Tacoma, Washington - In a stunning upset, Team South Korea defeated the defending 2008 M-1 Challenge Champions Russia Imperial Team (formerly Russia Red Devil) by a score of 3-2 during the 2009 "M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction" season opener on Saturday night at the Emerald Queen Casino near Tacoma, Washington.
A capacity crowd witnessed an outstanding show featuring 30 fighters from six teams in three head-to-head matchups for a total of 15 fights. In addition to Russia Imperial Team's upset, the debuting USA Team West gave the partial crowd in attendance a major upset victory by defeating the debut Brazil Naja team by a score of 3-2.
Finland also asserted itself as a legitimate contender for the 2009 championship with a dominant 4-1 victory over 2008 second-place finishers Team Benelux (formerly Team Holland).
South Korea's Do Hyung Kim sent a message to the Imperial Team's Mikhail Malyutin that his decision to move from welterweight to lightweight was made with the intention of displacing Malyutin as the M-1 Challenge's top fighter at 155 pounds. After a spirited two rounds, the judges awarded Kim a unanimous decision victory.
Following Kim's win, welterweight Myung Ho Bae took the stage and earned his second career victory over a disappointed Erik Oganov. Oganov, a former BodogFIGHT veteran who holds notable wins over Derrick Noble and Keith Wisniewski, fell to 0-2 in head-to-head matchups with Bae when he was forced to tap to a rear naked choke at 2:12 of round 2.
Up 2-0, South Korea looked to pull off the sweep as Hyung Yu Lim went toe-to-toe with the Imperial Team's Dmitry Samoylov. Samoylov cut South Korea's lead in half by improving his career M-1 record to 4-2 following a unanimous decision victory over Lim.
Now only down 2-1, the Imperial Team appeared a lock to even the score as its light heavyweight ace Mikhail Zayats headed out to take on Jae Young Kim. Zayats entered the fight with an impressive 8-1 overall record and a perfect 4-0 record during M-1 Challenge team play. A World Combat Sambo Champion in 2008, Zayats dominated the shorter Kim in the first round and appeared to be well on his way to his ninth career victory. However, the resilient Kim refused to quit and continued to move forward despite absorbing a great deal of strikes from Zayats. The Kyoshin Karate expert's hard work eventually paid off after he rocked the reigning World Sambo Champion with a three-punch combo, prompting color commentator Jimmy Smith to remark that Zayats appeared to be half-conscious.
Showing a tremendous amount of resiliency of his own, a dazed Zayats continued to engage with Kim as he attempted to re-establish himself in the fight. However, before he could recover, Zayats was knocked out with a high kick by Kim at 4:02 of round 2 in what play-by-play announcer Sean Wheelock referred to as one of the biggest upsets in M-1's 11 year history of promoting fights around the world.
Kim's win clinched South Korea's 3-2 upset over the Imperial Team and gave the live audience watching the event live in South Korea reason to celebrate.
Looking to make a statement by winning with a score of 4-1, South Korean heavyweight Sang Soo Lee was poised to exact a measure of revenge against Imperial's Alexy Oliynik. Oliynik proved himself once again to his teammates after stepping in for Affliction-bound Kirill Sidelnikov and winning during last month's 2008 Championships against Team Holland's Jessie Gibbs. Oilynik submitted Gibbs with a rare Ezekiel choke at 3:42. Proving that the execution of the difficult move was no fluke, the 24-4 Moscow native won his ninth consecutive fight when he tapped Lee with another Ezekiel choke at 4:27 of round 2.
Team USA West, led by owners Roy Engelbrecht and Steve Bash as well as head coach Colin Oyama, showed the world it's here to contend for a title in 2009 following its 3-2 upset over Brazil Naja. A new star was born in Team Quest's Dave Jansen, who improved to 8-0 by recording an impressive unanimous decision over former Rio Heroes star and cult Vale Tudo legend Flavio Alvaro. Using a strong mix of combination striking and takedowns, Jansen left little doubt in the minds of the supportive audience after the fight went to the judges' scorecards. Despite suffering three facial lacerations during the fight and in spite of accepting the bout on just eight days notice after Brian Cobb was signed by the UFC, Jansen recorded a decisive unanimous decision with his breakthrough effort that made him the talk of press row.
Brazil Naja evened the score to 1-1 following Eduardo Pamplona's unanimous decision victory over Maui's Dylan Clay. Clay, a professional grappler who also holds a 2-0 record in pro Muay Thai, more than held his own with the vastly more experienced Pamplona. In a back and forth battle, Clay forced the bout to go to overtime in the third round. Unfortunately, the aggressive Clay ran out of steam and was TKO'd at 2:48 of round three after finding his arms trapped underneath Pamplona and being physically unable to defend himself from strikes.
