M-1 Challenge Finals Reset to January 11
The M-1 Challenge Cup champion will be crowned on January 11 in Holland. Originally scheduled for December 26 in Seattle, the 2008 Finals were postponed due to heavy snowfall in the Washington State. The Challenge Cup champion will be decided in a battle between Team Holland and the Russian Red Devils. The M-1 Challenge was designed to be the “World Cup of MMA,” with teams comprised of mixed martial artists from all over the globe representing their respective countries in head-to-head competition.
Lineups for the best of five head-to-head series have been set for both teams. At lightweight, there is a battle of two fighters nominated for M-1 Challenges’ Most Exciting Fighter of the Year. Team Holland’s Bogdan Christea (Career MMA Record: 5-3/M-1 Challenge Record: 2-1) will take on Mikhail Malutin (8-6/4-0) of Team Russian Red Devil.
If MMA had a “Comeback of the Year” award, Christea would be the leading contender after overcoming near fatal injuries sustained in an auto accident. Despite a prognosis from doctors that he would never fight again, Christea went 2-1 during M-1 Challenge regular season play.
“It is gonna be a challenge for me, but I like challenges,” said Christea. “I respect (Malutin) very much, he has a lot of experience and a good training camp with Fedor and the others. I will do my best and hope I can make a good show of it. We are both pool winners, so may the best win.”
At welterweight, Red Devil’s Erik Oganov (8-8/3-2) will meet Romano de los Reyes (8-6/1-2) of Team Holland. Oganov, one of Red Devil’s most active competitors might be best known to U.S. fans after going 2-0 for the BodogFIGHT promotion with wins over Derrick Noble and former UFC veteran Keith Wisniewski.
In a season in which many fighters involved with the M-1 Challenge raised their global profile, few involved with the competition saw their stock rise higher than that of Jason Jones (7-5/1-2). Despite finishing with a record below .500 during M-1 Challenge play, Jones has made quite a name for himself this season with his dynamic striking ability.
Representing Team Holland in the M-1 Challenge finals as its middleweight representative, Jones will be looking to set off some championship fireworks when he takes on Red Devil’s Dmitri Samoylo.
“Samoylov is a good fighter,” Jones began, “but he stands in my way to the top and after my recent loss I have to settle the score. No need to say more.”
At light heavyweight, Red Devil will be represented by Mikhail Zayats (7-1/3-0) with Team Holland’s Kamil Uyghun (6-3/1-2) opposing him.
Uyghun knows he will have his work cut out for him against Zayats, a World Champion in Sambo.
“I saw the fights of Mikhail Zayats and he is a good fighter, because you’re just a fighter if you become the World Champion in Sambo,” said Uyghun. “But if we enter the ring I don’t think about that. I’m really ready for him and on the day itself we will see what happens. I never enter the ring with the feeling that I’m going to lose.”
At heavyweight, Team Holland’s Jessie Gibbs (6-1/3-0) will be taking on Alexey Oleinik (9-4/1-0) of Red Devil. Oleinik will be replacing up and coming heavyweight prospect Kiril Sidelnikov, who has been tapped to fight Paul Buentello during Affliction and M-1’s “Day of Reckoning” event on Jan. 24.
Gibbs was looking forward to making a name for himself against Sidelnikov, who is known around the world as “Baby Fedor.” Disappointed that he will not be afforded that opportunity, Gibbs, a M-1 Fighter of the Year finalist, is planning to take out his frustrations on his replacement.
“I was supposed to fight Kiril Sidelnikov but now I have a new unknown opponent,” said Gibbs. “Whoever it is, it won’t be a problem but I’d loved to fight Kiril because he is becoming a big name in the MMA circuit and I’m sure that I’m better.”
But Gibbs better not take the 9-4 Oleinik lightly. Oleinik made a name for himself having fought in the U.S. earlier this year during YAMMA’s heavyweight tournament in Atlantic City. Facing UFC veteran Sherman Pendergarst during the tournament’s first round, Oleinik submitted the Miletich Fighting Systems veteran with an Ezekiel choke.
Gibbs vs. Oleinik could be the deciding fight because while a team only needs three wins to clinch the title, pundits believe it will take all five fights to decide the first-ever M-1 Challenge champion.
M-1 Challenge Finals – Russian Red Devils vs Team Holland:
LW: Mikhail Malutin (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Bogdan Christea (Team Holland)
WW: Erik Oganov (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Romano de slos Reyes (Team Holland)
MW: Dimitri Samoylo (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Jason Jones (Team Holland)
LHW: Mikhail Zayats (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Kamil Uyghun (Team Holland)
HW: Alexey Oleinik (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Jessie Gibbs (Team Holland)
Remainder of Card
Radimir Gabdullin (Russia) vs Kim Hoon (Korea)
Toni Valtonen (Finland) vs Lee Chang Seob (Korea)
Inoc Solves (Spain) vs Whi Sung Bae (Korea)
Ricardo Wondel (Holland) vs Lee Sang Soo (Korea)