Archive for Team South Korea

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)

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Finland, South Korea, and USA West ignite M-1’s 2009 Challenge

Posted in Live Event Reports, M-1 Challenge with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2009 by jaytan716

After debuting their team-based round robin tournament last year, M-1 Global held the first round of the 2009 M-1 Challenge this weekend at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA. The event pitted six teams in best-of-five “dual meet” action, ending with redeeming wins for Team South Korea, Team USA West, and Team Finland.

Marketed as the “World Cup of MMA,” the M-1 Challenge resumes this year with an expanded roster of 16 teams from 10 countries split into four groups.  New additions are teams from Brazil, Turkey, England, China, Bulgaria, and a second team from America, Team USA West. Last year’s rendition saw ten teams split into two groups of five, each team fighting four times within that group.

Coincidentally, the two name changes this year – Team Imperial and Team Benelux – met in the 2008 M-1 Challenge finals as Team Russia Red Devil and Team Holland, respectively.  The Red Devil’s beat the Dutch 4-1 to become the inaugural M-1 Challenge champions.

Ironically enough, redemption was the theme of the night at the Emerald Queen, as all three winning teams had a point to prove off of last year’s respective performances.  In 2008, Team Finland placed second in Group A to Team Russia Red Devil. They returned this year to beat 2008 Group B champions Team Holland by an individual fight score of 4-1.

Team South Korea also came up short last year against Team Russia Red Devil, losing early in the season and going 1-3 in team challenges for 2008. In this rematch, Team South Korea claimed victory 3-2 over the renamed Team Imperial, spotlighted by workhorse performances by lightweight Do Hyung Kim and middleweight Myung Ho Bae.  But it was Jae Young Kim’s second round head kick KO of Mikhail Zayats, one of M-1’s top stars, which surprised many.

In the third and final team challenge, two new teams, Team USA West and Team Brazil, debuted, with the Americans winning 3-2.  Although Team USA West is a new addition to the M-1 Challenge, their victory was something of a response to Team USA’s 2008 performance (1-3 in tem challenges and 6-14 in individual fights), the worst the entire season.

TEAM FINLAND VS. TEAM BENELUX

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Danny Van Bergen (Team Benelux) def. Juha-Pekka Vaininkainen (Team Finland) via unanimous decision.

Round one saw Vaininkainen use his significantly longer reach to his advantage, tagging Van Bergen at with jabs and right straights, but Von Bergen was a house of fire, working a triangle choke. Van Bergen, seemingly the better conditioned of the two, continued the ground assault in round two with a side triangle and an armbar. Van Bergen’s win gave Team Benelux the 1-0 lead.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland) sub. Tommy Depret (Team Benelux) at 2:30 of round one.

Depret and Tulirinta started out trading shots on the feet, and then traded top position on the ground after a Tulirinta takedown. Making their way back to the feet, in what is a sure rarity, if not a first, Tulirinta slapped on a standing D’Arce choke, pulling back hard enough that Depret actually threw his legs up in the air, tapping out at 2:30 of the first round. The submission win tied things up 1-1.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Lucio Linhares (Team Finland) sub. Kamil Uygun (Team Benelux)  at 1:22 of round one.

Linhares scored a takedown early in the round, briefly getting caught in Uygun’s half-guard. He eventually got the back and proceeded to pound Uygun’s side with fists. As Uygun tried to turn to his back, Linhares grabbed the left arm and sat back for the armbar submission. Team Finland pulls ahead 2-1 in the team challenge.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Marcus Vanttinen (Team Finland) def. Jason Jones (Team Benelux) via unanimous decision.

Although he came alive at the end of the first round with a hip toss takedown and heavy right hands, for the most part, Jones didn’t have the answers to Vanttinen’s right kicks or ground game. In round two, Vanttinen stuffed numerous takedown attempts, later punishing Jones with 50+ ground-and-pound shots from top position. Vanttinen’s victory secured the team challenge victory for Team Finland, 3-1.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Toni Valtonen (Team Finland) KO Sander Duiyvis (Team Benelux) in 0:18 of round one.

In the “freak accident” win of the night, Duiyvis was knocked unconscious as the back of his head hit the mat off a Valtonen takedown early in the first round. Valtonen fired three more shots before the referee was able to pull him off Duiyvis. This win added insult to injury as Team Finland finished the night 4-1.

