After 12 years of promoting regional shows all around the world, M-1 Global is finally stepping onto the big stage with their Showtime debut Friday. The Russian promotion will feature a cast of mostly unknown fighters. Who is Artiom Damkovsky? What gives Billy Horne his mojo? These are questions worthy of an answer so in the next three days, Bloody Elbow will take an in depth look at a card that's been mostly over looked by American fight fans.
ARTIOM DAMKOVSKY vs. JOSE FIGUEROA
Who They Are: Damkovsky is M-1 Global's lightweight champion. A strong striker from Belarus, he finished off a stellar 2010 campaign with a win over Mairbek Taisumov to take home the title. Figueroa is an experienced ground fighter from American Top Team Orlando. He's fought Edson Barboza and Jonathan Brookins, so he has experience at a high level.
Why You Should Care: It's for a gold belt! And who wouldn't want to go home with a gold belt? Figueroa earned his shot at the title by winning the M-1 Global "The Americas" tournament last year. He's fought for a title four times in his career, so he should be well prepared for a five round bout. He's had trouble pacing himself before - but this time think he's learned his lesson.
Fun Fact: The 6'3" Figueroa will have a whopping seven inch height advantage over his opponent, something Damkovsky describes as "uncomfortable."
Who They Are: Jeffries is the top prospect at Matt Lindland's Team Quest in Portland, Oregon. Described by people in the gym as having Georges St. Pierre level athleticism, the young fighter is looking to put together the kind of complete game he'll need to succeed at the next level. Sultankhmedov is a knockout machine who has trained with Fedor Emelianenko. His last fight was less than a month ago, finishing Plinio Cruzto get the shot at Jeffries and the middleweight gold.
Why You Should Care: Not only are the two fighting for the vacant middleweight title, but in Jeffries you'll have a chance to see a young fighter everyone is raving about. While Tyson is expected to try to take the fight to the ground where Sultankhmedov is weakest, if he does lose it will likely be by brutal knockout.
Fun Fact: Jeffries is the fourth cousin of former heavyweight boxing champion Jim Jeffries, boxing's "Great White Hope." Jeffries returned from retirement to challenge the sport's first black champion and dubiously declared 'I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.' His embarrassing loss caused nationwide riots.
Who They Are: You might recall Magalhaes from his stint on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He made it all the way to the finals where he lost to Ryan Bader, but most people recall his dramatic argument with opposing coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Vinny took heat for saying his Jiu Jitsu was better than Big Nog's. Of course, he was probably right and has the BJJ credentials and medals to back it up. Doerr is at the stage of his career where he must choose between regular life and a fighter's life. He's an undefeated prospect, but at 31 time is running out.
Why You Should Care: Magalhaes has some of the best jiu jitsu in his weight class. Still just 26, he's focused on MMA for the first time, working out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. It will be a fight reminiscent of the kind of contests you see from other superlative grapplers like Shinya Aoki. Watching Magalhaes try to wade through what Doerr promises will be a furious attack should be fun.
Fun Fact: Doerr only moonlights as a professional fighter. His full time job is as an aerial photographer, joining Mac Danzig among MMA fighters as comfortable with a camera as they are in front of one.
JASON NORWOOD vs. Billy "MOJO" HORNE
Who They Are: Army Captain Jason Norwood has represented his country in Iraq. Now he'll be representing the Army and the Fort Sill Combatives Team on Showtime for M-1 Global. A former wrestler at West Point, Norwood has a diverse game courtesy of the Army's Modern Combatives Program. Billy Horne is a former Rich Franklin protege from Cincinnati, Ohio. Horne's eight wins include a victory over Ultimate Fighter Season Three finalist Josh Haynes.
Fun Fact: Fort Sill, Norwood's current duty station, was founded to help men like General George Custer defend Texas settlers from Indian attacks. Today Buffalo soldiers have given way to artilleryman, as the Army trains all their field artillery specialists at Fort Sill.
Who They Are: Bloody Elbow ranked Sarnavskiy the seventh best prospect in the world at 155 pounds. Like his trainer Alexander "Storm" Shlemenko, Sarnavskiy is a devastating striker, capable of ending any fight from distance or in the clinch. Beau Baker is a self-trained fighter out of Virginia. But don't let that fool you- he's a tough fighter with wins over UFC veteran Tommy Speer and Germany's Mario Stapel.
Why You Should Care: Sarnavskiy is a wild and exciting striker. If you haven't seen him fight, it's worth going out of your way to see a guy who may be M-1's shot at replacing Fedor Emelianenko as the organization's top fighter.
Fun Fact: Sarnavskiy's soundbites all appear to be taken from 1980's action movies. He proclaims he will "never surrender" and "never back down" and intends to "try to break him."
The bouts will air live on SHOWTIME on Friday, March 25 at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).Mauro Ranallo will call the action from ringside with Pat Miletich serving as analyst.