Lost in the hype from the UFC-Strikeforce merger was the debut of M-1 Challenge on Showtime, which is also the home of Strikeforce MMA events.
In fact, Strikeforce announcers Mauro Ranallo and Pat Miletich welcomed us to the campus of Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.
Fedor Emelianenko’s home promotion did not disappoint, as the American fans witnessed some fast action and two title changes.
The main event was a bloody brawl that saw Jose Figueroa capture the M-1 Global lightweight title from Artiom Damkovsky. Figueroa busted the champ open in the first round, and he was raining down bombs from the full mount when the referee stopped the fight.
Damkovsky’s cornermen protested, but their man was unable to defend himself. The other title change saw Magomed Sultanakhmedov outslug Tyson Jeffries to capture the M-1 Global middleweight championship.
Sultanakhmedov used a concentrated attack of knee strikes to the liver to secure the second-round stoppage and the championship.
Vinny Magalhaes, a light heavyweight from Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, clobbered Jake Doerr by TKO victory, handing Doerr his first loss at the 1:47 mark.
Jason Norwood, a former Division I wrestler at West Point who trains U.S. troops in hand-to-hand combat, outwrestled Cincinnati street fighter Mojo Horne en route to a unanimous decision in the middleweight division.
The opener saw Russian army fighter Alexander “The Tiger” Sarnavskiy improve his record to 14-0 with a simple, but effective win over Virginia lightweight Beau “Blackjack” Baker (154.6), who wrestled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
We’ve come a long way from “Rocky III and IV,” as the Russian Sarnavskiy came out to the ring to “Eye of the Tiger.” He aggressively mixed his kicks and punches while avoiding Baker’s takedown attempts.
In Round 2, Sarnavskiy jumped onto Baker’s back and locked in the rear naked choke to win at the 2:32 mark. M-1 looks different from most MMA shows in that the fights take place in a boxing ring, not a cage.
It reminded Ranallo of his days announcing for PRIDE. It also provided some great camera shots with no cage in the way.
Thanks for reading.
(Jeff D. Gorman is the only announcer ever to reach the Big 3 in Pro Wrestling and call a live, global MMA pay-per-view. Check out his writing and announcing at JeffDGorman.com, hit up his Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)