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Missed Fists: Grapplers shine at the weekend’s M-1 Challenge, SFL shows

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Shavkat Rakhmonov looks to finish Levan Solodovnik with a triangle choke at M-1 Challenge 87
M-1 Challenge, FITE TV

Welcome to the latest edition of Missed Fists where Jed Meshew and Alexander K. Lee shine a light on fights from across the globe that may have been overlooked in these hectic times where it seems like there’s an MMA show every other day.

This week, we were treated to some fine grappling from Russia’s M-1 Challenge promotion and the opening week of Super Fight League Season 2 in India.

AL: This past Friday marked the first major M-1 Challenge event of 2018 and there was no shortage of quality action. Let’s jump right to the main card first and talk about the competitive battle that opened that portion of this show in St. Petersburg.

Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Levan Solodovnik

JM: Rakhmonov vs. Solodovnik was a strong way to start the main card for M-1 Challenge 87. We got a back-and-forth grappling affair with a lot of flow to it before Rakhmonov won it with a triangle choke in the second round. If you like ground work, this was one of the better fights of the weekend and at 23 years old and now 9-0, Rakhmonov could be set for a jump to a bigger organization.

AL: You often hear that rings are more conducive to striking battles than ground affairs, but that certainly didn’t seem to slow down either of these welterweights whose tall, rangy builds lent themselves perfectly to trips, scrambles, and sweeps (it’s also worth mentioning that the M-1 ring has a fence underneath the bottom rope to prevent competitors from sliding under and out). Hailing from Kazakhstan, Rakhmonov has finished all of his opponents inside of two rounds and he’s clearly one to watch.

Another fighter who wasn’t hindered at all by being surrounded by four corners was Switzerland’s Pablo Ortmann.

Pablo Ortmann vs. Ingiskhan Ozdoev

AL: Simply put, Ortmann was absolutely relentless from the opening bell and he made Ozdoev pay for daring to challenge him on the canvas.

JM: Ortmann put on a clinic in this one. From jump street he was two or three steps ahead of Ozdoev and at one point in the first he even had Ozdoev in a heel hook that had the Russian briefly motioning for a tap. At 8-0 with mostly submission wins, Ortmann could be another guy due for a bump up in competition.

AL: A lot of the work was done from the 50/50 guard, which Ultimate Fighter 22 winner Ryan Hall has used to great effectiveness in the UFC, and Ortmann showed how a skilled ground fighter can take advantage of what at first glance appears to be a neutral position.

It wasn’t all about wrist control and joint manipulation though. The last fight of the preliminaries featured an absolutely vicious display of striking.

Daniil Prikaza vs. Anderson Queiroz

JM: Yeaaaaaah. If Yoel Romero hadn’t delivered a KO of the Year contender on Saturday this would’ve been my favorite knockout of the weekend. Anytime you put someone out on their feet with a Vitor-esque blitz of hands, you deserve to get dapped up. Man, the welterweights brought it on this M-1 Challenge card.

AL: While it wasn’t exactly an Anderson Silva-esque display of laser-like striking, the sheer ferocity with which Prikaza hunted for the finish here in front of his fellow Russians has to be respected. And that glazed over look in Queiroz’s eyes is absolutely haunting.

The finish took just over 90 seconds and if readers want to check it out and the rest of the event, both the preliminaries and main card are available to watch for free on FITE TV.

Now for something a little different. Tell me Jed, what do you know about the Super Fight League?

Rajith Chandran vs. Amit Kumar

JM: I know very little. Would you care to explain the eccentricities of MTV India’s fight show?

AL: Remember the International Fight League? Of course you do. But for those who don’t, it was a promotion that ran from 2006-2008 that had the idea of organizing professional fighters onto teams and having them represent cities just like in other sports, so you ended up with squads like the New York Pitbulls and Quad City Silverbacks. It was a great concept and several future UFC standouts would pass through the promotion, including Roy Nelson and Ben Rothwell.

The SFL is trying to recapture that magic. Every weekend features three shows where two teams of six face off and try to score the most points, with differing amounts being awarded for victories by decision, submission, and knockout. It recently completed its first season in 2017, which was won by the Sher-E Punjab. Saturday’s show in Mumbai was the second episode of Season 2 and it featured the Haryana Sultans vs. the Bengaluru Tigers.

JM: A slight digression but you completely forgot to mention the best part about the IFL, the IFL Anthem!

Does Super Fight League have anything half as good as Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland sing-talking “I am L and I’m hard as Hell. When I hit the mat, the girls all yell”?

AL: I hope SFL execs never see this because considering that this is an MTV production, they’d do everything in their power to record their own version.

The talent in this league is admittedly raw compared to what the modern MMA fan is used to, but I found the lightweight matchup between Chandran and Kumar to be the standout of Saturday’s SFL show (aka SFL: Ruthless Aggression). According to Sherdog, this is was Chandran’s first pro fight and Kumar’s third, but they showed a decent level of polish.

JM: I’m always down for a funky team dynamic so this was right up my alley. Plus, we had dueling triangle attempts! It’s not every day you get to see both men go for triangles in the same fight. Usually only one guy is aggressive off their back it seems like.

AL: Kumar showed a ton of promise here as he scored a knockdown in Round 1 and actually managed to get Chandran into a mounted triangle in Round 2. Somehow, Chandran slipped out the backdoor before later finding his own triangle choke and finishing it.

SFL: Ruthless Aggression and the rest of the upcoming 2018 season are expected to be available on the official Facebook page and you can catch up on the 2017 season on their YouTube channel.

If you know of a recent fight or event that you think may have been overlooked or a promotion that could use some attention, please let us know on Twitter @JedKMeshew and @AlexanderKLee using the hashtag #MissedFists.

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