Fight Festival’s a bit surprising choice to put on a fight show on a Monday night proved to be a right one as the Helsinki Sports Hall was packed with fight fans on the 31st of January. In true Fight Festival fashion besides MMA bouts the card also featured Muay Thai and Kickboxing fights.
In the main event Finnish lightheavyweight top prospect Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen (19-2) made quick work of UFC veteran Ron Faircloth. After a short feeling out period Vänttinen, who was at least 10 inches taller than his opponent, grabbed Faircloth in tight Thai clinch and landed crushing knees on him. When Faircloth ate a big knee strike and dropped on his back, Vänttinen immediately followed with heavy ground and pound. Faircloth couldn’t defend properly, so the ref had to step in and stop the fight. This was 10th straight win for Marcus Vänttinen, who has significantly improved during past two years and is now clearly ready for the bigger stages.
Finnish lightweight star Anton “Wolverine” Kuivanen (14-4) got to show his new and improved ground game after a rocky start against the American Ryan “Bones” Bixler. Early in the first round Kuivanen got a serious poke in the eye in a situation where both guys were swinging for the fences. After taking a long recovery time and getting checked by a doctor, Kuivanen could continue and came back strong with a 1-2 combination that landed clean. Bixler answered with a takedown when Kuivanen threw a flying knee. On the ground the American was quite passive from the top position, throwing just few punches. From the bottom Kuivanen worked on a kimura couple of times, but Bixler defended well. The second round really got going once Kuivanen exploded with another flying knee and caught Bixler’s head when he was shooting for a takedown. Bixler managed to complete the takedown, but Kuivanen swept his opponent and took his back. After getting some strikes in and working on a armbar from back mount, Kuivanen eventually got both hooks in and applied a fight ending rear naked choke. Win over Bixler extends Kuivanen’s winning streak to seven straight wins. Training at the American Top Team camp in Florida has done marvels to Anton Kuivanen, who is now definitely one of the top dogs in the European lightweight division.
Juha-Pekka Vainikainen and Niko Puhakka, who are training partners and both representatives of Espoon Kehähait , added also wins to their records. Juha-Pekka Vainikainen’s (15-5) long reach and technical boxing was too much for the UFC veteran Brian Geraghty. Vainikainen controlled the distance with a stiff jab and landed quite a few overhand rights. Geraghty had his moments too as the American threw wide looping punches and low kicks on Vainikainen. One of the overhand rights by Vainikainen made Geraghty’s knees buckle in the first round, but the experienced American defended well and recovered. Later in the fight, when it became obvious that Geraghty was getting picked apart on the feet, Geraghty tried to take Vainikainen down, but the Finn sprawled effortlessly out of the situations. In the end Vainikainen was awarded with a clear cut unanimous decision. It was an impressive performance by the young Finn, but Geraghty also deserve thumbs up for his gutsy and fan friendly effort in the ring. With his long limbs and precise striking Vainikainen is a tough cookie at the LW division. It would be interesting to see how he can deal with a Euro top 10 opponent.
The most experienced Finnish lightweight on the card was Niko Puhakka (21-11), who bounced back to winning track after losing his last fight to Chute Boxe’s LW ace Luiz Azeredo by points. Puhakka took on Croatian Ivica Truscek ( 11-5), who is a strong grappler with background in wrestling. Puhakka obviously didn’t respect his opponents grappling skills as he almost right away shot for a takedown and took Truscek down. As Truscek was working on his way up, Puhakka hop on his back and snatched a tight modified rear naked choke on him. Truscek had no choice but to tap out early in the first round. This was a easy win for the ever improving Niko Puhakka, who earlier in his career was known for being a powerful brawler, but has lately displayed excellent ground skills in his fights.
In the preliminary fights Finnish wrestling powerhouse Jerry “AD/HD/ Kvarnström (8-1) put his Lithuanian opponent Aleksandrs Truskins to sleep in 44 seconds with a rear naked choke. Kvarnström has been dealing with symptoms of overtraining during the last couple years, but he is healthy now and looking to stomp guys in the featherweight division. Marcus Vänttinen little brother Johan Vänttinen won by unanimous decision and showed off his great skills against Jaakko-Pekka Laitala. Vänttinen made the crowd gasp loudly when he cranked Laitala’s arm to a horrible alignment with a kimura hold, but in the true spirit of “sisu”, a finnish term for exceptional perseverance, Laitala refused to tap.
The evening opened up with a Muay Thai bout where Jaakko Dahlbacka knocked out Roman Siaudinis in the third round. In the kickboxing bout European Champion Jarkko Jussila put his powerful boxing to work and TKO’ed young Frenchman Anthony Plouvier in the fourth round. This was Jussila’s second fight in two days as he fought a pro boxing fight, which he also won by TKO in the fourth, on Saturday night. Quite an amazing feat from the Finnish striking machine.
Overall the night was a success from both promoter’s and fan’s point of view. The event gathered a big crowd and the fights delivered an entertaining night for the fight fans. Fight Festival promotion continues with Fight Festival 30 in March and moves back to its original, bigger venue in Helsinki.
Check the Fight Festival 29 photo gallery at Kulmassa.fi