Viktor Nemkov (Greg Samborski/Sherdog)

M-1 Challenge 60: Nemkov vs. Perak Preview and Predictions

M-1 Global returns to Orel, Russia, this Wednesday, Aug. 5, for M-1 Challenge 60: Battle in Orel. The 10-fight card features a No. 1 contender bout in the light heavyweight division, multiple former M-1 title challengers and a mix of young prospects and veterans. Former M-1 title challengers will battle in the evening’s main event, as Croatia’s Maro Perak fights Kazakh-born Viktor Nemkov. The co-main event is a light heavyweight fight between Polish veteran Marcin Zontek and Russia’s Maxim Futin. The other feature bout showcases the aggressive striking ability of Alexey Makhno against the power of Zulfikar Usmanov.

The promotion is heading into Orel on a high note, having announced the construction of the M-1 Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia. The main card will air live on Fight Network in Canada, Roku devices in North America and in more than 30 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. If you don’t have the Fight Network, you’re in luck, M-1 Global has made the five-fight preliminary card free to watch at The main card is available for purchase through the M-1 Pass, which is offering the first month at a low cost.

The preliminary card action begins at 11:30 a.m. ET on and Fight Network. The main card begins at 1:30 p.m. ET.


LHW: Maro Perak (23-5-1) vs. Viktor Nemkov (16-8)

Maro Perak, one of the top Croatian fighters today, will be returning to M-1 after a knee surgery canceled his scheduled bout with Rashid Yusupov at M-1 Challenge 57 in May. Perak will make his return to M-1 after six months and drops down to light heavyweight.

Perak joined M-1 Global in 2014, debuting against Marcin Tybura at M-1 Challenge 47 in April. He lost the fight, and his next (and most recent) against Denis Smoldarev at M-1 Challenge 55 in February. The 32-year-old fighter has finished 19 of his 23 wins, including 12 by way of knockout.

The 28-year-old Viktor Nemkov was born in Kazakhstan, but trains out of Belgorod, Russia. Heading into his 25th professional bout, Nemkov is returning after more than a year-long layoff. The M-1 Global veteran carries a record of 9-7 in the promotion. He has fought for M-1 gold twice, losing at M-1 Challenge 25 to Vinny Magalhaes and at M-1 Challenge 46 to current light heavyweight champion Stephan Puetz. A winner in nine of his past 10 bouts, including six finishes, Nemkov will look to continue where he left off in July of last year when he won a bout that he ended in just over three minutes of the first round.

With a career that began in 2005, Perak has molded and changed over the years. There are some large holes in the game of the Czech fighter, but also great positives in his aggressive style on the mat. A risky style has led to losses for Perak, but the brawling striker has also capitalized on his aggressive submission ability, locking in leg locks and kimuras throughout his 10-year MMA career. Perak is not the fastest fighter, leading to a deficiency in his defense on the feet, where he will often find a counter right on his chin when pushing forward. Perak is a strong fighter with big punches and kicks on the feet.

Nemkov is a low-volume striker who looks to land long, straight punches from the orthodox stance. He favors a long straight right to the body. A well-rounded fighter in every aspect of the game, he shines on the mat. Nemkov is an aggressive grappler who can pass guard and pick up submission wins. An active ground-and-pound game helps Nemkov pass to mount seamlessly. Strong defensively on the ground, Nemkov has the ability to keep the fight where he likes it, which will be a key factor in determining the outcome of this fight.

Nemkov will need to counter Perak when he comes in. Perak could look to get the fight to the floor, but Nemkov has the ability to keep the fight standing with his excellent takedown defense. If this fight takes place on the feet, Nemkov will need to increase his volume and land more shots to the much bigger Perak.

Nemkov will avoid the early onslaught, get the fight down and put his name back on the short list of light heavyweight title challengers. Nemkov by second-round submission.

LHW: Marcin Zontek (14-8) vs. Maxim Futin (4-2)

Marcin Zontek, a 35-year-old Polish light heavyweight, will be returning to M-1 Challenge for the first time since a bloody title bid against Sergey Kornev at M-1 Challenge 34 in 2012. Zontek was scheduled to face Rashid Yusupov at M-1 Challenge 45, but another injury sidelined the Polish fighter for more than two years. He returned at FEN 5 in January 2015, forcing the stoppage after the first round and earning the victory over Krzysztof Pietraszek. Zontek quickly returned just two months later at FEN 6, where he bested Maciej Browarski after 15 hard-fought minutes, taking the majority decision. The win was Zontek’s fifth in his past six fights.

