Archive for May, 2009

Acosta, Jouban win big at Fight Night III in Costa Mesa

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by jaytan716
Legends MMA represents at South Coast Martial Arts' "Fight Night III."

Legends MMA represents at South Coast Martial Arts' "Fight Night III."

Although Legends didn’t come up with a straight of victories, they did turn over a pair of important wins at South Coast Martial Arts’ “Fight Night III” on May 30th, thanks to James Acosta and Alan “The Jedi Knight” Jouban, who won, respectively, by unanimous decision and third round TKO.

Also on the bill were Bruce Fulford, Ash Wagers, and Charlene Barretto, all of whom fought valiantly to decision with their respective opponents.

In an interview after the fight, Jouban commented “I was proud of everybody, man.  F’real.  I didn’t get to see everybody’s entire fight, because I was in the dressing room, trying to warm up and stuff. . . It was just fun. . . To get back in there, the atmosphere.  To have your teammates with you.  Just the whole thing was good.  Everybody fought real hard.  Everybody did real well.”

In Legends’ first match of the night, James Acosta beat Phiream Sok of Long Beach Muay Thai at 155 lbs by unanimous scores of 29-28.  Acosta held court in the center of the ring for much of the match, keeping distance with low kicks and forcing Sok to circle in search of an opening.  Acosta pushed the action to the ropes several times with flurries to the head, as well as three consecutive kicks that drove Sok to the corner.

For Acosta, the moral to the story was redemption, after dropping his previous match, his Muay thai debut in April, by unanimous decision.  Having taken that match as a last-minute replacement, Acosta felt the lack of proper preparation time prevented him from performing at his peak.  Since that time, Acosta has maintained a regular schedule of heavy training, with the single goal of erasing that blemish with a victory.

“I gassed out in the last fight. . . I had more time to prepare for this fight and I worked a lot on my conditioning.  That was the main thing . . . This fight, I decided not to go in the clinch and not let the guy grab me, and move around more.  Set up more combos and I put my head down.  It worked.”

Legends’ next match featured Charlene Barretto against Adriana Savana of The Budoryu Center.  Barretto, who had her first Muay Thai match last July, was hungry for a second win.  However, Savana set the pace early with several forward-charging punch flurries, going on to take the match by unanimous decision with a score of 30-27.

“She was definitely just a really good fighter, and just strong. . . I was a little under weight, and it’s not an excuse, but felt like my power and endurance was [limited].  I was a little sick too.  But it’s just one of those things [where] it wasn’t my night.  It was her night,” said Barretto after the fight.

Ash Wagers, thuggin' and buggin'.

Ash Wagers, thuggin' and buggin'.

As one of two Legends’ fighters making their Muay Thai debuts, Ash Wagers squared off against Ryan Macabe of No Limits.  Macabe took the match by unanimous decision by scores of 30-26 and 30-27.

Wagers worked to set the pace early in the match, moving swiftly and firing hard low kicks.  But Macabe muted the offense with his noticeable size advantage, forcing the Legends’ fighter to circle wide and swing big in an attempt to overcome the distance.  Macabe controlled the center for much of the match, but also went to the ground twice, once off a slip early in the first round and again in the third.

“He did a great job of keeping me at bay with his jab. He had a long reach.  I couldn’t get inside to throw many combos, so I just went to my bread and butter,” explained Wagers.  “The third round, when I cut-kicked him. . .  I was real proud I pulled that off.  I got that and put him on his booty.”

Despite the loss, Wagers’ debut marked the culmination of a long-traveled journey to dropping several weight classes.  Originally tipping the scales at 235 lbs. in January, Wagers weighed in at 199.5.

“Between working and trying to get this off the ground, it’s really brutal.  Coming into the gym every day, twice a day. . . I’ve come miles and miles from where I was.  When I first started Muay Thai, I was 265.  The diet is crucial, the training is crucial, and there’s no way around it,” Wagers commented after the fight.  “I have a lot of fitness goals I’m trying to reach, strength-wise and conditioning-wise.”

Walking a similar path was teammate Bruce Fulford, who was forced to cut 18 lbs. to 160 after being unable to get a match at his more suitable 170 lbs.

