Fight Festival 30 delivered an extremely exciting night of fighting for a packed house at the Töölö Sports Hall in Helsinki. Out of the ten fights on the card, only the Kickboxing European Championship fight went to the judges decision while all MMA bouts ended to before the scorecards were needed.
In the main event of the event recent Bellator Middleweight Tournament winner Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko showcased his amazing striking skills against last minute replacement Nick Wagner of USA. The game bred American came out aggressive right from the start, but Shlemenko kept his emotionless calm and hit Wagner with his signature move, a crushing spinning back fist, that wobbled Wagner and opened a nasty cut to his forehead. Wagner managed to recover, ducked under Shlemenko’s strikes and took him down. Shlemenko quickly swept his opponent and jumped back to his feet where he continued to bomb his opponent with heavy punches and knee strikes. Shlemenko hit already dazed Wagner with a beautiful overhand right that sealed the deal and made Wagner face plant on the canvas. This was the third time Shlemenko fought at the Fight Festival and I really hope we get to see the explosive Russian fight again in Helsinki.
In the co-main event bout Finland’s super prospect Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen made quick work of UFC vet Edwin “Babyface” Dewees. Dewees, who failed to make weight and had to give a part of his purse to Vänttinen, didn’t have an answer for Vänttinen’s huge reach and devastating ground and pound. After hitting Dewees with couple of stiff jabs, Vänttinen took his opponent down and started to rain down heavy bombs from the top. Dewees, despite being a slick grappler, was completely overwhelmed by the attack, so the ref had no choice but to step in and call it off. The win over Dewees was Vänttinen’s eleventh consecutive win and pushes his career record to an impressive 20-2. While waiting for a call from the UFC, the 24 year old Finn is keeping himself busy and fights again already in April at the Rock & Brawl event in Finland.
Finland’s rising lightweight talent Juha-Pekka Vainikainen stretched his winning streak to five wins by beating American Ryan “Bones” Bixler via technical knock out in the first round. Vainikainen hit Bixler with some good shots right from the start but unfortunately he also hit Bixler with a knee to the groin. After Bixler had time to recover, the fight continued on the same track as Vainikainen blasted Bixler with a stiff right hand that dropped him right on the spot. Vainikainen followed Bixler to the ground and managed to get few strikes in before the ref jumped between the two. Bixler got quickly back on his feet and protested the decision to the referee. It seemed that it was a flash knock out and the stoppage might have been a bit early, but to the referees defense I must say that he had a bad angle to the situation and Bixler did drop like a sack of potatoes.
Another Finn fighter on the rise is Joni Salovaara, who beat German-based American Anthony “Death Dealer” Durnell in an exciting featherweight fight. First two rounds of the fight were pretty similar with Salovaara scoring takedowns and taking his opponents back. In both rounds Salovaara worked hard on a rear naked choke and seemed to have it locked couple of times but the American defended well and got out of the situations. In the third round Durnell managed to get top position but that did him no good as Salovaara caught him with a fight ending triangle choke. This was a great win for the young Salovaara who has now five wins in a row.
One of the best “unknown” lightweight fighters in Europe, Vener Galiev, shined in the fight against experienced American Ryan “Diamond” Healy. Healy came out aggressive and tried to put his hands on the Russian but Galiev was very light on his feet and stayed out of harm’s way. As Healy tried to move in, Galiev nailed him with a beautiful upper cut that made Healy’s knees wobbly. Galiev continued on his attack and finished his opponent on the ground with heavy strikes. The 36 year old Russian, who won the Combat Sambo World Championship in 2008 and 2009, has now a record of 19-6 in MMA but in reality his record is something in the line of 57-8. Like I wrote in the preview, I think that Galiev is a top ten Euro lightweight based on his skills and fighting ability so it would be great to see him face stiffer competition and bigger names in his future fights.
In the prelims Marcus Vänttinen’s little brother, Johan, stayed undefeated and submitted Lithuanian Petras Dirgelas with a kimura in the first round. Another up-n-comer who kept his record clean was Russia’s Andrey "Koresh" Koreshkov, a pupil of Aleksander Shlemenko. Koreshkov took his time on the feet against BJJ black belt Eduardo "Jamelao" Conceicao, waited patiently and then nailed Conceicao with a crushing knee as the Brazilian shot in for the takedown. Conceicao was out for a long time on the canvas but eventually he made back to his feet and seemed to be alright. In womens MMA fight StrikeForce vet Maiju Kujala’s ground game proved to be too much for UK’s Emma Watson. After taking her opponent down, Kujala effortlessly moved to mount and pounded a TKO win from the top. European Submission Grappling Champion Greger Forsell put on a grappling fest together with Lithuanian Laimonas Stancikas. Stancikas was very slick on the ground and even threated Forsell in some legit submission attempts but eventually he had to succumb to Forsell’s superior ground skills and tapped out to an armbar late in the second round.
In the lone kickboxing bout WAKO European Championship belt was on the line. After ten rounds of exciting fighting Finland’s defending champion Jarkko Jussila was declared as the winner by unanimous decision. The challenger Valdrin Vatnikaj, who fights out of Belgium, hit the champ numerous times with lighting fast counterstrikes but in the end Jussila’s constant pressure and reach advantage was too much for Vatnikaj.