COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Envisioned as a showcase card for M-1 Global heavyweight champion Guram Gugenishvili on Showtime, M-1 Challenge 26 was left with far less intrigue when the highly-touted prospect was forced off of the card with an arm injury. Nonetheless, the show ultimately delivered in the entertainment department, with a televised slate of matches that saw more than its fair share of emphatic finishes.
Originally scheduled to face Gugenishvili for the promotion's heavyweight title, Team Bombsquad’s Pat Bennett instead found himself in a rematch with the man who had previously stopped him in the M-1 Selection 2010 Americas heavyweight tournament final, Kenny Garner, himself fresh off a loss to the aforementioned champion.
Bennett came out aggressively, cracking the former title challenger early on with straight rights and winging lefts. However, a combination of fatigue and return fire from Garner had Bennett dazed and watching the ringside clock only halfway through the bout’s opening round. Though Bennett scored a late takedown, repeated body punches and a scalp-tearing right hand had Bennett looking rough headed into the second period.
Garner kept the pressure up in round two, and eventually felled his rival with a right hand straight down the pipe. Bennett attempted to put his legs between himself and his opponent, but a single follow-up right hand turned the lights out at 1:15 of the second stanza.
Following his conquest, Garner called for a rematch with Gugenishvili in his own colorful way, stating that he would “beat (his) brains out. Like, professionally.”
However, M-1 Global Director of Operations Evgeni Kogan indicated to Sherdog.com that he would like to see Garner in at least one more fight to determine the next challenger for the returning champion.
Though primarily known as a submission stylist, Daniel Weichel showed off some violently effective muay Thai against an overmatched Beau Baker. The German overwhelmed his prey with a torrent of kicks, knees and punches and a sharp counter right hand that busted up Baker's nose.
Baker hung tough and never stopped trying to land punches and kicks of his own, but was simply too slow to land much beyond the occasional strike.
Curiously, Baker made precious few attempts to take the fight to the ground amidst the beating, opting instead to exchange kicks with his far quicker challenger.
Weichel himself made note of this to Sherdog.com following the contest, commenting that he had expected Baker to attempt takedowns behind his punches.
After 15 lopsided minutes, all three judges saw the bout as a Weichel shutout, with Lester Griffin and Mike Beltran seeing it 30-27. Larry Landless scored the bout a wide 30-25.
The lightweight slugger improved his mark to 27-7 with the win, including an impressive 9-1 run in his last 10 fights.
Arthur Guseinov rebounded from the first two losses of his career in highlight-reel fashion, stopping Tyson Jeffries in just 92 seconds. Jeffries scored an early takedown and secured side control, but could do little before finding himself on his feet once again.
Guseinov waited momentarily before unleashing an uncannily accurate spinning-back fist, catching the Team Quest middleweight directly on the chin.
An early takedown by Josh Bacallao only momentarily delayed another impressive finish from Mairbek Taisumov, as the Vienna-based Chechen quickly regained his feet and dropped his opponent with a right hand.
A follow-up right on the mat momentarily left Bacallao limp, giving Taisumov the knockout win at 2:01 of round one.
Eddie Arizmendi displayed the more refined standup throughout against Jason Norwood, repeatedly stunning his middleweight opponent with hard shots.
In the waning moments of the second round, Arizmendi sealed the deal by first landing a right head kick and then following it up with a “Superman” punch-left hook combination. The official time of the KO was 4:55 of round two.
Mike Robles attempted to keep Max Martyniouk off balance with a pair of flying knees and an attempt to pull guard, but the stalking Team Quest lightweight eventually put his contemporary out with a devastating right hand at 2:30 of the opening frame.
A late replacement for Aaron Miller, Tyler Weathers made the jump up from 135 pounds look easy in submitting featherweight Richard Schiller with a first-round guillotine choke at the 2:37 mark.
In the night’s opening bout, light heavyweight Diman Morris showed little respect for Brandon Michaels early in their clash, repeatedly taunting his foe between thudding low kicks. Michaels made his over-confident opponent pay with sporadic punching flurries and repeated takedowns.
Judge Landless saw the bout a 30-27 shutout for Michaels, but judges Griffin and Beltran both gave 29-28 scores to Morris, who took the split decision.