“[Coach Jimmie Romero] was trying to get me a fight on the last bill.  It didn’t happen, so I just was like ‘I’m going to take whatever chance I can get.’  But it was a lesson. . . I had, like, four pieces of sashimi in the last two days. . . I think I dropped too much.  But I wouldn’t change it.  I’m in agony right now, but I love it.”

Fulford faced John Quan of Sityodtong USA, coming up on the short end of a unanimous decision by a score of 30-27.  Fulford and Quan were both on fire from the onset, as Fulford charged forward with combos into a clinch and knees, while Quan landed key kicks that also opened the door for knees.  Fulford triggered several other attacks throughout the match, although Quan was able to push him back in the second round and place several kick combinations which likely made the difference in the judges’ eyes.

Early in the second round, Fulford landed a left hook that pushed Quan to the ropes: “When I had him against the ropes, I was like ‘I’ve got him.  This is it. I’m gonna knock him out right now.’  I caught him with one or two good knees.  I felt like I was gonna hurt him, but. . . He knew when I came in, when to throw push kicks.  He knew how to move. . . It’s good fun, man.  I enjoyed it.”

In the last Legends’ fight of the night, Alan Jouban beat Kelly Fishback of OC Muay Thai by third round TKO.

Alan Jouban (center), with Dawna Gonzales (left) and Beki Fouquet (right), after his third round TKO win.

Alan Jouban (center), with Dawna Gonzales (left) and Beki Fouquet (right), after his third round TKO win.

Alan Jouban, who works regularly as a catalog and runway model, was coming off a year-long layoff, after facing several injuries.  Jouban was originally supposed to fight at a Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in January in Las Vegas, but that was delayed after tearing cartilage in training.  Finally, after Jouban was able to return to striking training in April, a slot opened up on the May South Coast Martial Arts show, and Jouban got his fight.

“My hand had been injured for seven months. . . I probably started striking again about a month [or] six weeks before the fight,” he commented.

Jockeying for position and knee exchanges in the first round, Jouban slipped on what was ruled a knockdown.  He scored a decisive knockdown off a four-punch combo early in round two, and another off a low kick trip in round three, at which point the referee ended the match to give Jouban the TKO victory.

“I knew within the first 30 seconds that he was gonna be a game opponent. I could just tell.  He had decent defense, decent striking.  He wasn’t that new.  Jimmie told me later on that he was on a five-fight win streak, which he didn’t tell me before.  Which is probably good.  I felt rusty . .  so it took me into the second round before I really opened up.”

South Coast Martial Arts hosts their next amateur Muay Thai event on July 25th.  Check the Legends MMA blog, Facebook, and MySpace pages for updates on announced fighters.

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Crilly returns, Lopez retains title as KOTC sails into Lake Elsinore

Posted in King of the Cage, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by jaytan716

Redemption was the theme for the three headlining matches at King of the Cage’s debut show, “Storm,” which took place on Saturday the 16th at The Diamond, home to minor league baseball team the Lake Elsinore Storm.

“After the first fight, I didn’t like how he ended off with the tapping of his face, showboating, basically.  I think it was real disrespectful, so I wanted this fight, and more just to earn his respect.  And I think I did that in this fight. I earned a lot of people’s respect,” explained Gonzalez in a post-match interview.

Lopez acknowledged the threat that Gonzalez posed in this rematch, noting “it was pretty close. . . [Gonzalez} was landing some heavy hits at the beginning of the fight. Towards the end, I had to finish.  I couldn’t let it go to decision, because it could have gone either way.”

Fan favorites Rick Legere and Joe Crilly returned to their winning ways with decisive finishes that both needed to turn their career momentum around.  Legere, having lost his past two matches, the only losses of his pro MMA career, emerged victorious after a second round knockout.  His excitement level was so high that, immediately following the referee’s stoppage, Legere leaped over the cage fence and ran into the crowd to his girlfriend.  Legere quickly returned to the cage for the victory announcement, and then made his girlfriend his fiancée, proposing to her in his post-fight interview.

“She’s got my little girl, so I was hoping she would say yes,” Legere joked, referring to their newborn daughter.

