Seoul, South Korea: USA West became the first team from the 2009 "M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction" (www.M-1Global.com) season to clinch a semifinal playoff berth on Saturday night.
The post-season berth was locked down after taking first place in Group B by defeating the defending 2008 M-1 Challenge Champions, Team Russia Imperial.
While family and friends celebrate the Fourth of July at home in America, USA West held a celebration of its own in Seoul after recording its second 5-0 shutout of the season by sweeping Imperial.
The statement victory allowed the Americans to finish the regular season with an unblemished 3-0 challenge record and a remarkable 13-2 record in individual fights.
During the dominating performance, both David Jansen and Shane Del Rosario of USA West preserved their undefeated records in professional MMA.
Jansen, a product of Matt Lindland's Team Quest, moved to 11-0 following a guillotine submission victory via submission just 22 seconds into his encounter against Imperial's Amirkhan Mazikov.
Del Rosario, an EliteXC veteran, bested Jansen's time by one second following his TKO at 0:21 over Maksim Grishin. The heavyweight improved to 7-0 with all seven fights having ended inside the distance and six of them ending in round 1.
Team South Korea also competed on its home turf for the second time in two years on Saturday. Facing Group B rival Brazil Naja in a best-of-five series televised live on SBS, the Koreans fell one victory short of sending its countrymen and women home happy.
In the opener, Brazilian lightweight Hacran Dias was handed the first defeat of his career after dropping a unanimous decision to Korea's Nam Yui Chul. With the loss, Dias still maintains an impressive record of 11-1-1 and while Chul is now 9-2.
During the most anticipated bout of the evening, Brazil's Eduardo Pamplona finished the M-1 Challenge regular season with a perfect 3-0 record after winning a decision over Doh Hyung Kim at 2:59 of round three due to a cut.
Soon after both fighters made their respective charismatic entrances, Kim sustained a wound that opened up during the course of the fight.
When medical officials examined Kim in round three and decided to call a premature end to the bout, the outcome of the fight reverted to the scorecards of the judges. The judges ruled that Pamplona, 11-2, won the fight in unanimous fashion.
The encounter between the two welterweights lived up to the hype, with both Kim and Pamplona earning unofficial "Fight of the Night" honors.
Following Korean middleweight Jae Young Kim's two-round majority decision loss against Daniel Acacio, Brazilian light heavyweight Alexander Machado clinched the team victory for Naja after submitting Dool Hee Lee with a rear naked choke at 3:26 of round 2.
Despite losing in front of their home fans, Team South Korea still gave everyone watching live in the arena and at home something to celebrate when Hae Joon Yang recorded the unofficial "Knockout of the Night" after sending Brazilian heavyweight Joaquim "Mamute" Ferreira sprawling to the canvas in a short but highly enthralling brawl.
Needing just 14 seconds to take out Ferreira, Yang improved to 3-0 in his professional career with all three victories coming via first round (T)KO.
During the night's team challenge opener, Finland improved to 2-1 in Group B with an impressive 4-1 victory over Bulgaria. Competing without its top fighter, middleweight Lucio Linhares, Finland kept its playoff hopes alive by dominating the Bulgarians.
With Linhares focused on training for his Affliction and M-1 debut on pay-per-view on Aug. 1, lightweight Niko Puhakka, light heavyweight Marcus Vanttinen, heavyweight Toni Valtonen, and welterweight Janne Tulirinta, who recently received his brown belt from Linhares, all stepped up.
With the exception of Linhares' replacement, Mikko Suvanto, every other Finnish fighter not only won but stopped their respective opponent within the distance.
If Group C leader USA East loses on Aug. 15 in Amsterdam, Finland still has a mathematical chance to supplant the Americans.
However, the Fins' chances of making the playoffs still remain slim, as USA East would not only have to lose but fail to win two bouts during its head-to-head series vs. Team Benelux.
With its sixth edition now in the books, the seventh edition of the '09 M-1 Challenge is scheduled to take place during a two-day MMA festival in Amsterdam from Aug. 15-16.
In addition to USA East and Benelux, teams from Japan, France, Spain, and England will also all be in action. Additional information concerning the event will be released on www.M-1Global.com later this week.
Official results from today's event are listed below:
Bulgaria vs. Finland -
1. Lightweight (-70 kg/154 lbs.) - Niko Puhakka (FIN) def. Yanko Yanev (BUL) via TKO (strikes) at 2:16 of round 1
2. Welterweight (-76 kg/167.2 lbs.) - Janne Tulirinta (FIN) def. Ivan Ivanov (BUL) via TKO (strikes) at 3:44 of round 1
3. Middleweight (-84 kg/184.8 lbs.) - Rosen Dmitirov (BUL) def. Mikko Suvanto (FIN) via majority decision
4. Light Heavyweight (-93 kg/204.6 lbs.) - Marcus Vanttinen (FIN) vs. Emil Samoilov (BUL) via submission (verbal) at 3:42 of round 3
5. Heavyweight (+93 kg/+ 204.6 lbs.) - Toni Valtonen (FIN) def. Nikola Dipchkov (BUL) via submission (triangle) at 4:49 of round 1
Finland defeats Bulgaria 4-1
USA West vs. Russia Imperial -
6. Lightweight (-70 kg/154 lbs.) - Dave Jansen (USA) def. Amirkhan Mazikhov (RUS) via submission (guillotine) at 0:22 of round 1
7. Welterweight (-76 kg/167.2 lbs.) - Fabio "Negao" Nascimento (USA) def. Marat Ilaev (RUS) via submission (armbar) at 2:13 of round 2
8. Middleweight (-84 kg/184.8 lbs.) - Giva Santana (USA) def. Radmir Gabdulin (RUS) via submission (arm triangle) at 3:47 of round 1
9. Light Heavyweight (-93 kg/204.6 lbs.) - Tony Lopez (USA) def. Viktor Nemkov (RUS) via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:06 of round 2
10. Heavyweight (+93 kg/+ 204.6 lbs.) - Shane Del Rosario (USA) def. Maksim Grishin (RUS) via TKO (strikes) at 0:21 of round 1
USA West defeats Russia Imperial 5-0
South Korea vs. Brazil -
11. Lightweight (-70 kg/154 lbs.) - Nam Yui Chul (KOR) def. Hacran Dias (BRA) via three round unanimous decision
12. Welterweight (-76 kg/167.2 lbs.) - Eduardo Pamplona (BRA) def. Do Hyung Kim (KOR) via unanimous decision
13. Middleweight (-84 kg/184.8 lbs.) - Daniel Acacio (BRA) def. Jae Young Kim (KOR) via two-round majority decision
14. Light Heavyweight (-93 kg/204.6 lbs.) - Alexander Machado (BRA) def. Dool Hee Lee (KOR) via submission (rear naked choke) at 3:26 of round 2
15. Heavyweight (+93 kg/+ 204.6 lbs.) - Hae Joon Yang def. Joaquim "Mamute" Ferreira (BRA ) def. via knockout at 0:14 of round 1
Brazil defeats South Korea 3-2