This Saturday, top Russian promotion M-1 brought fans a slate of quality fights from the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in southwestern Russia including an explosive bantamweight title fight in the main event. If you missed out on the action read on for a review of all the fights from M-1 Challenge 76, featuring undefeated Movsar Evloev taking on Alexei Nevzorov for the M-1 interim 135 pound belt.
Main Event: Movsar Evloev (6-0) vs Alexei Nevzorov (12-2), 135 lbs interim title fight
M-1 just crowned its very first bantamweight champion last October in 14-2 Pavel Vitruk, yet the Ukrainian talent has been unable to make his way to the cage since then and the promotion has made the call to put an interim title into play. Movsar Evloev is no stranger to fighting at altitude, as he hails from the Caucusus region and earned the only notable win of his young career fighting at an outdoor mountain venue at M-1 Challenge 73 against US wrestler Lee Morrison. Meanwhile Nevzorov earned this opportunity by amassing a 6-1 record in M-1 at 135 and 145 over the past six years, most notably defeating co-main eventer Timur Nagibin by decision last September.
This five-rounder started very fast, with Evloev winning power punches while Nevzorov countered with body shots. Midway through the round Evloev switched to a grappling attack and had no problem securing takedowns against the Rage, as Nevzorov’s primary method of takedown defense appeared to be grabbing the ropes illegally. After scoring some solid ground and pound Evloev lost position and the two returned to trading bombs in the middle for the most of the rest of a very entertaining R1. Nezkorov managed to keep things at a lower pace at the start of round 2, as he landed body shots and straight punches as Evloev swung hard (and missed) in return. When Evloev pressed the takedown Nevzorov again grabbed the ropes to defend and was justly deducted a point by referee Lukasz Bolasecki. When the action restarted it wasn’t long before Evloev hit the bomb he had been looking for and utterly turned Nevzorov’s lights out, as he landed a right head kick flush on the 28-year old’s temple for the decisive KO win. Movsar Evloev is occasionally reckless in there but otherwise appears to have all the skills you can hope for in a prospect, including seriously impressive punching power for a bantamweight. It will be a treat when he meets talented Ukrainian titleholder Vitali Branchuk to unify the M-1 belts sometime in the near future.
Movsar Evloev KOs (headkick) Alexei Nevzorov
(M-1 – Interim BW Title Fight) pic.twitter.com/vLPOyMMNOE
— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) April 22, 2017
Evloev KOs Nevzorov
Co-Main Event: Timur Nagibin (8-2) vs Diego D’Avila (18-5), 145 lbs
The second and more credentialed Brazilian competitor of the evening, Diego D’Avila earned submission of the night honors in his M-1 Challenge 73 debut against Zalimbeg Omarov and has a track record of competing well against top-level competition like Rakhman Dudaev and Luis Sapo Santos. His opponent 23 year old Timur Nagibin has grown up in the M-1 rage, tallying a 4-1 record against mid-tier Russian foes. D’Avila showed off his powerful (if wild) striking in the first round, tagging Nagibin with a serious salvo of hooks midway through the frame. D’Avila then took the fight to the ground with a slick fireman’s carry takedown before ending R1 cranking on Nagibin’s jaw from back mount. The Russian had a lot more success on the feet in the second as he stuck the fundamentals, pumping a jab into D’Avila’s face and evading his foe’s wide counters. Midway through the round D’Avila flopped to guard and invited Nagibin to the ground, but that proved to be a poor decision as the talented Russian grappler had no trouble maintaining top position and avoiding submissions while offering mildly effective ground and pound. The Brazilian needed to make something happening heading into the final round but Nagibin managed to ground him once more with a risky lateral drop, and once again he hung up on top en route to a clear if not particularly compelling decision victory. Nonetheless, credit Timur Nagibin with the strongest win of his young career over D’Avila.
Fight 3: Sergey Morozov (6-2) vs Fabricio Sarraff (22-9), 135 lbs
No M-1 Challenge card would be complete without at least a few imported Brazilian competitors. Fabricio Sarraff is the first of two on this main card, and the very experienced 24 year old enters this one on the strength of handing top prospect Luis Rafael Laurentino his first career loss in 32 fights at Aspera FC 32. He is making is first trip outside of Brazil to face Kazkhstan’s Morozov, who holds a 3-2 record in M-1 with the losses coming to reigning M-1 champ Pavel Vitruk and former WSOF title challenger Josh Rettinghouse. Morozov showed off his strength advantage early, as he had no troubling pulling Sarraff down and controlling the first few minutes of the fight. Yet once Sarraff worked his way to his feet he uncorked lightning upon his Russian foe, staggering him with sharp right hands and shucking off several takedown tries in the second half of R1.
In round two Morozov adjusted well, playing a more patient game that saw him saw offer flashy strikes from distance for a couple of minutes before scoring an opportunistic takedown midway through the round. Yet again the Brazilian worked to his feet and managed to land a decent flurry of offense as the round wore down. In the third the Brazilian seemed to be finding a home for his lead left hook but made the mistake of choosing to shoot for a bad single leg that the Kazahkstani easily reversed into top position that he held for much of the remaining time. Sarraff showed flashes of serious talent in this bout, but good luck to anyone who plans on winning fights against quality Russians when you make fundamental grappling mistakes. This was a clear decision win for Sergey Morozov, who showed off quality grappling, strong fight IQ, and adequate standup skills in this one.
Fight 2: Ilya Bochkov (2-0) vs Rene Hoppe (6-0), 205 lbs
Germany’s Hoppe is a ground-and-pound stylist who started his career with five straight wins in his home country before springing an upset on Andrey Seledstov in his M-1 debut last September, while Bochkov is a real unknown who scored a pair of TKOs in his only two fights back in 2015. After a relatively tentative first round Hoppe managed to get his man down against the cage multiple times early in the second, but Bochkov proved hard to control and kept scrambling back to his feet. Finally Hoppe managed to score a clean double-leg in the middle of the cage, which allowed him to bash on Bochkov from half guard and side control for much of round 2. But late in the round Bochkov reversed position and managed to drop some serious bombs on Hoppe that left him struggling to reach the end of the second. Yet despite taking some damage Hoppe was right back at it round three, controlling the entire frame with takedowns and plenty of mid-power ground and pound. In the end Rene Hoppe takes the majority decision win and advances his pro record to 7-0, including two wins inside the M-1 rage.
Fight 1: Abubakar Mestoev (4-0) vs Anatoly Liagu (5-1), 155 lbs
The opening bout of the M-1 Challenge 76 main card was a lively, action-packed affair featuring a pair oflightweight prospects making their first appearance on the big stage. Both men fought with the determination of a fighter trying to make a strong first impression, with the Ukrainian Liagu scoring a knockdown in the first round but Mestoev finding his range as the fight progressed. Mestoev integrated grappling with striking very well, pinning his opponent against the ropes and landing an assault of kicks and knees on his grounded foe. Although Liagu ended up wearing a nasty swollen right eye he managed to avoid being finished, but after the first round this fight was all Abubakar Mestoev, who advanced to 5-0 with a unanimous decision win in his first trip inside the M-1 cage.
Undercard: Ingiskhan Ozdoev (2-3) vs. Alexey Valivkhan (10-5), 170 lbs
Check out the upset of the night on the undercard as Ingiskhan Ozdoev dropped serious leather on his Ukrainian foe en route to a first round TKO:
M-1 – Ingiskhan Ozdoev def. Alexey Valivakhin by 1R TKO (GNP) pic.twitter.com/7YHY3kJ9PW
— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) April 22, 2017
Ozdoev TKOs Valivakhin