TEAM SOUTH KOREA VS. TEAM IMPERIAL

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Do Hyung Kim (Team South Korea) def. Mikhail Malyutin (Team Imperial) via unanimous decision.

Malyutin scored two takedowns in the first round, although Kim worked from rubber guard below. In the second round, Kim turned on the heat, forcing a ground-and-pound strategy on the ground and standing over Malyutin. Team South Korea got on the board first with this victory, 1-0.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Myung Ho Bae (Team South Korea) sub. Erik Oganov (Team Imperial) at 2:12 of the second round.

Myung Ho Bae showed charisma and skill over Oganov, dominating him with ground-and-pound punishment for most of the first round. In round two, Bae brought more of the same until getting a tight rear naked choke for the submission, which put Team South Korea up 2-0.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Dmitriy Samoylov (Team Imperial) def. Hyungyu Lim (Team South Korea) via unanimous decision.

Fans were firmly behind this match, as Lim and Samoylov traded shots with bad intentions in round one. Despite Lim’s reach advantage, Samoylov connected with his jab. The Russian continued the standing assault in round two, in addition to body shots on the ground. Samoylov’s win kept Team Imperial alive, 1-2 in individual fights.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Jae Young Kim (Team South Korea) KO Mikhail Zayats (Team Imperial) at 4:02 of round two.

Zayats had a sizeable reach advantage over Kim, which benefitted the Russian both standing and working submissions on the ground. By round two, however, both men were exhausted, Zayats even showed his cards by putting his hands on his hips in fatigue. Kim followed up with a left head kick that dropped Zayats backwards like a Nestea plunge and gave Team South Korea the team challenge and vindication for their loss to Team Russia Red Devil last year.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Oleksiy Oliynyk (Team Imperial) sub. Sangsoo Lee (Team South Korea) at 4:27 of round two.

Oliynyk controlled Lee from bottom position during most of round one, working for a rear naked choke. Lee fought back with combinations and knees in a Greco-Roman clinch standing in round two, but Oliynyk catches Lee with a front / Ezekiel choke to claim the last laugh of the night for Mother Russia.

TEAM USA WEST VS. TEAM BRAZIL

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – David Jansen (Team USA West) def. Flavio Alvaro (Team Brazil) via unanimous decision.

Jansen worked the D’Arce choke several times throughout the match.  Round one saw Jansen stick-and-move on the feet, as well as taking Alvaro down almost at will. Alvaro escaped from several submission attempts in round two, but Jansen claimed top position and ground-and-pounded his way to the end of the match. The crowd fervently embraced Jansen’s victory with loud “U-S-A” chants as the hometown favorites started the night off with a 1-0 lead.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Eduardo Pamplona (Team Brazil) TKO Dylan Clay (Team USA West) at 2:48 of the third round.

Clay and Pamplona traded heavy leather in the first round, as well as forcing each other to the mat – Clay with a takedown and Pamplona with a knockdown. Clay scored two more takedowns in round two, also amid fists of fury from both combatants. As judges each gave a round to Clay and Pamplona, a third round was ordered. Pamplona gained top position off a Clay takedown attempt and rained rights down until referee Marco Broersen stopped the match. With this, Brazil tied the team challenge at 1-1.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Reggie Orr (Team USA West) def. Juliano Belgine (Team Brazil) via split decision.

Belgine looked to take the fight to the ground, as he attempted numerous unsuccessful takedowns in round one. He did get Orr to the ground twice in round two, but each time, Orr dropped hammerfists in the guard until he could escape. Orr’s victory allowed Team USA West to maintain the lead 2-1.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Raphael Davis (Team USA) TKO Jair Goncalves, Jr. (Team Brazil) at 4:05 of the first round.

Davis was not afraid to engage on the feet with the taller Goncalves, who caught Davis with a standing guillotine. Goncalves pulled guard and worked for an armbar, but Davis escaped the lock and made his way to side mount, where he leaned into the felled Brazilian as he fired rights. Finally, referee Marco Broersen called the match, much to the protest of Team Brazil. Team USA West pulled ahead and claimed the team challenge, 3-1.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Jose Edson Franca (Team Brazil) def. Carl Seumanutafa (Team USA) via split decision.

