Length: 9+ hours
How do you create a freak show attraction fight with two of the unanimously- hailed top worldwide fighters in their division at your disposal? Simple.... when the two men in question compete in conflicting weight classes.
Bodog is a company founded by an entrepreneur named Calvin Eyre, and going by the commercials and product placements across this four disc set, they've got their toes dipped in a number of pies, from television production and reality series to an active record label. Indeed, Bodog label artist Bif Naked undertakes a presenter's role across the build-up series of "Bodog Fight: St Petersburg"- we actually have one of her albums in our house. As this belongs to the other half and I've never heard it, I can't actually tell you whether that's a good thing or not.
Anyroadup, BodogFIGHT is obviously the upstart MMA wing of it's parent corporation, who in order to garner themselves a bit of name recognition, decided in 2007 that they were going to play host to PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emilianenko's first MMA fight in his native Russia.... with opposition coming in the form of longtime Middleweight standout Matt Lindland?? The prospect certainly got tongues a-wagging across the online MMA community, although sadly this failed to translate into significant PPV numbers, sparking a debate over the viability of Fedor as a draw in North America that remains startlingly relevant to this day.
- All 8 episodes
- The entire St. Petersburg Pay-Per-View event
- An uncensored Bodog Girls featurette
- Chael Sonnen Interview
- Fight commentary by Eddie Alvarez, Yves Edwards, Nick Thompson and Matt Lindland
- Bonus Pay-Per-View Fights
- Unseen Bodog Girl footage
The pre-big show offerings on this set emanate from the grandiose surroundings of a building of similar internal decor to the central casino in Monte Carlo. Commentary was provided by a three man team of Lon McEacheran, ex-UFC colour man Jeff Osbourne (who demonstrated why Zuffa quietly dropped him here, with a number of "Well, duh!" comments) and Paul Lazenby. While mainly nondescript and inoffensive, they do invoke memories of the early days coverage of the Premier League by Sky, in that they routinely bash you around the head with assurances that what you're watching IS good, almost as if they're trying to convince themselves of this. Plus, in their analysis of some of the closely run fights that go the distance, they bring whole new meaning to the term "sitting on the fence". The pre-fight intro packages are neatly spiced up with notable insight from familiar faces like Eric Paulson, Phil Baroni, Josh Barnett and Dennis Kang.
The eight individual episodes appear initially to centre around the concept of four man brackets, the inference being that two fights per episode (each in a single weight class) would see the respective winners clash at the Emilanenko-Lindland pay per view. This is a strategy that could well catch on for someone somewhere as an interest-builder, but bizarrely, for all the talk of "the winner of this fight will face the winner of that last fight" and suchlike, scarce few of the proposed matches actually come to pass (or if they did, they're certainly not to be found on this set)...
....Rodrigo Damm vs Mike Brown would be one such example, as both of these gents garnered ticks in the 155lb win column on the first instalment. Damm toppled Indian fighter "Black Mamba"- the opening five minutes of this fight quickly descended into farce, as Mamba persistently clung to the ring ropes to thwart a takedown attempt from BJJ ace Damm, with precisely no intervention forthcoming from referee Troy Waugh (not the last time Waugh would vex, either) until Damm deposited his foe over the ropes and onto the floor, as Tank Abbott famously attempted back at the second "Ultimate Ultimate". As soon Damm scored with the takedown, in round two, he swiftly took Mamba's back and sunk in the Rear Naked Choke to win by tapout. One shot UFC fighter Brown left me wondering why he didn't get more chances in the big leagues, as he scored a thoroughly deserved unanimous decision over longtime top-ranked Lightweight Yves Edwards, surviving a pushed tempo and the crisper of the shots thrown in an otherwise even first round of standing exchanges, before sneaking the second by catching a kick to the midsection and sweeping the loose leg to secure top position, and dominating the deciding (I think, keep reading...) final period.