Not one to be outdone, hometown hero Joe Crilly had the shortest, but perhaps the most electrifying, match on the card, scoring a KO over Ruben Tagle in 11 seconds of the first round.  Crilly, who had the most fan support of any fighter that night, has been hampered with injuries and personal complications since his last fight, in 2004.  For Crilly, this match represented not just a highlight reel victory in front of friends and family, but also a long-overdue rebirth into the fight game.

“Five years in the waiting. . . I’m 27 and it feels like tonight was the first time I’ve ever fought.  Those other fights feel like they never happened.  Tonight was my first fight, and I’m gonna build off that,” he declared at the afterparty.

The card, originally slated for 11 matches, lost two bouts the previous day at weigh-ins.  Bantamweight Chad Walters was forced to withdraw from his match against Reuben Duran due to injury, while weight complications sabotaged a lightweight fight between George Sanchez and David Gomez.  According to matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi, after Gomez weighed in almost three pounds over the 156-pound limit (155 pounds with one pound leeway), it was proposed that Gomez weigh-in at noon the next day at 163 pounds, Sanchez’ typical walkaround weight.  Sanchez would accept a second weigh-in, but Gomez, wanting to rehydrate and replenish, declined it, at which point negotiations fell apart and the match was scrapped.

Other KOTC action that night included:

Lightweight (155 lbs.) – Bryan “The Badger” Colebrook (Griffin MMA / Real Deal Boxing with Ed Mendiville) vs. Victor “El Valiente” Rodarte (The Jungle)

Judges award Victor Rodarte the match by unanimous decision.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Nikko Medina (San Jacinto Grappling) vs. Marcos “The Reaper” Gonzalez (The Shark Tank)

Both men started out slow and very cautious to strike.  Medina, who somewhat resembles WWE’s Batista, looks explosive.  Medina attacked, but got caught in a front headlock, taking it to the ground briefly.  Gonzalez kept his sprawl until being forced against the cage, at which point referee Herb Dean broke them apart.  Gonzalez connected with a nice combination, but Medina also rocked himwith an overhand right.  Medina had Gonzalez up against the cage as the round ended.  In round two, Gonzalez charged on Medina with combos, getting another front headlock.  Medina tried to take Gonzalez down, but was blocked for his efforts.  Gonzalez later scored another takedown, trapping Medina’s hand in half-guard.  After some ground-and-pound, Gonzalez dropped back for an ankle lock.  Medina briefly claimed a front headlock, but Gonzalez eventually regained side mount and top position, dropping bombs from half mount.  The third round opened up with very cautious footwork, which then exploded into a heavy trade of leather.  Gonzalez once again took Medina down, transitioning positions and dropping big bombs on him.  The two hugged and spoke at length at the end of the match.

Judges awarded the match to Marcos Gonzalez via unanimous decision.

Bantamweight (135 lbs.) – “Smooth” Greg Guzman (San Jacinto Grappling) vs. Kiko Lopez (Team Quest / Bob Chaney Muay Thai)

Guzman and Lopez wasted no time, trading fast shots.  Guzman quickly claimed a takedown, eventually getting Lopez’ back, where he would stay for most of the rest of the match.  Lopez got to his feet, but couldn’t shake Guzman, who kept his hooks in and fired shots from behind for the next several minutes.  To his credit, Lopez fired back.  He finally fell to all fours by the end of the round, but staved off the choke in an ongoing theme for the match.  Lopez shot for a takedown early in round two, but Guzman used his high guard to sweep and take the back, locking in a body triangle.  Lopez continued to roll over to lose Guzman, but to no avail.  Lopez opened the third round by charging and clinching Guzman against the cage, but Guzman took Lopez’ leg and scored a takedown.  After standing, both men traded kicks for combos, with Lopez landing a left hook.  Lopez also landed a solid Muay Thai knee, allowing him to get a front headlock, but Guzman picked Lopez up and slammed him to break the hold.  Lopez kept Guzman in high guard, but Guzman was able to stand up.  Lopez scored a takedown in the waning seconds of the match.

Judges award the match to Greg Guzman by unanimous decision.

“I knew for sure that I was going to go in there and have a war, because he was 4-0.  I’d done all my research on him, and he was dropping everybody in the first minute and thirty seconds.  Three of his fights were unanimous decision. . . I knew that I had to not let him capitalize on any little mistakes and to stay on him,” Guzman reflected.

