13.3.2010 Töölö Hall in Helsinki, Finland.
MMA 3X5 MIN -73 KG / 163 lbs catchweight
Niko Puhakka (Finland) vs Marcus "Maximus" Aurelio (Brazil): Main event of the evening is an awesome match-up between a violent brawler in Puhakka and a superb BJJ wizard in Aurelio.
Maximus Aurelio was once the number one lightweight of the world. He earned the number uno spot when he choked out the PRIDE champ Takanori Gomi, who came to the fight riding a ten fight win streak. After PRIDE went down, Aurelio signed with the UFC, but couldn’t ever get the momentum really going for him. He lost to Clay Guida in his UFC debut. Aurelio got couple “gimme” fights after the Guida bout, both of which he of course won, but then ran into trouble as the level of competition was risen again. Decisive back to back losses to Tyson Griffin and Hermes Franca sent the former star out of the UFC and into the minor leagues. After couple of wins from local shows Aurelio made one last run in the UFC, but once again the end result was disappointing as young Evan Dunham proved to be too much for the 37 year old Brazilian. Aurelio latest fight was in November when he beat Peruvian Daniel Aspe (5-3) by RNC in the second round. Aurelio, who has never been finished in his 27 pro fights, has obviously extremely good ground game, but his average striking and offensive wrestling were the weaknesses that kept him from succeeding in the UFC.
Hometown hero Niko Puhakka is an experienced allround fighter. A member of Espoon Kehähait Puhakka started fighting back in 2002 and has been pretty active since then. For the last two years Puhakka has been fighting for the finnish team in the M-1 Challenge and also for the Fight Festival promotion. Puhakka fought five times last year and went 3-2. 2009 started with two submission losses to very good submission artists Bendy Casimir and Renato Migliaccio (6-0, Renzo BB). Puhakka got on a roll after these losses and has won his last three. First he TKO’ed the tough Russian grappler Yanko Yanev, then outbrawled and –wrestled UFC vet Brian Geragthy and in his latest fight beat French Johnny Frachey in a exciting three round war.
Prediction: It’s obvious that Aurelio wants to the ground while Puhakka would rather slug it out on the feet. Everyone knows this. This fight was originally agreed to be at 70kg/155lbs, but it was changed to 73/163 catchweight because of a request from Aurelio’s camp. To me this tells me that maybe Aurelio isn’t training that hard anymore or there has been some injuries. Anyways Aurelio has a lot of mileage as a fighter and he is in the evening of his fighting career. This is favors Puhakka, who is in his prime as a fighter in my opinion. Puhakka has pretty tight boxing skills and his grappling has improved a lot during the last year or two. If Aurelio gets this fight on the ground in the first, I think he has a good chance of catching something. But if Puhakka can turn this fight in a grueling grind fest I think Puhakka can take this fight by decision.
MMA 3X5 MIN -93 KG / 205 lbs
Toni Valtonen (Finland) vs Jake O'Brien (USA): Two wrestling powerhouses meet in the evenings lightheavyweight bout.
Seven time UFC vet Jake O’Brien is a former high school and college wrestler, who has a great record of 12-3 in MMA. O’Brien had a flying start on his MMA career when he won the first ten fights in a row and eight of those wins came by TKO or KO. His tenth win was over the former PRIDE heavyweight star Heath Herring. This win really lifted O’Brien’s stock in the UFC HW division that was relatively weak back then. Unfortunately O’Brien suffered from horrible neck injury that kept him away from fighting over a year. After the surgery and rebah O’Brien came back to the UFC and fought two very tough guys in a row. First Arlovski TKO’ed him in the second round and then the future HW superstar Cain Velasquez did the same, but in two minutes. O’Brien then dropped down to LHW and managed to squeeze a boring win against Wellisch after the losses. But then again he ran into a future superstar when he fought Jon Jones, who choked him out in the second round. O’Brien is pretty one dimensional fighter: great wrestler with some boxing and GnP.
