuragi transitions to top position, but with little action, referee Daisuke Noguchi orders a stand-up.  Sakuragi continues to go to the well with overhand rights and spin kicks.  Finally Uygun lands three knees and an upper cut which knocks Sakuragi out of the ring and ends the match at 4:51 of the first round.

Team Holland clinches it, 3-1.

Heavyweight Division:  Jessie Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Katsuhisa Fujii (Team Japan)

Jesse Gibbs is on a 3-0 tear.  He also has a 30-pound weight advantage and a six-year youth advantage over Fujii, who we last saw lose by armbar submission to Akhmet Sultanov of Team Russia Legion.

Round One:  Gibbs towers over Fujii, and he makes the most of his reach advantage with some powerful side kicks.  Interestingly, he switches up stances between orthodox and southpaw, perhaps in an attempt to throw Fujii off-guard.  Gibbs kicks Fujii into the corner and clinches up against the ropes.  After the referee orders a restart, Gibbs knees Fujii into the corner, finishing him off with punches to the head and a few more knees for good measure.  Fujii took this flurry squatting and curled up, but never left his feet.  Ironically, if Fujii had gone to his knees, it would have prevented Gibbs’ knee strikes, which could have possibly prevented the TKO finish.

After losing the night’s first fight, Team Holland takes the meet 4-1, which gives them a solid 11-4 individual fight record and a 2-1 team record.

Best Match**: Daisuke Nakamura vs. Bogdan Christea

Worst Match**: Romano de los Reyes vs. Ken Hamamura

**(based on footage aired)

Especially in the past two weeks, there has been some great back-and-forth action and exciting finishes in M-1 Challenge.  Nobody particularly stands out as a breakout star of the promotion, but fighters like Jason Jones (Holland), Bogdan Christea (Holland), Daisuke Nakamura (Japan), Jarno Nurminen (Finland), Yuri Ivlev (Russia Legion), and “Juanma” Suarez (Spain) may be names we hear about again in the future.

Next week, Team USA vs. Team Korea