Tuesday, 01 February 2011 15:28
’s surprising choice to host a show on a Monday proved to be the right one as the Helsinki Sports Hall was packed with fight fans on the 31st of January. In true Fight Festival fashion, in addition to MMA bouts, the card also featured Muay Thai and Kickboxing matches.
In the main event, Finnish light-heavyweight and 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 a tight Thai clinch and landed crushing knees. When Faircloth ate a big knee 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 the tenth straight win for Marcus Vänttinen, who has significantly accelerated during the 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 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 eventually continued and came back strong with a one-two 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 a 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 and took his back. After getting some strikes in and working an armbar from back mount, Kuivanen eventually got both hooks in and applied a fight ending rear-naked choke. The win over Bixler extends Kuivanen’s streak to seven straight. Training at the American Top Team camp in Florida has done marvels for 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 representatives of Espoon Kehähait
, also added 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 veteran from "The Ultimate Fighter" defended well and recovered. Later in the fight, when it became obvious that Geraghty was getting picked apart on the feet, he tried to take Vainikainen down, but the Finn sprawled effortlessly out of each situation. In the end Vainikainen was awarded with a clear-cut unanimous decision. It was an impressive performance by the young Finn, but Geraghty also deserves thumbs-up for his gutsy and fan friendly effort in the ring. With his long limbs and precise striking, Vainikainen is a tough cookie in the 155-pound division. It would be interesting to see how he can deal with a Euro top-ten opponent.
The most experienced Finnish lightweight on the card was Niko Puhakka (21-11), who bounced back on track after losing his last fight to Chute Boxe ace Luiz Azeredo by points. Puhakka took on Croatian Ivica Truscek ( 11-5), who is a strong grappler with a background in wrestling. Puhakka obviously didn’t respect his opponents grappling skills, as he shot for a takedown almost right away and took Truscek down. As Truscek was working on his way up, Puhakka hopped on his back and snatched a tight, modified rear-naked choke. Truscek had no choice but to tap out early in the first round. This was an 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 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 of years, but he is now healthy and looking to stomp guys in the featherweight division. Marcus Vänttinen's 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’d young Frenchman Anthony Plouvier in the fourth round. This was Jussila’s second fight in two days, as he fought a pro boxing fight on Saturday night in which he also won by TKO in the fourth ... quite an amazing feat from the Finnish striking machine.
Overall, the night was a success from both the promoter’s and fan’s point of view. The event gathered a big crowd and the fights delivered an entertaining night. The Fight Festival promotion continues with Fight Festival 30 in March and moves back to its original, bigger venue in Helsinki.