Erik Oganov. Photo courtesy of MFC M-1.
M-1 CHALLENGE FINALS SET FOR DEC. 26 IN SEATTLE; LINEUPS FOR RUSSIAN RED DEVIL VS. TEAM HOLLAND SET
On Dec. 26 in Seattle, Washington, the vision of M-1 Global Owner and President Vadim Finkelchtein will be realized.
Finkelchtein’s 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 country in head-to-head competition. If MMA was an Olympic sport, chances are it would resemble the M-1 Challenge.
On Dec. 26 in Seattle, Washington, at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino (tickets now on-sale at all Ticketmaster outlets), the top two teams from the competition’s regular season will be going for the gold when Team Russian Red Devil squares off with Team Holland in the finals to determine the first-ever winner of the M-1 Challenge.
Lineups for the best of five head-to-head series have been set for both teams. At lightweight, 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’d never fight again, Christea went 2-1 during M-1 Challenge regular season play.
Once overheard telling his coach that an “armbar is not a submission,” the rugged Christea knows he’ll have his work cut out for him on the 26th.
“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 won’t be afforded that opportunity, Gibbs 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.
“I am really excited about the Red Devil vs. Holland final, and feel that either side can win the championship,” said M-1 Challenge play-by-play announcer Sean Wheelock. “I see the final score 3-2 for whoever is the winner.”
The lineup for the M-1 Challenge finals are as follows:
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)
Tickets for the M-1 Challenge Finals are now available at all Ticketmaster outlets. The public can purchase tickets online here. For additional information on the M-1 Challenge, MMA fans can watch the event every Friday at 8 p.m. ET on HDNet. Fights from the current season are also available at: http://www.M1Mixfight.com