M-1 Challenge Delivers in Russia

By Evgeni Kogan Jun 28, 2008
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Living up to a magical setting on a warm, clear summer's night in St. Petersburg, M-1 Challenge did not disappoint Friday. The couple of hundred invited guests present on the Flying Dutchman, comprising a who's who of St. Petersburg society, were treated to 12 fights that had a fair amount of intrigue and drama.

The preliminary fight was a back-and-forth affair between Andrey Lisistin and Artur Korchemnii. Lisistin got the better of the ground fighting most of the time. In the second round, Korchemnii put forth a good attempt at a guillotine while Lisistin was in his guard, but he couldn't hold it. Lisistin went on to win a unanimous decision.

With the St. Petersburg summer White Nights on full spectacular display, the first fight of the team competition began between Rostov-on-Don native Yuri Ivlev (Pictures) and Spaniard Carles Valeri Mazano. In person Ivlev comes across as quiet and shy. During the 2:29 it took Ivlev to school Mazano in both stand-up and ground fighting, it became clear he best communicates with his fists.

Ivlev threw a wide array of fancy mid and high kicks, bobbed and weaved like Muhammad Ali in his heyday and generally did everything he could to confuse the Spaniard. Eventually he hip tossed Mazano from the clinch and rolled into a textbook armbar that had the Spaniard tapping straight away.

Next was Islam Karimov (Pictures) squaring off against Juan Manuel Suarez. Suarez is a highly decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu player, and it showed. For two rounds he did everything but finish Karimov, who with his grappling background is no slouch on the ground. Anytime the fight would end up on the feet, Suarez would clinch and pull guard, and the submission attempts would begin again. He almost stuck a number of kimuras, triangles and rear-naked chokes en route to a unanimous decision over Karimov in a bout that was a pleasure to watch.

Ansar Chalangov (Pictures) made very short work of his inexperienced Spanish opponent, Eulogio Fernandez. After a feeling-out process, Chalangov clinched with Fernandez, powered him onto the floor, then stood and grabbed a leg for a vicious-looking toehold that made the Spaniard cry out and tap after 1:18.

Rafael Rodriguez and Besike Gerinava (Pictures) put on a good back-and-forth fight that saw Gerinava slowly take the initiative by slamming Rodriguez and attempting to bully him on the ground. Rodriguez tried for a guillotine that looked deep at times with Gerinava in his guard, but to no avail. Scrambling to escape ground-and-pound from Gerinava, Rodriguez gave up his back and allowed Gerinava to sink the hooks for a rear-naked choke that forced the tap at 4:10 of the first round.

The last of the Legion Fight versus the Spanish matches was between heavyweights Ahmed Sultanov and Rogent Lloret (Pictures). It was a classic striker-versus-grappler match that Sultanov apparently fought with a temperature of 100, and it showed. Though he showed plenty of heart, he was unable to do anything with the constant takedowns and ground domination of the Spanish BJJ champion. To his credit, Sultanov managed to last the entirety of the match on his back and often fully mounted, thought Lloret won a unanimous decision.

Red Devil's Mikhail Malutin (Pictures) faced Finn Niko Puhakka (Pictures) in perhaps the fight of the night. If you read my blog from the last few days, you may remember that Puhakka was the colorfully tattooed individual who had a very solid reputation and looked it every inch.

He started the match in the same vein, sprawling on a Malutin takedown attempt and twisting to get the Russian's back first with hooks and then with a body triangle. Puhakka spent almost the entire round trying to sink in a rear-naked choke, coming close at times, but not being able to finish it.

In the second it was almost the mirror opposite. Malutin reversed a takedown and ended up in mount, then took Puhakka's back when the Finn turned to escape punishment. With Aleksander Emelianenko (Pictures) screaming instructions from the first row of spectators, Malutin battered Puhakka and eventually wore the Finn down enough to sink a rear-naked choke at 3:16 of the second round, giving Malutin his best career win.

Eric Oganov faced off with Janne Tulirinta (Pictures) from Finland. Following a first round spent going back and forth mostly on the ground, Oganov landed a punishing liver punch and followed it up with a couple of shots to the head early in the second, prompting the referee to halt the bout after 56 seconds. Bas Rutten (Pictures) would have been very proud.

Dmitri Samoilov took a decision over Niklas Winberg in what was a frustrating match with plenty of potential that wasn't realized. Neither fighter really took the initiative, though Samoilov won more of the exchanges on the feet and the ground and did enough to take the majority win.

As expected, the match between highly accomplished BJJ practitioners Mikhail Zayats (Pictures) and Lucio Linhares (Pictures) was a grappling showcase. Linhares is widely considered the best BJJ fighter in Finland, and he showed tonight that the reputation is well deserved.

Though he often gave up position to do so, Linhares put Zayats in several very compromising situations that threatened most of his limbs and neck. But he also had Zayats' back a number of times and only failed to capitalize because of the quality of the Russian's defense. In the end the decision went to Mikhail Zayats (Pictures), though this is a fight that could have deserved a third round.

The final fight of the team competition was between 20-year-old Kirill Sidelnikov, widely touted as Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures)'s protégé, and the 37-year-old Jarno Nurminen (Pictures), who, though much older, has a similar record to Sidelnikov.

Nurminen showed that taking charge and pushing your agenda can work wonders, even when the odds seem to be stacked against you. He looked to avoid standing with the Russian right from the beginning, instead preferring to shoot singles and doubles, which worked the majority of the time. On the ground Nurminen's weight proved difficult to handle for Sidelnikov, who often found himself mounted. Despite great defense from the bottom, Sidelnikov lost the decision.

The last bout of the night was the ill-fated superfight that took place between two fighters who had not been originally scheduled to compete. Aleksey Olennik made short work of his much less experienced opponent, Russian Alexander Timonov. In doing so he demonstrated an unusual choke from inside Timonov's full guard, choking him with a forearm but with a formation of his hands that resembled a rear-naked choke.

The atypical submission marked a fitting end to a good night of fights that everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy thoroughly.
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