Flyweight (125 lbs.) – Thomas “El Chihuahua” Casarez (Riverside Submission / Joe Camacho MMA) vs. Javi Alanis (Quence Jiu-Jitsu)

Alanis set things off with a running flying kick, failing to nail it on the button.  Casarez jumped on the opening and slapped on a guillotine choke, but Alanis calmly carried him back to Alanis’ corner and slammed him hard.  Casarez kept the choke, and then transitioned to an armbar, getting the submission at 0:51 of the first round.  Casarez was elated, doing a cartwheel and throwing his T-shirt into the crowd.  Judge Cecil People’s noted Casarez won his previous match, just two weeks prior, in the same fashion.

Featherweight (145 lbs.) – Junior Kling (San Jacinto Grappling) vs. Aaron “The Blood Spiller” Miller (Blood Bank MMA / Sparta MMA / OC Boxing)

Miller and Kling were both chomping at the bit to attack, and the action didn’t belie their demeanors at all.  In the first round, Miller and Kling imposed their will on each other against the cage with knees and combos before Miller slipped in a trip takedown.  Miller threw body shots from the mount until Kling swept him, at which point Miller tried to set up a triangle from bottom.  Back to standing, Kling almost got an armbar off Miller’s clinch, but they went to the ground and traded top position once more before the end of the round.  In the second stanza, Kling slipped on a high kick, but was able to recover and work for an ankle lock.  Miller eventually twisted out of it and the two exchanged sweeps on the ground, scrambling like pit bulls for the upper hand.  At one point, Miller had a body clinch from behind on Kling, who used his momentum and position to slip in a kimura, driving Miller to the ground.  They scrapped more against the cage, tradition positions before the end of the round.  Kling’s face between the second and third round was a crimson mask, reinforcing Miller’s claim as “the Blood Spiller.”  Going into the final round, the two trade kicks for combos.  Kling escaped a first takedown, but Miller forced another, and then dropped elbows from side control.  Miller jumped on Kling standing and slapped on a rear naked choke, but Kling escaped out the back door and tried to work a kimura from side mount.  Standing, Miller landed a high knee to Kling’s face against the cage.  Kling fired a head kick.  Miller invited more, to which Kling responded with several more kicks and a combination as the match ended.

Judges award the match to Aaron Miller by unanimous decision.

Miller was another victorious fighter who echoed the redemption theme, commenting “my last King of the Cage showing was pretty poor and I just had a really bad attitude since then.  I wanted to change up my habits and be more in attack-mode and keep going.  I train with some of the best guys around and I just said “I’m not gonna stop until this fight’s over.  One of us is going to be knocked out, bloody, tap out.  It doesn’t matter how it’s gonna end. It’s just gonna end with my hand raised.”

But Miller’s road to redemption is not quite over, as he looked to the past for a fight in the future: “I want Casey Olsen back.  That’s Chuck Liddell’s guy.  We fought in Fresno.  Bring him down to King of the Cage. . . because I have some built-up frustration from that fight.  I’d love to see him again.”

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) – “Tall” Paul Karski (American Jiu-Jitsu) vs. Dave Cryer (Millennia MMA)

Karski weighed-in heavy the day before, and was unable to make weight after a second attempt.  As such, the match was allowed to occur, and Karski had to forfeit 10% of his purse to Cryer.

Most of the match was fought in the clinch against the cage, as both men used knees, including to the face, to gain control.  Cryer pushed Karski to the ground off a knee, proceeding with side mount and an assault off lefts and rights as Karski held on.  Karski trapped Cryer’s left leg, but it was Cryer who continued with rights to Karski’s head and body.  After Cryer steps back, referee Herzog forced Karski to stand up.  Both men fired shots, with Cryer’s left hook dropping Karski.  Cryer pounced and fired off ground-and-pound until referee Herzog called for an end to the match.  Cryer takes the KO victory at 4:17 of the first round.

190 lb. catch weight – Rubin Tagle vs. Joe Crilly (Lake Elsinore Fight Crew / United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

Both men typically fight at 185 lbs., but with Crilly coming off a five-year hiatus, both sides agreed to fight at 190 lbs.  Crilly was the clear cut big draw, as the crowd erupted for his walk-out.  Tagle was cornered by KOTC Superheavyweight champion Neil Cooke of Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu.  Crilly wasted no time in overpowering Tagle with a barrage of lefts and rights.  After several combinations against the cage, Tagle went down.  Crilly fired off several more rights on a prone Tagle before referee Herb Dean could pull him off.  Crilly was awarded the KO at 0:11 of the first round.  The crowd was going nuts for several minutes after the fight.