Both fighters were on the higher side of the heavyweight limit, at 243 and 260.  Round one saw Franca shoot and pull guard several times, to which Seumanutafa answered with body shots.  After some jockeying for position against the ropes in round two, Franca got the mount on the ground and tenderized Seumanutafa’s body with shots until the end of the round.  Although Team Brazil won the final match of the night, Team USA went home with the team challenge win, 3-2.

M-1 Challenge’s next event is currently scheduled for March 21st in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Anticipated team challenges include Team Bulgaria vs. Team USA East, Team China vs. World Team, and Team Turkey vs. TBA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Two (joined in progress):  Malutin charges in, but Puhakka gets the takedown.  Malutin reverses and gets the mount, but they fall into the ropes.  Restart in the center of the ring.  Puhakka turns away from Malutin, who seizes the opportunity, takes the back, and stays on.  Puhakka rolls over several times, but Malutin finally wears him down and sinks in the RNC at 3:32 in the second round.

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

Superfight:  Gilbert Yvel vs. Alexander Timonov

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

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

Superfight:  Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Sang-soo Lee

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

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

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

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

M-1 Challenge: Team 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.

Interview with Jerry Millen & Sean Wheelock of M-1 Challenge (Part 1 of 2)

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

Jerry Millen and Sean Wheelock, M-1 Global’s respective VP of U.S. operations and English play-by-play announcer, first worked together in the spring of 2007, when Millen, then a VP in PRIDE FC’s U.S. offices, hired Wheelock to call the prophetically-named PRIDE 34: Kamikaze!  Up to that point, Wheelock was known as an established soccer and American football announcer, but he had also called several smaller MMA events.  And although Kamikaze! would end up being the Japanese promotion’s swan song, for Millen and Wheelock, the end was the beginning.

While most of the rest of the PRIDE staff moved on to different promotions, such as FEG’s Dream, ProElite, and even HUSTLE, Millen and Wheelock would reteam at M-1 Global, the international MMA shingle created by Vadim Finkelstein, where they would assume similar roles as during their PRIDE days.  Millen now functions as the lead North American rep for M-1, while Wheelock, along with MMA fighter Jimmy Smith as color commentator, has assumed English broadcast duties for the M-1 Challenge, the promotion’s year-long round-robin tournament of team MMA action.

In this two-part interview, Wheelock and Millen offer a bigger-picture view of M-1’s history and future, including the company’s agenda, expansion plans, and why they see the world of M-1 as a crucial part of the larger MMA universe.

JT:  First off, fill in the blanks for us about M-1’s background.  I think a lot of North American fans don’t know much about M-1, other than that it was the group that was briefly connected with Monte Cox, and which is connected to Fedor.

JM:  About ten years ago, Vadim Finkelstein started an organization called MixFight.  He would do MMA fights.  A lot of guys like Andrei Arlovski, Denis Kang, and Fedor [Emelianenko] fought in that organization, in Russia, on small cards before they were anybody.  So he was responsible for cultivating a lot of the younger European guys in MMA.  Obviously a lot of these guys went on to bigger and better things.  If you go to the M-1 website, which is www.m1mixfight.com, you can see a lot of video links up there of the old fights, like Andrei Arlovski ten years ago when he had his head shaved.

SW:  It’s an early fight.  You can tell he’s new to MMA, the way he fights.  He’s come a long way.  It’s definitely pre-Freddie Roach.

JT:  What about the partnership with BodogFIGHT?  What was M-1’s thought process in working with them?

JM:  We weren’t involved, but Vadim’s always looking for opportunities to expose MMA and M-1. especially to broader audiences and I think he saw that, at the time, it was a very good option.  It exposed the brand and more MMA content.

JT:  What is Vadim’s vision of MMA, as a promoter, as well as his larger global vision of it?

JM:  If you go onto YouTube, there’s a video we shot with Vadim in Russia last week that talks about what M-1 is and his vision.  He talks about how, in Russia, fighting is a part of basic training in the army.  MMA, SAMBO, hand-to-hand combat.  It’s part of the actual Russian army training.  So he expounded on that.

SW:  The word “SAMBO” is an acronym in Russian.  It was developed by the Soviet military, which combined judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, and a lot of other practical things that a military person would need, like disarming an attacker and things like that.  That’s where SAMBO and combat SAMBO come out of.  Vadim expounds on that with Jerry, just talking about the fighting history in Russia.

