Russian Bear’s Revival: Taktarov Taps Marsh

By Evgeni Kogan Dec 1, 2007
MOSCOW, Nov. 30 -- From the Megasport Ice Arena in a frozen Russian capital, Bodog Fight held another international event on Friday with a number of interesting bouts as well as the return of Oleg Taktarov.

The event, a first for Moscow, promised a lot and didn't disappoint. Although the virtually new venue was filled to what looked like half capacity, the Russian audience was treated to slick production and a successful night for their countrymen, many of whom won in style.

Taktarov was one of the victorious Russians.

Given that MMA was mostly unknown in Russia when Taktarov was cleaning up in the United States, the uptake of interest in recent years has been very significant. Taktarov was given a hero's welcome as he made his entrance to face the tough, and recently much more active, American John Marsh (Pictures).

Coming off a five-round celebrity boxing fight with Dolph Lundgren a few months ago, Taktarov looked much softer than his still-active contemporaries. There was definitely a hint of doubt in the arena that he still had what it took.

Marsh took charge early in the first, catching Taktarov with a looping right hook to score a quick knockdown. He was not able to capitalize, though. Unable to pass Taktarov's guard, Marsh eventually allowed a scramble back to the feet.

Both men traded warily, with Marsh looking to get a jab rhythm going and Taktarov throwing one-two combinations that looked to get Marsh off balance rather than hurt him. The round finished with a clinch that was separated, a good left hook by Taktarov and another clinch without action.

The second round started with yet another clinch, which pushed Marsh into a corner. Taktarov then promptly dropped down for a textbook kneebar that caused Marsh to tap instantly, ending the fight and heralding Taktarov's initial comeback as a success.

A very emotional Taktarov spent a long time celebrating in the ring afterward, posing for the legions of Russian and international photographers who were in attendance.

By far the most exciting fight that went the distance, Andrei Semenov (Pictures) and Emyr Bussade went at it for most of three rounds in a showcase of standup, ground-and-pound and submissions. This fight was reminiscent of the recent Roger Huerta (Pictures) versus Alberto Crane (Pictures) bout, except that Bussade had great conditioning and considerable ability on the feet.

In the first round, the fighters traded low kicks, clinched and scrambled. Bussade attempted a good heelhook, but Semenov escaped while dishing out much punishment, only to land in another heelhook that had started out as a kneebar. Escaping this one also after pounding on Bussade's face and head, Semenov then gained top position before the fight was restarted due to a lack of action.

The second was a seesaw of trading on the feet. Bussade tried for takedowns but landed mostly on his back and received much punishment. Semenov looked to be running out of ideas on how else to hit Bussade, who showed tremendous heart.

The third round brought a reversal of strategies, with Semenov attempting takedowns and Bussade trying to keep the action on the feet. A solid uppercut and some good body shots landed for Semenov, but Bussade looked decidedly fresher and continued to land jabs and right hands.

In the end, though, Semenov won a decisive decision. He looked reasonably unscathed compared to Bussade, whose face was a plain of bruises and minor cuts.

Diego Visotsky, a mostly self-taught Argentinean, intended on taking down Russian Alexander Shlemenko and submitting him. He knew that the longer the fight stayed on the feet, the greater the chance that the former kickboxer would finish him.

The prediction pretty much came true. From the opening bell, Visotsky attempted takedown after takedown, but Shlemenko sprawled and pushed him off.

In the two-minute fight, Shlemenko threw a couple of flashy kicks, attempted a spinning back fist and finally pushed Visotsky off from yet another failed takedown. He then threw a vicious right mid kick that landed flush on the face of Visotsky, who was attempting to straighten up.

Instantly Visotsky was knocked out, bringing fans to their feet. This was one of the more vicious knockouts recently, with Visotsky out for a few minutes, though he eventually came around and left the ring under his own power.

The bout between Vladimir Kuchenko and Wagner "Zulu" da Conceicao Martins was never going to be a clinic. However, the fight proved to be very popular with the audience, which had taken an instant liking to Zulu. In fact, many fans attempted to photograph themselves with him as the background, on both appropriate and inappropriate occasions.

