Archive for January, 2009

M-1 Challenge: Team Holland vs. Team Russia Red Devil

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by jaytan716

Over eight long months, M-1 Global has hosted ten MMA events in nine different countries.  Fighters from all over the world have competed and represented their homelands in what has been nicknamed the “World Cup of MMA.”  And in that time, two teams have rose to the occasion and taken the top spot in their respective divisions.  Finally, Team Holland and Team Russia Red Devil battle head-to-head for the M-1 Challenge championship.

This event originally took place on January 11th at Studio 47 in Amsterdam, Holland.   As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.

Also worthy of note is that the matches tonight consist of three five-minute rounds, as opposed to the “two fives” of the regular season.

Lightweight Division:   Bogdan Christea (Team Holland) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Russia Red Devil)

Both Malutin and Christea are 3-1 in this year’s M-1 Challenge.  Malutin started the year out with a frustrating decision loss Bendy Casimir (Team France), but went on to win the rest of his M-1 Challenge matches.  Christea won twice by choke and once by TKO, but he lost a hard-fought battle to Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan) via decision.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Color commentator Jimmy Smith recaps that Malutin likely won round one 10-9 for control and heavier hands.  Malutin shoots for the single-leg, but Christea jumps guard and pulls him to the ground.  They’re both busy, but referee Daisuke Noguchi stands them up.  Christea stuffs a takedown and almost gets the back, but Malutin regains top position.  Christea is making Malutin work hard for little effect, but they’re stood up again.  Christea drops Malutin with a left hook just seconds before round’s end.

Round Three:  Christea is unable to trip Malutin over from a waist clinch, but he gets the Russian to the ground and takes top position regardless.  He bulls Malutin into the corner and eventually gets a rear naked choke but Malutin spins around and takes the top. Referee Noguchi repositions them in the middle.  Lots of rolling and scrapping for position.  Christea stuffs another takedown and works for a guillotine.  Another stand-up. . . and another stuffed takedown and guillotine.  Christea is going for chokes and kimuras from the bottom.  They fight to their feet and Christea scores a takedown just before the end of the match.

Judges give the match to Mikhail Malutin by majority decision.  Very close, though.

Team Russia Red Devil is up, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Romano de los Reyes (Team Holland) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Russia Red Devil)

De los Reyes and Oganov also have even records between them, both going 2-2 in M-1 Challenge action.

Round Three (joined in progress):  Jimmy Smith’s recap indicates Oganov has won both rounds.  He’s continues the dominance with a takedown off a penetrating combination.  Reposition in the corner.  Referee Noguchi stands both fighters up and issues mutual stalling warnings.  Another reposition to the center.  Oganov is dominating with ground-and-pound from side mount until the bell.

Judges award Erik Oganov the match by majority decision.  It really should have been unanimous.

Team Russia Red Devil pulls ahead, 2-0.  Championship gold is one match ahead.

Middleweight Division:   Jason Jones (Team Holland) vs. Dmitry Samoilov (Team Russia Red Devil)

Jason Jones steps foot in the ring with a 2-2 record in this year’s M-1 Challenge, including one of the fastest TKO wins of the season, a six-second TKO over Daniel Weichel of the World Team / Team Germany.  Samoilov is 3-1 in the M-1 Challenge, going on a three-match win streak after getting caught by a Karl Amoussou head kick in his first match of the season.

Round Three (joined in progress):  Earlier, Samoilov got a yellow card warning for an illegal headbut.  Jones lands some sharp combinations and knees.  Samoilov returns the favor.  Jones with a textbook takedown from afar.  Reposition in the center.  Eventually, they’re stood up.  Jones forces a takedown and gets side mount, punishing the Russian with knees.  He continues the assault with hammerfists to the end of the match.

Jason Jones gets the decision victory, keeping Team Holland in the game, 1-2.

Light Heavyweight Division:  David Haagsma (Team Holland) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil)

It’s good to be David Haagsma, who makes his M-1 Challenge debut tonight in the finals, filling in for Kimil Uygun on an eight hour notice.  Haagsma is a jiu-jitsu blue belt under Remco Pardoel.  Meanwhile, Mikhail Zayats comes in tonight at 4-0, the only Red Devil to have that honor.  In fact, his only loss this year was to Daniel Tabera (Team Spain) in non-M-1 Challenge action.

Round One:  Haagsma has a significant height advantage.  Zayats hands look sharp as he pushes in with combinations.  He stuns Haagsma with a spinning backfist, but Haagsma slows the action down with a clinch.  Zayats gets the takedown with some effort.  He rains down rights from half-guard and spins around to get an armbar and the tapout at 3:21 In the first round.

Team Russia Red Devil secures their third victory of the night and, as such, become the 2008 M-1 Challenge Champions.

Heavyweight Division:  Jessie Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Alexey Oleinik (Team Russia Red Devil)

Jessie Gibbs another of the small club of 4-0 undefeated M-1 Challenge fighters.  He faces Alexey Oleinik, a fill-in for Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov.  To his credit, however, Oleinik is on a seven-fight win streak, with five of those matches coming over two days in October of last year.  Oleinik is a tournament machine, having fought multiple times in one-night tournaments at least nine times in his career, which dates back to 1997.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Despite an Oleinik-branded takedown, Jessie Gibbs was on top for most of the match and likely won the first round 10-9.  Oleinik scores a takedown after catching a Gibbs-sponsored body kick.  Gibbs scraps to his feet.  Both men throw tired, rather unimpressive strikes.  Gibbs towers over Oleinik and throws some knees, opening up Oleinik’s right eye.  But Gibbs gives up his back standing and Oleinik pulls him to the ground with hooks in.  Oleinik transitions to top position and slaps on an Ezekiel choke for the tapout at 3:42 in the second round.

Team Russia Red Devil walk away adding insult to injury to a second place Team Holland.

Best Match**: Mikhail Malutin vs. Bogdan Christea.  Christea was extremely competitive in this match, and stole the third round, but that apparently wasn’t enough for the judges.  I thought Christea won.