JT:  Where did the idea for a global team concept come from?

SW:  We’ve been calling this the World Cup of Mixed Martial Arts.  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that the UFC is an outstanding organization and nobody can or should say otherwise, but to think that the UFC has 100% of the best fighters in the world, or even the vast majority of the best fighters in the world, is a naïve view.  By definition, because they don’t do dark shows, they don’t do non-televised shows, the UFC can only have such a big stable of fighters.  They’re essentially capped; whether it’s official or unofficial, they can only have so many.  And I think what Vadim saw, and certainly what Jerry and I are seeing as well, is that there are so many great fighters from so many countries, like Finland, Spain, Russia, and France.  We’re not seeing these guys in the USA, but these are legitimate top 10 or top 15 in the world fighters in their weight classes.  And I think with M-1 Challenge, it’s an opportunity to give these fighters a worldwide stage.

I know a lot of people have talked to us about the IFL.  My feeling is that it was difficult to see two teams representing cities that you had no allegiance with.  Because it’s not as through the fighters were necessarily from those cities.  Those cities really could have been anything, and you didn’t have a built-in allegiance to it.  But when you put on the M-1 Challenge, even if you’ve never heard of our fighters, if you see Finland vs. France, or the Red Devils vs. South Korea, if you’re a fight fan, that’s going to get you excited.  Just because of the international aspects of it.  What do Finnish MMA guys look like?  What do French MMA guys look like?  If you’re coming out of France, you’re probably growing up with certain disciplines.  If you’re coming out of Russia, you have these certain disciplines.  Holland, you have these certain disciplines.  And drawing it together is what I think makes it so incredibly intriguing.

JT:  That addresses my question about how M-1 sees itself as different from the IFL.  From a fan’s perspective, when I first started watching, there was some trepidation that we’d already seen this team vs. team concept, which most North American fans rejected.

JM:  You also have to remember that M-1 is a global organization where the IFL was more U.S.-based.  Sean comes from a soccer background; he’ll tell you that “nation vs. nation” is huge in soccer.  With the M-1 Challenge, we’ve seen a lot of countries get on board.  Television networks want to air it because they are into seeing France vs. Russia, or England vs. Spain.  They’re really into that.  So I think if it’s a world-based MMA organization . . . it’s our nationalism, it’s our pride, pardon the pun.  But y’know, USA can go over there and smash Spain, or beat England.  That deal.  So I think on an international level, it works.  In the U.S., Indiana against Iowa doesn’t have that much appeal in Los Angeles.

SW:  And especially because those fighters are being arbitrarily being put on those teams.  Some may be from that area, some may not have been.  But the guys who are fighting for Finland are Finnish.  Or they live there fulltime.  The American fighters are from America.  It’s not as though they’re having a draft, so it’s the same reason why soccer speaks to me so much.  And Jerry says this exactly right.  There is nothing more crazed than when you have country vs. country in soccer and I think that’s something we’re trying to replicate.  It’s a source of national pride.  You really hate if your side loses and you feel joy if your side wins, because they’re representing your country, your culture.  I think that’s what we’re really tapping into with M-1.

JT:  To that end, in countries like Finland, Spain, and Korea, how have the crowds reacted?  Is there a big demand for MMA in the countries you’re visiting?  Is M-1 returning?

SW:  We just had a sellout in Finland, and when there was success from a Finnish fighter, that place was bonkers.  I mean they were absolutely thrilled.  There were national chants in there.  It meant something to those people.  Sold-out crowds, standing room only, on a Wednesday night.

We’ve been to Russia three times this year and on our most recent trip, Jerry and I talked about this after the show.  There were about three or four thousand people in the arena chanting for this specific Russian fighter.  And that’s great.  Whether it’s something like mixed martial arts, the Olympics, or the World Cup, I think it’s fantastic that it gets people more involved and more into it.

JT:  How were the fighters recruited, and how were the teams put together, early in the process?

JM:  Apy Echteld is our matchmaker.  Apy puts the teams and coaches together.  Sean and I helped put the U.S. team together.  So it’s a collaborative effort from everyone on the M-1 staff.

SW:  Apy went through certain promoters and managers with whom he had previous relationships in certain countries to assemble a cohesive team.