Looking forward, Crilly said he was hungry for more competition: ““What I want next is to stay in shape.  It’s been five years out of shape. . . I want a fight lined up in the next month, two months.  And then I want another one after that, and then I want a title.”

Welterweight (170 lbs.) – Eric “E-Train” Meaders (Ring of Fire Monrovia) vs. Rick “I.E. Bad Boy” Legere (Team Wildman)

Legere might have been a fan of Bret Hart as a kid, as he sports the Hitman’s trademark pink-and-black colors as his own.  Legere kept the center of the cage and held Meaders at bay with low kicks as Meaders circled around the outside, changing levels sporadically.  Meaders got Legere to the ground with a textbook double-leg takedown, but Legere transitioned to an uma plata.  Meaders escaped to his back as Legere stood up, but Legere eventually passed guard, took the back, and tenderized Meaders with left hooks.  Meaders actually stood up and carried Legere piggyback, using hand control to ward off the rear naked choke, to the end of the round.  Meaders put together more combos in round two, but Legere dropped him with a low kick.  Meaders tried to transition for a takedown, but Legere took side mount, trapping Meaders’ arm.  Meaders freed his arm and worked for a kimura as Legere stood up.  Legere connected with three hard rights, causing Meaders to turn his back.  Legere pounced on Meaders and threw rights until referee Jason Herzog stopped the action at 2:20 of the second round.

When asked about what made the difference tonight from his previous two matches, Legere explained “I learned a lot.  Definitely want to keep your hands up all the time, because it only takes one punch.  And don’t go out there rushing things. Relax, stay calm.  You’ve got three five-minute rounds. . . If you need to use your 15 minutes, use your 15 minutes.”

KOTC Light Heavyweight Championship (205 lbs.) “The Menifee Maniac” Fernando Gonzales (Team Quest) / Bob Chaney’s Muay Thai) vs. Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez (Team Oyama)

While being a former Gladiator Challenge Light Heavyweight champion, Gonzales has more recently fought at middleweight (185 lbs.).  He was also a last-minute replacement for Tony Valarde, who had to bow out due to injury.

Gonzales initiated the offense in the first round, charging Lopez into the cage with a clinch.  From southpaw stance, he dropped Lopez with an overhand left, but wasn’t able to capitalize before the champ recovered.  This seemed to give Gonzales confidence for the rest of the match, because he continued to land the punch throughout.  Lopez mixed up some combos with his trademark head kicks and a back kicks, including firing three head kicks in a row (which Gonzales took with seemingly little effect).  Gonzales forced a takedown and shot lefts to the head as the bell rang.

In round two, Gonzales continued with his stick-and-move circling around the cage, which clearly frustrated the champ.  Lopez continued to switch stances throughout, but Gonzales was able to catch some kicks and land strikes over the top, including a hard left body kick that was audible in the bleachers.  Round three saw Gonzales catch a left low kick and force a trip takedown, pushing Lopez into the cage.  Gonzales had Lopez’ left arm trapped behind his own back, working a kimura, while keeping the clinch from the side.  Lopez climbed to his feet and escaped.  By this point, the crowd was at a fever pitch.  Lopez continued to chase Gonzales around the cage, firing kicks at will.

In the “Holy Shit!” moment of the match, Gonzales had Lopez in a body lock clinch on the cage, and as Lopez tried to break the hold to set up for an armbar, Gonzales actually German-suplexed him over his head, following up by passing guard and throwing a knee to the back (which got a warning from referee Herb Dean).  Lopez was able to escape out the back door to standing position, but Gonzales, perhaps smelling blood, charged with lefts and rights.  Lopez landed a high knee and sunk in a rear naked choke that almost ended the match, but Gonzales managed to survive.  Lopez was in full mount and fired rights on Gonzales’ face as the round ended.  Going into the fourth round, Gonzales was clearly hurt, but he had a big smile on his face.  The two traded kicks and left fists as loud “Fernando” chants emanated from the crowd.  Gonzales continued to charge in with overhand lefts and combinations to Lopez’ body.  Lopez worked to clinch Gonzales up against the cage, and perhaps smelling blood, chased after him with a series of low kicks, but Gonzales fired back with another left body kick.  Both men were visibly spent by this point.  Lopez dropped Gonzales with a harsh right knee and fired shots as the bell ended round four.