Worst Match**: Erik Oganov vs. Romano de los Reyes.  By the third round, Oganov was walking away with this match.

**(based on footage aired)

The 2009 M-1 Challenge season kicks off on Saturday, February 21st, at the Emerald Queen Casino in Seattle / Tacoma, WA.  Team Challenges include Team USA 1 vs. Brazil, Team France vs. Team South Korea, and Team Finland vs. Team Benelux.  Other new faces this year will include teams from China, England, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Australia / New Zealand.

Advertisements

Verbal Sparring: Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela (King of the Cage Junior Welterweight Champion)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2009 by jaytan716

Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela is a paradox of a fighter.  He doesn’t like his nickname, despite that 1) he’s known by that name almost as much as his own name and 2) it describes a style of fighting he’s trained in all his life.  His team, Millennia MMA, is particularly recognized for their jiu-jitsu game, and he’s won at least half of his victories by submission, but he’ll be the first to acknowledge that he prefers a stand-up slugfest.  And he’s the champion of a weight class above the one he’s fought at throughout his career.

But few names are more synonymous with King of the Cage than “Joe Boxer.”  After a stuttered MMA start in 2003, Valenzuela went undefeated from 2006 to mid-2007.  His feud with Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett was already KOTC’s equivalent to the Ortiz-Shamrock legacy, and when both he and “the Horse” were called up to EliteXC, their bitter rivalry continued on a national stage.  In August 2007, Valenzuela beat Krazy Horse by submission from punches, and one year later, he would become the King of the Cage Junior Welterweight championship.

In between training sessions for his upcoming title defense, I caught up with “Joe Boxer” and got his thoughts on his infamous rivalry, what it means to win championship gold, and the key to giving fans a good fight.

JT:  Let’s start with your background and how you got involved with MMA.

VV:  I grew up in Covina, CA.  I’ve been boxing pretty much since I was probably around eight or nine years old, when I started training with my uncles.  They used to box, so they would teach me how to throw a punch and stuff. . . I married my high school sweetheart, had a couple of kids, worked, and stopped fighting for a little bit.  You know how that goes.

I got back into boxing in my early 20’s.  Just amateur stuff, because I liked to fight.  I didn’t think I was going to turn professional or anything.  I just liked training and stuff.

JT:  Did you go pro with boxing?  Win any championships?

VV:  I won a Golden Gloves by a walkover one year.  There were no opponents in my weight for that one.  I was supposed to go to Colorado for the finals, to try to get into the Olympics, but I never made it there, only because of work and stuff.  I had a mortgage payment and I had a family to take care of.  I was a runner-up in another Golden Gloves tournament.  I turned pro when I was 30 years old.  I tried it out and went 0-2 as a professional; only because I couldn’t really train the way a professional boxer has to train in a fight.  I was working 70-80 hours a week and trying to box and it just wasn’t working out for me.  So I retired.

A buddy of mine – my son used to play baseball with his son – said he knew some guys that grappled and did MMA.  And because he knew I boxed, he wanted to know if I was interested in checking that part of fighting out.  I was interested from watching Royce Gracie do his thing.  I said “yeah man, I would love to learn how to grapple.”  So that’s what got me turned on to Millennia MMA.

We were Millennia Jiu-Jitsu, back when it was a straight jiu-jitsu academy then.  I started training there back in 2002.  And everybody there was grapplers and wrestlers.  I was the only boxer coming in there.  That’s how I got my nickname “Joe Boxer.”  Nobody knew my name, but I was the only boxer in the gym. [Some guy said] “I guess his name is Joe” so they just started calling me “Joe Boxer.”

JT:  That’s one of the more unique ways to get a nickname.

VV:  Yeah, they still clown me about it.  ‘Cuz I hate the nickname.  I told them I didn’t like it, so after that, it was over.  They ran with it and that was my name.  I train with a bunch of clowns.

JT:  You should have known that was going to be the final nail in the coffin.  If you could pick a nickname, is there another name you would want?

VV:   I used to be called One-Punch back in the day, in high school, when I did street fighting.  One punch and I would knock people out.  I wouldn’t mind having that nickname now, but “Joe Boxer” has stuck, so I just roll with it.

JT:  You talked a bit about the street fighting.  I always like to ask fighters if there was anything in particular of their upbringing that they think led them to MMA. Obviously, with you, there was the boxing and the adrenaline rush of competing.

VV:  Honestly, I’ve been fighting since kindergarten.  My first fight was in kindergarten, over a girl.  I don’t even know the guy’s name, but I remember that he liked the girl and I was sitting next to her and he wanted my seat or whatever.  One thing led to another, we got into a fight, and I beat him up.

Ever since then, I guess I had a bulls-eye on me, because guys are always trying to pick fights with me.  I’ve never started a fight in my life.  If we had YouTube back in my day, I’d be Kimbo Slice in the 80’s.

I didn’t even plan on fighting.  I just wanted to learn how to grapple, actually.  I was infatuated by that stuff.  The guy at the gym actually talked me into doing a King of the Cage fight when I fought Shad Smith back in 2003.  I was basically just a boxer fighting Shad Smith, and I almost beat the guy.

JT:  What do you remember of that first fight, as you prepared for it and when you were in there?

VV:  At Millennia, we had a downstairs area we called “The Dungeon,” where all the fighters practiced.  Since I was a boxer, all the fighters wanted to get ready for the fight, they wanted me to go down there and spar with them all the time.  So I never really got a chance to grapple for the first six to eight months.  I was always down with the guys, getting them ready for their fights.

I was doing pretty well sparring with the guys, beating everybody up, dropping people with body shots and hurting people with hooks and stuff.  One of the co-owners from Millennia says “Terry Trebilcock is looking for an opponent to fight Shad Smith.”  I said “hell now, I’m not even in this to be a cage fighter.  I’m just a retired boxer who wanted to learn how to grapple.”  I wasn’t even expecting to be a fighter.  I just wanted to learn a little bit of jiu-jitsu.  Just in case I got into a fight on the street or something.  If somebody took me down, I’d know how to ground fight a little bit.  So he hit me up and I told him “no, I’m not a fighter.”  They kept pushing it, saying “we think you can beat this guy.  He’s a pretty well-known name.”  I slept on it a couple of days, came back, and said “let’s do it.”