JT:  Jerry, how is M-1’s internal operations compared with PRIDE?

JM:  The Japanese side of PRIDE was great.  Sakakibara-san was a great boss, a great leader, and a good friend.   Vadim Finkelstein is the same way.  I like to work with good people, and I enjoy working with people that want to perpetuate the sport.  And that actually care about the sport and the fighters.  Sakakibara cared about the fighters.  I saw him do things for fighters that no one would do.  I’ve seen Vadim Finkelstein do things for fighters that no one would do.  Obviously the U.S. PRIDE office had its issues with the two Japanese staff members who were let go [Yukino Kanda and Hideki Yamamoto].  Once they were let go, the PRIDE office ran a little smoother.  The Japanese staff worked very hard and the M-1 staff works very hard.

SW:  I’ll just say also that when we’re on the road, whether we’re in Russia, Finland, the Canary Islands, or Seoul, there’s a sense of family.  Jerry and I are essentially Midwesterners from the U.S., and we have people from Holland, Russia and from all over coming together.  That’s what struck me about M-1 immediately -how warm and welcoming everybody was to me personally from the beginning.  There were big hugs all around and it’s not artificial.  You really spend time with these people on the road and it’s not like “well, I’m in Finland and I sit in the hotel and I’m going to go to the arena.” You eat meals together, you hang out together.  You feel that cohesiveness.

And I think that goes back to Vadim, where he cares about people.  It’s not just “I’m in this for the money.”  Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, for a lot of people in MMA, it’s solely about the money.  They see an opportunity and they have no real love or passion for MMA or fighting sports in general.  They see this as an opportunity to make a buck.  Where we’re not like that at all.  It’s a family and something where we’re trying to be the best we can possibly be in this organization and really build this into a worldwide MMA organization.

JT:  Is that kind of thing attracting other fighters that might already be established?  Or is M-1 looking to strictly build the international names we haven’t heard of already?

SW:  Someone who’s able to main event a pay-per-view show is probably not going to fight for a team in the M-1 Challenge.  It’s not as through Andrei Arlovski is going to fight heavyweight if we have a Team Belarus, or Josh Barnett would fight heavyweight for Team USA.

That said, Gegard Mousasi fought for Team Holland before.  Daniel Tavera, not a lot of people know about him, but I think he’s legitimately top five in the world at 205 pounds, just fought for Team Spain.  The M-1 Challenge I think is really a chance to get people to the next level.   Whether it’s Jason Jones or Kiril Sidelnikov, whom they call “Baby Fedor.”

The parallel track to that is all of the big shows that we’re doing.  For instance, the Fedor vs. Arlovski pay-per-view that’s coming up in January – Kiril is fighting Paul Buentello on the undercard.  I think he’s got a real good chance to win that fight, and if he does, it’s going to be a real coming-out for him.  That’s where I think people are going to see that M-1 is a first-class organization.

In terms of up-and-coming fighters, fighters who are maybe fighting on unknown national circuits be it in the U.S. or whatever country they live in, I think M-1 is a really viable option.   We’re airing in over 80 countries around the world.  I don’t know that the UFC offers that type of exposure globally.

JM:  Exactly.  If Dana had his way, the UFC would be in the Olympics.  Well, to make the sport into the Olympics, you need to have all the countries on board.  It has to be accepted as a worldwide sport.  And I think M-1 is paving the way for that to happen.

JT:  In essence, M-1 is developing the international scene outside of what a lot of people would argue is the hotbed of MMA, North America.

SW:  I would disagree with that.  I would say that North America is a hotbed, but it’s not the hotbed.  Come to Helsinki and see a sold-out crowd on a Wednesday night.  Look at the reaction people like Fedor and Alexander Emelianenko get walking around South Korea, or their home country in Russia.  I think the U.S. and Canada are two of the top MMA markets in the world, but I think just saying that they’re above everything else, I don’t know that it does this sport justice globally.

MMA is a sport that’s taking off in a lot of countries that people haven’t even considered.  For instance, like France and Spain.

JT:  Have they passed legalization in France yet?

SM:  Not yet, which is ironic because they’ve produced some damn good fighters.

Part II will be posted later.  M-1 Challenge can be seen on HD-Net every Friday at 5pm, with repeats throughout the weekend.  Check your local listings for airings outside the U.S.

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.