M-1 Global has announced that M-1 Challenge lightweight champion Alexander “Iron Capture” Botenkp will take on challenger Abukar Yandiev (8-1-0, M-1: 2-1-0) in the M-1 Challenge 74 co-feature on February 18, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The previously announced main event pits undefeated M-1 Challenge light heavyweight champion Rashid Yusupov (6-0-0, M-1: 4-0-0), of Russia, defends his title against former titlist Stephan “T-800” Puetz (15-2-0, M-1: 6-1-0), of Germany.
M-1 Challenge 74 will be streamed live from St. Petersburg in high definition on www.M1Global.TV. Viewers will be able to watch the preliminary fights and main card by logging on to register at www.M1Global.TV. Fans may watch all of the action on their computers, as well as on Android and Apple smart phones and tablets.
Also announced is a fight between top bantamweights Vitaly Branchuk and Moktar “Le Kabyle” Benkaci will also be in action with the winner positioning himself for a potential title shot with M-1 Challenge bantamweight champion Pavel Vitruk in the not-too-distant future.
A strong Ukrainian with superior wrestling skills, Butenko (42-11-2, M-1: 9-1-0) is an eight-year MMA veteran who has found a welcomed home in M-1 Challenge competition and he has taken advantage of the opportunity. Riding a six-fight win streak, the 29-year-old Butenko captured the vacant M-1 Challenge lightweight title belt last June at M-1 Challenge 67, when he took a five-round unanimous decision over Artiom Damkovsky.
In his last action, at M-1 Challenge 71 in October, Butenko won a unanimous three-round decision against Rubenilton Pereira in a non-title fight.
Butenko’s first title defense will be against one of the most popular MMA fighters in Russia, the fighting powerhouse Yandiev, who also is a strong wrestler, plus a solid Judo background. The rising lightweight star will be a certain fan favor because of his nationality as well as his style of fighting, resulting in first-round endings in all his pro fights to date.
Last June at M-1 Challenge 68, Yandiev used an armlock for a first-round submission of Tony Christodoulou, fought at a 177 ½ lbs. catchweight.
Like Butenko, Branchuk (21-6-0, M-1: 1-2-0) also fights out of Ukraine. The 25-year-old fighter is a former M-1 Challenge bantamweight title challenger, who was riding an eight-fight into his last fight, in which he lost by fourth-round submission (choke) to the aforementioned Vitruk (see accompanying picture to left). In M-1 Challenge competition, Branchuk defeated Antun Racic one year ago, by way of a three-round split decision at M-1 Challenge 64.
Benkaci (13-7-0, (M-1: 2-1-0) is a grappling specialist from France. Known and highly respected for his great conditioning and endurance, he lost a disputed three-round decision in his M-1 Challenge debut to Nikita Chistyakov 1-½ years ago, but the talented Frenchman bounced back to knockout his last two opponents, Vadim Malygin and Alexey Naumov, respectively, by knee and punch.