All I basically did was box for that fight.  I tried to learn how to sprawl a little bit.  And the guy there told me that Shad Smith is a stand-up fighter.  “He’s not gonna take you down or anything.”  And I’m like “cool, we’re gonna fight.”

And even the rules were changed for that fight.  It was a no-submissions match.  He wouldn’t fight me unless submissions were thrown out.  So we fight and the next thing you know, I crack him a few times and hurt him.  I almost knocked him out, and he turns into an Olympic wrestler.  I lost that fight on a decision from a takedown.  If you watch the fight, you hear the commentators saying “we’ve never seen Shad take anybody down.  This is the first time” and blah blah blah.  Well, what’s he doing taking me down in the first place?  It was his idea for no submissions, and the next thing you know, he’s taking me down.  I didn’t really get it.

JT:  So he wanted to prohibit the submission skills that you hadn’t really had a chance to develop at that point?

VV:  I didn’t even have any submission skills yet, but he didn’t know that.  I guess he knew Millennia, so he probably thought that I had some pretty good submissions.  Which I didn’t [laughs].  He probably would have won if it was a submission fight.

JT:  For the fans who don’t know, talk a little bit about Millennia MMA.

It’s awesome, man.  All the coaches, and the fighters, and students – it’s like a big family there.  I can’t say enough about them.  They brought me from being retired and got me a belt around my waist.  They molded me into a champion.  You’ve got Romie Arum, Javier Vasquez, and Betiss Mansouri.  Chad Davis helps me out a lot.  All my training partners.  There are so many people there.  I’m going on seven years with them now.  If it wasn’t for those guys, I don’t know where I would be.  I would be just working and nobody would know who I was.

JT:  And now you’re a champion and at the top of your game.

VV:  And that’s all because of those guys.  They’re the ones that talked me into fighting.  They saw something in me.

I’m looking at this fight to keep my belt.  The guy’s coming into my backyard. He’s from New Mexico.  This is my stomping grounds, bro.  This whole West Coast right here. . . I was knocking people out before the guy was even born; you know what I’m sayin’?  If he thinks he’s gonna come into my backyard and take my belt, then he’s got another thing coming.  It’s gonna be a dogfight.  I’m not gonna lay down for nobody.

Especially in that this is my hometown right here.  And if he thinks [because] he’s from New Mexico, New Mexico this and New Mexico that, he’s got another thing coming.  Because my whole family is from New Mexico, so you’ve got nothin’ on me.

JT:  You pretty much got both sides covered.

VV:  I got both sides covered.  The guy says he’ll stand and bang with anybody and then he fights my guy, Will Sriyapai, and ends up taking him down and ground-and-pounding him.  Don’t tell the world you’ll stand and bang and then go in there and shoot and take the guy down. . . To me, if you shoot and take a guy down and ground-and-pound him, that’s not a fight.  People want to see guys standing up.  They want to see guys punching each other.  They don’t want to see guys shoot, tackle, and watch guys roll around on the ground.  It’s boring.  I mean I’m an MMA fan my damn self, but when I see guys do that, it’s boring to me.  I wanna change the channel.

JT:  What’s the toughest part of fighting for you?  Is it the preparation?  The mental part?  The rules from one state to another?

VV:  It’s just the preparation.  Getting ready for the fight sucks, bro.  That’s where you get injured.  You get up every day and go to the gym, and bust your ass for four, five hours.  It’s tough, but that’s a part of being a fighter, dude.  The day of the fight, I don’t get nervous or nothing.  I just can’t wait to get in there and do my thing.  It’s like going to an amusement park for me.  I love the adrenaline.  Like I said, I came out of the womb to fight.  I’ve been fighting since I was a kid.  My ancestors must have been some great gladiators down the line.  Some good stock, I guess.

JT:  Some Aztec and Inca warrior blood going on there.

VV:  Sometime like that.  I feel like I was born to fight.  I’m almost 40 years old and I’m still hanging with these younger cats, you know what I mean?  I’m fighting a guy 14 years younger than me next month.  And it’s like I said – to me, it’s like a man fighting a child.  To me, a child can’t beat a man; you know what I’m saying?  I’m almost old enough to be his pops.  And I’m old school.  I can’t see a kid whoopin’ me.  Can’t see it.

JT:  Let’s step back in time a bit.  Your first match with Krazy Horse was your second fight.  It led to a scheduled match in EliteXC, which didn’t happen.  You finally got your match and revenge on a ShoXC event in August 2007.  Now that that whole thing is a year and a half in the past, do you have any new thoughts on it?

VV:  Honestly, as soon as he gets out of jail, I’m ready to get back in there with him.   You guys don’t see it, but behind the scenes, the guy has the biggest mouth.  I mean he talks so much crap.   “Hate” is a bad word, I really don’t hate anybody, but I really can’t stand this guy.  He gets under your skin.  He talks a lot of stuff.  If you go on YouTube and you punch in ‘Krazy Horse,’ he’s got a bunch of stuff talking about my kids, talking about how he’s gonna beat my ass.  The guy doesn’t shut up.

When we fought in Mississippi, we stayed at the same hotel, and he had camera crews following him around like he was a big superstar.  When we would pass each other in the lobby, he would just talk so much shit.  You know how ghetto the guy is.  Just imagine him in your ear for two or three days talking about how he was going to whip you, how you’re too old for him, how he was gonna kick the senior citizen’s butt.  I just can’t stand the guy.  Hopefully, when he gets out of jail, I can whip his ass one more time for everybody.

JT:  Seems like you just wanna make that part of your career.  Every time he comes up, knock him down again.

VV:  The guy’s an idiot.  They guy’s got so much potential.  He’s making a lot of money fighting, but . . . the guy’s actually got talent.  If he trained and got into a good school, he’s probably be pretty damn good.

