M-1 Global returned to Finland after a nine-year absence to promote M-1 Challenge 82 on Saturday at Hartwell Arena in Helsinki. It was the first MMA event to be held at the facility, which serves as the largest ice hockey arena in the country.
Mikhail Zayats returned from a three-year absence to outpoint Marcus Vanttinen in the main event. Vanttinen was on a two-year layoff of his own. Zayats carried all three scorecards, using takedowns in every round while damaging the “Caveman” in a slow-paced bout that gave local fans little reason to cheer.
“Don’t call it a comeback,” Zayats said. “I have always been here.”
Heliton dos Santos Davila showed off his impressive top game in the co-headliner, as he landed punches on fan favorite Janne Elonen-Kulmala for much of the first round. The Finn found his groove in the second, where he landed a solid left hand that sent dos Santos’ mouthpiece flying. “Jamba” took control with his grappling, but his momentum stalled on a takedown from dos Santos. A strong final round for the Brazilian seemed to lock up a victory, but the judges saw it as a split draw.
Vitaliy Branchuk landed a one-two combination that smashed the nose of Mikael Silander. However, the Finn battled back in the second round and found an opening for kicks to the lead leg. The “Hulk” found even more success in the third, where he took the back of a standing Branchuk and kneed his legs repeatedly. The Ukrainian was issued a yellow card for fleeing at one point, as Silander secured a majority decision.
Russian Pavel Gordeev had Michel Silva hurt with heavy punches early and sent the Brazilian wobbling around the cage in the first round. Silva somehow survived the onslaught and started stalking his shorter counterpart in the second and third round. Gordeev, however, scored with punches to the head and body to walk away with a victory in a spirited battle.
Juho Valamaa brought the Finnish fans to their feet by finishing Portugal’s Aires Benrois. He put the visiting fighter against the cage, landed a brutal knee to the face and eventually put away Benrois with punches. The streaking Valamaa has nine wins in his last 10 bouts.
Alexander Butenko overpowered Keith Johnson to kick off the main card, as he used big right hands and body-lock takedowns in all three rounds to win in dominant fashion.
In other action, Arnaud Kherfallah submitted Patrik Pietila with a guillotine choke; Ruslan Shamilov turned out Moses Murrietta’s lights with a crushing uppercut-left hand combination; Frederico Gutzwiller submitted Akaki Khorava with an armbar; Oleg Lichkovaka took a unanimous decision from Binh Son Le; and Boris Polejay utilized takedowns and nasty ground-and-pound on his way to punishing Toni Valtonen for 15 minutes.