Maxim Futin, a 25-year-old Russian prospect, enters M-1 Global as a highly touted combat sambo champion. He has finished all but one of his opponents inside the distance. The Russian fighter has trained with M-1 veteran Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and many other well-known names in the region. Futin is coming off an unfortunate loss to Shamil Nurmagomedov at Oplot Challenge 106 in December 2014 in a back-and-forth bout that ended when an injury to Futin’s hand halted the action between the first and second rounds.

Zontek is known for his striking and finishing ability. A brawler through and through, he exhibits good striking with his hands and feet. Zontek has a few favored combinations and kicks, with his right middle kick and lead left kick to the ribs making frequent appearances. He is a high-volume striker, switching between his kicks and his hands as he presses forward. Zontek has good striking defense, but he tends to strike his way into the clinch, causing him to move directly in and out in a straight line. He is well reversed on the mat, but prefers to strike or be in top position on the ground. Zontek has strong, accurate punches from the top.

Futin, a multiple-time combat sambo champion, has a well-rounded game. The 25-year-old likes to use feints and movement to set up his striking attacks. The Russian has a solid jab, which he backs up with a big straight right hand. He is not afraid to grab the head of his opponent during exchanges, ultimately looking to catch the back of the head and use a single-collar tie to control his opponent. Futin will throw uppercuts, hooks and knees at a rapid rate inside the clinch, effectively setting up his wrestling and ability to land throws and trip takedowns. He is quick on his sprawl and good at defending takedowns while making his opponent pay for their efforts. When Futin gets on top, he employs a breakneck pace of ground-and-pound, constantly looking to pepper the face of his grounded opponent.

There are small weaknesses in each man’s game, but the glaring weakness for Futin is that he tends to drop his right hand in exchanges, leaving his chin exposed for the perfect left hand. Zontek will try to take advantage of this hole in Futin’s game, setting up his left hook with his lead left kick to the body, potentially opening that hole further. Futin will have the ability to take this fight down when he pleases, a huge advantage if he should get into trouble on the feet. The glaring opportunity to win the fight for Futin is to get the fight inside, work some strikes to the head and body of Zontek and then take the Polish fighter down. The Russian’s ground-and-pound and control from the top should help test Futin’s grappling and submission defense, an area where Zontek has lost fights in the past.

The young prospect will find a way to win a close fight. Futin by decision

LW: Alexey Makhno (9-3) vs. Zulfikar Usmanov (7-4-1)

Alexey “Ataman” Makhno is a young prospect training out of Fight Club No.1 in Moscow. The 25-year-old has been fighting professionally for three years and has amassed an impressive record, including a five-fight winning streak. Makhno finished his last three opponents by knockout, including two in the first round. In his last bout, which took place at M-1 Challenge 56 in April, Ataman stopped Rakhman Makhazhiev with a punch in the third round.

The 35-year-old Zulfikar Usmanov will be looking to rebound after a recent loss in China. The decision defeat at the hands of Haotian Wu came in April, preceded by a split draw in his last M-1 Challenge bout in August 2014. A 15-second spinning kick knockout highlights the finishing ability of Usmanov, whose career features four submission victories and one knockout win. He has fought professionally for just three years and has only lost to good regional talent.

Makhno is an athletic striker who looks for the finish. He has an orthodox stance with a good balance of front and back leg. When looking to counter, however, he leans hard on his rear leg for his preferred left hook and cross. Makhno will measure distance with his left, but rarely throws his jab. Instead, he prefers to use it as a tool to set up his right straight and counter left hook. Makhno likes to kick, but almost exclusively with his lead leg. He has decent footwork, but can find himself in trouble when facing an opponent that attacks in straight lines. For all of Makhno’s offensive tools, he is hurt in almost every fight, usually with the same punch or combination. The two punches that do the damage are the left hook to Makhno’s right side of his forehead and the right straight to the top of the head. These are punches that he has been hurt and dropped from on multiple occasions in multiple fights. Makhno’s saving grace is his ability to recover, move back up to the feet and continue fighting. When the fight hits the floor, he is calm, relaxed and constantly working to scramble up or improve his position.

Usmanov likes to use an orthodox stance, but he will switch often throughout the length of a fight. The tough veteran is a complete fighter who uses his wrestling, grappling and striking as an effective means to a finish. Usmanov uses his size to cover distance with punches, sliding in and throwing multiple strikes in his forward movement. He employs a strong right straight and left hook combination, throwing it early and often while looking to stop the fight with every blow. Usmanov can use forward pressure, but he has effective countering while circling out right. Usmanov has the ability to keep the fight off the floor, but if the fight does hit the ground, the Russian is vulnerable to submission attacks and positional advancements.