And EliteXC was paying him so much money.  Same thing with Kimbo.  He’s a smaller version of Kimbo Slice, I’d say.  Kimbo was another guy they spent all this money on and he gets knocked out in what, 14 seconds?   I’m over here training my ass off every day doing this and doing that and I’m not making that money.  It’s kinda discouraging.

JT:  Let’s talk about personal triumphs.  You won the King of the Cage Junior Welterweight championship.  You had a big smile on your face.  That must have meant a huge deal to you, to achieve that kind of championship status.

VV:  It’s like going to college and getting your Master’s degree.  I’ve been fighting for so long.  Since I was a kid, I’ve always thought I could be a champion.  I thought it was going to be boxing, but it happened to be MMA.    This sport gave me an outlet, another option to be a champion.  I’m grateful to MMA bro.  I got my Master’s degree finally.  You go to school for so many years, and I’ve finally got it.

JT:  You got that at 160 lbs.  Most of your career, you’ve been fighting at 155 lbs.  Would you feel comfortable going down to 155 lbs. and chasing after that title or would you rather focus on defending?

VV:  That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about.  I just jumped into this 160 lb. weight class because EliteXC didn’t have a 155 lb. weight class.  But no, 155 lbs. is my weight.  That’s the weight I like to fight at.

I just jumped into this King of the Cage 160 lb. weight class because it was made to order for me.  Joe Camacho was the champion.  I’d trained with him a few times and I knew I could beat him.  Terry asked me if I wanted to fight and I’m like “let’s do it.”

Actually, after this defense, I’d most definitely want to jump back into my more comfortable weight class, which is 155 lbs.  Because the guys that are coming down to 160 lbs. now are welterweights that are coming down from 170 lbs. to cut another 10 pounds to come in at 160 lbs.  If I stay at 160 lbs., I’m gonna be fighting guys that are a lot bigger than me still.  I think at 155 lbs., I’ll be fighting guys that are my size, or a little smaller than me, but I’ll have the advantage, you know?  After this defense, I’m definitely coming after the 155 lbs. champ.  That’s my goal.

JT:  The current champ [KOTC Lightweight champion] is Rory McDonald.  Do you know anything about him?

VV:  I don’t know, but I heard he’s like a 19-year old kid.  So it’s like beating up my son.  I got an 18-year old son.

JT:  You’ll use him as a training partner?

VV:  Probably.  He needs to get his ass kicked.  [Laughs].  But that 155 lb. belt, that’s actually another goal of mine.  So let’s just see how this fight turns out, but 155 lb. weight class is a legitimate weight class.  I’m pretty sure they made the 160 lb. weight class for Nick Diaz, because they had all their plans with Nick Diaz and EliteXC.  He couldn’t cut to 155, so I’m pretty sure they made that 160 lb. weight class because they thought Nick Diaz was going to be the next superstar.  And then KJ Noons too.  He couldn’t cut to 155, but he’s their 160 lb. champ.  You know what I mean.

JT:  What would you say is your best and worst memory in your career?

VV:  Losing in 47 seconds to Edson Berto on the Strikeforce card (“Strikeforce / EliteXC:  Shamrock vs. Baroni”) up in San Jose.  That was the first fight of that main event and I got heel hooked in 47 seconds.   That was the worst. . . I felt like retiring right after that fight.

I was supposed to fight Krazy Horse that night and he went to jail again.  [EliteXC] was supposed to bail him out, so the whole time I was out there in San Jose, I would hear every hour, half-hour “oh yeah, Krazy Horse is getting bailed out.  You’re gonna be fighting Krazy Horse . . . oh no, you’re not.  You’re gonna fight such-and-such.”  So I didn’t know who I was going to be fighting until that day.

I’m not making any excuses, but I really didn’t do any grappling for that fight.  It was all just basically stand-up.  Because when you fight Krazy Horse, you’re not gonna really grapple.  It’s just throwing punches as hard as you can and it’s basically a street fight.  So I did a lot of sparring, a lot of boxing for that fight, and I go in and fight a guy that, I guess his best move is an ankle lock.  So I got caught, bro.  Shit happens.  But that was pretty much the worst part of my career.

JT:  At first, I would assume that your best memory is winning the title, but the way I hear you talking, maybe it’s also knocking Krazy Horse out.

VV:  Yeah, they both pretty much running neck-and-neck.  I gotta say winning the belt.  I mean that’s why I got into the sport – to be a champion.  I’ve fulfilled my dream there.

JT:  Who are some of your favorite fighters or the best matches that you’ve ever seen?

VV:  I like the stand-up fighters.  I like the guys that just stand-up and just bang.  I’m a Wanderlei Silva fan.  Just the way he fights; he’s an animal.  He doesn’t take a backward stance.  He comes at you.  He tries to kill you with every shot.  I like BJ Penn.  He’s one of the best, I gotta say.  Anderson Silva’s another one.  Guys like that.

But yeah, in this sport, people are evolving, dude.  You can’t just go out there and think you’re a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and you’re gonna go out there and tap everybody.  Guys that are well-rounded in every aspect of the game. . . It’s tough now.  Like I said, I thought I could just go out there and punch people out, but these guys – they know they’re fighting me, they’re working on their wrestling, their grappling, they’re working on tying my punches up.  I gotta extend my game now.  Next fight, you might see me throw some kicks, bro.  You never know.

JT:  What do you like to do in the downtime, when you’re trying to get away from fighting or training?

VV:  Nothing, really.  If I’m not fighting, I’m working.  I basically just hang out, chill, and watch TV.  I got pretty much a boring life.  I’m basically a loner.  Which ain’t bad; I mean, no stress, man.

JT:  Besides the Horse, is there anybody else you’d like to put your skills to the test with?

VV:  I’d like to fight Nick Diaz before I retire.  Or KJ Noons.  Guys like that.  I think KJ and I would be a good fight, because we’re both boxers.  We both have boxing backgrounds.  I think it would be an exciting fight for the fans.  Nick Diaz the same thing.  He likes to stand and please the crowd too, so I think that would be an exciting fight also.  But actually, before I retire, I would like to fight some of the best of the best.

