Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fight Festival 29 – Kallio Showdown

Time and place: 31st of January 2011 at the Helsinki Sports Hall in Helsinki, Finland
Fight Festival continues to built its reputation as one of the leading fight promotions in Europe with this stacked card. Many of the fighters on the main card are hunting for their shot at the big leagues and that makes these fights particularly interesting. There is a lot in stake for these guys and I’m sure it will show in the ring too. Besides high quality MMA bouts there are also great kickboxing and Muay Thai fights on the card.

Main card:
LHW (205 lbs/93 kg): Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen (18-2, Finland) vs
Ron Faircloth (33-18, USA)
Finland's young Marcus Vänttinen puts his top prospect status in test against the experienced American Ron Faircloth.
Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen however fought at the Cage 14 against the American TUF vet Victor O’Donnell, who came to the fight with an impressive 9-1 pro record. O’Donnell, who has fought mostly at 185, proved to be a game fighter, but he didn’t have an answer for the bigger and stronger Vänttinen. Vänttinen was able to throw O’Donnell around the cage, scored numerous takedowns from the clinch and most of the fight held top position on the ground. Tenacious O’Donnell wasn’t willing to tap to an armbar in the third round, even when his hand was fully extended, so the fight went to the judges, who awarded Vänttinen with a unanimous decision win. After the Cage event Vänttinen fought again in December, this time it was more of a warm up fight, against Roman Skiba (2-6) in his hometown of Porvoo at the Battle Of Porvoo event. The young Finn made short work of his overmatched opponent and scored his ninth win in a row. Tall and lanky Vänttinen has made massive improvements during the last two years both to his physical performance and to his MMA skill set. Vänttinen uses his reach very well keeping his opponents on the outside with a stiff jab and in the clinch his solid Muay Thai skills come in to play. On the ground he likes to grind his opponents with short punches and elbows while looking for submissions and maintaining tight positional control.
Fighting since the dark days of the sport Ron Faircloth is your typical journeyman, who is willing to step in as a last minute replacement. Faircloth replaces Maro Perak, who pulled out of this fight, because of a fight he took in his home country of Croatia. A long time ago Faircloth managed to even get a shot in the UFC, but that one time didn’t end too well. Faircloth blasted Alessio Sakara with a literally nut cracking groin shot that left the Italian puking his guts out in a fetal position. Faircloth has fought some very tough guys like Gan McGee, Jason Lambert and Jason Day and even beaten guys like Wilson Gouveia, so it obvious that the guy can scrap. After being one and half years away from the fight game, Faircloth made a comeback in 2010 going 2-1 in three fights.

Summary: Tall and lanky Vänttinen, who has bulked up considerably over the past two years, enjoys once again a hefty reach and size advantage over his opponent. It’s probably obvious to both parties that the game plans are going to be set with this fact in mind. Vänttinen will look to control the distance with straight punches and kicks, while the shorter Faircloth will probably try to clinch with Vänttinen and utilize his grappling skills to take the fight to the ground. Vänttinen has shown very good stamina in his last fights, so the longer the fight goes, the more it should favor him.

LW (160 lbs/72 kg): Niko Puhakka (20-11, Finland) vs Ivica Truscek (11-5, Croatia)
Finnish LW powerhouse Niko Puhakka has been keeping himself busy lately fighting five times in last nine months. During this period Puhakka went 3-2 and won the KSW LW tournament. Puhakka’s losses came in fights against Marcus Aurelio and Luiz Azeredo, who managed squeeze a decision win from the Finn. Over the years Puhakka has been transforming from a brawler to a technically versatile fighter. His striking has been crisp and tight for a long time, but he has also shown very good ground skills lately. Especially in his fights against Azeredo and Aurelio (who eventually sub him though), Puhakka proved that he can hang with top guys on the ground.
And the ground war will probably be the name of the in this fight if the Croation Ivica “Terror” Truscek gets to decide. He hails from a wrestling background that shows in his MMA fights. Truscek usually prefers to take his opponents down and deliver GnP from the top position. He uses strikes on the feet mainly to set up his powerful shoots.
Summary:  The more experienced Puhakka has faced far stiffer competition in his career than Truscek has fought against, which I believe will show in this fight too. I also believe that Puhakka is the more well rounded fighter and he should have the advantage on the feet and on the ground too. But If Truscek manages to score a takedown or two and get his GnP going, he might pull off an upset.

