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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.

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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.”

M-1 Challenge: Team South Korea vs. Team Russia Red Devil

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2008 by jaytan716

As 2008 winds down, we get closer to the end of this year’s M-1 Challenge round-robin tournament.  Thus far, ten teams have fought between three to four times each, with Team Russia Red Devil (2-1 in team challenges) leading Group A, while Team Holland (2-1 in team challenges) leads Group B.  Tonight, the Red Devils (home to world-famous Fedor Emelianenko) look to secure their first place standing.  Standing in their way is a very determined Team Korea.

With a dominating 11-4 individual fight record, first place is the Red Devil’s to lose.  A team victory of any kind will guarantee first-place standing, although an individual match record of 4-1 or better in this best-of-five meet will firmly secure their place in the M-1 Challenge finals.  Conversely, Team South Korea (1-2 team challenges, 6-9 individual fights) would need a 5-0 clean sweep to have a shot at the finals, and that would also require second-place Team Finland and Team France (both 2-1 team challenges) to drop their respective meets.  The deck is stacked against the Koreans, but we have seen them come back from behind and claim victory.

This meet originally took place on November 21st of this year at the Ice Palace in St.  Petersburg, Russia.  As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.

Lightweight Division: Yui-chul Nam (Team South Korea) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Russia Red Devil)

Nam is new to M-1 Challenge, but boasts of an undefeated 8-0 record in Spirit MC, Korea’s top MMA promotion.  Has a wrestling background, but has 5 KO’s to his name.  Mikhail Malutin is one of Team Red Devil’s standouts, going 2-0 in M-1 Challenge action. He won his last match via first round submission.

Round Two (joined in progress):  According to Jimmy Smith, Nam came out in the first round with both guns blazing, which explains the huge knot over the Russian’s right eye.  But that doesn’t deter Malutin, as he gets up off his corner stool and stands in the middle in the ring, ready to pounce.  Serious head games here.  As the bell sounds, Nam swings again, but Malutin dictates the direction and takes Nam into the corner.  Nam works for a takedown and  finally gets it with a combination Hi-C / single-leg.  Nam works hard from the top, passing guard and dropping shoulder strikes.  With a stalemate in action, the referee orders a stand-up.   Nam attempts another takedown, falling into Malutin’s guard as he slips.  Nam’s having a tough time getting out of half-guard.  Another stand-up.  Malutin now scores a takedown.  Nam works rubber guard, but being pushed up so close to the corner, he doesn’t have the space to sink in a gogoplata.  They’re repositioned in the middle of the ring, but Malutin distracts Nam with ground-and-pound until the end of the round.

Judges award Mikhail Malutin the decision victory.  Team Russia Red Devil gets on the board early and takes the 1-0 lead.  Malutin hands Nam his first defeat.

Welterweight Division: Do-hyung Kim (Team South Korea) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Russia Red Devil)

Although their Sherdog records betray it, both Kim and Oganov come into this fight with well over 20 fights each, mostly on local shows of their native countries.  Kim is 1-0 in M-1, beating Farouk Lakebir (Team France) in double-overtime action.  Oganov is undefeated in this year’s M-1 Challenge, but did lose a unanimous decision to Lakebir in 2007.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Kim and Oganov infer mutual respect with their hesitancy to engage.  Finally, Kim charges and rocks Oganov on the jaw.  He gets the full mount and unloads heavy right and then hammerfists on the felled Russian.  Before you know it, Kim takes Oganov’s back, flattens him out, and gets the submission victory at 0:57 in the second round via rear naked choke.  Kim then shows his “heel prowess,” by waving the Korean flag in gloat, giving the crowd a thumbs-down, and even stiff-arming them.  Good luck sleeping with both eyes shut tonight.

Team South Korea ties it up, 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Mi-seok Heo (Team South Korea) vs. Dmitry Samoilov (Team Russia Red Devil)

Samoilov is 2-0 in M-1 Challenge this year, taking both wins by decision.  Heo is 1-1 in M-1 action, dropping his last match via decision to Karl Amoussou.

Round One (joined in progress):  We’re almost four minutes in and Samoilov is in Heo’s closed guard.  Samoilov is pounding on the body and slips a hard left hand on Heo, who’s trying to nullify the assault.  Samoilov lands another heavy left before the round ends.  Highlights show the Samoilov takedown that led to this ground-and-pound party.

Round Two:  Heo with a hard left kick, that Samoilov catches, but Heo prevents the single-leg takedown with stiff shots.  Samoilov finally gets a trip takedown off a clinch against the ropes, falling perfectly into side mount.  He goes on to pound hard shots to the body, even slipping some rights to the face.  Heo gets to his feet, but Samoilov sinks in a guillotine, taking the Korean down again.  More Russian hammerfists to the body.  Heo turtles up.  Samoilov has a waistlock on Heo and is firing shots to the face from behind.  The referee, sensing danger for Heo, stops the match at 2:28, giving Samoilov the TKO victory.

Heo unsuccessfully tries to protest the stoppage, but inevitably shows good sportsmanship and congratulates Samoilov, who is now 3-0 in M-1 Challenge.

Team Russia Red Devil takes the lead again, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Seung-Bae Whi (Team South Korea) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil)

Both fighters are small for light heavyweights, with Zayats at 196 and Whi at 201.  Zayats (7-1 overall) is undefeated in this year’s M-1 Challenge, while Whi (6-1 overall) makes his M-1 debut).  Zayats’ lone loss is to Daniel Tavera, whom Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith put over practically as the second coming of Couture.

Round One:  Zayats is feisty and jumpy, while Whi paces himself.  Suddenly, the fireworks go off.  Zayats rocks Whi with a right hand, following it up with a front headlock in the corner.  Whi takes Zayats down, who works to finish from beneath with a guillotine. Whi escapes and fires the ground-and-pound artillery.  Zayats retaliates with heavy shots of his own.  He traps Whi’s hands and is able to slow the action down enough to get a referee stand-up.  On their feet again, Zayats works for a bodylock takedown, but to no avail.  He tags Whi with a left-right combo to the face, but Whi responds with a right that drops the Russian.  Zayats goes for a takedown, and they trade some more leather before the bell rings.  This is a barnburner.

Round Two:  The two fighters are hesitant at first to reengage, but before you know it, they’re at it again.  Zayats charges with combos and rocks Whi, who ties up in the corner with underhooks.  They break away and trade lefts and rights at a furious pace before Zayats opts for a takedown, proceeding to ground-and-pound in full guard.  The crowd loves this.  The referee restarts them in the middle.  Whi creates distance by pushing Zayats to his feet by arching his back.  Zayats still slips some shots to the body and even tries to spin Whi over for a half-Boston Crab before the bell rings.  Peace to Sean Wheelock for an unashamed (and spot-on accurate) pro wrestling reference.

Judges give Zayats the split decision, but Whi has made a memorable M-1 debut.

Team Russia Red Devil secures the team challenge, 3-1.  Another win will cement them in the finals.

Heavyweight Division: Jong-Whang Kim (Team South Korea) vs. Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Russia Red Devil)

At 34 years old and 267 pounds, Kim (6-3) is 14 years older and 33 pounds heavier than Sidelnikov.  According to Sean Wheelock, this is roughly on par for the man-boy they call “Baby Fedor,” whose opponents have averaged 29 pounds more than the Russian heavyweight.

Round One:  Kim looks very apprehensive to engage.  Before I can even finish that sentence, at 9 seconds of the match, Kim’s corner throws the towel in and the match is called.

I literally have to play the match in slow-motion to see the action.  Kim goes for a single-leg takedown, which Sidelnikov stuffs, firing rights to Kim’s head.  The replay from an overhead angle reveals that Kim’s cornerman had the towel in position to throw as soon as Sidelnikov made punching contact.  Kim rolls to his back and Sidelnikov lands a few more punches before the referee is able to stop the action.

Wheelock and Smith rage over the false-start, justifiably so.  Kim is holding his neck, possibly a pre-existing injury.  If that’s the case and there was no other Korean heavyweight to substitute, I would guess that the plan was to go through the motions of giving the Russian fans a Sidelnikov victory in the ring rather than announce a forfeit.  Certainly not a work, but perhaps a waste of time.

Suffice to say Team Russia Red Devil wins the team challenge 4-1.

Best Match**: Zayats vs. Whi.  First round is a slobberknocker slugfest on the feet and on the ground.  Second round consisted of more ground and pound, but both guys worked their asses off.

Worst Match**: Sidelnikov vs. Kim.  Smith and Wheelock mention Coleman vs. Fujita or Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis regarding controversial towel-throws.  The best line Sean Wheelock said it best with his line “is that a joke? The towel was thrown in! . . . The Towel came in before the first punch.”  Nuff said.

**(based on footage aired)

Next week, the Red Devil’s Group B counterpart, Team Russia Legion, face Team Holland.  And for those of you in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, don’t forget that the last M-1 Challenge of the year takes place on December 26th at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino, just outside of Tacoma, WA.  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

M-1 Challenge: Team Spain vs. Team Japan

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by jaytan716

As we get closer to the end of the 2008 M-1 Challenge tournament, a few, like Team Holland (Group B) and Team Russia Red Devil (Group A), stand out as frontrunners for the championship finals.  However, several others still have a chance to make a dent in the upper standings.  Tonight, Team Spain and Team Japan duke it out for that opportunity.

At 1-1 in team challenges, third place Team Spain just barely sits above Team Japan in the Group B standings, who are in a 1-2 tie with the World Team for fourth place.  The Spanish need a clean sweep victory to make any tangible progress, as a 4-1 performance or less will only time them with second place Team Russia Legion.  Conversely, a team challenge victory of any score will put the Japanese over their opponents tonight.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on October 29th of this year at Harrah’s Casino in Kansas City, MO.

Lightweight Division:  Carlos Valeri (Team Spain) vs. Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan)

Nakamura (17-9) is on a six-match winning streak, dating back to October of last year.  This summer, he beat Bogdan Christea of Team Holland via decision, then, four days later, submitted Andy Ologun via flying armbar.  Valeri is the clear underdog in this match, as he’s prone to get caught with submissions.  Nakamura has at least 11 submissions wins to his record.

Round 1:  Valeri is throwing punches.  Before I can even finish typing my thought, Nakamura leaps up, brings Valeri to the ground, and taps him out via flying armbar at 0:26 of the first round.

Nakamura is now 4-0 in his individual matches.

Team Japan takes the opening match, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Javier Martinez (Team Spain) vs. Hidehiko Hasegawa (Team Japan)

This is Martinez’ M-1 debut.  Hasegawa, a Pancrase and DEEP veteran, previously beat Norman Paraisy of Team France.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Hasegawa and Martinez trade shots.  Martinez shoots for a single-leg, but Hasegawa blocks it with a kimura attempt.  Hasegawa rolls Martinez to the mat with the kimura and takes side mount.  Martinez turtles up, but Hasegawa follows through and takes his back; he slaps on a body triangle and works for a rear naked choke.  Martinez escapes the choke but is still stuck in the body triangle.  He tries rolling all over, but Hasegawa follows through.  In the corner, Hasegawa transitions to a straight armbar.  Martinez shifts his position, gets on top, and goes to town with ground-and-pound, but referee James Lee restarts them in the middle of the ring.  Hasegawa defends with a rubber guard until the bell rings.

Martinez must have won the first round, because Hasegawa rolled away with this one, and we’re going to an overtime third round.

Round Three:  Martinez shoots again, but sits out quickly and goes fetal as Hasegawa blocks the shot.  Hasegawa hooks Martinez’ right leg (think crumpled up half-guard) and peppers Martinez with hammerfists and body shots.  Hasegawa switches between a side position to full mount and back, settling for closed guard.  Martinez is trying to mount an offense from below, working from rubber guard to butterfly guard to closed guard, but Hasegawa just continues his ground-and-pound until he regains a rear naked choke.  They scramble to their feet, Martinez keeping a single-leg.  Referee Lee separates them again.  Martinez throws a few kicks and Hasegawa pushes him to the ground.  The bell rings, but they continue for a few seconds before Lee finally steps in.

Judges give the match to Hidehiko Hasegawa by unanimous decision.  Fans boo irrationally.

Team Japan again, 2-0.

Middleweight Division:  Rafael Rodriguez (Team Spain) vs. Yuya Shirai (Team Japan)

This is the M-1 debut for Shirai (13-7), who is a mainstay in the Japanese DEEP promotion.  Rodriguez’s (13-6) previous match was a submission loss at light heavyweight to Besike Gerinava (Team Russia Legion).

Round One:  Rodriguez has a significant height difference.  He chases Shirai around, throwing a flying knee.  He gets a guillotine, but Shirai pulls out and clinches him against the ropes.  Shirai throws Rodriguez to the ground, but is nullified with a clinch from the bottom.  Shirai passes guard and works for Rodriguez left arm, working a kimura from side mount.  Shirai is in good position and gets the tap at 2:16 of the first round.