JT:  You’d go in there with BJ?

VV:  If the money was right, you better believe I would!

JT:  How about if the money was wrong?

VV:  I’d probably fight him just to say I fought him.  When I was older, I could say “hey, I fought that guy.”  It would be an honor to fight that guy.  Probably wouldn’t last a few rounds, but it would be spectacular.

JT:  Who are some of your sponsors and why should the fans know them?

VV:  I got MaxMuscle here in Rancho Cucamonga that helps me out with all my supplements, keeping me young.  I got Warrior Wear taking care of all my fight gear, my shorts and stuff like that.  I got AA Glass & Mirrors.  He’s my uncle, his name is Armando.  He gives me money monthly to help me live and stuff, to train.   I got Chronic Cantina, over in Upland.  It’s a nice little place to go chill.

Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela defends his KOTC Jr. Welterweight title for the first time on February 26th, at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highlands, CA.

M-1 Challenge: Year-End Recap / Countdown to the M-1 Challenge Team Championship

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by jaytan716

Team Russia Red Devil and Team Holland claimed the top spot in their respective groups in this year’s M-1 Challenge, and with their championship finals showdown scheduled to be televised soon, this week, we take a look back at some of the standout moments of 2008’s M-1 Challenge.

Match 1:  Heavyweight – Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Martin Szoltysik (Team France)

This match aired before these reviews started being published, but if memory serves correct, this was from the first episode of M-1 Challenge.  Szoltysik outweighs Sidelnikov by 35 pounds, and in many ways resembles James Thompson.  At the time, Szoltysik and Sidelnikov, whom many call “Baby Fedor,” were relative novices to the MMA game.

Round One:  Szoltysik seems to favor Thompson’s attack style, running straight towards Sidelnikov from the bell.  But the big Russian jumps out of his range to slow the pace down.  Szoltysik swings giant looping overhand rights, but Sidelnikov doesn’t seem fazed.  If you didn’t know Sidelnikov’s camp, you’d think that he’s in over his head.  Szoltysik chases after him, but Sidelnikov plays stick-and-move until firing an overhand right that drops Szoltysik at 2:25 of round one.  Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov walks away with the KO win.

Match 2: Middleweight – Gegard Mousasi (Team Holland) vs. Steve Mensing (Team Germany / World Team)

Two thousand eight was Gegard Mousasi’s year, as he went 6-0, fighting on three different continents and surprising many by knocking out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to win the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix championship.  For Mensing, this was his first match since a June 2007 win in the Czech Republic.

Round One:  Mensing initiates the exchange with punches, but Mousasi sets the pace with a series of kicks, landing several hard low shots to Mensing’s outside leg.  Mousasi takes Mensing down in his own corner, but they’re quickly repositioned in the middle.  Mensing tries to shrimp away and escape, but Mousasi gets the full mount and showers lefts and rights down until referee Marco Broersen stops the match at 2:44 of the first round.

Match 3: Lightweight – Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan) vs. Bogdan Christea (Team Holland)

This was a highly anticipated bout between two fighters who are undefeated in M-1 Challenge action.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Nakamura is considered a master of the flying armbar, and as such, he attempts the move early in the round.  Christea counters with a heel hook and the two jockey for leglock position.  They go back-and-forth for ground control and top position.  Christea gets Nakamura’s back, but then gets caught in an armbar.  At one point, when the referee calls for a stop in the action, Nakamura walks away, while Christea continues with the attack.  But Nakmura counters with yet another flying armbar, triangle choke, and armbar.  The two scrap hard and fast to the end of the round.

This proved to be a tremendous match.  Judges scored in favor of Nakamura, who successfully kept the submission pressure on Christea.

Match 4:  Light Heavyweight – Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. John Cornett (Team USA)

Zayats vs. Cornett was the best match of the meet.  They delivered a barnburner of nonstop action that was furious enough to spill out of the ring several times.

Round One:  Cornett wastes no time in throwing heavy bombs, but Zayats scores a single-leg takedown.  Zayats works some ground-and-pound as Cornett tries to neutralize it with a tight guard.  Finally, the ref restarts them standing.  Zayats attacks with wild haymakers, but the referee stops them and gives Zayats a verbal warning, perhaps for knees to the groin.  By now, he’s intent on getting the overhand right KO.  Cornett is cautious about engaging.

Round Two:  Right from jump street, these two are swinging for the fences.  Zayats drops Cornett and almost finishes him, but the American escapes to his feet.  Zayats takes Cornett down, falling out of the ring.  Upon getting up, Cornett looks to the referee and verbally submits 44 seconds into the second round.  Announcer Sean Wheelock reports that Cornett broke his right hand and has to concede the match.

Match 5:  Heavyweight – Jesse Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Ahkmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion)

Gibbs vs. Sultanov was the deciding match in a 2-2 tie between Holland and Russia Legion to claim the Group B championship.  Gibbs was 3-0 going into this match, while Sultanov was 2-1.  Gibbs was also 30 pounds heavier than the Russian heavyweight.

Round One:  Gibbs looks like a smaller, wider Antonio Silva without the acromegaly.  Sultanov opens with a front kick, which Gibbs answers with a low, then high, kick.  They tie up and go to the ground, with Gibbs stepping over to take top position.  Sultanov turtles up under Gibbs’ heavy rights before Gibbs rolls through and gets an arm triangle tapout at 1:12 of the first round.

Match 6: Lightweight – Niko Puhakka (Team Finland) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Red Devil)

This was a battle between two of the hotter lightweights in M-1 Challenge.

Round Two (joined in progress):  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 turns away from Malutin, who seizes the opportunity, takes the back, and stays on.  Puhakka rolls over several times, but Malutin finally wears him down and sinks in the RNC at 3:32 in the second round.

