Redemption and Contention on the Line at M-1 Challenge XXIII; Sultanakhmedov vs. Cruz In-depth

After being on the receiving end of M-1 Challenge XXII’s most-stunning upset this past December, Magomed Sultanakhmedov is prepared to leave the nightmare locked in the memory banks and look forward to what lies ahead in 2011. With the defeat behind him, Sultanakhmedov is ready for redemption in the eyes of his fans, teammates and countrymen and will collide with 2010 M-1 Selection Americas semi-finalist, Plinio Cruz at M-1 Challenge XXIII on March 5th in Moscow, Russia.

A world champion in karate and kick-boxing and M-1, Dream and K-1 Hero’s veteran, who many have compared to the great Mirko Cro-Cop of the past, may have ended a near-flawless 2010, which included winning the M-1 Selection Eastern European tournament, with a dastardly loss but the talented left-handed striker will be looking to kick-off the year by getting back into title contention.

The 26 year old middleweight’s vault of experience and refined technique again mark him as the favourite to win the bout against Cruz but it’s imperative that Sultanakhmedov doesn’t overlook this as a free pass inside the ropes; he must take heed in the fact that Cruz’s camp took the fight because they feel he can be beaten. With the stage set once again, this tough-as-iron warrior and engaging striker needs to exhibit the exciting fighting style he is known for and impose a flawless game plan to shake off an extremely haunting loss.

The man standing opposite on fight night will be East Coast, Tri-state striker, Plinio Cruz who sits in a phenomenal position to hand Sultanakhmedov back-to-back losses for the first time in his fighting career.

Fighting out of Jorge “Macaco” Patino’s Gold Team USA, Cruz has a Chute Boxe affiliation and his stand-up is characterized as being extremely aggressive and physical; Cruz has the ability to press the action and come at his opponents relentlessly while throwing rapid-fire combinations which is a perfect match to counter Sultanakhmedov’s striking. Should a standing game plan become ineffective, Cruz’s Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt can be resurrected and immediately put into action on the canvass where his grappling skills will also pair up perfectly against the Tulsa, Russia native.

Cruz began training at age 16 while growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Under the guidance of Master Patino, Cruz entered The São Paulo State Championship after six months and placed third; a tournament he re-entered a couple years later and subsequently won.

After watching some of Macaco’s MMA fights in Brazil early in his career, Cruz’s heart was immediately devoted to the sport of mixed martial arts and his training was re-directed and focused, founded in discipline, respect and humility.

A very skilled and well rounded fighter, Cruz began competing professionally in 2008 and his first MMA bouts were part of the Ultimate Combat Grand Prix where he won the light heavyweight belt with back-to-back victories.

Having the opportunity to fight in the 2010 M-1 Selection tournament, Cruz earned a hard-fought decision victory against John Doyle in the opening brackets which lined up the semi-final tilt against the eventual tournament winner, Tyson Jeffries. The contest with Jeffries was one of the card’s most exciting fights with Cruz keeping the Team Quest fighter at range and lamping the Oregon native with non-stop, precision striking. Had it not been for a point deduction thanks to an incidental kick landing in Jeffries’ fruit-basket, Cruz would have likely won the bout; instead he lost by a razor-thin split decision.

Cruz has an amazing opportunity to turn his underdog status into an astonishing upset but Sultanakhmedov’s stealth submission skills and laser-guided precision striking must be mitigated. Other than the Russian’s wealth of experience, these fighters match up extremely well and are anticipated to put on a show that will rival for Fight of the Night honours.

Seems Sultanakhmedov has done all he can to prepare himself for the fast-approaching collision with Plino Cruz. Undoubtedly Cruz faces his toughest competition to date on a stage set for a wickedly entertaining upset; knocking off Sultanakhmedov in front his home country crowd would put the Russian on a skid to the bottom of the ladder. Either way, one fighter must win and that man will have a mere four weeks to prepare for battle against American Selections champ, Tyson ‘The Anti- Hero’ Jeffries for the vacant M-1 Challenge middleweight strap on March 25th.

About William Smith

After watching the first Ultimate Fighting Championship I became instantly hooked. I've been a huge fan of the sport of MMA ever since. Haven't missed a UFC event & thanks to fight pass I've witnessed some of the all time greatest fighter & athletes the sport through Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, Glory, Pacrase, EliteXC.............. I resently joined & will use this site to continue to bring the latest news from the world of MMA to all our loyal followers.