M-1 Challenge XXVI, which aired from The Hanger in Costa Mesa, Calif., last night (July 8, 2011), is officially in the books. Despite both original champions having to drop out because of injuries, fans were treated to some extremely entertaining matches with some of the most exciting finishes you'll see all year.
The main event was a rematch between heavyweights Pat Bennett and Kenny Garner. Bennett was originally slated to fight M-1 heavyweight champion Guram Gugenishvili before an injury allowed Garner to swoop in and steal his thunder.
Bennett vowed to avenge his previous loss to Garner, but he would be denied.
The former title challenger punished Bennett with some crippling body blows in the clinch and both men had a heated exchange of haymakers for much of the first round in what was a very entertaining capper to the evening.
Eventually, Garner wore his opponent down with a big knee in the clinch and he finished the fight with a brutal combination of hooks that sent Bennett to the canvas. It was the same result as their first fight, but just took about four minutes longer. Afterwards, the Din Thomas-trained fighter called out the champion, a man who last defeated in just eight months ago in Russia for the title.
The was plenty of more action including one of 2011's finest knockouts, all detailed after the jump:
In a battle of striker versus grappler, Arthur Guseino got absolutely mauled, at least for the first ninety seconds by former middleweight title challenger Tyson Jeffries. Jeffries scored an early takedown and quickly passed to mount but would get bucked off. After being put in the Muay Thai plum and getting kneed in the face repeatedly, Guseino decided it was time to strike back.
He did so with authority.
His spinning back fist will be shown on highlight reels for the rest of the year. It was lightning fast and Jeffries didn't stand a chance. Fist hit face and Jeffries went down....hard. He was knocked completely out cold and it was glorious. It was a solid victory for a fighter who desperately needed to get back on track after losing two straight.
In another striker versus grappler match-up, lightweight Mairbek Taisumov showcased his well-rounded skills en route to a fantastic finish over Josh Bakkalao in the first round. Bakkalao scored an early takedown but Taisumov is very strong on the ground as well and quickly got back to his feet to work his superior striking. He abandoned his nasty kicks and found a home for his right hand, eventually slipping a huge straight right between Bakkalao's guard and dropping the American before finishing him via ground and pound.
Also on the card was German lightweight Daniel Weichel, a very strong striker and submission fighter who squared off against late replacement Beau Baker. Baker proved to be tough as nails and nearly impossible to finish with strikes, absorbing punch after punch to the face and kick after kick to both the body and legs and refusing to go down. His face was a bloody mess by the time it was over and Weichel was awarded an easy decision victory, even getting a 30-25 on one generous judge's scorecard.
Lastly, in the opening bout of the evening, "Crazy Face" Eddie Arizmendi proved that he was a bit too well-rounded for the rather one-dimensional wrestler and military veteran Jason Norwood. Norwood seemed intent on clinching and dominating the fight with positioning on the ground but whenever the fight was in the stand-up department, Arizmendi shined.
Norwood began to fade late in the second round and after a late stand-up from the referee, Arizmendi landed a huge head kick followed by a straight right, left hook combination that put Norwood to sleep. It was a great start to the evening and set the stage for all the incredible action that was to come.
Were you impressed with the M-1 show last night? Or did the lack of star-power take away from the exciting finishes on display?
Please share your thoughts.