Few head coaches have been more committed to winning the 2009 M-1 Challenge Championship Cup than Team USA West’s Colin Oyama.
Oyama single-handily raised the bar of competition in the 2009 “M-1 CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY AFFLICTION” when he enlisted top-shelf talents such as former EliteXC fighters Giva Santana and Shane Del Rosario as well as one-time Affliction veteran Fabio “Negao” Nascimento to help spearhead his five-man squad.
So while Team USA East waited on pins and needles to find out who their USA West counterparts would be for their M-1 Challenge semifinal matchup on Sept. 26 in Rostov, Russia (to be available live on Internet PPV at M-1Global.com), Oyama was not going to make any hasty decisions about who was going to select to fill out his roster.
Oyama was faced with two tough decisions as he searched for replacements for WEC-bound lightweight Dave Jansen and light heavyweight Raphael Davis, who is slated to compete in the upcoming Abu Dhabi Combat Championships during the M-1 Challenge semifinals.
After his USA West team went 3-0 in team challenge play and 13-2 in individual fights, Oyama refused to cave into pressure and name his replacements before he had found fighters he was confident that could take his team to the M-1 Challenge finals.
Oyama announced over the weekend that those two fighters are lightweight Steve Magdaleno and light heavyweight Spencer Hooker. With both Magdaleno and Hooker secured, all four rosters and 10 scheduled fights for the Sept. 26 M-1 Challenge semifinals in Rostov, Russia are now finalized.
Reacting to USA East’s coach Reed Wallace’s slick recruiting of IFL veteran Delson Heleno to fight for him at welterweight and undefeated blue chip prospect Ivan “Batman” Jorge to fight at lightweight, Oyama felt the need to raise the ante.
Enter Hooker and Magdaleno, two emerging talents on the cusp of breaking out in this sport.
Magdaleno joins Team USA West as a member of the VMAT Gym, the fight gym owned and operated by current UFC light heavyweight Vladimir Matyushenko and also the home to recent UFC acquisition Jared Hamman. When Magdaleno steps into the ring with Jorge on Sept. 26, both fighters will be putting undefeated records on the line. Jorge, a native of Brazil, is 9-0, while Magdaleno has a 6-0 record with four of his wins coming via early stoppage.
Hooker trains out of Colorado Springs and has a 6-1 record. A submission specialist with five wins via tap out, Oyama’s decision to enlist Hooker’s services is likely a counter to former WEC vet Chuck “The Reverend” Grigsby’s standing at the USA East resident light heavyweight.
At 6’6”, Grigsby is known for utilizing his long reach advantage and battering his opponents’ faces with his blistering jab. While Oyama has been tight-lipped about his team’s gameplan, one would expect Hooker to look to take Grigsby out of his comfort zone and negate his reach by putting his back on the mat.
In addition to Magdaleno vs. Jorge and Hooker vs. Grigsby, USA East vs. USA West will also feature three other individual matchups. Heleno is set to square off against Negao in a battle of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts that some M-1 officials believe could be the fight of the night. At middleweight, Giva “The Arm Collector” Santana will put his 13-1 record on the line for USA West when he takes on Gerson “Indio” Dos Santos Cordeiro of USA East.
Set to close out the best-of-five series between the two USA teams is another battle of unbeatens, as Del Rosario will put his 7-0 record on the line against Pedro Ribeiro’s 5-0 record. With the four preceding matchups appearing to be tightly contested on paper, there’s a good chance that the Del Rosario vs. Ribeiro matchup could be the deciding fight as to which USA team will reach the M-1 Challenge finals.
The complete bout listing of fights for the M-1 Challenge semifinals on Sept. 26 in Rostov, Russia are now as follows:
USA EAST VS. USA WEST –
1. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Ivan Jorge vs. Steve Magdaleno
2. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Delson Heleno vs. Fabio “Negao” Nascimento
3. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Gerson “Indio” Dos Santos Cordeiro vs. Giva Santana
4. Light Heavyweight (204.8 lbs./-93 kg): Chuck Grigsby vs. Spencer Hooker
5. Heavyweight (+204.8 lbs./+93 kg): Luis Pedro Ribeiro vs. Shane Del Rosario
ENGLAND VS. RUSSIA LEGION –
6. Lightweight (154 lbs./-70 kg): Scott Hewitt vs. Yura Ivlev
7. Welterweight (167.2 lbs./-76 kg): Simon Phillips vs. Magomed Shikshabekov
8. Middleweight (184.8 lbs./-84 kg): Matt Thorpe vs. Ansar Chalangov
9. Light Heavyweight (204.8 lbs./-93 kg): Lee Austin vs. Besiki Gerenava
10. Heavyweight (+204.8 lbs./+93 kg): Rob Broughton vs. Akhmed Sultanov