Team Japan wastes no time claiming the team challenge, 3-0.

Light Heavyweight Division: Jose Beltran (Team Spain) vs. Tatsuya Mizuno (Team Japan)

Hailing from Kiyoshi Tamura’s U-File camp, Mizuno has a 1-1 record in M-1.  This is Beltran’s M-1 debut, and he’s defending an unblemished 7-0 record.

Round One:  Beltran immediately shoots for a single-leg takedown and gets belly-to-back-control against the ropes.  He works hard to take Mizuno to the ground, even jumping on his back, but to no avail.  Referee Lee restarts the stalemate in the middle.  Mizuno throws a left kick into Beltran’s ribs, which drops him like a Spanish Juniper tree (which, to be clear, is big).  Referee Lee jumps in and calls the match at 1:53, but Beltran immediately protests, appealing to the crowd.  He even smacks his own face as if to say “see, I’m ok.”  He is, however, respectful and sportsmanlike towards Mizuno.

Beltran is Team Japan adds insult to injury with a fourth victory, 4-0.

Heavyweight Division:  Rogent Lloret (Team Spain) vs. Yuji Sakuragi (Team Japan)

Although there’s only one year age difference between the two, Sakuragi comes in with an 8-11-1 NC record, while Lloret is 1-1-1.  This would never happen under the Garcia Regime.

Round One:  Lloret has over 15 pounds and almost a foot height difference on Sakuragi.  Sakuragi sets it off with a spinning back kick.  Lloret charges Sakuragi and takes him down.  Sakuragi is looking for an armbar, but Lloret works ground-and-pound.  Referee James Lee restarts them in the middle of the ring.  Lloret dictates the position for the rest of the round, taking full mount, and then riding Sakuragi with hooks.  Sakuragi fends off the choke with hand control.

Round Two:  Sakuragi charges, but Lloret catches him, throws Muay Thai knees, and spins Sakuragi to the ground.  Lloret gets full mount, and takes the back.  Sakuragi again prevents the choke with hand control, and is able to spin for top control.  Referee Lee stands them up.  Sakuragi throws some nice high kicks, but Lloret gets the takedown, back, body triangle, and rear naked choke.  To his credit, Sakuragi is demonstrating good defense.  He again spins into top position, and Referee Lee again stands them up.  Sakuragi’s throwing some high kicks, and stuffs a Lloret takedown attempt.  They finish the match with Lloret on the verge of another takedown.  The smile on his face is like a kid at Christmas.

Judges award the round to Lloret via unanimous decision.

Team Spain sabotages a clean sweep with this individual fight win, but Team Japan takes that meet 4-1.

Best Match**: Carlos Valeri vs. Daisuke Nakamura – With a successful and technically immaculate flying armbar, there’s no question.

Worst Match**: Rogent Lloret vs. Yuji Sakuragi – There’s always at least one match in each show where fighters constantly employ the same strategy throughout the entire match.  This wasn’t a bad match per se, as Lloret’s takedowns and back control were clean and effortless, but from that position, but when either man was in top position, little progress was made in finishing.

**(based on footage aired)

This team challenge has pulled Team Japan from their tie for basement status and leapfrogged them over Team Spain, who now is a definitive fourth place out of five.  However, at 1-2 in team challenges and 6-9 for individual matches, if Team Spain can win their next team challenge, they will at least tie Team Japan for third place.

M-1 Challenge will host another live event the day after Christmas, December 26th, at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino, just outside of Tacoma, WA.  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.  At that event, Team Russia Red Devil will face Team Holland, but you don’t have to wait until then to see Fedor’s training partners.  Next week on HD-Net, the Red Devils throw down with Team Korea.

M-1 Challenge: Team South Korea vs. Team France

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2008 by jaytan716

After last week’s preemption for basketball programming, we return to international MMA action with M-1 Challenge.  Tonight, Team Korea vs. Team France square off.

Third place France (2-0) and last place Korea (0-2) only have Team USA between them, but in terms of team challenges, the two couldn’t be farther apart.  For Korea, a win tonight will pull Korea out of the basement.  For France, victory would improve their record to 3-0.  A five-match sweep would firmly put them on top of current first place Team Russia Red Devil.  However, a 3-2 record in individual fights would only improve their record to 9-4, the same as second place Team Finland.

