When Shamil Zavurov and Yasubey Enomoto met in April at M-1 Challenge 25, the result was a furious back and forth battle that Zavurov won by unanimous decision. Enomoto, a last minute replacement, showed crisper striking and dangerous submissions off his back, but Zavurov refused to be denied. He took Enomoto down time and time again, winning the fight with an accumulation of small blows over 25 minutes.
Zavurov (18-1) is on a 13-fight win streak and making the third defense of the championship he won a year ago. Enomoto (8-3) has won two in a row since the loss to Zavurov, reestablishing his reputation as an international level fighter.
Zavurov, a Dagestani Muslim from the war torn Caucus mountains, learned a lot from that first contest. Especially, he says, about heart and desire - both his own and Enomoto's. The M-1 Global Welterweight champion believes conditioning is the key to victory. In the first bout, Enomoto just seemed to get stronger the longer the fight went. This time he'll be ready for a fighter who won't quit.
"This time I think it will be actually easier for me," Zavurov said. "I didn't know him before, I didn't have enough time to prepare. Now it is very much different. I know what to expect, I've prepared for him, I know I have to preserve my energy during the fight."
Enomoto too feels like he knows Zavurov in the intimate way only two men who have competed against each other can. He knows, for instance, that the M-1 champion won't quit. In the first fight Enomoto locked on a Kimura that seemed certain to stop the bout. Zavurov continued to fight ("I could hear my tissues being torn apart," he says. "I don't know how I was able to survive.") so Enomoto is adjusting fire this time out.
"I will try to KO him this time," the Sengoku veteran said. His birthday is just a week away -and he wants to take the belt home as an early present. "If you knock somebody out he can't escape after, as it happened before. If you go for a submission it is not 100 percent, there's still a chance to escape. But not with a KO."
The fight card, which airs tonight at 11 PM, marks the end of M-1's relationship with Showtime. The promotion expects to announce a new deal soon, but hopes to end its first contract with a bang.
"It was an incredibly exciting bout the first time around," M-1 President Vadim Finkelstein said. "Both of these fighters are absolutely great at their game and match-up really well with one another. When Enomoto lost to Zavurov by decision after five rounds of non-stop action, he immediately expressed his desire for a rematch. He really wants that belt. As soon as an opportunity presented itself for a rematch we went for it. We know fans will enjoy this bout as it will be as entertaining as the first time they met inside the ring."
Zavurov agrees. "I want it to go fast. I do. But we will see, I'd say if it goes pass first round it will go all the way. I'm ready for five rounds."