From there, we go to a series of “Best Knockout” clips, which include clobbering finishes by Hyun-gyu Lim and Mu-jin Na (Team Korea), Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland), Romano de los Reyes (Team Spain), Jason Jones (Team Holland), and Karl “Psycho” Amoussou  (Team France).

Superfight:  Gilbert Yvel vs. Alexander Timonov

Yvel has a cumulative record of almost 55 fights, and judging from his body ink, possibly as many hours in the tattoo studio.  Timonov has five matches and no tattoos.  ‘Nuff said.

Round One:  Timonov is active and unafraid to engage, but drops to the floor from a right hook.  He’s quickly back on his feet, but it’s not long after before Yvel drops him again with another right.  The referee stops the match at 0:22 of the first round

Superfight:  Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Sang-soo Lee

Lee (16-3) and Emelianenko (13-3) are a bit closer in experience.  Emelianenko outweighs Lee by 20 pounds, but Lee has finished larger men.

Round One:  Lee does what he can to create an opening in Emelianenko’s armor, but Aleksander keeps Lee at bay by connecting shots to the head and Muay Thai knees.  Lee throws combinations and mixes it up, but is unable to land any damaging blows on the Big Russian.  Finally, Aleksander drops Lee with a six-shot combination and the referee jumps in at 2:40 of the first round.

Best Match / Worst Match: In a recap show like this, it’s difficult to assign best / worst honors.  All  these matches had their merits, and were broadcast for various factors.  That said, Sidelnikov vs. Szoltysik offered a fun KO finish among heavyweights, Mousasi vs. Mensing and Zayats vs. Cornett had fast-paced back-and-forth action, and Gibbs vs. Sultanov saw a submission victory among heavyweights, which are usually pretty exciting.  The superfights were short and provided the finishes that most would have expected.

The next episode of M-1 Challenge will be the championship finals, when Team Holland goes against Team Russia Red Devil.

M-1 Challenge: Team Spain vs. World Team

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2009 by jaytan716

With the championship battle lines drawn between Group A’s Team Holland and Group B’s Team Russia Red Devil, tonight’s M-1 Challenge is a war for moral victory, as Team Spain and the World Team look to end the year on a winning note.  Both sit at the bottom of the Group B standings, tied at 1-2 in team challenges.  Spain is just slightly ahead of the World Team in individual fights, 6-9 to 5-10.  A World Team victory of any score will at least tie them with Spain in team challenges and individual fights.  Likewise, if Team Spain can earn four victories tonight, they’ll finish the year with a 10-10 record, which will just put them over third place Team Japan.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on November 26, 2008 in Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

Lightweight Division:    Juha-Pekka Vaininkainen (Team Spain) vs.  Jose Luis Zapater  (World Team)

Vaininkainen and Zapater both make their M-1 debuts tonight.  Vaininkainen has built a respectable 9-4 record, mostly in Finland’s “Fight Festival” promotion.  Zapater is probably more of a featherweight, weighing in at 149 lbs.

Round One:  Vaininkainen has a tremendous height advantage.  Zapater shoots in right away, but Vaininkainen stuffs it and clinches up.  Vaininkainen literally has to lean over on Zapater to keep his overhook grip.  Zapater finally gets Vaininkainen to the ground, but is caught in a high guard that prevents him from doing any damage.  Finally, the referee stands them up, and right away, Vaininkainen clubs Zapater with a straight left that drops him and ends the match at 2:00 of the first round.

The World Team wins the first match, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Jose Beltran (Team Spain) vs.  Jason Ponet (World Team)

Nineteen-year old Jason Ponet is one of M-1’s youngest prospects.  His previous M-1 Challenge match was a decision win over Sergey Verdesh.  He literally faces a fighter “old enough to be his daddy.”  Beltran has dropped down from light heavyweight, where he lost in controversy to a left body kick from Tatsuya Mizuno (Team Japan).

Round One:  Beltran sports long tight pants, ala Andy Souer or Shinya Aoki.  Beltran and Ponet take their time feeling each other out, although both look game for battle.  Beltran throws some stiff low kicks and goes for a takedown as Ponet swings a combination.  Ponet is all over the place, moving at different angles, whereas Beltran is staying in the middle.  Referee Marcel Homeijer steps in and warns them both that he wants action, much to the support of the crowd.  They trade leather a bit more, but nobody makes real contact.  Beltran finally tries to shoot, but Ponet responds with Muay Thai knees and pushes Beltran to the ground.  Beltran immediately goes for a toehold and gets the tap out at 3:33.

Team Spain ties it up at 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Rafael Rodriguez (Team Spain) vs.  Jordan Radev (World Team)

Radev, a world-class wrestler originally from Bulgaria, is a seasoned veteran who won his last M-1 Challenge match by split decision against Yuya Shirai of Team Japan.  Rodriguez, eight years the elder, fought in the M-1 Challenge this year at light heavyweight and middleweight, losing both matches, including one to Shirai.

Round One:  Rodriguez looks out of place and nervous as he circles Radev widely.  Radev throws a kick-punch combination that’s just enough to push Rodriguez to the ground.  He jumps on Rodriguez and takes his back, slipping his hooks in.  Radev doesn’t quite have his arm sunk in underneath Rodriguez’s the chin, but he’s apparently got just enough to pull up on the neck and throat, as referee Mika Sinkkonen unfittingly stops the fight at 1:08 of the first round, much to the surprise of everyone.  Rodriguez and his corner are incensed, as Rodriguez did not look at all like he was in trouble.  The decision is declared a technical submission / referee stoppage.

This is something akin to a TKO / referee stoppage in that the decision to end the match can be a subjective judgment by the referee to protect the safety of the fighters.  The same decision was used in the Tim Sylvia-Frank Mir match in 2004, although Rodriguez was nowhere near the same level of injury or danger that Sylvia was.