The first round started with Kuchenko -- who at 266 pounds looked positively dwarfed by the much firmer-looking Brazilian -- and Zulu trading in the center of the ring before the inevitable sumo push trapped the Russian in a corner. After a scramble, Kuchenko gave up his back.

Zulu gladly took the opportunity to quickly repose on the deflating Kuchenko and slip in a rear-naked choke that promptly forced the tap early in round one. On second thought, the tap may have come from the suffocation of Zulu using the Russian as an impromptu bed.

A short-notice replacement for Roman Zentsov (Pictures), Akhmet Sultanov was a complete mystery to Eric Pele (Pictures) and his camp. Pele admitted in a pre-fight interview that fighting a total unknown was not an ideal situation.

Unfortunately for him, the scenario seemed to affect Pele for the majority of the fight. He was very hesitant and unwilling to trade, and his opponent gained momentum as the bout went on.

Both fighters spent the majority of the first round feeling each other out. Pele stuck to a game plan of backing away and trying to counter with a looping overhand right. Sultanov slowly gained confidence, throwing more and more kick and punch flurries that were mostly blocked but did elicit wild cheering from the polite, highly patriotic Moscow audience.

The second continued in the same vein. A tiring Pele backed off and countered, still looking for that fight-ending single punch. Sultanov gained more confidence from still being conscious and increased his work rate, landing more and more, including a looping right that connected flush and echoed throughout the arena.

The third saw both men looking increasingly tired. Pele was much more aggressive, but the punishment he had taken had caught up with him. Even his corner's cries of "Do it for your family" weren't enough to propel him to land anything significant during a number of brawls in the round.

Overall, Sultanov was equal to the task, and he took a significant and richly deserved victory over the man who had recently beaten Antonio Silva.

Dan Evensen (Pictures)'s unanimous decision over Konstantine Gluhov was fraught with many failed opportunities for Evensen to finish his younger and much less experienced opponent. To Gluhov's credit, he defended multiple side mounts, mounts and submission attempts to get to the end.

The first round saw Evensen score a good takedown from the clinch, then transition to side mount and attempt an Americana. Gluhov defended, but Evensen easily mounted him.

The second round started with a Gluhov high kick that was blocked. A brief exchange on the feet followed, leading to one of Evensen's many takedowns and another mount. Again Evensen did little from the superior position. He was eventually reversed, but then he retaliated with a sweep and armbar attempts to finish the round.

More standup exchanges took place in the third. Gluhov attempted a number of flashy and ultimately unsuccessful kicks. Almost inevitably he was taken down and controlled from half guard and side mount to finish the fight, which Evensen won comfortably.

Vladimir Zenin (Pictures) looked calm and composed during the face off with James "Binky" Jones. His good composure continued even as he was somewhat easily taken down by Jones, who tried to pound on him in the guard.

Impressive on his back, Zenin went very high with his guard and threatened with a triangle choke, though the submission was not close. Jones looked to pass and secure a limb, but Zenin reversed him almost effortlessly. The Russian then gained mount before spinning into a textbook armbar that Jones briefly tried in vain to defend.

The fight wasn't a great matchup, as Jones made Zenin look better than he is, perhaps, at this stage in his career.

Stanislav Shushko and Telman Sheripov fought a plodding three-round fight with much back-and-forth action. Sheripov was able to scrape together the decision, probably due in part to a good series of strikes in the first that opened up Shushko's nose like a tap that ran for the rest of the fight. Sheripov didn't come through unscathed though; his thigh looked as if it had been done over with a baseball bat from Shushko's low kicks.

Ivan Anikanov defended the first takedown by Besiki Gerenava, who quickly transitioned into a slick armbar to end the fight in the first without receiving a scratch for his troubles.

Alexander Kokoev continued down a rocky road with another disappointing submission loss via rear-naked choke to Sultan Tikhaev late in the second round.

The bout between Julia Berezikova (Pictures) and Jessica Aguilar was postponed until the next Bodog event.
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