Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fight Festival 30 Preview

Time and location: 12th of March 2011 at the Töölö Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

Fight Festival 30 will be one of the biggest MMA events this spring in Finland. The card is absolutely stacked with high quality prospects and seasoned veterans of major promotions.

*** UPDATE: Josh Bryant is injured and out of the main event fight. ***
Main event MW fight: Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko (30-5), Russia vs Nick Wagner (6-2), USA
In the main event of the night recent Bellator Middleweight Tournament winner Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko meets last minute replacement Nick Wagner from the USA.
After fighting a long and successful period in the Russian and European MMA events, in 2010 Shlemenko finally launched himself on the map of American MMA. After beating Sean Salmon at the Fight Festival 27, Shlemenko signed with the Bellator promotion and agreed to participate to Bellator’s middleweight tournament. The Russian cleared his path to the final, where he scored a quick TKO win over Bryan Baker, snatching a hefty 100000 dollar bonus for the tournament victory. As the tournament winner Shlemenko got a chance to fight for the middleweight belt against the champion Hector Lombard. After a grueling five rounds of fighting Lombard was awarded with the unanimous decision.

Nick Wagner steps in for injured Josh Bryant. Wagner has fought with some success on local shows in his home state of North Dakota. Will he blinded by the bright lights of Helsinki? 

Summary: When you consider the fact, that Shlemenko is a world class middleweight, it's obvious that this fight is ridiculous on paper. But injuries happen in this sport all the time and it's great that Fight Festival was able to find someone to fight Shlemenko. 

LHW fight: Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen (19-2) vs Edwin “Babyface” Dewees (36-13)
In the co-main event Finland’s top prospect Marcus “Caveman” Vänttinen takes on another UFC veteran in USA’s Edwin “Babyface” Dewees.

At the Fight Festival 29 Vänttinen completely bulldozed UFC vet Ron Faircloth in a fight that lasted under two minutes. The Faircloth bout was Vänttinen’s fourth fight in four months. In October 2010 Vänttinen dominated UFC vet Ivan Serati on the ground and finished him in just four minutes. This was followed a unanimous decision win at Cage 14 over American Victor O’Donnell, who fans might remember from the Ultimate Fighter show. Vänttinen is currently riding a 10 fight win streak and has openly stated that getting signed by the UFC is his goal at the moment. A win over a crafty veteran like Dewees would move the 24 year old Finn a step closer to reaching his goal.

Fighting ever since he turned eighteen and fighting over 50 professional bouts, now 28 year old 
Edwin Dewees is a true veteran of the sport. Dewees, product of the once famed Lions Den gym, is probably best known for fight against Gideon Ray on the Ultimate Fighter season four.  In the fight Dewees suffered a horrible cut to his forehead and the fight turned into a three round bloodbath. Despite the huge pool of blood, there were even some comical aspects in the fight as Dewees pounded Ray from side mount with one hand while applying pressure to his cut with his other hand. Dewees is a proficient submission grappler, who has scored amazing 29 submission wins. During his long career he has fought guys like Rich Franklin, Little Nog and Frank Trigg, which tells you that Dewees isn’t afraid of challenges. Since his high profile fight with Little Nog at the Afflication in 2008, Dewees has fought just once at a local show in 2009.

Summary: Dewees is a great grappler and he can surely put Vänttinen into some hairy situations on the ground if he gets him there first. However when you consider the facts that Dewees, who has fought as a middleweight most of his career, is coming off a long layoff and will be a lot smaller than Vänttinen come fight time, it’s obvious that Vänttinen will be a heavy favorite to win this bout. Vänttinen will try to keep the fight on the feet, where he can use his reach advantage and superior striking to chop down Dewees.

LW fight: Juha-Pekka Vainikainen (15-5) vs Ryan "Bones" Bixler (19-12), USA
Young Finn Juha-Pekka Vainikainen locks horns with American Ryan ”Bones” Bixler, who fights second time in Finland in 2011. Both guys fought in the Fight Festival 29 event in late January. 

Vainikainen beat UFC vet Brian Gegaghty by keeping the fight on the feet where he could use his reach advantage and superior boxing to pick his foe apart. Even though he has a competent ground game, Vainikainen, who is tall and long limbed for a lightweight, is on his best on the feet. 

Keeping the fight on the feet won’t be an easy task against Ryan Bixler. Originally from Iowa, the young American hails from a wrestling background and currently trains at the famed Team Quest that is known for producing powerful wrestlers. At the Fight Festival 29 Bixler lost to Finnish lightweight star Anton Kuivanen by rear naked choke in the second round, but before that he looked good and took Kuivanen down couple of times with beautiful slams.

