Standing under the headline bout spotlights at M-1 Challenge XXVI opposite decorated American wrestler, Pat Bennett, is none other than self-marketing machine, Kenny ‘Deuce’ Garner; with Garner getting the best of Bennett nearly a year ago in their M-1 Selection Americas tournament final, the New Jersey native and Team Bombsquad fighter will need to deliver a career performance to stop the heavy-striking freight train headed directly in his path. The action goes down from The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California, LIVE on SHOWTIME on Friday, July 8 at 11 p.m. ET/PT (Delayed on the West Coast).

As a key member of the Team Bombsquad contingent, Bennett’s manager, Ryan Ciotoli, has nothing but praise for the heavyweight’s performances to date. “Pat’s a three time All-American wrestler, so he possesses a great base and he’s an electrifying striker; hence the reason for his five first round wins. I definitely consider Bennett to be the top contender in the heavyweight division.”

Love to hate him or hate to love him, the Port St. Lucie, Florida and American Top Team fighter, Kenny Garner is making a name for himself in the State of Florida, who has him ranked as the #9 heavyweight. With an affliction for the camera, Garner is surprising fans, media and executives at every turn and his ‘in your face’ personality has critics split between whether he’s the ‘real deal’ or just flash in the pan; but his convincing wins – with two having him marked as a huge underdog – the Deuce is proving to be a force to reckon with.

Both men declare they are not the same fighters who entered the ring to faceoff in September but what’s improved their games and how do these men actually stack up against each other?

Bennett states it’s his striking that’s drastically improved since last facing Garner; “I’ve really focussed on my stand up. I’ve worked on improving this aspect to round out my skillset. I’m not the same fighter Kenny is expecting to see. I’ve wanted to fight him again ever since last year and I can GUARANTEE a much different result this time out.”

Conversely, Garner doesn’t seem to care what his opponent as improved; “I will end this fight faster than the last time I beat him, trust me. I’m stronger, faster and more technical. There’s no way he’s stopping my striking. He’s not making it out the first round. Pat’s got no chance.” Garner last faced Bennett in the 2010 M-1 Selection Americas tournament finals and won a convincing first-round TKO; clearly Deuce feels he’ll produce the same results this time out.

Prior to starting the 2010 Selections tournament, Garner’s manager, UFC veteran, Din Thomas, didn’t hold back when discussing his two early losses; “He took a couple bad fights on short notice and when you take a fight without preparation – as a heavyweight – you pay the price.” Garner’s losses came at the hands of Chris Barnett and Tony Johnson Jr; both by way of TKO in the late rounds which may have been attributed to questionable conditioning according to Thomas. In comparison, Deuce has shown exceptional performances when prepared as all six of victories have been total dominations.

Garner opened the Heavyweight brackets of the Selections tournament with a dominating victory over Matt Hopkins; from here, Garner was next slated to fight the imposing Russian favourite, Andre Kapilou, in a semi finals bout he fighter wasn’t even given a ‘fighter’s chance’ of winning and put on a grappling clinic to win a hard-fought decision.

In the Finals, Garner neutralized Bennett’s wrestling skills, stuffed every takedown and put Bennett in a world of hurt, winning via TKO in the opening frame and proving why he should be considered one of the most-feared strikers in M-1’s heavyweight division.

Bennett has his work cut out for him on July 8th. Sporting an established 7-2 combined amateur and professional record heavily weighted in the ‘win’ column with five first-round TKO’s, Bennett is aptly known for his proud wrestling pedigree but has also proven to be a multidimensional fighter able to transition his skills to whatever is set in front of him.

Bennett had recently set his wrestling on the back burner in favour of striking throughout his 2010 M-1 Selection Americas tournament run, displaying a wide array of talents. Opening up the brackets against Nick Smiley, the mild-mannered monster needed a total of 37 seconds to destroy Smiley by TKO. His semi-final bout was a marathon war with Mehdi Hassan where he earned a unanimous decision victory. But the run was halted in the finals by Garner’s lead left hook.

At 6’ 3”, 240 pounds, Bennett has the heavy hands to match Garner’s striking prowess but his advantage comes on the canvass, IF he can secure the takedown. He’ll need to push the pace as he sees fit while being cautiously aware of Garner’s lethal bombs. If Bennett can’t take this fight to the mat, he’s going to wish he had head gear as Garner will look to implant his right hand in Bennett’s face.

Garner has shown time and time again that his defense is steadfast and should Bennett score the single or double-leg, he is well versed in submissions and fight effectively off his back or in top position. Garner’s plan is without a doubt to keep this fight standing and dismantle Bennett from his feet; he’s done it before and knows he can do it again.

This headline bout carries serious implications in both men’s quest for the M-1 Heavyweight strap.

Tickets are priced at $75 for the front row and all other seats at $50 and can be purchased online at, or by calling Roy Englebrecht Promotions at (949) 760-3131.

Mauro Ranallo will call the action from ringside with Pat Miletich serving as analyst. The telecast will be produced by Chuck McKean and directed by Craig Farrell.  The executive producer of SHOWTIME Sports is David Dinkins, Jr.

With M-1 Challenge champions established in all five weight classes, a true contenders system will fuel events throughout 2011, driving  M-1 Global’s growth as a leading brand in the US and international markets.

2011’s full slate of M-1 Challenge events held in the United States and Europe are primed to be mega-event spectaculars where Champions defend their titles and contenders jockey for position for a coveted shot at the gold. Feeding the contention system will be two Selection tournaments in 2011 with details being announced shortly.

For information on M-1 Global, go to the official M-1 website, and M-1 Global facebook fan page.

For information on SHOWTIME Sports programming, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go to the new SHOWTIME Sports website at


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