Tacoma, Washington — 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 Devils 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.) – Dmitry Samoylov (Team Imperial) def. Hyung Yu 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.) – Alexey Oliynyk (Team Imperial) sub. Sang Soo 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.) – Dave 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).