Summary: Both guys are basically allround fighters, but I think Vainikainen will hold the advantage on the feet while Bixler has the edge in wrestling. Look for the aggressive American to push for takedowns right from the start. Vainikainen will probably try to stick and move and to wear down his opponent with precision strikes, much like he did in his last fight.

FW fight: Joni Salovaara (6-4) vs Anthony “Death Dealer” Durnell (9-2), USA
In a high quality featherweight bout Finland’s young gun Joni Salovaara welcomes American soldier Anthony Durnell to Finnish soil.
After his fighting career got off with a rocky start Joni Salovaara has found his rhythm and won his last four fights against respectable competition. In his latest fight against the Finnish grappling phenom Timo-Juhani Hirvikangas, Salovaara showed calmness under pressure, defended the submission attempts well and smashed his opponent in the second round, earning an impressive TKO victory. Much like his training partners Puhakka and Vainikainen at the Espoon Kehähait’s gym, Salovaara is an allround fighter, but for this bout I think he’d rather keep it on the feet.

Fighting out of Ramstein air force base in Germany, American Anthony Durnell has put together a great record of nine wins with just two losses. One of the two losses came in the hands of Salovaara’s training partner J-P Vainikainen, who choked out Durnell at Iron Fist 3 event in November of 2010. Durnell is a pretty good wrestler, who likes to stay active on the ground with the ground and pound.

Summary: As a wrestling oriented fighter Durnell will probably try to take Salovaara down, get the top position and put his ground and pound to work. Salovaara is pretty slick of his back, but I believe he’ll try to avoid the ground game and use his superior striking on the feet.

LW fight: Vener Galiev (17-6), Russia vs Ryan “Diamond” Healy (19-9), USA
Russian Vener Galiev steps in for the injured Anton Kuivanen and fights Team Quest’s Ryan Healy in a lightweight bout that could end up being the fight of the night.

RusFighters’ Vener Galiev has a strong background in Sambo, which shows in his MMA fights too. Galiev has great trip takedowns and throws from the clinch and a competent ground game. He is also light on his feet and rarely gets hit with big punches. Galiev has won three of his last four fights, including a win over Finnish WW/MW fighter Mikko Suvanto at Fight Festival 27. In October of 2010 at the FNR event in Moscow Galiev lost by points to his team mate and highly regarded prospect Shamil Zavurov (14-1).

During his nearly ten year long fighting career Strikeforce and WEC veteran Ryan Healy has seen a lot and fought some super tough guys like Jorge Masvidal and Rick Story, who both went to decision with Healy. Healy hasn’t been finished since 2006, when he lost to Rob McCullough by cut stoppage. The persistent American has won four of his last five with the lone loss coming in his latest fight against the Canadian Kajan Johnson at the MFC event in November of 2010. Despite having strong wrestling, Healy is known for his aggressive fighting style. Out of his 19 career wins, 11 have come via TKO or KO and 5 by submission.

Summary: This is a very interesting match up from a technical point of view. Thanks to his extensive Sambo background, Galiev is very hard to take down, so it’ll be interesting to see how this fight plays out. Healy will surely try to push the pace with constant pressure and turn the fight into a brawl, which would favor his hard-nosed style of fighting. Based on his skills I would say that Galiev is a European top ten level fighter, so Healy better bring his A-game to Helsinki or he’s going to get Sambo’ed.

Also on the card
In a welterweight bout Brazilian BJJ black belt Eduardo "Jamelao" Conceicao (4-2) will test the ground skills of Russian Andrey "Koresh" Koreshkov (2-0). Finland’s grappling ace Greger Forsell (1-0) gets a challenge from Lithuanian grappler Laimonas Stancikas (7-8). In woman’s MMA fight StrikeForce vet Maiju Kujala (4-3) meets UK’s Emma Watson (1-0), who put on an awesome show at the Fight Festival 27. In a welterweight bout undefeated Johan Vänttinen (2-0) will try to continue on his winning ways against Lithuanian Petras Dirgelas (1-0).

Fight Festival has always been a versatile combat sports event that holds Kickboxing and Muay Thai fights mixed with MMA bouts. In the European Kickboxing Championship title fight the reigning champion Jarkko Jussila of Finland is challenged by Valdrin Vatnikaj, who fights out of Belgium. 

Check out the blog on Saturday night for live results from the FF 30! Full event report will follow on Sunday.


  1. Wohoo! Live results <3

  2. Josh Bryant dropped out a few days ago. North Dakota fighter Nick Wagner took the fight on 5 days notice. Should be an interesting fight!

  3. nick wagner is an amazing fighter and will run through Alexander like a spear. people from fargo ND are the toughest on earth.