If coffee is for closers (see “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet), then the assortment of fight finishers that graced our TV screens for last night’s M-1 Challenge XXVI on Showtime deserve to have free reign at their nearest Starbucks. Of the five fights on the Russian-based promotion’s latest US installment, four ended with knockouts. Let’s review the carnage, shall we?
The first bout of the evening saw Arizonan Eddie Arizmendi taking on Iraqi war veteran Jason Norwood. Eddie who versus Jason who? Beats me, but to their credit, these two unknowns made the most of their television time by scrapping. From the outset it was clear Arizmendi had the advantage in striking, as with only a tiny bit of distance he was able to land hard and repeatedly. Norwood, meanwhile, struggled to press his foe up against the cage and grapple him – a futile effort given that M-1 Challenge uses a ring instead of a cage.
Round 1 was somewhat even thanks to Arizmendi securing back-control and punishing Norwood and Norwood reversing an attempting some ground and pound. But a referee standup late in the second round signaled the beginning of the end for the man with weaker striking. First a high-kick, then a cross-hook combination, and Norwood was tumbling to the canvas, stunned as “Big” John McCarthy was forced to step in. The official time of the knockout was 4:55 of Round 2.
Beau Baker has never been more than a journeyman in his MMA career, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t tough. Unfortunately for him, though, you need more than toughness to win fights – especially when your opponent, a German named Daniel Weichel, wields superior standup and relentlessly punishes you with it. From beginning to end Weichel was working Baker over, confidently blasting him with punches and sneaking in kicks to the body, and when they clinched, tying Baker up with a Thai Plum and working him over. Baker emerged from Round 2 bloodied, and while his aforementioned resilience kept him coming back for more, there was no doubt who’d earned the unanimous decision when time expired. (Hint: the German dude.)
The beauty of M-1 Challenge is that it pits some pretty elite guys from overseas against some far-from-elite guys from here in the States. Case in point: Mairbek Tiasumov versus Josh Bacallao, which saw the foreigner outclass the American in brutal fashion. Right out of the gate Bacallao tried to get it to the ground, and with very little effort Taisumov shrugged him off. Then he squared up and fired a right hand down the middle – a heat-seeking missile that exploded in Bacallao’s face and dropped him. The follow-up fist on the ground sealed the deal, and the knockout was official at 2:01 of the first round.
Tyson Jeffries is a strong, capable fighter. Believe me, I saw him win the M-1 Challenge “Selections” tournament, saw him withstand ungodly punishment and come back to wreck house. But I guess you’d never know of Jeffries’ ability based on what you’ve thus far seen of him on Showtime. At the last M-1 Challenge installment on TV he got clobbered by Magomed Sultanakhmedov, and at this one, he ran into a brick wall named Arthu Guseinov. How did Jeffries get smashed this time?
As soon as referee Herb Dean said “go”, Jeffries was on the Russian like white on rice, aiming to negate Guseinov’s deadly striking with a wrestling assault. But Guseinov escaped danger, set himself, and threw a spinning backfist that completely and utterly separated Jeffries’ consciousness from his body. The American was out cold at 1:32 of Round 1.
In the finals of the M-1 Challenge “Selection” heavyweight tournament, Kenny Garner and Pat Bennett played “Rock-‘Em-Sock-‘Em Robots” until Bennett dropped midway through the first round. This time, Bennett made it into the second round before dropping. The difference was the New Yorker’s slightly better footwork and head-movement, which enabled him to dodge a small percentage of leather he’d otherwise have eaten. Still, Garner remained the better man on the feet, and that “betterness” manifested itself with accurate punches and the kind of confidence that breeds aggression. The end came via a Garner knee to the head and right-left combo that TKO’d Bennett at 1:15 of Round 2.
-Eddie Arizmendi def. Jason Norwood via KO (Punch) at 4:55 in Round 2
-Daniel Weichel def. Beau Baker by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-25)
-Mairbek Tiasumov def. Josh Bakkalao via KO (Punch) at 2:01 in Round 1
-Arthur Guseinov def. Tyson Jeffries via KO (Spinning Backfist) at 1:32 in Round 1
-Kenny Garner def. Pat Bennett via KO (Punch) at 1:15 in Round 2