Also worthy of note for Americans is that tonight’s show, which originally took place on October 29th of this year at Harrah’s Casino in Kansas City, MO, is the North American debut of M-1.  Some of you may remember October 2007, when M-1, veteran promoter / manager Monte Cox, and Sibling Entertainment Group announced their plans for a larger North American debut under the M-1 Global namesake, which was to include the post-PRIDE U.S. return of Fedor Emelianenko.  A dissolving of the business relationship six months later thwarted those plans, but regardless, M-1 follows through on their word to debut in the U.S.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.

Lightweight Division:  Young-su Kim (Team Korea) vs. Makhtar Gueye (Team France)

Kim has a SURPRISINGLY OBVIOUS lot of tattoos.  I’m just going to let that say what it will.    Kim is no stranger to MMA, sporting an 11-6 record.  Gueye debuted in 2003, and has fought in the U.K., South Africa, and Russia, including an impressive win over Team Russia Red Devil fighter Mikhail Malutin.

Former King of the Cage Light Heavyweight champion James Lee is the referee.

Round 1:  Kim & Gueye gauge each other’s power with a respective kick-punch exchange.  Kim shoots for a takedown, but doesn’t even get below Gueye, who sprawls with no delay.  They trade more combinations, but Kim slows things down with a clinch and knees in the corner.  Gueye is very composed, waiting for his opening.  He finally reverses Kim into the corner and goes to town with body shots before Kim drops straight down.  James Lee stops the match at 1:02 of the first round.

Gueye picks Kim up and totes him around the ring.  I suppose it’s in your best interest to show respect to a Korean with as much dubious ink as Kim has.

Team France is up 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Do-hyung Kim (Team Korea) vs. Farouk Lakebir (Team France)

Do-hyung Kim has spent his time between Japan and Korea, fighting mostly in the Japanese MARS promotion, where he won a four-man, one-night tournament in December 2006.  We’ve seen “Paco” Lakebir before, when he dropped a hard-fought scrap to Jake Ellenberger of Team USA.

Round 4 (joined in progress):  Indeed, we’re going to a second overtime round, or the fourth overall round of the match.  Apparently the two split the first overtime round.

Lakebir opens up with leg kicks.  Kim volleys back with shots to the head.  Both men look surprisingly alert and energetic for going into the 20-minute mark.  Lakebir goes for a takedown and ends up getting Kim’s back.  He sinks the hooks in and spins to his butt, pulling Kim to his back.  Kim is composed, fending off the choke with hand control and strikes behind him, but he’s not working to escape.  Finally, James Lee stands them up.  One single-leg attempt and one judo throw attempt later and they’re both in the corner.  Lakebir rolls Kim to the ground, but the Korean holds onto a kimura.  Lakebir’s arm is really trapped, muting the effectiveness of his top position.  Lakebir gets Kim’s back again, hooks included, and rides Kim to the end of the round.

In a surprise, Kim gets the decision win.  Lakebir clearly controlled the fourth round, and if the previous three rounds were tied (keep in mind that M-1 matches are two regulation rounds and a third overtime round only if necessary), then this win makes no sense.  Maybe it’s just an anti-France thing.

France and Korea are tied at 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Min-suk Heo (Team Korea) vs. Karl Amoussou (Team France)

Amoussou is one of the rising stars of M-1, a ferocious striker who slightly resembles Wanderlei Silva in style and looks.  Heo has fought steadily in Korea and Japan since 2006, beating Radmir Gabdulin of Team Russia Red Devil in his previous M-1 outing.

Round 2 (joined in progress):  Round one must have been a barn burner, as both these fighters are amped to throw down.  Heo sets it off with a modified superman punch, clinching Amoussou in the corner.  Heo finally gets the takedown, but James Lee restarts them in the middle of the ring.  Amoussou works from butterfly guard for an opening and briefly tries a guillotine, but they’re brought to their feet.  Before Amoussou has a chance to reset, Heo attacks with a side kick.  Amoussou throws him back like a ragdoll, but Heo rebounds with a takedown.  Another standing restart.  Heo and Amoussou are swinging for the fences.  Amoussou gets Heo’s back standing and wears him down with knees.  Lee restarts them again standing.  Both these guys are exhausted.  Amoussou has a guillotine against the ropes and jumps guard as the seconds expire.  The two hug like the match is over.  Little do they know.