By the last round, the crowd was bonkers for these two combatants.  Between rounds, Gonzales had a look on his face that suggested he wasn’t going to come out, but he did, and after the bell rang, his face changed to say “this one’s for all the marbles and I know it.”  He charged with an overhand left and shot in for a single-leg.  Lopez was able to turn it around and mount Gonzales on the ground, setting up a rear naked choke once Gonzales went to all fours.  As Lopez stood up and kneed the ribs, Gonzales actually grabbed Lopez leg and dragged him to the ground again.  But Lopez had the composure to wrap his arms around for the rear naked choke and roll back, until referee Dean finally stopped the fight at 1:48 of the fifth and final round.

Although Lopez retained his Light Heavyweight title, Gonzales spoke positively about his performance, saying “I’m not down on myself at all.  I gave everything I could in that fight.  I just wasn’t ready for a five-round fight yet. . . I got heart, and I just tried to push as much as I could.  I almost didn’t come out that fifth round, I was so done. . . .My stand-up coach told me ‘look, you don’t come out, you’re never gonna let yourself live this down.’  And he’s right.  I would have been down on myself a lot worse if I didn’t come out.  I’m happy that I did.”

As for future prospects, Gonzales announced “I’m going back down to 185.  Trying to work my way down to 170 if I can. . . Everybody knows I should be fighting at a lower weight class.  [But] I wanted this rematch. . . so I stuck around the weight.  I got what I wanted. . . but now it’s time for me to move down and start working at those lower weight classes.”

After the match, Lopez admitted to underestimating his opponent: “Last time that I fought him, I was sick.  And I came out with the win early in the fight.  So this time I came in like ‘okay, you know what?  I’m just gonna have my way with him and stuff and that’s it.’  Well, he didn’t think the same thing. . . I gotta go back to my old way of thinking: that everybody’s a pro, and I can’t take no fight lightly.  That’s where I’m at right now,” said Lopez.

Also worthy of note was the announced return of former KOTC lightweight champion Chris “The Westside Strangler” Brennan, an MMA pioneer who returns to action on June 11th at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA.  Brennan’s fight career dates back to 1996, and had already consisted of a 6-3-1 record before the very first KOTC event in 1999.  During the in-ring interview with ring announcer Big Poppa Schnake, Brennan discussed his plans to move up to welterweight and win the KOTC title from reigning champion Mike “Joker” Guymon.   Ironically enough, Guymon is a former student of Brennan’s.

King of the Cage’s next event in the Southern California area will be June 6th, at the Quechan Casino & Resort in Winterhaven, CA, as well as June 11th in Highland.  No official announcement has been made for King of the Cage’s return to Lake Elsinore, but updates and news on events, matches, and fighters can be found at www.KingoftheCage.com.

M-1 Challenge 2009: Team Korea vs. Team Imperial

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

Returning for a second season in 2009, M-1 Global and Affliction Entertainment present M-1 Challenge 2009.  Dubbed the “World Cup of Mixed Martial Arts,” the M-1 Challenge is a year-long round-robin tournament which pits national teams of MMA fighters in a series of dual meets which take place in countries across the world.  This year, the M-1 roster has grown from 10 to 16 teams, with additional teams hailing from the US, Turkey, Brazil, Benelux, and Bulgaria.

Rules of the M-1 Challenge are primarily 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.  Team standings are based on team victories, followed by cumulative individual match victories.

This meet originally took place on February 21st of this year, at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino in Tacoma, WA.  Handling the announcing duties are Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith.

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Do-hyung Kim (Team Korea) vs. Mikhail Malyutin (Team Imperial)

Kim fought at welterweight for Team Korea last year, defeating Farouk Lakebir of France and Erik Oganov of Russia Red Devil.  Malyutin went 3-1 in last year’s M-1 Challenge, including beating Cha Jin Wook when Russia Red Devil met Korea.  Both men would seem to have teammate revenge on their mind in this match.