Usmanov will have a small advantage if the fight hits the floor, but this fight will most likely play out on the feet. Makhno’s weaknesses play into Usmanov’s distance-covering strikes, which could bring an early end to the night. The toughness and grit that Makhno showed against Makhazhiev is evidence that this fight could get interesting if Usmanov can’t put it on and finish Makhno.

This is a tough fight to call between two men with strengths in the other’s areas of weakness. Youth does not prevail here. Usmanov by knockout in round one.

FW: Elias Boudegzdame (9-3) vs. Evgeni Lazukov (7-2)

Elias Boudegzdame fills in on late notice, taking the place of injured prospect Moktar Benkaci. The French-born fighter from Algerian descent will be making his M-1 Global debut after a two-fight winning streak. The 21-year-old grappler has finished all nine of his wins, including eight by submission and seven fights in the first round. He is coming off an April win in Shooto Italy, where he dominated Michael Bene and finished the fight in under 90 seconds.

Evgeni Lazukov is a 26-year-old Russian-born striker who started his MMA career almost seven years ago. Lazukov, who has four finishes in seven victories, has scored three knockouts in the first round. He holds a decision victory over former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov, by far Lazukov’s best win to date. He has lost twice in his MMA career, including a defeat at the hands of World Series of Fighting veteran Timur Valiev. The Russian fighter is coming off a knockout victory over Yusuf Batirov in December.

Boudegzdame is an all-action fighter, utilizing his non-stop pace to get inside and get the fight where he wants it, which is on the ground. He has a varied striking assault that includes everything from a jab to a jumping high kick. He uses long strikes to cover distance, standing just outside his opponent’s striking range and launching his striking assault to break through and get inside the clinch. Boudegzdame has a decent double leg, but will chain wrestle against the ropes or cage, always looking to get the fight down. That aggression in his striking game carries through to his ground-and-pound attack. He lands accurate punches from top position, only stopping to pass, something he does very well. Boudegzdame will forgo the ground-and-pound if he can advance position and pass the guard. He is good off of his back, often looking to lock in a triangle even after he sweeps his opponent to mount.

Lazukov is a well-rounded, orthodox striker with good boxing fundamentals and a good kicking game. The Russian fighter looks to circle and counter his opponent’s punches, something his opponents have taken advantage of in the past. He is a decent takedown defender, but he has been susceptible to getting stuck on the mat and finished against highly skilled grapplers. Despite his defensive flaws, Lazukov is an aggressive, top-positional grappler who tends to choose submission attempts over positional control. He has accurate and aggressive ground-and-pound, one area where Lazukov has an advantage if Boudegzdame doesn’t work up for top position.

The fight will depend on Lazukov’s footwork and ability to defend the takedown against Boudegzdame. There is no question about who will be the aggressor in the bout — Boudegzdame will come after Lazukov. The last time Lazukov fought a fighter with a similar style to Boudegzdame, he was completely dominated and finished. The 26-year-old will need to learn from his past mistakes in his return to M-1 Global.

Lazukov by third-round TKO.

FW: Marcelo Costa (11-2) vs. Zalimbek Omarov (4-1)

Marcelo Costa is a 36-year-old Brazilian-born fighter who has lived and trained in Switzerland for years. The Gracie Barra Caveirinha Combat fighter has been on an impressive unbeaten streak over the past six years, winning seven of his eight fights in that time. The Brazilian’s lone blemish in the past eight years was a decision loss to longtime British MMA veteran Paul McVeigh. In late 2013, Costa made a name for himself in the European circuit by defeating UFC veteran Damacio Page via decision at Strength & Honor Championships 8. Costa had an opportunity to fight in Cage Warriors, the premier European MMA promotion at the time, in May 2014. He took heavy punches from Bellator veteran Ronnie Mann in the first round, but came back strong midway through the second round and took the back of the Englishman en route to submitting him with a rear-naked choke. The winning streak continued into 2015 with two more wins, both coming via a TKO finish in the first round.

Zalimbek Omarov trains out of the Fighting Eagle gym in St. Petersburg with veteran fighters Murad Abdulaev and Muslim Salikhov. The 26-year-old Russian-born fighter started his professional MMA career as 2012 closed. He won his debut against Evgeni Sadovnikov. An early loss in 2013 and a 13-month layoff ended the only bad stretch in the young fighter’s career. Omarov returned in October 2014 and finished his opponent in less than two minutes, thereby catching the eyes of M-1 brass. Omarov debuted with the promotion at the co-promoted M-1 Challenge 54/ACB 12 event, where he fought to a majority draw with featherweight prospect Daniel Swain. Omarov kicked off his current two-fight winning streak with a second-round knockout victory over Artem Lobanov.

