On the night before one of the UFC’s most compelling cards of the year, M-1 Challenge offered up its thirtieth installment, and like a tasty appetizer before the eagerly-anticipated main course, the event did much to whet the pugilistic palette of those who watched. A champ was challenged, a tournament winner got back on track, and there were rematches galore, so take a bite and savor this recap.
Feisty Filipino cum Californian Alvan Cacdac certainly had an uphill climb ahead of him when he signed on as a late-replacement against featherweight Boa Quach, but he met the Strikeforce veteran’s experience and grappling with complete fearlessness and a willingness to stand in the pocket and bang. And it very nearly paid off for Cacdac, as he and Quach engaged in a frantic shootout that ended with Quach falling backwards onto his butt. But it went downhill from there, as his opponent snatched a leg, put him down, slid into mount, then rolled into an armbar. Cacdac defended, and Quach simply transitioned into a triangle choke, a choke that had the Filipino tapping out soon after. The official end was clocked at 3:33 of Round 1.
It’s highly likely that M-1 Challenge ‘Americas’ tournament winner Tyson Jeffries and Eddie Arizmendi have nightmares about the promotion’s star fighter Arthur Guseinov, who easily dispatched Jeffries with a spinning backfist and destroyed Arizmendi’s leg with a heelhook when the two fighters last fought. But here they were, returning to action in the M-1 Challenge crucible and facing each other. With Jeffries, the skill set brought into the ring was Muay Thai and wrestling, although it was clear his confidence in his standup was shaken; for Arizmendi, it was submissions and wild striking. How did it all play out? Round 1 was all about Jeffries avoiding spending too much time on the feet and instead opting for takedowns and ineffectual attempts at punishment from above. In the second, Arizmendi made a fatal mistake when he fell back into a guillotine attempt, as Jeffries took the opportunity to leap into side-control, then cinch on a D’Arce choke. Arizmendi struggle at first, but eventually tapped out at 2:08 of Round 2.
Undefeated Russian lightweight Alexander Sarnavskiy did about as well as you’d expect when he took on last-minute stand-in Sergio Cortez – which is to say, the 16-0 fighter put on a short and sweet grappling clinic. The domination began when Sarnavskiy lost his balance after throwing a kick and Cortez followed him down, a sequence of events that soon had the Russian reversing the American courtesy of a deep kimura attempt. From top position, Sarnavskiy poked and prodded and took Cortez’s back. The rear naked choke that materialized after that was inevitable, as was Cortez’s capitulation at the 1:46 mark of the first round.
Jose Figueroa won the organization’s lightweight belt when he pounded out Artiom Damkovsky, and the American held onto the title until German Daniel Weichel pried it from his unconscious fingers a few weeks ago. Thus, this rematch between Figueroa and Damkovsky, which would in theory signal the return of one of them on the championship trail. Clearly having watched and re-watched tape of Figueroa and his loss against Weichel, the Belarussian spent the duration lobbing right hands like grenades. Figueroa threw leather in return, though his were more calculated. But it was all over at 2:19 of the first round, as Damkovsky caught the American stepping in and put him down with one of those aforementioned grenades – an abrupt, and pretty damn entertaining, finish.
M-1 Challenge welterweight champ Shamil Zavurov and Swiss challenger Yasubey Enomoto rounded out the card with a marquee bout that featured a burly Russian wrestler inexplicably standing with a more technical kickboxer, but acquitting himself well in terms of dishing it out. The first round saw Enomoto flying like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, flitting about as Zavurov swung hard. The champ changed tactics in Round 2 when he dumped his foe onto the canvas and tried to work his ground and pound. True success in that realm eluded, though, and as the rounds went, Zavurov’s shots became sloppier and sloppier. Then, with just under a minute left in the fifth round, the champ went for a takedown and Enomoto snaked his arms around his neck and squeezed. Exhausted, and with the flow of blood to his brain cut off, Zavurov was left with no choice but to tap out – a turn of events that rendered Enomoto the new M-1 Challenge champ at 4:10 of Round 5.
-Yasubey Enomoto def. Shamil Zavurov via Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 4:10 in Round 5
-Artiom Damkovsky def. Jose Figueroa via KO (Punch) at 2:19 in Round 1
-Alexander Sarnavskiy def. Sergio Cortez via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:46 in Round 1
-Tyson Jeffries def. Eddie Arizmendi via Submission (D’Arce Choke) at 2:08 in Round 2
-Bao Quach def. Alvan Cacdac via Submission (Armbar/Triangle Choke) at 3:33 in Round 1