Round One:  Both men are light on their feet, but hesitant to engage.  They clash with a double head butt that each painfully acknowledges.  Kim has his corner look at it.  Upon the restart, Malyutin gets the single leg takedown, but Kim grabs a tight rubber guard.  Referee Marco Broersen repositions them, and orders a standing restart shortly thereafter.  This is one of those moments when hardcore jiu-jitsu experts complain that other MMA fans don’t understand the ground game.  They clash with combinations.  Both men are looking for an opening, but neither seems to want to set things up or engage.  Malyutin takes it to the ground, stuck in Kim’s half guard.  Kim brings it back to the feet in the corner before the end of the round.

Round Two:  Before the round begins, Malyutin stands in the middle, trying to play mind games.  After some cautious circling, Malyutin shoots for the takedown.  Kim turns and almost clotheslines himself on the second rope like he’s setting himself up for the 619, but he’s able to twist and get top position.  Kim tries to initiate a ground-and-pound attack, but Malyutin focuses on the left leg, keeping him busy as the Korean looks for a shot from above.  He stuns Malyutin with a left, but Malyutin spins to his back and escapes to his feet in the corner.  Malyutin gets taken down, but pushes Kim off.  Kim jumps on him with an overhand right, gets Malyutin’s back, and almost rolls out of the ring.  They restart in the middle, but Malyutin can’t shake Kim off.  Kim throws ground and pound / rear naked choke to the end.  After the match and Malyutin applauds Kim.

Judges give the round to Do Hyung Kim via unanimous decision.  Team Korea chalks up their first win against Team Imperial.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Myung-ho Bae (Team Korea) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Imperial)

Bae makes his M-1 Challenge debut tonight, having fought for the Japanese MARS promotion since 2006.  Oganov’s M-1 days go back to 2005.  Last year, he was submitted by Do Hyung Kim, who fights this year at lightweight.

Round Two:  Bae attempts a flying knee, but Oganov catches him and they fall back to the ropes.  Oganov instinctually grabs the ropes, but you can see in his face he doesn’t mean to.  Referee DeRobbio restarts them in the middle. Bae scores another trip takedown and peppers Oganov with hammerfists.  Bae gets a tight rear naked choke and taps Oganov out at 2:12 of the second round.

Team Korea is up 2-0, one win away from taking this team challenge and moral revenge for their loss last year.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Hyung-yu Lim (Team Korea) vs. Dmitriy Samoylov (Team Imperial)

Lim is a boxer by training who won both of his M-1 matches last year, knocking out Lucio Linhares (Finland) and submitting Brandon Magana (USA).  Samoylov, a veteran of M-1, had a three-fight win streak before losing by decision to Jason Jones (Holland) in the M-1 Challenge finals last year.

Round One: Lim has the height and reach advantage here, and capitalizes on it with a left jab, but Samoylov responds with combos, tagging Lim in the face.  Lim slips and Samoylov is all over him.  Just as Lim is about to fall out of the ring, referee Anthony Hamlet halts the action and restarts them in the middle.  Lim tightens his guard and neutralizes Samoylov’s ground and pound offense.  After a restart to standing, Lim comes down with overhand rights, while Samoylov jabs away and slips in the occasional left low kick.  Samoylov is opened up over the left eye on the outside.  Both men have bad intentions behind their punches and are giving the fans bang for their buck.

Round Two:  Lim pushes Samoylov, who responds with a left-right combination.  Samoylov has found his pace, evading Lim’s shots and using his left low kick to set up for a right-left hook combination.  Samoylov throws a high kick just to keep Lim on his toes.  Lim’s left leg is taking a lot of damage.  Lim finally goes for the takedown, but Samoylov falls on him and is a house of fire, throwing combinations to the body.  Lim tries to pull closed guard, but Samoylov passes.  Lim escapes, taking it back to the feet.  Lim with a wild left body shot.  It looks like he’s used the last trick in his bag, because Samoylov is tapping him at will.

