Two of the brightest European light heavyweight prospects have so much in common that they might be twins. Both are just 23 years of age, but well over 6 six foot tall and walk around at 220 pounds. Both of them have great physical attributes for fighting, quality Muay Thai striking, effective grappling, high fight IQ and a great determination to succeed in the sport of MMA. The twins, Hans Stringer of Netherlands and Marcus Vänttinen of Finland, might very well be the next young guns that get signed by a major promotion.
Stringer and Vänttinen have a lot in common.
Hans Stringer (16-4-1, Netherlands)
Dutch LHW fighter Hans Stringer is without a doubt one of the most promising fighters in Europe at the moment. Stringer has been very active lately, fighting six times in 2009 and three times already in 2010. After a rocky start, his MMA career really took off and now he is currently riding a seven fight win streak while going 12-1 in his last thirteen fights. Stringer’s recent dominant wins over Dawid Baziak (8-2), Michael Knaap (17-19), and highly regarded prospect Michal Fijalka (6-1) has cemented his status as a one of the top dogs in the European LHW division.
While Stringer is definitely an all-round fighter, it is his deadly ground game that sets him apart from most fighters. He trains grappling at the Jiu-jitsu Factory, a gym ran by brothers Mathieu and Willem Peters, who are both blackbelts in BJJ. Stringer has also enjoyed a hefty portion of authentic Brazilian BJJ coaching as Carlos “Cadu” Francis (2010 Nogi black belt world champ) spent three years teaching at the Jiu-jitsu Factory. Training submission fighting since he was fourteen years old, Stringer has a technically sound and fluid jiu-jitsu game. Off his back, Stringer has a very active guard, where he switches seamlessly between submissions and sweeps. With his long limbs (6’2”), Stringer is able to effectively control his opponents on the ground with excellent positional grappling, and usually ends up getting mount or backmount. Once a dominant position is achieved, Stringer, a multiple time Dutch BJJ champion, sticks to it like glue while delivering effective ground and pound. While wrestling isn’t one of Stringer’s strongest assets, he does have smooth throws and trips from the clinch. Stringer is constantly working on his wrestling with high quality wrestlers from Eastern Europe. Besides grappling for a decade, Stringer has honed his clinch game by competing in Sanda, where throws and trips are an essential part of the game.
Stringer (on top) is deadly on the ground.
Stringer’s solid skills on the feet shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering that he is from the Netherlands, the striking capital of the western world. Stringer trains at the Friends Gym with K1 superstar Albert Kraus and multiple kickboxing world champions. His striking style is pretty much the traditional Dutch style of Muay Thai, which consists of good basic boxing mixed with the cornerstone of Dutch striking: meat cutting low kicks. On the feet, Stringer uses his long reach well, and has one fine quality as a striker that is often overlooked—he isn’t afraid to get hit.
Stringer, who just turned 23, is already a physically legit 205er. For the past two years he has been working with a world class strength and conditioning coach and has managed put on almost 20 pounds of pure muscle. Stringer, who now walks around at over 220 pounds (100 kg), said he is still getting heavier and plans to be at 230 lbs in a year or two. In addition to his regimen at the Friends Gym and Jiu-jitsu Factory, Stringer trains occasionally with various Dutch talents; Gegard Mousasi being the most well-known of them. He also travels across the pond to Wanderlei Silva’s gym in Las Vegas and to the Ribeiro brother’s University of Jiu-jitsu in San Diego.
In summary: Stringer is a specimen of a modern MMA fighter. He has a highly versatile skill set, great physical performance and an intelligent approach to fighting. While this young man’s career is on a meteoric rise, he has managed to keep his head cool and doesn’t want to rush things. In order to gain experience and get chances to hone his skills, Stringer, who has fought three times already in 2010, plans to fight at least three more times during the rest of the year. Stringer has set a firm goal to fight for a major promotion in the future, but he isn’t in a hurry yet as he feels that he is still improving all the time and the big leagues are not the best place to grow up as a fighter. At the moment it looks like Stringer’s next fight will be against Germany’s Martin Zawada (21-10) in September or November.
Marcus Vänttinen (15-2-0, Finland)
Vänttinen, a 23 year old representative of Alliance Porvoo, is steadily moving towards bigger fights and promotions. The Finn has kept himself busy by fighting five times in 2009 and three times already in 2010. In his last few fights Vänttinen has decisively beaten legit competition in Antoni Chmielewski (18-7), Martin Zawada (21-10), Valdas Pocevicius (33-23) and Kzrysztof Kulak (22-12). These wins have verified his status as one of the brightest European LHW prospects.
Like his fellow prospect Stringer, Vänttinen can also be labeled as an all-round fighter. He is quite tall for a 205er at 6’3” (193 cm), which usually gives him a considerable reach advantage over his opponent. Despite his young age, Vänttinen is a patient fighter with a high fight IQ. He never rushes things, but rigorously follows the game plan that has been laid out for the fight at hand. Vänttinen is neither a brawler nor a power puncher. He likes to pick his shots and methodically break down his opponents on the feet. He uses his long reach very effectively by applying constant pressure with straight punches and low kicks. He is good at controlling the range and staying outside, thus rarely getting clipped or pulled into a brawl. In the clinch, technically firm Muay thai and leverage from long limbs come into play from Vänttinen, who sharpens his striking skills at the Sityodtong Finland in Porvoo. He likes to punish his opponent’s body and legs with non-stop knees while looking for a Thai plum.
Vänttinen, who likes to stay outside and use his long reach, also has a nasty clinch game
Even though Vänttinen has recently preferred to keep his fights standing, he can handle himself on the ground too. This member of Alliance Porvoo has solid fundamentals on the ground. Like on the feet, Vänttinen doesn’t get ahead of things on the ground either, but relies on tight positional control and deliberate ground and pound. He likes to grind his opponents with short punches and elbows while looking for submissions and maintaining good positional control. The fact that his long legs usually allow him to lock on a body triangle from his guard or from his opponents back also facilitates his ability to maintain control.
Vänttinen, who walks around at 215 pounds (97 kg), is a decent sized 205er and will probably fill out a bit more as he gets older. In addition to training in his hometown, Vänttinen regularly takes trips to southern Finland to train with different Finnish camps. Like Stringer, Vänttinen has also trained in Holland with StrikeForce star Gegard Mousasi, and is soon flying to the USA for a training camp. Besides being a workhorse at the gym, Vänttinen’s good physical attributes also come from his clean lifestyle and interest in nutrition. This determined young man is known for following a strict organic caveman diet that excludes all processed foods like dairy and grains.
In summary: Vänttinen has many things going for him: a fitting physique for a 205er, good gas tank, multifaceted skill set, technical striking style that fits his long reach, high fight IQ and calmness under fire. The Finn is known for being a patient and methodical fighter, but in his Muay Thai fights he’s shown that he can also switch gears to a more aggressive style if needed. His striking needs to loosen up a bit, but once it does, I’m sure we’re going to see nasty things from this young fellow. Vänttinen's next fight will take place at the Fight Festival promotion in Finland during the fall of 2010, but he believes that he will fight for a major promotion sometime in 2011. I believe it too.
This article is published also at theGarv.com.