Sao Paulo, Brazil – A much anticipated best-of-five series between the 2008 defending M-1 Challenge Cup Champions Team Imperial and host country Brazil headlines a 15-bout “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction” event that will be streamed live on Saturday night from the luxurious Ginasio Esporte Clube Sirio in Sau Paulo, Brazil.
The live stream will be available free of charge to non-U.S. and non-Korean residents, free of charge, courtesy of M-1 Global starting at 8 p.m. local Sao Paul time and 7 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. PT. Fans of the M-1 Challenge will be able to access tonight’s stream at both the English-language website for M-1 at www.M-1Global.com and Russian-language site at www.Mixfight.ru.
In addition to Brazil and Fedor Emelianenko’s Team Imperial competing for a playoff spot in Pool B, 2008 M-1 Challenge finalists Team Benelux will return to action against Bulgaria in a Group C matchup while Germany and Russia Legion to compete for sole possession of first place in Group D.
For Brazil and Imperial, both teams will be look for redemption after suffering upset losses to Team U.S.A. West and South Korea, respectively. Both teams have made significant changes heading into tonight’s fight with M-1 Selection graduates Amirkhan Mazikov and Maksim Grishin stepping in to replace Mikhail Malyutin and Alexy Oleinik.
The lineup changes for Imperial marks a drastic change in philosophy from last year, as the team made just one lineup change the entire season, with Oleinik being brought on in the finals when Kirill Sidelnikov was signed by Affliction to fight Paul Buentello during January’s “Day of Reckoning” event.
Mazikov, 1-0, will be stepping up at lightweight and will be giving up a lot of experience against Brazilian Hacran Dias, a tremendous prospect with a 10-0-1 record. Meanwhile, Grishin, 1-0, will take on Joaquim “Mamute” Ferreira, 7-2. Grishin will be giving up a lot of experience in the ring, but will have a four and a half inch reach advantage.
Imperial will also be looking for Mikahil Zayats, 8-2, its ace, to bounce back following February’s shocking upset against South Korea’s Jae Young Kim. The loss was just the second of Zayats’ career and his first during M-1 Challenge competition. One of the top light heavyweight prospects in MMA, Zayats will look to get back on the winning track vs. Brazil’s Alexander Machado.
Eduardo Pamplona, the lone holdover since the team’s Feb. opener in Tacoma, was still expected to face former BodogFIGHT veteran Erik Oganov despite having encountered troubles making weight on Friday. Despite the weight issues, the former IFL superfight veteran’s showdown with Oganov is one of the most anticipated of the evening.
Joining Imperial and Brazil in a quest for redemption if Benelux, which was upset in Tacoma by Finland. Back for Benelux will be Jason Jones, who is looking for revenge after losing an upset unanimous decision to Marcus Vanttinen. The team will also receive a major shot in the arm from perhaps the most talented heavyweight in the M-1 Challenge, Jessie Gibbs. Gibbs compiled a perfect 4-0 during regular season play in the ’08 M-1 Challenge but was not present at the ’09 season opener in Tacoma. Back on the roster, the 6-2 rising star will taking on Nikola Dipchikov, a newcomer to Team Bulgaria.
Team Bulgaria is led by Jordan Radev, both a former UFC fighter and a former Bulgarian national wrestling team member. After getting shut out in their home country on Bulgaria vs. USA East this past March, its imperative for Radev and his teammates to step up and make a respectable showing vs. Benelux. Another lopsided defeat could eliminate any possibility of qualifying for the ’09 post-season.
In the third team challenge, Germany is out to prove its 5-0 win against Turkey in March while in Bulgaria was no fluke. But they face a major step up in competition tonight against Russia Legion, the third-place finisher in the ’08 M-1 Challenge. Head-to-head matchups between Radev and Legion’s Sergey Kornev along with Bulgaria’s Ivan Ivanov vs. Magomed Shihshabekov are just two fights for fans to look forward to.
By the end of Saturday evening, 30 fights representing teams from six different countries will have competed in the fourth edition of the 2009 “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction” in Sao Paulo, and non-U.S. and non-Korean residents will be able to partake in all of the excitement free of charge at both www.M-1Global.com and www.Mixfight.ru start at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
The complete 15-bout lineup with official weights is listed below:
Team Challenge Number One: Bulgaria vs. Benelux –
1. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Yanko Yanev (Bulgaria – 69.5 kg) vs. Dan van Bergen (Benelux – 70 kg)
2. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Ivan Ivanov (Bulgaria – 76 kg) vs. Raymond Jarman (Benelux – 69.3 kg)
3. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Jordan Radev (Bulgaria – 83.8 kg) vs. Danny Smit (Benelux – 82.7 kg)
4. Light Heavyweight (204.6 lbs./-93 kg): Emil Samoilov (Bulgaria – 91.6 kg) vs. Jason Jones (Benelux – 89.4 kg)
5. Heavyweight: (204.7 lbs.-plus/+93 kg): Nikola Dipchkov (Bulgaria – 96.6 kg) vs. Jessie Gibbs (Benelux – 125 kg)
Team Challenge Number Two: Russia Legion vs. Germany –
6. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Yura Ivlev (Legion – 69.2 kg) vs. Franco de Leonardis (Germany – 70 kg)
7. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Magomed Shihshabekov (Legion – 75.3 kg) vs. Sven Heising (Germany – 76 kg)
8. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Sergey Kornev (Legion – 83.7 kg) vs. Gregor Herb (Germany – 83.7 kg)
9. Light Heavyweight (204.6 lbs./-93 kg): Gadzimyrat Omarov (Legion – 92.8 kg) vs. Ismail Centinkaya (Gemany – 83.8 kg)
10. Heavyweight: (204.7 lbs.-plus/+93 kg): Akhmed Sultanov (Legion – 110 kg) vs. Lars Klug (Germany – 109.7 kg)
Team Challenge Number Three: Brazil vs. Team Imperial –
11. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Hacran Dias (Brazil – 69.3 kg) vs. Amirkhan Mazikhov (Imperial – 69.8 kg)
12. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Eduardo Pamplona (Brazil – *76.6 kg) vs. Erik Oganov (Imperial – 75.9 kg)
13. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Leandro Silva (Brazil – 83.6 kg) vs. Dmitry Samoilov (Imperial – 83.8 kg)
14. Light Heavyweight (204.6 lbs./-93 kg): Alexander Machado (Brazil – 92.6 kg) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Imperial – 91.2 kg)
15. Heavyweight: (204.7 lbs.-plus/+93 kg): Joaquim Ferreira de Rocha (Brazil – 106 kg) vs. Maksim Grishin (Imperial – 96.6 kg)
* Pamplona was still 0.6 kg above weight as of press time. He is scheduled to weigh-in a third time in order to meet his contracted weight of -76 kg.