Judges give Dimitriy Samoylov the win via unanimous decision. Team Imperial keeps the competition alive with a victory to make it 2-1 Team Korea.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Jae-young Kim (Team Korea) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Imperial)

Zayats was one of the only M-1 Challenge fighters to go undefeated last year.  His only loss was to Daniel Tabera (Spain) in the Fedor Emelianenko Cup, which was not part of the regular M-1 Challenge season.  Kim is a Kyokushin karate expert nicknamed the “Windy Fighter,” due to his speed.  This graduate of Korea’s Spirit MC promotion is making his M-1 Challenge debut.

Round One:  Kim engages, but Zayats pushes him back with a combination, then gets him to the ground, eventually taking full mount.  But Kim bucks out and escapes, which the fans love  Zayats catches a high kick and trips Kim to the ground again.  Zayats legs are long enough that he can stay in half guard and lay perpendicular chest-to-chest.   He spins around for an armbar and gets in position, but almost falls out of the ring.  Kim escapes.  Zayats almost gets another from the bottom, but Kim spins out again.  Referee Hamlet finally restarts them in the corner with Zayats on the ground.  Zayats won’t give up on the arm, rolling to top position over Kim and cinching in a kimura.  But Kim’s low center of gravity is helping him stand up and step out.  Zayats tags Kim with a jab to the face, but he doesn’t flinch.  Zayats gets side position again, loosening Kim up with ground and pound.  He spins around for an armbar, but Kim follows with him, and stands up.  But Zayats stays with it and rolls to his stomach.  Kim continues to fight it.  Fans are on their feet and loving this match.  Kim hangs on to the end of the round.

Round Two:  Both these men are winded.  Kim with a left mid-kick, then a right head kick that drops Zayats face forward.  Zayats gets to his feet, but Kim continues with combinations to the face.  Kim lands another brutal-sounding left body kick and follows Zayats to the ground, throwing a ground and pound assault that the fans are just eating up.  Kim looks to the referee to stop it.  He transitions to side mount and goes for a kimura, then lays in harsh punches to the stomach and face.  Zayats escapes, baiting Kim into an open guard.  Zayats is holding on for dear life.  Kim is amped.  Referee Hamlet restarts them in the ring.  Zayats has nothing in him, but Kim is not pulling the trigger.  Zayats wings a spinning backfist, then an exhausted takedown attempt, but Kim sprawls with no problem.  Referee Hamlet calls Zayats for pulling on the shorts.  Kim’s logo patch is torn.  Zayats tries another spinning back fist, putting his hands on his hips as the universal sign of “I’m tired.”  Kim nails a left head kick that drops Zayats backwards.  Kim doesn’t even bother to follow Zayats to the ground, knowing he’s got the KO win at 4:02 of the second round.  Finally, betraying his own gas tank, Kim drops to his knees in exhaustion.

Team Korea takes the team challenge, 3-1, and gains revenge from last year.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Sang-soo Lee (Team Korea) vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk (Team Imperial)

Lee is a hard-hitting fighter with impressive wins over Roman Zenzov (Russia Red Devil) and Malick N’diaye (France).  Oliynyk is riding an eight-fight win streak since 2008, including winning two tournaments for Russia’s ProFC.  In that month alone, he fought five times, with at least three matches not going past the first round.

Round One:  Oliynyk starts with combinations, then shoots a takedown that Lee catches.  Lee maintains his balance as Oliynyk goes to his back and clinches.  Suddently, Oliynyk springs to Lee’s back and gets the hooks in, trying to open Lee up with punches from behind.  Lee blocks a rear naked choke with his chin.  Frankly, he doesn’t have much off a neck anyway.  Lee rolls to face Oliynyk, stands up, and takes his back.  Oliynyk sits to his back in Lee’s corner. Lee in full mount and fires head and body shots from the left.  Round ends.

Oliynyk gets the tap out with a 4:27 of the second round with a front / Ezekiel choke.

Team Imperial gets the last laugh of the night, but Team Korea laughs all the way home.

Best Match**: Kim vs. Zayats.  Lots of back and forth action, with several very close submission attempts and a highlight reel head kick that came out of nowhere.

Worst Match**: Lee vs. Oliynyk.  Based on the number of stand-up restarts, you can probably deduce the ground action here.  The Ezekiel choke is Oliynyk’s bread and butter, so the whole match seemed to be a set-up for it.

**(based on footage aired)