M-1 Global made its return to the country of Kazakhstan when the promotion brought enigmatic featherweight champion, Nate ‘The Train’ Landwehr to the city of Atyrau for his first title defense. It was the organizations first appearance in the country since 2015. Fittingly, at the last Kazakhstan event, a different American headlined the card. Kenny Garner, a former M-1 Global champion, took on the Russian veteran, Sergei Kharitonov. On that night, the Americans had little to cheer for. Garner didn’t last the opening round as Kharitonov beat the consciousness from him with a 1-2 and some follow up shots. It was a stark difference from the recent festivities of M-1 Challenge: Battle in Atyrau.
Differences were plenty between the two Kazakhstan events. This time, the Americans were not denied. In a sense, no one watching from home or clenched to a seat within the arena lost. Nate Landwehr and Andrey Lezhnev put on what was definitively a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender. In the case of Landwehr, it is yet another fight added to the long list heart pounding, edge of your seat action. The M-1 Global featherweight champion is almost impervious to unentertaining violence.
“Ah man, that is exactly what I signed up for. A good ass fight and one hell of a finish for Nate the Train. That is what I like to do, that is how I like to roll.”
Battle in Atyrau
The rollercoaster ride that was the M-1 Challenge: Battle in Atyrau began hellishly for the champion. As the two were gauging each other’s range, Lezhnev lead with a leaping left hook which caught the champion on the chin. At the moment that the challenger threw his strike, Landwehr held his hands low daring Lezhnev to move forward. It was a dangerous beginning for ‘The Train’. Lezhnev poured a heavy amount of energy out throwing hard strikes and passing into side control nearly immediately after following his opponent to the ground.
After a few seconds on the bottom, Landwehr scrambled out, putting his hips behind him and digging for a Lezhnev leg. A couple scrambles later and Landwehr was on his feet pressing the challenger against the ropes of the M-1 Global RAGE. In the remainder of the opening round, Landwehr worked his way back landing effective strikes of his own. One of which a lead uppercut that sent sweat flying from Lezhnev to the front row seating.
At the end of the opening round, from afar, the optics looked troubling for Nate ‘The Train’ Landwehr. But on the contrary, looking closely to the round and the intermission, the end had begun for Lezhnev. Landwehr came to MMA from a track and field background. He was a standout athlete in high school as well as in Junior College. His gas tank coupled with a strong mental fortitude is bad news for anyone without elite level cardiovascular ability.
Cardio, Pace, and Pressure
Lezhnev used a lot of his energy in the opening minute attempting to finish the champion. The challenger took an inordinate amount of time to return to his corner. When referee signaled, ‘seconds out’, Landwehr leaped from his seat as Lezhnev looked labored lifting himself from the stool.
“I knew that he got up slow. He got up slower than I got up, he got to his corner slower than I got to the corner. Then he got off the bench, slower than I got off the bench. I know these guys they are so used to that one gear that one pace, it’s like, once you press them a little past that they start to break a little bit at a time. And then a lot more and a lot more but once the break starts it’s just a matter of time before they break completely. I knew going into round 2 that it’s going to be a long night because unless I get finished in those first two rounds, those first two rounds don’t even count anymore. I’m a championship fighter, you got a whole other fight after ten minutes, so bring it.”
The second round began with the champion putting pressure on Lezhnev. He landed some strikes until the challenger took him down nearly a minute in. The second round ended in a similar fashion to the first. Again Landwehr looked the fresher of the two at the conclusion of the second round. In the third, the pace and pressure set the two fighters apart. Lezhnev had nearly nothing left in the gas tank.
Nate Landwehr – Championship Fighter
Landwehr pushed the Ukrainian challenger to the limits of his conditioning. Multiple times in the third, Lezhnev fell to the mat, almost pulling guard but clearly due to exhaustion. The champion screamed at Lezhnev to get up, imploring the referee to step in and force a stand-up. It wasn’t long after these instances that Lezhnev’s fatigue saw him eat hard, unanswered shots that the referee could not allow to continue.
It was another ‘Fight of the Night’ performance and ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate for M-1 Globals featherweight champion. All the while, he earned the vaunted first defense of his title. The emotions of this were exhilarating for Landwehr.
“It’s just some of the coolest shit. I mean, it’s why I do this, for moments like that. Shit when I look back, I’ll be an old ass man proud looking back at what I did in my youth.”
A Bad Man
The champions goal every time he makes the walk is turn out impressive, entertaining performances such as this.
“That’s what I strive for, man. My boy always told me, ‘People might not remember your name, they might not even remember what you did, they might not remember what you was doing but what they will remember is the feeling you give them when you’re in there.’ When I’m doing my thing, I’m giving people a feeling they will never forget.
There might be a kid in that audience, he’s going to grow up and have kids and tell his kids about the night that he seen Nate the Train live in action. That’s the kind of performances that I want to put on. I want to put a fight so violent, so entertaining that you go watch it a thousand times or it’ll last a hundred years. Or there could be 30, 20 people that’ll be like look at this crazy mother fucker, Nate the Train. I’ll be dead and gone but my shit is going to live on because it’s that violent, that brutal and that entertaining.”
With the first defense of his title out of the way, Landwehr is one defense away from an option with the UFC. The champions future is not set in stone. Of course, he would love to fulfill a long-held dream of competing in the UFC. Yet, he is still more than pleased with M-1 Global and the platform they provide. In regards to his next fight, ‘The Train’ doesn’t necessarily care who he fights, its more-so where and when. His aim is a fight on the unannounced M-1 Challenge 100.
“I just want to fight on that big show, they got a big show that 100th show… I would love to be on that card, defend my belt one more time and see what’s up. Free agency, I love M-1 to death but we’re going to have us a bidding war. I mean there might be people out there doing it just as good as me but ain’t nobody out here doing it better than me. As far as everything, I have a checkmark in every single column. You get badass weigh-ins, you get a dope ass walk out, press conferences and post-fights [interviews]. They’ll be trying to copy but nobody can match that neither”
In terms of contenders, M-1 Globals featherweight division is plentiful. Viktor Kolesnik, Busurmankul Abdibait Uulu, and the undefeated Abubakar Mestoev are all worthy challengers whom both the champion and the promotion designated as front-runners for the opportunity.
“I want to go down as the most violent champ, the most violent and most risky guy. Yeah I mean it’d be cool, it’d be very cool to start it off with the biggest event they’ve had. It’s the 100th event so they’ll bring it, bringing everything in lights, camera, smoke, fire the whole shebang. It’d be nice to put on the best show that they could ever think of.”
Whatever happens with the always entertaining Nate Landwehr, you know it will be something to watch. His name hasn’t rung the bell of mainstream popularity in the US, but it is only a matter of time before his style invades the eyes of the many North American fans whom wait for a man like ‘The Train’.