World Team pulls ahead again, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Enoc Solves Torres (Team Spain) vs. Valdas Pocevicius (World Team)

Solves is making his M-1 Challenge debut and possibly his MMA debut, depending on who you ask.  Pocevicius is a veteran of over 30 matches, fighting since 2001.  Gotta love non-regulation territories.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Solves is ready to go, standing in the middle of the ring before the bell sounds.  Jimmy Smith mentions that Solves probably won round one.  Both men are cautious to engage.  Solves takes Pocevicius down with an outside trip from the clinch.  He follows up with some ground-and-pound, but ends up in the guard.  Pocevicius keeps throwing heel strikes to Solves’ lower back, which referee Marco Broersen strangely admonishes.  Pocevicius keeps Solves tight, but the Spaniard is able to get to his feet and pass the guard.  He pounds away from the side and almost gets Pocevicius’ back, but Pocevicius escapes to his feet.  The crowd starts to rally, but this being in Helsinki, and with no Finns in the match, I’m not quite sure for whom.  Solve shoots for two takedowns, one of which Pocevicius stops with help from the ropes.  The ref gives him a yellow card warning.  Solves attacks again and ends up with a front headlock, throwing some knees for action.  The ref restarts them standing, but we get little exchange before the round ends.

Judges award the match to Enoc Solves Torres.  The suspense continues, with Team Spain tying it up 2-2.  It comes down to the heavyweights.

Heavyweight Division:  Rogent Lloret (Team Spain) vs.  Michael Kita (World Team)

Lloret is 2-0 since making his M-1 Challenge debut in June of last year, taking a pair of decision wins over Akmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion) and Yuji Sakuragi (Team Japan).  Kita went 2-1 in the first half of the year, but hasn’t fought since being knocked out by MMA bad boy Gilbert Yvel in May 2008.

Round One:  Although Lloret and Kita are listed has having only three pounds difference, Kita’s body looks significantly larger, like 20+ pounds.  Kita’s come to play, however, as he charges in with a combination that pushes Lloret back.  Lloret responds with a takedown attempt that Kita uses to throw Lloret to the ground.  Lloret tries unsuccessfully for a kneebar, but he transitions to top position, inevitably getting full mount. Kita holds a tight bodylock, but Lloret is composed and pushing Kita’s head down.  Kita tries to escape by spinning out the back door, but Lloret catches his back and keeps the match grounded.  As Kita fights to pull out, Lloret transitions to a straight armbar for the tap out at 2:09 in the first round.

In a fast-paced series of matches, Team Spain comes from behind and takes the win in a very back-and-forth team challenge, 3-2.  This gives them enough to tie Team Japan for third place, ending the season with a 2-2 record in team challenges and a 9-11 showing in individual fights.  The World Team ends the season 1-3 in team challenges and 7-13 in individual fights.

Today’s episode includes a superfight from M-1’s April 3rd event at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Superfight:  Roman Zentsov vs. Daniel Tabera

Round One:  Both men start out trepidatious.  Zentsov gets the trip takedown off a clinch and works for a keylock.  Tabera escapes and reverses position.  He’s composed on top and rides Zentsov to take the Big Russian’s back.  Zentsov eventually shakes Tabera off, working underneath the north-south and to his feet, but Tabera has clamped on a standing guillotine.  Zentsov isn’t giving in, and finally escapes when Tabera throws a knee.  Tabera gets Zentsov to the ground again, in side position until the round ends.

Round Two:  Tabera shoots from afar, but Zentsov sprawls and takes the mount.  Tabera gets the full mount with a sweep and whizzer, but he’s too high and Zentsov reverses position out the back door.  Referee Yuji Shimada doesn’t tolerate much inaction before he restarts them standing.  Tabera with a lead left jab and Zentsov with a right kick.   Zentsov is stalking Tabera around the ring, throwing a high kick that just grazes his head.  Clinching against the ropes, Tabera works for a bodylock.  Referee Shimada separates them again.  Tabera pushes the action, but Zentsov lands a big knee as he fades back.  Zentsov pushes back with strikes and has Tabera wobbling, but he doesn’t capitalize.  Tabera shoots, but Zentsov holds him at bay with a front bodylock.  Tabera is on the ground as the second round ends.

Amidst a rather partisan crowd, hometown favorite Roman Zentsov takes the decision victory.  Jimmy Smith sees it differently.

Best Match**: Roman Zentsov vs. Daniel Tabera – Great transitions and action with these heavyweights.

Worst Match**: Rodriguez x Radev – The early referee stoppage really takes away from what could have been an exciting, action-packed match.

**(based on footage aired)

Next week will be a recap of the 2008 M-1 Challenge, as well as two superfights – Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Sang-soo Lee and Gilbert Yvel vs. Alexander Timonov.

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

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by jaytan716

With happy New Year regards to everybody, we start 2009 with one of the closing rounds in the M-1 Challenge.

Thus far, ten teams from nine different countries, split into two different groups, have fought a round-robin tournament internationally throughout the year.  Last week, Team Holland defeated Team Russia Legion, claiming first place in Group B.  They will square off later against Group A champions Team Russia Red Devil.  This week, Team France & hometown favorites Team Finland vie for a second place finish in Group A.

As of now, Finland and France are neck-and-neck in the standings.  Both are 2-1 in team challenges, although Finland is just slightly ahead in individual challenges, trumping France 9-6 to 8-7.  As such, a win by either team will vault them to a 3-1 record over.  However, France will have to win by 4-1 or better in individual fights in order to finish with a stronger record than Finland.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on November 26, 2008 in Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

Lightweight Division:  Maktar Gueye (Team France) vs. Niko Puhakka (Team Finland)

Gueye is 2-1 in overall M-1 action, splitting a win (Mikhail Malutin at lightweight) and loss (Erik Oganov at welterweight) against Team Russia Red Devil in previous years.  Puhakka is 2-1 in this year’s M-1 Challenge, with wins over David Martinez (Team Spain) and Kim Jong-man (Team Korea).