The Brazilian Costa has a great gas tank, often pushing the pace wherever the fight takes place. His relentlessness in the stand-up is due to Costa’s comfort in the pocket. An orthodox puncher with a tendency to trade punches when pressured, he looks to force punches from his opponents so he can counter when they’re on their way in. Costa gets better as the fight goes on and finds paths to victory through his forward pressure and wrestling ability. He has a lightning-quick double leg, a technique he has used throughout many of his past fights. Costa employs an aggressive top game, looking to pass to mount and land heavy punches. He will look for side control and north-south to set up his patented arm-triangle choke. He will stand and admire his handy work on the feet, but recovers well when hurt and often punches his way out of trouble before shooting for a takedown.

Omarov sets a quick pace and has the cardio to keep pressuring throughout the fight. The very strong grappler has good striking fundamentals as well. His good movement, high hands and an ability to counter have helped Omarov employ his true game plan, which is highlighted by a relentless, grinding wrestling style. Once the fight hits the floor, Omarov has a measured but aggressive top game. The Russian will look to pass to mount, often trying to trap the arm of his opponent and work for the mounted crucifix position. The Russian has great takedown defense, but he has been known to get trapped on the feet in a ring, a problem that shouldn’t arise as much in the six-sided M-1 hybrid ring.

Omarov will have a slight height advantage. It’s a factor that may not come into play, however, as both men will look to take this fight to the mat. This contest may be a case of too much, too soon for the Russian prospect.

Costa will have an advantage in the offensive submission game, and that will lead to a second-round submission finish for the Brazilian fighter.

WW: Josip Artukovic (11-4) vs Denis Genyuk (6-4)

Croatian fighter Josip “Arti” Artukovic has been fighting in MMA since 2010. The 30-year-old grappler is 4-1 in his past five fights (excluding a no-contest in April). He has a good offensive submission game, backed up by his effective shot. Artukovic is vulnerable when getting pressured on the feet. He backs straight up, chin high, and will periodically stand still and not move away from incoming punches.

Artukovic fights Russian-born 28-year-old Denis Genyuk. Genyuk has won three straight, last fighting to a decision win over Murad Asildarov at ProFC 54. Genyuk is a striker who fights out of the orthodox stance. He is a moderate- to medium-pressure fighter with good head movement and ability to get in and out of boxing range. Genyuk will switch up his striking options from a front kick to a spinning back fist. An aggressive top-game grappler with accurate ground-and-pound, the Russian can be held down and reversed on the mat, but that won’t happen here. Genyuk by first-round knockout.

LW: Valeriu Mircea (4-1) vs Raul Tutarauli (4-3)

Valeriu Mircea is an Italian fighter who began his MMA career in the past year. A pressure grappler who holds a solid pace, he looks for the clinch to get the takedown, trapping the head and arm, or to land a strong throw or trip. Mircea can have his guard passed and has been submitted, but he has good overall defense on the mat. On the feet, he loves to land knees in the clinch and throw at a high volume.

Mircea makes his M-1 debut against Georgian-born fighter Raul Tutarauli. Tutarauli is a strong fighter, not solely relying on his athletic abilities to bring the fight where he wants it. That said, he is a dynamic athlete who is very accurate while striking at a high volume. He prefers to throw looping punches with bad intentions behind them. Tutarauli covers distance well with his strikes, but he can also fight on the inside and in the clinch. The Georgian’s best asset may be his brutal ground-and-pound, which should win him the fight. Tutarauli by knockout in round one.

The Rest of the Prelims

Javier Fuentes, a 25-year-old Spanish fighter, will face Russian-born kickboxer Alexander Sankov. The stalking striker will look to start a new winning streak with a victory over Fuentes, a man who won his M-1 debut against Nikolay Kaushansky and lost his second promotional outing via a 39-second leg lock submission. Fuentes is an aggressive grappler with a penchant for submission finishes, and he should add another one here with a first-round stoppage of Sankov.

Russia’s Ivan Zakabunya will make his M-1 Challenge debut against Azerbaijan’s Talekh Nadzhafadze. The 22-year-old Russian is a quick and athletic striker. His 28-year-old opponent has heavy hands as well. Nadzhafadze by Decision

Alexander Kolesnik, a 21-year-old Russian fighter, will look to stay undefeated against the 18-year-old Ukrainian fighter Dmitry Shvetc in the evening’s opening contest.