Finals for the First Season of the M-1 Challenge Set for Sunday; Superfights to be streamed for free on Sherdog.com starting at 1 p.m. ET
With the 2008 regular season of the M-1 Challenge (www.M1Mixfight.com) in the books, Team Russian Red Devil and Team Holland are set to square off in the finals this coming Sunday (January 8).
The finals, which had originally been scheduled for Dec. 26 in Seattle, Washington but postponed due to inclement weather, will take place in Hilversum, Holland and feature a best-of-five format that will determine the first-ever M-1 Challenge championship team.
While U.S. viewers will have to wait to see the finals at a later date on HDNet, M-1 fans will be able to see superfights from the event streamed live for the first-time ever this Sunday on Sherdog.com (www.Sherdog.com).
The four superfight bouts will be free of charge and commence at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. Set to face off are Radimir Gabdullin (Russia) vs. Kim Hoon (South Korea), Toni Valtonen (Finland) vs. Lee Chang Seob (South Korea), Inoc Solves (Spain) vs. Whi Sung Bae (South Korea), and Ricardo Wondel (Holland) vs. Lee Sang Boo (South Korea).
Lineups for the best of five head-to-head M-1 2008 championship finals have also been finalzied. 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 receiving 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 Dimitri Samoilov.
“Samoilov 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 Michael Zayats (7-1/3-0) with Team Holland’s Kamil Ogun (6-3/1-2) opposing him.
Ogun knows he will have his work cut out for him against Zayats, a World Champion in Sambo.
“I saw the fights of Michael Zayats and he is a good fighter, because you’re just a fighter if you become the World Champion in Sambo,” said Ogun. “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 Jessy 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 Kirill 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 Kirill 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 Kirill 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 Samoilov (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Jason Jones (Team Holland)
LHW: Michael Zayats (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Kamil Ogun (Team Holland)
HW: Alexey Oleinik (Team Russian Red Devil) vs. Jessy Gibbs (Team Holland)
Superfight Lineup (airing on Sherdog.com at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT):
Radimir Gabdullin (Russia) vs. Kim Hoon (South Korea)
Toni Valtonen (Finland) vs. Lee Chang Seob (South Korea)
Inoc Solves (Spain) vs. Whi Sung Bae (South Korea)
Ricardo Wondel vs. Lee Sang Boo.