ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (February 4, 2014) -- M-1 Global Heavyweight contender Denis Smoldarev headlines M-1 Challenge 45 on Friday night, February 28 against Ante "Walking Trouble" Delija at Atmosphere Show Hall in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The main event is an intriguing heavyweight showdown between Estonia's undefeated Smoldarev (5-0-0, 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB) and Delila (9-1-0, 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB), who has been billed as the next great Croatian MMA star.
The 6' 5", 250-pound Smoldarev, who has a judo and sambo background, was the heavyweight winner of the M-1 Selection Grand Prix. The 24-year-old advanced to the semifinals of the 2013 M-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix but was forced to pull out only two days prior to the fight due to a knee injury. Delila, who stands 6' 4 ¾" and weighs 230-pounds, is best known for his killer instinct having stopped within the distance all nine of the opponents he has defeated.
M-1 Challenge 45 will air live on Russia 2, the terrestrial channel, throughout Russia and the Commonwealth of Individual States (CIS), as well as across the Middle East on Abu Dhabi Sports Channels.
"This first event of 2014 for M-1 Global kicks off with some great rivalries and important fights to determine who is going to fight for the title," M1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein said. "This fight is for the No. 1 Heavyweight contender between two very talented and enormous young prospects. Smoldarev is unbeaten in seven bouts while Delija has only one loss and is considered to be the next big thing in Croatian MMA. Whoever wins is likely to challenge the M-1 Global Heavyweight Champion (champion Damian Grabowski will defend next vs. Marcin Tybura) in the summer."
M-1 Global is the No. 1 European MMA organization, as well as one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1998. Superstar Fedor Emelianenko, considered by many to be the greatest fighter in MMA history, has been the face of M-1 Global around the combat sports world for the past decade.
The M-1 Challenge series has traditionally introduced a new wave of potential MMA stars, showcasing elite athletes from Russia and across Europe. Many fighters who fall into the aforementioned category will be showcased on M-1 Challenge 45.
The M-1 Challenge 45 event is stacked from top-to-bottom, featuring five Super Fights to go along with the main event.
M-1 Global lightweight title challenger Nikko Puhakka (28-14-0, 5 KO/TKO, 8 SUB) meets undefeated Russian prospect Maxim Divnich (7-0-0, 4 KO/TKO). Puhakka's a skilled submission artist with tremendous stamina. He was one of the best Team Finland fighters in the 2009 M-1 Challenge Team Championships. Divnich is a high-regarded kick-boxer who, of course, prefers to fight on his feet.
Tough Spanish welterweight Daniel "The Gladiator" Tabera (17-5-3, 4 KO/TKO, 7 SUB) faces unbeaten Russian sensation Ilya Doderkin (3-0, 3 SUB). Tabera will be making his welterweight debut having previously fought in all weight divisions between middleweight and heavyweight, while Doderkin has achieved status of Master of Sports in Sambo (Russian Federation).
Battle-tested Polish light heavyweight Marcin Zontek (12-8-0, 6 KO/TKO, 5 SUB) will battle 20-year-old Russian striker Rashid Yusupov (2-2-0, 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB). A past M-1 Global light heavyweight title challenger, Zontek has never been knocked out and he returns to action after a lengthy lay-off due to multiple injuries following his "Best Fight of 2013" effort against Sergey Korneev. Yusupov graduated to professional MMA after winning top honors in Russian and World Amateur MMA tournaments last year, in which he stopped all of his opponents in the latter competition.
Hot Bulgarian prospect Sotir Kichukov (12-1, 2 KOs, 7 SUB) rides a seven-fight win streak into his match-up with veteran Russian featherweight Yunus Evloev (12-6-0, 4 KO/TKO, 6 SUB). The 23-year-old Kichukov is an outstanding grappler and Maxfight Bantamweight Champion back in his country. The winner of multiple international grappling tournaments, Evloev started his MMA career in 2005 as a lightweight.
A pair of 23-year-old Russian lightweights, Rakhman Makhadzhiev (1-0-0, 1 SUB) and Sergey Andreev (5-2-0, 2 SUB), round-out the M-1 Challenge 45 event. Another standout grappler, Makhadzhiev is dropping down from the welterweight division. He was a 2012 Russian National and European Amateur MMA Champion. Andreev is an aggressive fighter with a solid wrestling base. He won a four-man amateur tournament at M-1 Challenge 41.
All fights and fighters are subject to change.
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ABOUT M-1 GLOBAL: Founded in 1998, M-1 Global has established itself in the realm of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as the premiere entity for discovering and developing the world's next-generation of superstar fighters. With offices in St Petersburg, Amsterdam and Los Angeles and affiliates in Seoul, Tokyo and Paris, the M-1 brand has staged more than 150 events worldwide, including the M-1 Selection, M-1 Challenge and M-1 Gobal and M-1 Global HWGP events, in addition to co-promoting Strikeforce events and M-1 Global on the Showtime network in the United States. Captivating live, television and broadband audiences with its superior production values and matchups, M-1 Global events have featured some of the sport's top names, including Fedor Emelianenko, Andrei Arlovski, Aleksander Emelianenko, Gegard Mousasi, Alistair Overeem, Keith Jardine, Ben Rothwell, Melvin Manhoef, Roman Zentsov, Yushin Okami, Mike Pyle, Denis Kang, Martin Kampmann, Amar Suloev, Chalid Arrab and Stephan Struve. 2014 promises to be another sensational year of world-class competition with a full calendar of Challenge events fuelled by a talent-rich contention system ranking M-1 Global's Champions amongst the greatest in the sport. M-1 Global's greatest asset is renowned heavyweight fighter, Fedor Emelianenko.