Round 3:  Amoussou immediately throws a high kick.  Heo returns the favor.  Heo is out of position a lot, losing his balance. As such, he goes to clinch Amoussou against the ropes. Amoussou takes Heo down with an inside leg trip, but Heo gets top position.  Unfortunately, he lays and preys, but James Lee isn’t having it, so they’re up again.  He knows what the fans want.  Amoussou with more high kicks, one of which swings himself on his butt. Heo falls into guard.  Another stand-up.  The routine of Amoussou strikes / Heo clinch / fall-to-the-ground-with-Heo-on-top happens at least twice more before the bell ends the match.

Both men look exhausted, but Heo still campaigns to the crowd.  Karl Amoussou gets the decision victory in third-round overtime.

Team France jumps ahead, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Eun-soo Lee (Team Korea) vs. Karl Louis-Jean (Team France)

Eun-soo Lee is a veteran off Korea’s Spirit MC, K-1 Heroes, and PRIDE.  This is Louis-Jean’s pro debut.

Round 2 (joined in progress):  Okay, to be clear, going forward, there will be “Fighter Lee” and “Referee Lee.”  Fighter Lee stuns Louis-Jean, who backpedals to his back.  He’s tries to capitalize and finish the Frenchman with punches, but to no avail.  Referee Lee stands them up, much to Fighter Lee’s content.  Louis-Jean charges in again and gets clinched in the corner.  Louis-Jean is merely nullifying Fighter Lee’s offense, but Fighter Lee finally gets on top.  Louis-Jean stalls with a high-guard.  Referee Lee stands them up.  Louis-Jean attacks and catches Fighter Lee proverbially sleeping.  Fighter Lee leg trips Louis-Jean to the ground.  Fighter Lee is working as best he can, but Louis-Jean is simply nullifying the action.  Referee starts them again on the ground.  Jimmy Smith mentions that Louis-Jean didn’t have much time to train, possibly taking this fight on short notice.  Fighter Lee throws knees against Louis-Jean against the ropes.  Louis Jean inevitably falls through the ropes backwards, right onto Announcer Smith.  Fighter Lee continues the assault with knees and hands in Louis-Jean’s corner until that same corner finally throws in the towel and ends the match at 4:22 of the second round.

Team Korea comes back from behind to tie it up, 2-2.

Heavyweight Division:  Sang-soo Lee (Team Korea) vs. Malick N’diaye (Team France)

Sang-soo Lee comes in with a 15-3 record.  At 25, he’s six years the junior to N’diaye, who we last saw finish James Jack of Team USA with, ironically enough, an Americana.  N’diaye is a national wrestling champion from Senegal.

Round 1:  N’diaye stuns Fighter Lee with an overhand right, pushing him against, and eventually through, the ropes.  N’diaye means business, and Fighter Lee is catching up to realize it.  But the Korean is able to bring the pace down.  N’diaye stuns Lee again with a left hand, almost sending Lee through the ropes a second time.  They restart in the middle with N’diaye on top position.  Referee Lee immediately restarts them on the feet.  N’diaye swings haymakers from afar.  Fighter Lee’s striking is more technical, but he also doesn’t seem to know what to do with the big African.  Fighter Lee takes N’diaye down and gets full mount.  The blond woman in black and white stripes sitting in the front row cringes.  Did she not know what she was coming to see tonight?   N’diaye doesn’t seem to have much of an answer for getting out from bottom.  Fighter Lee tries to trap N’diaye’s arm under his knee and go to town.  N’diaye gives up his back to Fighter Lee, who works for the choke, then transitions into an armbar.  Fighter Lee gets the tap with 2 seconds in the round.

For the second time this season, a victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.  The Koryo flag flies high in M-1 this week.

After two straight team challenge losses, Team South Korea pulls themselves out of the basement, giving Team France their first team challenge loss.  The standings

Best Match**: Kim vs. Lakebir.  Despite the illogical decision, this match had some great exchanges, and was technically sound on the ground.

Worst Match**: Amoussou vs. Heo.  Amoussou really did what he could in this match, but the match was marred mostly from Heo’s clinch and lay-and-pray strategies.