The second episode saw the 170lbers take stage, and the first enthralling fight of the set rear it's head, in the form of Canadian Tyler "TNT" Jackson against Dmitri Samoilov. The gangly, inexperienced Russian utilised his distinct reach advantage early, and with TNT having to move quickly to land a trifecta of combos, Samoilov was forced to close in and secure a takedown into Jackson's tightly closed guard; the native had nowhere to go from here, which prompted an immediate standup, from where Samoilov moved to take affairs straight back down into the North/South position. TNT avoided armbar, manoeuvring to take DS's back in the ropes, secured hooks, and employed punches in order to work an opening for a choke, but ran afoul of the clock to finish a tasty first round. A wild flurry from the Russian at the onset of the second climaxed with trio of knee strikes; seemingly over-excited, Samoilov wound up conceding his back (not sure how he managed that). With Jackson stepping back and counterpunching in the third, enticing his tiring foe to come forward and open up, he was able to capitalise on a fuller tank (so to speak) by slipping out of mount after being taken down and scoring with some innovative and heavy axehandle blows from guard. A late but sloppy Samoilov flurry wasn't enough to rescue the round, in my eyes, following which the judges rendered an utterly baffling draw decision. This got to me to thinking: it hadn't been clarified up to this point whether these fights were being scored under ten point must or PRIDE-style fight duration criteria. Either way, while TNT's calculated stand-up tactics likely cast him in a good light, I scored this fight for the Russian, on both aggression and effort to finish.
The second welterweight clash was a very stop/start affair. Jorge Masvidal and Steve Berger endured a long feeling out process: three minutes had elapsed when the former finally moved to snap the apprehension with a 1-2 combo. The first round was strictly a Boxing match, which Jeff Osbourne hailed as "even" in a manner fast becoming typical. Berger tried shooting at the end, in an attempt to nick the round (from the way the commentators were talking, I'm assuming ten point must). Masvidal dragged Berger downwards in the sixth minute, getting his arms trapped into the bargain and causing a stalemate, so stood & jumped downwards to land blows, in an attempt to push the pace, before the fighters unfortunately reverted to type. Eventually, Troy Waugh awoke from his slumber and stood them up. Chasing the fight in the third, Berger jumped into a very loose guillotine from which Masvidal easily escaped to come out in mount, with Waugh inexplicably moving to stand the fight up before JM had chance to do anything with the position, the fight was stood up for nothing. With about ninety seconds left, Captain Obvious Osbourne decided this one was "probably going the distance". Masvidal took the unanimous nod. Pretty much everything about this fight annoyed me.
Tricks picked up in episode three: in what was billed as a bonus fight (no build-up package) Piotr Jakaczynski assembled a most impressive first round display opposite Rumen Dimitrov. Following an early exchange of wild punches. Jakaczynski took the Bulgarian down, passed guard, secured hooks and worked punches from back continually across a two minute stretch. Unfortunate not to finish, PJ eventually triumphed by armbar in the second. The first heavyweight eliminator saw erstwhile PRIDE slugger Roman Zentsov topple Quebecer Kristof Midoux, in an exciting fight that could easily serve as a fun drinking game centred around how many different ways Jeff Osbourne pronounced "Midoux" throughout. The Red Devil man started strongly with legkick/overhand punch comb, causing Midoux to close in and clinch. The frenetic opening round was highlighted by an exchange of spinning back kicks, and a cheeky high kick from the surprisingly agile Midoux. The second began with a further swift exchange, halted with a big right head kick from Midoux, who used the opening to take Zentsov's back and work a choke. RZ turned into full guard, a position which highlighted the nasty welts on Midoux's left leg, caused by an early array of outside leg kicks, before Troy Waugh once again stood the fighters up prematurely. The finish was a slick one: a further spinning heel kick from Zentsov put Midoux down, and a succession of bombs on the mat prompted the stoppage.