Round Two (joined in action):  Jimmy Smith gives the first round to Puhakka, 10-9, for control on the ground.  Not surprisingly, Gueye is anxious to push the action and controls the pace on the feet.  Puhakka circles the ring, looking for an opening and avoiding Gueye’s strikes.  Puhakka finally gets the takedown as Gueye swings a left hook.  Fans are into this match, cheering and chanting.  Puhakka works the body as he tries to pass guard.  Gueye is pretty active on the ground, throwing combinations and some elbows.  Puhakka starts to strike effectively from the top as the round ends.

Both men kept busy during round two, and Puhakka was on top for most of the round, but the judges see this as Gueye’s round.  As such, we go into a third round overtime.

Round Three:  Puhakka again is careful to engage.  Gueye drops him with a low left kick, but gets right back up.  Puhakka works hard for a takedown, finally forcing top position with a trip.  Gueye engages from the bottom, swinging away at times and also tying Puhakka’s arms up to nullify any ground-and-pound assault.  Puhakka gets side control right at the bell.  Close round, but I’d give it to Gueye.

Judges award the match to Niko Puhakka, giving Team Finland the first point of the night, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Farouk Lakebir (Team France) vs. Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland)

Lakebir, a relative latecomer to the sport, has not fared well in this year’s M-1 Challenge, going 1-2 this year, with his sole win being a decision win in March against Erik Oganov of Team Red Devil.  Tulirinta was stopped by Oganov in June by TKO, but won his two M-1 Challenge matches prior to that.  Today, Lakebir and Tulirinta look to end the year on a high note.

Round One:  Lakebir starts the striking right away.  They clinch up and exchange knees while jockeying for position.  Lakebir tries to use his body weight to spin Tulirinta down, but Tulirinta braces himself, drops down, and ends up on top.  Lakebir works for an armbar from below, but Tulirinta is swinging punches from above.  About halfway through the match, Lakebir looks to his corner, then to the referee, who suddenly stops the match at 2:23.  Lakebir is doubled over by a shoulder injury that prevents him from continuing.  Tulirinta is awarded the win by TKO / referee stoppage.

Team Finland takes a 2-0 lead.  Lakebir is in serious anguish, needing his cornerman to help support his left arm.

Middleweight Division:  Karl Amoussou (Team France) vs. Lucio Linhares (Team Finland)

This has been one of the more anticipated matches in this year’s M-1 Challenge.  It’s striker vs. grappler here, as Brazilian-born Linhares is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt, while Amoussou is a vicious kickboxer and judoka whom some have compared to a young Wanderlei Silva.

Round One:  Linhares throws the first strikes but Amoussou responds with combinations that push Linhares to the ground.  Amoussou takes top position, but Linhares neutralizes Amoussou in a closed guard, almost catching the Frenchman in a triangle.  Standing up, Linhares follows up with a powerful right straight that drops the Frenchman.  Amoussou wraps Linhares in a closed guard that Linhares actually carries while standing.  Amoussou starts throwing head kicks from the bottom.  As this is going on, Linhares actually tries complaining to referee Marcel Homeijer, who doesn’t know enough to call the foul.  I guess you have to be kicked in the head before you can claim the foul of being kicked in the head.  But Linhares continues with ground and pound, passing Amoussou’s guard, taking full mount, and securing a juji-gatame armbar.  Amoussou pushes Linhares away, but Linhares takes full mount again with 30 seconds left in the round.  He rains lefts and rights down on Karl Amoussou until the ref stops the match with six seconds left in the round.

Lucio Linhares wins the match and leads Team Finland to a 3-0 lead, thus securing the team challenge victory against Team France.

Light Heavyweight Division: Christian M’Pumbu (Team France) vs. Marcus Vanttinen (Team Finland)

This is Vanttinen’s M-1 Challenge debut, but he enters with an impressive 8-0 MMA legacy.  M’Pumbu has only fought in M-1 once, scoring a TKO stoppage against Barry Guerin (Team USA).

Round One:  Vanttinen comes in with a significant height and age difference.  They clash with a body lock.  M’Pumbu trips Vanttinen to the ground, going into the Finn’s closed guard.  Vanttinen keeps a tight high guard, pushing some offense from the bottom.  M’Pumbu tries to pass guard, standing up, and almost getting north-south, when Vanttinen rotates around.  Unfortunately, Vanttinen rotates his back right into M’Pumbu, who locks in a ridiculously tight rear naked choke that Jimmy Smith refers to as a “lion killer.”  Vanttinen taps out at 2:25 of the first round.

M’Pumbu’s victory gives France their first victory of the night, preventing a clean sweep by Team Finland.

Heavyweight Division:  Moussa Niangane (Team France) vs. Toni Valtonen (Team Finland)

Valtonen, 15-8 as a light heavyweight, moves up one weight class to fight Niangane, a European San Da / San Shou champion who makes his MMA debut tonight.  Niangane himself weighed in at 206, to Valtonen’s 229 lbs.  You gotta be kidding me.

Round One:  Valtonen takes Niangane down with a body lock.  Eventually, he gets the full mount, and spins around to side position.  Niangane is completely out of his element on the bottom, almost rolling to give up his back.  Valtonen takes top position again, then sits on Niangane’s chest for the spinning armbar.  Niangane immediately taps out at 2:00 of the first round.

Team Finland definitively claims second place in the Group B standings, with a 3-1 team challenge record and 13-7 in individual fights, compared with Team France’s 2-2 team challenge and 9-11 individual fight finish.

Best Match**: Karl Amoussou vs. Lucio Linhares.  This was one of the most anticipated matches in the M-1 Challenge, and it delivered.  Linhares landed the knockdown of the night with his right straight on Amoussou, and his impromptu complaining about Amoussou’s head kicks made for a particularly dangerous moment.  For Linhares to regain control from there and claim victory is the kind of exciting finish that makes MMA great.

Worst Match**: There wasn’t a particularly bad match on this show.  The Lakebir vs. Tulirinta match was hurt by an unfortunate non-finish, although both fighters were working hard up until that point.  Niangane vs. Valtonen was certainly a mismatch of experience, although not a particularly boring fight.

**(based on footage aired)

Next week, the World Team and Team Spain duke it out to see who escapes from the last place “basement placement.”