Archive for Niko Puhakka

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 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 TV Report: Team Finland vs. Team Russia Red Devil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Red Devils are on the board 1-0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Record-wise, these two are evenly matched.

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

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

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

Worst Match**: Niklas Winberg vs. Dmitry Samoilov

**(based on footage aired)

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

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

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