**(based on footage aired)

M-1 will be returning to American soil later this month, December 26th, at the Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino in Seattle, WA.  Team Russia Red Devil will be taking on Team Holland.  Next week on HD-Net, Team Spain and Team Japan take the M-1 Challenge.

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

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by jaytan716

For the first time this season, HD-Net resident correspondent Ron Kruck (who should be given all of Kenny Rice’s MMA broadcast assignments) opens up the show with a recap of the past two rounds of action – which HD-Net hasn’t aired.

This is the second time that the series has jumped sequence.  In the previous instance, one explanation given was that technical compatibility problems between the recorded footage and HD-Net’s broadcast standards prevented certain episodes from airing.  Because M-1 Challenge takes place in different countries, different production teams are used, and subsequently, some teams’ equipment does not record with the same quality as that which HD-Net broadcasts.

Strangely enough, Kruck narrates over highlight footage of the two recent missing meets, Team Korea vs. Team USA and Team Japan vs. Team Germany / World Team, which would indicate that compatibility problems weren’t the issue here.  These meets took place on August 29th of this year in Seoul, Korea.

Regardless, tonight’s M-1 Challenge looks to be an homage to the great icons of the Cold War:  Reagan, Gorbachev, Balboa, Drago, Duggan, Rhodes, Magnum T.A., and the Koloffs, as Team USA faces Team Russia Red Devil.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on September 27th of this year at the Harvey Hadden Sports Centre in Nottingham, England.

Lightweight Division:   Mikhail Malutin (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Beau King (Team USA)

Beau King and Mikhail Malutin are even across the board, at 27 years old and both weighing in at 153 lbs.  The only small discrepancy is with King’s 2-3 record, built up on local shows in Southern California, while Malutin comes in at 27-8.  Wait, what did I just write?

Round One:  Despite this disgusting experience difference, King is undeterred, as he sets the pace with a jab-spinning backfist-kick combination.  Malutin takes King down and works from the guard.  King is calm, keeping Malutin tied up with underhooks and working intently for a gogoplata.  Malutin counters with body shots, scrambles around to sink his hooks in, and works a body triangle from the side.  King gets on top and eventually passes to side control.  They scramble to their feet, only to end up in north-south position after Malutin rocks King with a combination.  Malutin spins to King’s back and takes control, hooks and everything.  King struggles to escape, but Malutin sinks in the rear naked choke, flattens King to his stomach, and gets the tapout just as the bell signals the end of the round.

Malutin is awarded the victory and Team Russia Red Devil opens up with a 1-0 lead.

Cameo of the night goes to Ian “The Machine” Freeman, reigning Cage Rage British Light Heavyweight champion, who is doing the ring announcing for the night.  And guest star of the night is Affliction, which is all over the mat and the referee with sponsorship signage.

Welterweight Division:   Erik Oganov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Brandon Magana (Team USA)

Magana is a former U.S. Marine who, after fighting sporadically since 2005, has gone into overdrive in 2008.  This is his fourth match of the year, with the third match being just one week before, at the “Strikeforce: Playboy Mansion II” event.  The last time we saw Oganov, who, like his teammate, also claims well over 20 matches, he ended Janne Tulirinta’s (Team Finland) three-match win streak.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Color commentator Jimmy Smith sets the stage by scoring round one as 10-9 for Oganov.  Magana and Oganov trade strikes cautiously.  Oganov hits a hard liver kick and scores a single-leg takedown.  Magana keeps Oganov clinched tight on the ground, using rubber guard to get in position for a triangle.  Oganov is nonplussed.  The two end up standing in the corner before the referee restarts them in the middle of the ring.  Magana charges Oganov into the corner, where the rest of the match takes place.  Magana works for the double-leg, while Oganov mutes him with a guillotine choke.  The second round ends with the bell and Erik Oganov takes the match by unspectacular majority (split) decision.

Team Russia Red Devil pulls ahead in the meet, 2-0.

Middleweight Division:   Dmitry Samoilov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Bryan Harper (Team USA)

Bryan Harper is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who was previously knocked out by Min-soo Na of Team Korea in the first round.  Samoilov, a sambo expert, previously won a majority decision against Nikolas Weinberg of Team Finland.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Harper pushes Samoilov back with a double jab and clinch, but Samoilov uses the corner to his benefit, working a kimura lock.  Samoilov tries a trip to the ground which Harper almost counters by balancing on Samoilov’s back, but they scramble to escape bottom position and end up on their feet.  A few more exchanges.  Harper pushes Samoilov back into the corner again and throws a high knee.  Samoilov counters with punches, taking control of the pace of the match.  Harper is now evading engagement, fading back and keeping distance with combinations. The match was Harper’s to lose, and as it transforms into a boxing match, Harper does so.