Who lumbered Jeremiah Constant with the clunky nickname "The Good Old Boy"? I'd have called him "The Bullfrog" and have him come out to Credence. No? Meh, I'm a goof. 1-0 Cain Velasquez scored a huge early takedown, almost getting caught in a guillotine while working for position, but soon benefited from far superior conditioning, catching a high kick to floor Constant, who turtled for several seconds, but couldn't resist the onslaught of punches & kicks on the mat, with Waugh calling halt to a very one sided fight.
The fourth episode was one that set the curiosity radar a-bleeping, featuring as it did all female fights. Of interest to some of our regulars might be an appearance from Joshi worker Tama Chana (of "Pro Wrestling SUN" fame), who took on a previous conqueror in Hitomi Akano in a tiny ring in Tokyo in front of a couple of dozen punters. A cautious first round from both was apexed by kneebar attempt from Akano, who secured the tapout with an armbar out of nowhere in the second round. In the same ring, Abu Dhabi veteran Roxanne Modafferri was upset by Shayna Baszler, as despite immediate straight right taking things to the mat, RM was caught in mount with vicious kimura and academic sweep from Baszler, with no-where to go but tap-land. Back in St. Petersburg, and old Blighty stuck it's snout into affairs, as Manc Rosi Sexton pulled out a second straight shock by submitting Carina Damm, sister of Rodrigo. An intense waistlock battle developed from knee exchange, eventually degenerating into a lengthy clinch from where Damm was able to pull Sexton to the mat. The Lancs lass utilised the rubber guard, and grasping the limb left in, Rosi extended a full armbar from the bottom to tap the BJJ practitioner. The final all-girl scuffle saw the truly intimidating Amanda Buckner weather a quickfire flurry from Julie Kedzie to take control with a Harai Goshi from the resultant clinch, landing a heavy punch from top position, from where Kedzie kind of wandered discordantly into a guillotine choke. What do you know...I want to see more of the girls going at it.
The fifth episode played host to two recondite welterweight battles, with a further Anglo-Saxon warrior getting his snout in- Matt Thorpe is actually subtitled for the stateside audience (seriously, you'd think we didn't invent the language). The height difference between he and the most inappropriately named Swede alive- Diego Gonzalez- served as a ridiculous visual. A very technical fight, albeit one low on aggression, saw Gonzalez cruise to a shutout victory, taking the Mancunian monikered "12 Gague" down seemingly at will, and was unlucky not to finish in the first, transitioning from an Oma Plata to an Americana, with only Thorpe's rangy legs enabling him to retain full guard and control DG's body weight. Nebraska born Team Quest fighter Jake Ellenburger was unfortunate to drop a decision to UFC veteran Derrick Noble: the inexperienced grappler grew in stature throughout the three round duration, as his only resistance to Noble's supremacy on the ground in the tentative opener was a succession of knees to the midsection from the clinch. A late rally at the end of each of the final two rounds saw Noble likely look ascended in the eyes of the judges, even though Ellenburger had been controlling the pace. Nonetheless, a thoroughly decent fight, which climaxed on a knifedge, as Noble grabbed a tight guillotine with ten seconds remaining, with the Oregon based man's slender frame keeping him amidst the ropes and out of absolute peril.
Episode six came complete with FINISHES! Kyacey (pronounced "Casey") Uscola not only has cruel parents, but also an enemy for life in Igor Vovchanchyn, having pilfered his nickname of "Ice Cold". Uscola repeatedly sprawled and backed off, unwilling as he was to go to ground with Jospeh Baize- he of presumable typographical error imposed his will by keeping the fight standing, unleashing a range of kicks, with a final high right flooring Baize and follow-up punches on the mat drawing the stoppage. Lot of Canadians in Bodog.... Forrest Griffin's designated job boy Bill Mahood withstood an early burst of enthusiasm from Khalil Ibrahim, and a lengthy stall in the clinch to secure a tapout with workmanlike strikes from guard. Meanwhile, Steve Steinbess employed a slew of kicks to the torso of Jeff Ford, causing Ford to close the distance to respond with knee strikes and eventually go against his forte and take the fight downwards by actively pulling guard.. From there, Ford attempted to secure a heel hook, but in doing so left himself open, with Steinbess capitalising with unanswered punches, forcing Troy Waugh to step in. Amazingly, a Steinbess/Mahood match does crop up later in the set (during the extras)...
