Töölö Hall in Helsinki was packed for the Fight Festival 27 that offered an amazing card for a euro MMA event. UFC vets and top European fighters filled the card along with some of the best Finnish talent. The star of the night was of course the former PRIDE champ and once the number one lightweight in the world Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio, who took on the hometown hero Niko Puhakka.
Main event of the evening: Niko Puhakka vs Marcus Aurelio
Aurelio quickly showed a glimpse of his superb grappling skills and scored a takedown. Puhakka did a great job from the bottom and Aurelio had a difficult time passing the guard of the Finn. Puhakka also managed to tie Aurelio’s arms pretty well, so he couldn’t deliver any really heavy shots from the top. At the end of the first round Aurelio scored some big shots on the feet and had Puhakka in trouble. In the second round Puhakka landed couple of solid shots to Aurelio's head and body. The crowd went crazy and unfortunately also Puhakka went a bit crazy rushing in with a flurry of strikes leaving an opening for Aurelio to slip to his back. Once a grappler like Aurelio takes your back, it’s over and so it was in this case to as Aurelio applied a RNC in 2.40 of the second round. It was great to see a fighter of Maximus’ caliber fighting in euro show and really making a effort to get a win. In his post fight speech Maximus thanked the crowd for being so supportive and also spoke highly of Puhakka’s ground skills.
Marcus Aurelio is a tough guy to shake off your back. Photo by Pakkotoisto.com
Other main card fights:
Toni Valtonen vs Jake O’Brien: Damn, O’Brien must have the quickest shot in the whole HW division. the explosiveness and effectiveness of his takedowns became obvious after just few seconds into the fight as he scored his first takedown on Valtonen, who is known for his powerful wrestling too. Valtonen defended himself very well on the ground, making it difficult for O’Brien to land any heavy strikes or setting up submissions. On the other hand Valtonen couldn’t get back to his feet or threaten O’Brien from the bottom. A bit boring fight, but it was nice to see world class wrestling displayed by O’Brien. O'Brien took the fight by UD.
Jake O'Brien's shot is so quick that even this photo is a bit blurry. Photo by Pakkotoisto.com
Sean Salmon vs Alexander Shlemenko: like I wrote in my preview for the FF27, Salmon needed to take this fight to the ground ASAP or he was going to get smoked on the feet by the Russian whirlwind of violence called Alexander Shlemenko. The latter thing happened as Shlemenko landed a crushing knee strike to the midsection of Salmon and sent the American to the canvas. Shlemenko finished him off with some GnP and the fight was stopped at just 0.40 of the first round. Shlemenko moves to 27-4 and is definitely ready for the big leagues. I just wish that we get to see him fight again in Finland too.
Russian striker Alexander Shlemenko is a fighter we're going to see soon in the big promotions. Photo by Pakkotoisto.com
Marcus Vänttinen vs Martin Zawada: a pretty even fight ended in a controversial way as the referee made a strange call in the third round. First two rounds were mostly spent on the feet with fighters trading punches and kicks. In the third round Vänttinen scored a takedown and begun viciously pounding Zawada on the ground near the corner of the ring. Both fighters were a bit tangled on the ropes as Vänttinen kept on landing punches from the top. When the referee yelled “stop” me and probably most of the crowd thought he would move the fighters to the center of the ring and restart the fight, but no, he made a strange call and waved off the fight. Maybe he saw from his position that Zawada was out, who knows? Anyways a lot of boos from the crowd along with Zawada’s cornerman going apeshit to the ref. Early stoppage perhaps, but I don’t feel that the result of the fight would have been any different if the fight had been allowed to continue. Vänttinen would’ve scored a TKO or UD win anyways in my opinion, but maybe a rematch would be the right thing to do in this case.
Despite the controversial nature of his win against Zawada, Vänttinen continues to rise to the top of European LHW division.Photo by Pakkotoisto.com
There were some great MMA, kickboxing and muay thai fights in the prelims too, but I just going to refer to one particular fight this time. The women’s MMA bout between UK’s Emma Watson and Finland’s Outi Louhimo was an spectacular display of fighting skills and overall gameness. Just 19 year old Emma Watson made his pro debut, so no wonder he looked quite scared and nervous in the begin of the show as the fighters were presented to the audience. I thought to myself that what the hell is this sweet looking school girl doing in a brutal pro fight show like Fight Festival. Watson however proved wrong all of my doubts right at the very first exchange of strikes. Representative of Leeds Cage gym from Leeds, England showed crisp striking on the feet and powerful clinch work. On the ground she was less skilled than her opponent. Louhimo had her in some very tough spots and landed numerous shots from the mount for a long time in the second round. Watson eventually managed to get back to her feet and landed a beautiful roundhouse to the liver of Louhimo. The kick sent the Finn to the floor, but she didn’t give up even with Watson trying to finish the fight with solid GnP. Watson was rewarded with a clear cut UD, but it was only after a very gutsy performances by both ladies. One of the best fights I’ve seen live and a good example that women’s MMA can be really entertaining. I really hope we get to see Emma Watson in the Fight Festival ring again.
These young ladies named Lawson and Louhimo gave the crowd a really entertaining slug fest. Photo by Pakkotoisto.com
Overall the event was a success despite lasting over five hours. It was really nice to see Fight Festival once again bringing in top talent from all over the world. The long duration didn’t bother me that much as I was enjoying pints with friends in the pub section of the hall, but I can imagine that some people in the crowd felt that the event was way too long. I also think that Fight Festival should get rid of the WAKO kickboxing fight, because of the moronic 2min rounds the rules demand. The 7 x 2 min or 10 x 2 min with 1 minute break kickboxing bouts where the fighters, equipped with shin guards, foot guards and thick gloves, are only allowed to kick to the upper body can be painful even to a combat sports fanatic like me. There’s a reason why K-1 is about thousand times more popular than traditional kickboxing and it’s not very hard to figure out what that reason is.