Finnish Toni Valtonen is as a fighter much like O’Brien. Valtonen, also a representative of Espoon Kehähait like Puhakka, relies on his powerful wrestling and effective takedowns in his fights. Usually he is able to get the top position from where he likes to deliver punishment with GnP. Valtonen comes to this fight on a three fight win streak. First he showed his improved grappling skills by submitting Nikola Dipchkov with a triangle. Then he TKO’ed American IFL vet Aaron Stark in the second round. In his latest fight Valtonen fought a tough three round war with Attila Vegh, who is a promising up-n-comer from Hungary with a 12-2 record.
Prediction: The fighters are quite similar, which makes this fight a hard one to predict. All I can say is that the one, who manages to get the top position in this fight, will be the winner.
MMA 3X5 MIN -84 KG / 185 lbs
Sean Salmon (USA) vs Alexander Shlemenko (Russia): a classic, yet exciting grappler vs striker match-up between a strong American wrestler and an explosive Russian striker.
UFC vet Salmon is a great wrestler who has beaten tough guys like Sasaki, Rupponen and Jason Jones in his career. He’s been a regular at these Fight Festival shows for couple of years now and this is his fourth fight in Finland. His latest fight also took place in Fight Festival. Salmon beat PRIDE & UFC vet Yuki Sasaki by points in a pretty boring fight. Salmon’s wrestling was too much for Sasaki, who couldn’t stop the takedowns or really threaten Salmon from the bottom. Salmon, who used to fight at LHW, is a powerful dude for the 185 weight class and this usually helps him to achieve what he wants: get the fight to the floor.
Alex “Storm” Shlemenko is a Russian striker with a very unique style of striking. Shlemenko uses spinning backfists more and better than probably anyone in MMA has ever done, hence the nickname Storm. Shlemenko has been active for the last three years fighting 12 times and winning 11 of those bouts, which is very impressive. The only loss came to UFC vet Jordan Radev in the last Fight Festival show. Shlemenko was getting better of the striking exchanges on the feet, but seemed to gas a little at the end of the first round. He made a mistake and Radev instantly punished him for it knocking out the Russian at 4.27 of the round one. Shlemenko has fought twice after that the loss and won both.
Prediction: Salmon needs to get this fight to the ground if he likes the way his face looks at the moment. Shlemenko’s weird striking style and explosiveness is a really hard combination to get ready for and I don’t think Salmon is ready for it. On the ground Salmon needs to be careful too as Shlemenko has a slick triangle of his back along with overall solid grappling. However Shlemenko has showed that conditioning isn’t one of his strengths, so if Salmon can drag him to the later rounds, there’s a good chance that the American takes over.
MMA 3X5 MIN -93 KG / 205 lbs
Marcus Vänttinen (Finland) vs Martin Zawada (Germany)
MMA 3X5 MIN -77 KG / 170 lbs
Mikko Suvanto (Finland) vs Vener Galiev (Russia)
MMA 3X5 MIN -73 KG / 163 lbs
Juha-Pekka Vainikainen (Finland) vs Lukasz Bugara (Poland)
MMA 2X5 MIN -66 KG / 147 lbs
Joni Salovaara (Finland) vs Timo-Juhani Hirvikangas (Finland)
MMA 2X5 MIN -55 KG / 123 lbs
Outi Louhimo (Finland) vs Emma Watson (England)
Kickboxing WAKO-PRO for the European Championship title 10X2 MIN +94 KG / HW
Jukka Saarinen (Finland) vs Humberto Evora (Portugal)
Muay Thai 5X3 MIN -81 KG / 180 lbs
Ville Aalto (Finland) vs Karolis Liukaitis (Lithuania)
Kickboxing 7X2 MIN -65 KG / 145 lbs
Jarkko Jussila (Finland) vs Eduardo Santos (Portugal)
I'll see these fights live and will write a short review afterwards.