...as does a fight between Jarno Nurminen and Josh "Buffalo Head" Curran, both of whom triumphed in preliminary "Super Heavyweight" contests. Finnish Muay Thai champion Nurminen looked awkward in his proper MMA debut, yet was able to simply muscle Korean Sang Su Lee to the mat and throw heavy leather from the top, taking the unanimous decision in a sloppy encounter. Curran's brawl with Nevadan Roy Nelson was a knock down/drag out fifteen minutes- Trevor Prangley protégé Curran interspersed bouts of huge knees and haymakers, showing tremendous endurance to see off a persistent kinura in the first, and rolling out of a fully extended armbar through sheer brute force. The third round was a total washout from a viewers perspective, however, as both the gargantuan warriors were running on empty.... this would serve as something of a precursor to Curran's later fight with Nurminen.
The final episode of the season serves up a couple of real gems- Shanya Baszler and Amanda Buckner contest an excellent first round on the canvas, highlighted by a cracking sequence where Baszler held off an anaconda choke with a tight half-guard-"answering the phone" arm in defence combination, manoeuvring her hips to reply with a jujigatame, from which Buckner spun out into mount, working upwards to secure a head triangle complimented with a rash of punches, with Baszler squeezing free and unloading with alternating left and right knee from the Thai Clinch. Great stuff. Baszler continued the standing onslaught in the second, yet ran out of zest in the third, allowing Buckner to use a waistlock takedown to secure the back and pick up the win with a series of left punches. That tasty affair was precursor to a genuinely explosive minute courtesy of Eddie Alvarez, who picked up the inaugural Bodog 170lb Championship with an exemplary display of precision striking at the expense of Derrick Noble, using quickfire jabs to set up a succession of straight rights.
Despite the absence of several of the match-ups promised in the earlier build-up episodes, the "Clash Of The Nations" pay per view had the good grace to make up for this fact by being something of a little belter. "Colonel" Bob Sheridan replaced McEacheron in the three-man broadcast team for the event at St Petersburg's Ice Palace, and a worthy substitution it proved to be, even though Sheridan sounds uncannily like former AWA announcer, the late Ron Tronguard.
A rematch between Roman Zentsov and Kristof Midoux opened the show, the prospect of which was a-okay with me considering their excellent encounter earlier in the series, a fight to which Midoux immediately paid tribute by attempting a spinning back kick straight out of the blocks, then persistently worked to secure a double leg takedown, inching determinedly out of the closed guard and into side control, transitioning to full mount and fending off an armbar attempt from Zentsov's butterfly guard, with Sean Brockmole standing the fighters back up seconds later. Midoux had thoroughly controlled the first four and a half minutes, yet Zentsov's sole offensive flurry spelled the end of the fight, as he dropped the Gaul with a high right kick and landed a succession of hammerfists on the ground, the last of which coincided with the bell. A stoppage was called to much confusion (was it a verbal tap out, did Midoux fail to answer the bell?), which wasn't really called for, as Midoux clearly wasn't answering the strikes from Zentsov, and the fight could've easily been stopped before the five minute bell.
The girls, justly afforded a spot on the big show having been a highlight of the series, had to contended with the albatross of Sheridan desperately clamouring to justify their presence throughout the duration of their fifteen minute meeting. Amanda Buckner and Hitomi Akano traded jabs and outside leg kicks, until the American worked to close and clinch, establishing the advantage by taking the tussle to the mat but being forced to posture up to avoid a triangle attempt. Buckner was able to dispel Akano's kicking as a threat as the rounds progressed, countering a shot to the midsection in the second with a stereo straight right, reverting to the clinch against the buckles, and assuring a 20-18 lead going into the final round with some hard kicks to the legs of the Japanese after standing out of mount. This ensured that Akano would struggle to press in the final five minutes, and Buckner took the unanimous decision in a fair offering, albeit one not on a par with many of the previous offerings from the lasses.