LW (160 lbs/72 kg): Anton “Wolverine” Kuivanen (Finland) vs Ryan "Bones" Bixler (19-11, USA)
*update* The injury ridden FF29 card too another hit as Parke had to cancel due to a cut in his eye lid. Ryan "Bones" Bixler (19-11) from the US will step in for the injured Parke. 
Helsinki’s own Anton Kuivanen became a bit of a celebrity last year in his homeland due to a reality show called “Sali” (the Gym), that followed the lives of Finnish MMA fighters.  Kuivanen has a pretty good record of 13-4, but it’s getting even better. He’s 10-1 in his last ten with the only loss coming in the hands of Bendy Casimir. Since that loss the rapidly improving Kuivanen has won all his fights in a dominating fashion and is currently riding a six fight win streak. Kuivanen’s highly versatile and explosive striking is still his main weapon of choice, but during the last couple of years he has managed to take his wrestling and ground game to another level also. He has had few nagging injuries in the past that have affected his training and of course his performances in the cage too, but now he has been healthy for a while.  In his last fight Kuivanen TKO’ed another tough up-n-comer in UK’s Tim Radcliffe. Late in the first round Kuivanen exploded with a furious punch combination that sent stunned Radcliffe to the canvas. Kuivanen followed up with a few heavy shots on the ground, but Radcliffe defended well. However on the break after the first round it was obvious that Kuivanen’s strikes had broken Radcliffe’s eye socket, so the ref had no choice but to end the fight.  The young Finn has been lately honing his skills at the American Top Team gym in Florida, so it quite possible that we get to see completely new tricks in the ring.
Ryan Bixler, who is originally from one of the hotbeds of MMA in America, Iowa, isn't a bad last minute replacement at all. Bixler is an aggressive fighter, who prefers to fight on the feet. Three of his last four losses have come via submission, which tells you why he likes to stand and bang. However it's not like his ground game is non existent, but there are still some holes in it. Bixler has been training for a while now at the Team Quest in California with top of the food chain guys like Dan Henderson.
Summary: I don't know Bixler well enough to predict how this fight will play out. Since Kuivanen and Bixler both have a liking for the striking, I'd say that this fight will be settled on the feet. Bixler takes this fight on few days notice, which could take some of his steam. Cutting weight in a short time and taking a long flight from the west coast to Finland can be exhausting on your body.

LW (155 lbs/70 kg): Juha-Pekka Vainikainen (14-5, Finland) vs Brian Geraghty (24-14, USA):
The young Finn JP Vainikainen faces the American Brian Geraghty, who steps in for the injured Chris Brennan. 
JP Vainikainen has been on a roll in his last three fights that have lasted only four minutes combined. Six foot tall (183 cm) Vainikainen has a long frame and limbs for the LW division. This combined with his technically solid striking, makes him a tough fight for anyone who isn’t a powerful wrestler. On the ground he can certainly handle himself too and has numerous submission wins to back this up.
UFC vet Brian Geraghty makes his second appearance in the Fight Festival promotion. Last time we saw him was in November of 2009 at FF 26, when he fought and lost by points to Vainikainen’s training partner Niko Puhakka. Since that lost Geraghty has won four fights in a row and all by stoppage. Geraghty likes the ground fight, which is pretty obvious if you look at his record that has fourteen submission wins in it.
Summary:  Vainikainen will have a significant reach advantage on the feet that he will surely want to use. I’d expecting the young Finn to use his crisp straight punches to control the distance and punish Geraghty when he tries to close the distance. Geragthy will probably shoot for the takedowns right from the beginning and try push Vainikainen against the ropes, where he might be open for a takedown. 

I'll attend this event and post an event report afterwards. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cage 14 fight videos online

You can now watch the fights from the Cage 14 at the Fast TV website

Check it out!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fight Festival 29 and misc stuff

Fight Festival 29 takes place at 31th of January at the Helsinki Sports Hall in Helsinki, Finland. Fight Festival is one of the oldest premier MMA promotions in Europe and they're looking to deliver another great event with this card. The card is pretty much stacked with high quality euro talent.
MMA 3x5 min -205 lbs / -93 kg
Marcus Vänttinen, Alliance Porvoo vs
Maro Perak, Kroatia

MMA 3x5 min -160 lbs / -72,6 kg
Niko Puhakka, Espoon Kehähait vs
Ivica Truscek, Kroatia

MMA 3x5 min -72 kg
Anton Kuivanen, GB Gym / Team MMA Finland vs
Norman Parke, Irlanti

MMA 3x5 min -155 lbs / -70,3 kg
Juha-Pekka Vainikainen, Espoon Kehähait vs
Chris "The Westside Strangler" Brennan, USA 

Nice to see a true veteran Chris Brennan in Finland. I remember watching him fight Pat Miletich in UFC 16 back in 1998. Damn, the years go by fast.I'll a full preview of the event few days before the fights and of course a event report will follow.

On to other matters: check out this recently published highlight of Tom Niinimäki. If you ignore the crappy music, you'll notice that Niinimäki is the real thing at 145.