A veteran from the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter, Reggie Orr let everyone know that he intends to be one of the premier middleweights in the M-1 Challenge following his split decision victory over the 9-2 Juliano Belgine. With Team USA up 2-1, the pressure was on Raphael Davis to clinch the win for Team USA against Jair Goncalves.
Davis, an IFL veteran and one of the world's top rated submission grapplers, displayed improved standup skills by recording a first round TKO just four minutes and five seconds into the fight. With Davis' win, Team USA managed to secure a victory on its home turf during its inaugural performance. Brazil Naja saved some face by cutting the win to a 3-2 margin following Jose Franca's split decision victory over former EliteXC heavyweight veteran Carl Seumanutafa.
In the head-to-head opener of the show, Team Finland showed marked improvement in its 4-1 victory over Team Benelux. Filling in for the injured Bogan Christea, lightweight Danny van Bergen showed just as much moxie and heart as Christea during his unanimous decision victory over Finland's Juha-Pekka Vainikainen. Despite the early 1-0 lead, it was all Finland thereafter. Welterweight Janne Turlinta pulled off a beautiful standing D'Arce choke against the previously undefeated Tommy Depret. Finland then moved to 2-1 following Lucio Linhares' armbar submission over Kamil Uygun at 1:22 of round 1. Light heavyweight Marcus Vanttinen then clinched the team victory for Team Finland by upsetting Jason Jones via unanimous decision. Former light heavyweight Toni Valtonen then added the exclamation point in his heavyweight debut when he knocked 21-year old Sander Duiyvis out following a vicious slam.
With 2009 successfully underway, the M-1 Challenge is set to debut in Sofia, Bulgaria with matchups featuring Bulgaria vs. USA South, China vs. the World Team, and Turkey vs. Australia/New Zealand. Final rosters and lineups for the event are expected to be announced in the coming weeks at www.M1Mixfight.com.
Official results for the Feb. 21 2009 M-1 Challenge Opener at the Emerald Queen Casino near Tacoma, Washington:
Team Finland vs. Team Benelux (Finland wins 4-1) -
- Danny van Bergen (150.92 lbs.) def. Juha-Pekka Vainkainen (154 lbs.) via unanimous decision
- Janne Tulirinta (166.32 lbs.) def. Tommy Depret (165 lbs.) via submission (D'Arce choke) at 2:30 of round 1
- Lucio Linhares (184.36 lbs.) def. Kamil Uygun (182.16 lbs.) via submission (armbar) at 1:22 of round 1
- Marcus Vanttinen (204.6 lbs.) def. Jason Jones (200.2 lbs.) via unanimous decision
- Toni Valtonen (228.8 lbs.) def. Sander Duyvis (253.88 lbs.) via knockout (slam) at 0:18 of round 1
Team South Korea vs. the Imperial Team (South Korea wins 3-2) -
- Do Hyung Kim (154 lbs.) def. Mikhail Malyutin (151.88 lbs.) via unanimous decision
- Myung Ho Bae (166.76 lbs.) def. Erik Oganov (167.2 lbs.) via submission (rear naked choke) at 2:12 of round 2
- Dmitry Samolyov (182.16 lbs.) def. Hyung Yu Lim (184.8 lbs.) via unanimous decision
- Jae Young Kim (204.16 lbs.) def. Mikhail Zayats (200.2 lbs.) via knockout (high kick) at 4:02 of round 2
- Alexy Oleinik (231 lbs.) def. Sang Soo Le (234.08 lbs.) via submission (Ezekiel choke) at 4:27 of round 2
Team USA West vs. Team Brazil Naja (Team USA West wins 3-2) -
- Dave Jansen (154 lbs.) def. Flavio Alvaro (154 lbs.) via unanimous decision
- Eduardo Pamplona (163.24 lbs.) def. Dylan Clay (165.88 lbs.) via TKO (strikes) at 2:48 of round 3
- Reggie Orr (182.6 lbs.) vs. Juliano Belgine (180.84 lbs.) via split decision
- Raphael Davis (204.16 lbs.) def. Jair Goncalves (199.32 lbs.) via TKO (strikes) at 4:05 of round 1
- Jose Franca (243.76 lbs.) def. Carl Seumanutafa (260.04 lbs.) via split decision
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