Hometown Middleweight Andrei Seminov endured a slow start opposite Jorge Santiago: much jockeying for position came to pass before the bout suddenly catapulted into life with ninety seconds remaining in the first, as the Soviet hiptossed Santiago to the mat and let fly with hammerfist blows, from where JS manoeuvred his hips to secure hold of an arm, forcing Seminiov into closing guard and eating a dose of ground 'n pound in order to pull an armbar straight, alas right on the bell. Now enthused, Santiago unleashed a head kick, to the start the second, so high that it almost missed. After dropping the native, JS secured position in half guard, from which he easily passed to secure the back, with Seminov quite astonishingly standing out of position- back upright, and Santiago immediately closed to finish with a left-right-left blast: Sean Brockmole jumped between the two standing fighters, but the replays clearly showed Seminov's legs buckling. An unpopular result with the Russian crowd, but a good call.
With the Red Devils having a prominent role on home turf, Alecks Emilanenko utilised a single left to the temple of a shrunken-looking Eric Pele, to cap off a scrappy brawl. Not much else to say about this one...
Both semi and main come resplendent with alternate commentary from the participants. The earlier impressive Eddie Alvarez stepped into the ring to defend his Bodog Welterweight title for the first time against the lanky and unfathomably awesomely nicknamed "Goat", Nick Thompson. The duo failed to significantly engage in the opening round, which has highlighted by two instances of light gut-shots from the champion, with Thompson taunting by patting his belly. Alvarez began the second in buoyant mood, taking Thompson down with a rear waistlock, and began to exert authority with calculated striking, until "The Goat" snuck in a short left to drop EA, and employed his gargantuan reach advantage to unleash a flurry on the ground, which equalled one stoppage, and one new champion.
The elder Emilianenko brother is still carting his PRIDE belt about, I see. Matt Lindland sprouted "little man syndrome" in the opening moments of the "Clash of the Weight Classes" (not a real tagline, I just made that up), charging intently and throwing a pair of shots, with an overhand left cutting dominating heavyweight Fedor. "The Law" was quick to capitalise by engaging clinch against the ring ropes, from where the fight garnered itself a small dose of controversy, as Lindland worked for a trademark slam while Fedor grabbed the top strand, and instead used the Olympian's momentum to throw him to the canvas and work an achilles hold. Lindland used his free leg to kick Emilianenko away, and kept busy to actively shove the Russian out of guard. Fedor secured an arm, and twisted over to face down, extending the limb and securing the tapout in a quickfire 2:38- not a lengthy fight, but ne'er a wasted motion to be found.
The final disc in this set of four includes an interview with Quest man Chael Sonnen that the sleeve notes boast as being "highly controversial"- something of a misnomer, as Sonnen's comments in this brief soliloquy amount to taking an unnecessary cheap shot at Sambo, calling Mark Coleman "drunk" and naturally backing teammate Lindland to topple Fedor. Seven unaired fights from the pay per view undercard are also included, which cover the range from the sublime (a frantic war on the canvas between Rodrigo Damm and Santino DeFranco) to the ridiculous (a sans-cardio heavyweight slugfest pitting Josh Curran against Jarno Nurminen). Amar Suloev's bombastic twenty second knockout of Andy Foster is one for the highlight reel, whilst they managed to sneak yet another dodgy call from Troy Waugh in there, in the Erik Oganov-Derrick Noble fight.
The aforementioned gaps in continuity between single instalments and pay per view apex do drag the overall score down a notch, but regardless, there is plenty of stimulating stuff to be found here, interspersed as it is by the prerequisite duffer. If nothing else, BodogFIGHT serves as a welcome and refreshing change of scene from the ubiquitous big name MMA groups. There's no official UK release of this set scheduled, but it can be imported through Amazon UK (please note that this a NTSC Region 1 set).
Points: 7.5 / 10