Dmitry Samoilov takes the match by majority decision as Team Russia Red Devil claims the MMA Cold War with a 3-0 split.

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

John Cornett is a Jiu-Jitsu expert from the Midwest.  He’s cornered by Team Quest coach Heath Sims and former King of the Cage light heavyweight champion James Lee.  Zayats goes into this match with a 5-1 record, whose last win was a controversial decision against Lucio Linhares (Team Finland).

Round One:  Cornett loves to bang and wastes no time in throwing some big right bombs.  Zayats takes Cornett down with a single leg.  There’s not a lot of action, which results in a restart in the center.  Zayats is trying to ground-and-pound on Cornett, who minimizes the damage with a tight guard.  These two keep working themselves into the corner and under the ropes, as Zayats G & P’s Cornett, who shrimp-crawls his way to the ropes.  Cornett would not do well in Ring of Honor with the rope breaks.  Finally, the ref restarts them standing.  Zayats moves to shoot in, but stops short just as Cornett counters with an overhand right that misses.  Zayats pushes Cornett into the corner with some wild haymakers, then himself gets spun into the ropes.  Zayats gets a verbal warning, perhaps for knees in the groinal neighborhood.  By now, he’s really intent on getting the overhand right one-punch KO.  Cornett, the reputed striker of this match, is now cautious about engaging.  Zayats may have gotten in Cornett’s head with that last flurry.

Round Two:  Right from jump street, these two are swinging for the fences.  Zayats drops Cornett and tries to finish with hammerfists, but the American escapes to his feet.  Only to be taken down again with a double-leg.  They almost fly out of the ring under the blue corner.  Getting back 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.

Team Russia Red Devil adds insult to injury with a fourth victory of the night.

Heavyweight Division:   Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. James Jack (Team USA)

James Jack, a former collegiate All-American in wrestling and football, is wasting no time building up his MMA record.  All six of his career matches (3-2-1) have occurred this year.  In his last outing, he lost by submission to Malick N’diaye by submission.

Conversely, Sidelnikov’s nickname is “Baby Fedor.”  Nuff said.

Round One:  Jack comes in with a 30-pound weight advantage over Sidelnikov.  Jack is also wearing wrestling shoes, which automatically prohibits him from throwing head kicks, even standing.  Talk about giving your opponent the handicap.  Sidelnikov has an interesting side stance that reminds me of Lyoto Machida.  Jack shoots for the takedown and gets it in the corner.  Jack tries to keep Sidelnikov down with his weight but Sidelnikov walks his back up the corner padding and is able to outpower the larger American.  He lands a solid right hand which rocks Jack, but not to the point of going to his knees.  Perhaps this is just a delayed reaction, because Jack immediately shoots for a single-leg.  He hangs on to buy time, but Sidelnikov pounds away until the referee jumps in and stops the fight at 4:20 of the first round.

In one night, Team Russia Red Devil singlehandedly erases all the patriotic work that Sylvester Stallone did against the evil Russians in Rocky IV, Rambo II, and Rambo III.  Somewhere in Colorado, the Eckhert brothers are rolling over in their graves, while Danny and Erica carve out Team USA’s names on Partisan Rock.

Best Match**: John Cornett vs. Mikhail Zayats.  There were some wicked slugfest exchanges in this second round, and with the action spilling out of the ring several times, these two delivered great fireworks.  Unfortunately, Cornett’s hand injury was an anticlimactic finish, but until that point, it was the best action of the night.

Worst Match**: Erik Oganov vs. .Brandon Magana.  Very lackluster finish here, as Oganov just rode the last minute to the end of the round with guillotine choke in the corner.

** (based on footage aired)

With their individual fight sweep, Team Russia Red Devil takes the lead with a 2-1 team challenge record and a definitive 11-4 record over Team Finland, which has a 9-6 record from the same number of meets.  Team USA is condemned to fourth place, with a 1-3 team challenge record and a 6-14 individual fight record that is going to be difficult to turn around.

Next week, Team Russia Legion looks to redeem themselves against Team Germany / World Team.