Sultanakhmedov vs. Cruz Takes M-1 Challenge XXIII’s Fight of the Night

On a stage set for a wickedly entertaining upset, Magomed ‘the White Wolf’ Sultanakhmedov overcame his haunting last outing and returned to grace in front his home country crowd with a commanding performance over Plino Cruz at M-1 Challenge XXIII last Saturday night. In an extremely well-matched contest, the pair of battle-tested warriors earned the card’s Fight of the Night top honour.

Cruz had an amazing opportunity to turn his underdog status into an astonishing upset but Sultanakhmedov’s laser-guided, precision striking proved too much to handle.

Touching gloves to open the bout, the pair commenced to trade standing up where Cruz took an unintentional finger to the eye early in the round to cause a short break in the action. Once restarted, both fighters jostled for position until Sultanakhmedov executed a text-book hip throw that took Cruz to the mat where he was forced to defend from his back. Working through side control, half guard and full guard, Sultanakhmedov postured up to rain shots through Cruz’s defense all the while with Cruz working furiously to lock in submissions including a nearly secured triangle and kimura confirming the Tri-state native has a potent BJJ arsenal. After being stood up by the referee, the decorated strikers opted to close out the round standing up.

To start the second frame, the fighters touched gloves as a sign of mutual respect and sportsmanship and quickly engaged each other by trading stinging leg kicks. Setting up Cruz with perfect head movement, Sultanakhmedov nailed a same-hand jab left-hook combination that both stunned and hurt Cruz who backed off immediately to create space in order to go for a weak single-leg takedown. Stuffing the takedown easily and smelling blood, Sultanakhmedov pounced on Cruz while he was still on the canvass and fired a barrage of unanswered, rapid fire rights until the referee stepped in to halt the bout.

Kicking off 2011 with a much needed victory, Sultanakhmedov’s performance has marked him for title contention and this warrior is ready for what the rest of the year holds in store; the ‘White Wolf’ aims to lay grips to the middleweight strap for the second time against 2010 M-1 Selection – Americas tournament winner, Tyson ‘The Anti Hero’ Jeffries at M-1 Challenge: Damkovsky vs. Figueroa, LIVE on SHOWTIME on Friday, March 25 at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

The event marks M-1 Challenge’s first return to US soil since 2009. M-1 Challenge XXIV: Damkovsky vs. Figueroa will showcase championship bouts between current lightweight title holder, Artiom Damkovsky, making his inaugural defense against 2010 M-1 Selection Americas winner, Jose Figueroa and Sultanakhmedov faces Jeffries for the vacant middleweight strap.

About William Smith

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