Later this evening, the M-1 Global promotion will launch another stateside event in Costa Mesa, California, from the The Hangar at the O.C. Fair and Events Center. M-1 Challenge 26 will air five fights on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET, captained by a rematch between Kenny Garner and Patrick Bennett.
The card took a slight hit when main attraction Guram Gugenishvili suffered an injury to his arm in training and had to withdraw. Gugenishvili, the undefeated M-1 Global heavyweight champion and chart-buster of Bloody Elbow's Heavyweight Scouting Report, was set to make his stateside debut in a title defense against Bennett. Gugenishvili is flawless after eleven fights with ten submissions.
Filling in for the sidelined champion to clash with Bennett will be Kenny Garner. The pair encountered each other once before in the final round of the M-1 Selection Americas tournament in 2010, where Garner scored a TKO to earn a shot at Gugenishvili's belt. The opportunity came in October of 2010 at M-1 Challenge 21, but the heavyweight champion and standout submissionist stayed true to form with a second round guillotine to retain the strap.
Pat Bennett (4-2) trains out of Team Bombsquad in New York and quickly recovered from his loss to Garner with a decision over Alexander Volkov at M-1 Challenge 22. In only his second professional affair, Bennett took on Cole Konrad in Bellator, dropping a decision. The four remaining bouts on his young record all took place under the M-1 banner, so Bennett is not taking the easiest route to kickstart his career.
American Top Team heavyweight Kenny "Deuce" Garner started with an even record in his first four fights. He turned it on after signing with M-1 Global, winning three in a row to become the M-1 Selection Americas 2010 Heavyweight Champion. After an unsuccessful stab at Gugenishvili's title, Garner scored a first round TKO in the Florida-based Art of Fighting promotion.
Not one to lack confidence, Garner has vowed to once again handle business inside the first frame while Bennett is craving revenge and claiming improved stand-up and wrestling. Both main event fighters, along with M-1 Global Director of Operations Evgeni Kogan, were guests on Bloody Elbow radio yesterday to discuss tonight's happenings.
The rest of the details for tonight's M-1 Challenge 26 card on Showtime can be found after the jump.
Another M-1 Selection Americas tournament winner will look to get back on track, this time in the middleweight division. Team Quest's Tyson Jeffries, a.k.a. "The Anti-Hero", will look to rebound after his loss to M-1 world middleweight champ Magomed Sultanakhmedov. Jeffries will face Arthur Guseinov, a heavy-handed Russian coming off a submission defeat at the hands of former UFC fighter Luigi Fioravanti. All but one of Jeffries seven career wins came via submission, while five of Guseinov's seven victories were strike-stoppages, so reciprocating strengths and intents will be at play.
Austrian lightweight Mairbek Taisumov (14-3) draws Josh Bacallao (6-2, 1 NC) in main card action. Taisumov has cemented an impressive ten-fight roll, winning nine, all of which were finished. Josh "Iron Heart" Bacallao lost his M-1 debut by split-decision to George Sheppard, and features a nicely balanced TKO (3) to submission (2) finishing ratio in his six career entries.
The second lightweight contest features Daniel Weichel (26-7), who's won eight of his last nine and holds sixteen career submission victories, taking on Beau Baker (8-4). Baker started his career strong with seven wins in nine fights, with only Vale Tudo legend Jorge Patino and UFC fighter T.J. Grant besting him. Baker's hit a rough stretch lately, losing two of his last three.
The last match on the Showtime broadcast pits former Rage in the Cage champ Eddie Arizmendi (14-4) versus Jason Norwood (11-2). Arizmendi has been on a slow and methodical tear, losing only to Seth Baczynski, a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter: Liddell vs. Ortiz edition, in eleven fights since 2007. "Crazy Face" is another finisher, having seen the score cards twice in his fourteen victories.
Since losing his MMA debut in 2008, "G.I. Jason" Norwood, a Captain in the US Army, has only experienced that same feeling once in his ensuing twelve outings. Norwood's snared eleven of his next twelve; a streak that includes former NFL runningback Herbert Goodman, with Josh Bryant from The Ultimate Fighter accounting for the lone loss.
The three untelevised bouts on the card are Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Randy Spence, Richard Schiller vs. Mark Vorgeas, and Mike Derobers vs. Max Martyniouk. All fighters hit the mark at the weigh-ins yesterday, and the duo of Pat Miletich and Mauro Ranallo will be on the mic to call the live action on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET.