As has been the case for much of the season, USA East — winner of Group C in the M-1 Challenge — has once again made wholesale changes to its roster in anticipation of its Sept. 26 semifinal playoff matchup vs. USA West in Russia.
The lone holdover from Reed Wallace’s team is none other than one-time WEC veteran Chuck “The Reverend” Grigsby, who competed for USA East during two of its three regular season meets. After suffering a decision loss on Aug. 16 in Holland vs. Benelux heavyweight Jessie Gibbs, the 6’6” Grigsby will return to his natural weight class of light heavyweight for the Sept. 26 matchup vs. USA West.
Joining Grigsby on the USA East squad will be former International Fight League standout welterweight Delson Heleno. Heleno, 15-5, went 6-4 during his ten fight IFL stint. During his nine-year fighting career, the Rio de Janeiro native holds notable wins over former veteran of The Ultimate Fighter Mike Dolce, current UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger, and former UFC veteran Gideon Ray.
Heleno will be matched up against fellow Brazilian and one-time Affliction veteran Fabio “Negao” Nascimento during the best-of-five elimination series against USA West. M-1 officials believe that the Heleno vs. Negao matchup could contend prove to be one of the best fights in the history of the M-1 Challenge.
In addition to Negao and Grigsby, Wallace’s USA East team will be filled out by lightweight Ivan “Batman” Jorge (9-0), middleweight Gerson “Indio” Dos Santos Cordeiro (4-7-1), and heavyweight Luis Pedro Ribeiro (5-0).
The additions of Jorge and Ribeiro to the USA East roster are welcome ones, as both native Brazilians are currently undefeated and are considered two of the top rising prospects from Brazil. In order for USA East to have a chance to make it to the M-1 Challenge finals, they will have to be on top of their game against a USA West team that won a tough Group B with a 3-0 team record and an individual record of 13-2.
Jorge will put his undefeated record on the line against USA West lightweight Gregg Dalton, a California-based fight prospect with a 7-2 record who trains out of Thomas Denny’s Team Wildman in Victorville, California. Meanwhile, Ribeiro will be facing the toughest test of his career when he takes on USA West heavyweight Shane Del Rosario, a blue chip prospect who has wowed the hardcore MMA community with a perfect 7-0 record that includes all of his wins coming inside the distance.
Cordeiro will also have his hands full against Santana, a former member of the Brazilian Armed Forces. Santana is a veteran of EliteXC and sports an impressive 13-1 record that includes 12 submission victories with 11 of those wins coming by way of armbar.
As for Grigsby, he will have to wait to learn the identity of his opponent as he prepares in his native Iowa for his semifinal matchup. According to USA West team officials, light heavyweight Raphael Davis, who had represented USA West during two of its three regular season matchups, will be unavailable for the semifinals on Sept. 26 in Russia due to his involvement with this year’s prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Championship tournament.
In addition to USA West vs. USA East, the Sept. 26 M-1 Challenge semifinals in Rostov, Russia will feature Group D winner Russia Legion (3-0) taking on Group A winner Team England (2-1). For additional information as well as details on how to order the M-1 Challenge semifinals on Internet pay-per-view, please check M-1Global.com for regular updates.