Cage 19 took place last night at the Energia Arena in Vantaa, Finland. The event delivered a entertaining night of diversed MMA fighting for the crowd. In the crowd was also MMA legend Royce Gracie who seemed to be pleased with what he saw.
In the main event Finland’s bantamweight prospect Timo-Juhani Hirvikangas took on a short notice replacement in French veteran Olivier Pastor. Right from the start it was obvious that the experienced Frenchman came to Vantaa to fight. Pastor opened up with a flurry of strikes and stinging low kicks. Hirvikangas kept his calm, caught Pastor’s kick and took him down. On the ground Hirvikangas, a three time ADCC Euro champ, showed off his superior grappling but couldn’t really threaten the crafty vet with submissions.
In the second round Hirvikangas started strong by landing a right hand and scoring a takedown. On the ground Hirvikangas tried to pull off his patented heel hook but Pastor defended perfectly. On the feet Pastor’s heavy roundhouse kick found Hirvikangas’ ribs and the kick took the wind out of the Finn. Pastor took advantage of the situation and battered Hirvikangas with knees and short punches against the cage wall.
In the third round it was obvious that the Finn had little left in the gas tank. Through out the round Pastor punished Hirvikangas with brutal low kicks and knees in the clinch. The fight went full three rounds and the two of the three judges saw Pastor as the winner so the belt went to France via split decision.
It was a impressive performance by Pastor who showed no signs of old age in the cage. Hirvikangas fought valiantly to the final bell but it was obvious after the one and a half rounds that the Finn wasn’t at his best. Before the bout Hirvikangas told MMA Viking that he had been sick for over a week and that had messed up his weight cut which ended up being 18 pounds in two short days.
In the co-main event two top Finnish welterweights Kai Puolakka and Johan Vänttinen battled for three action packed rounds. The fight was mostly a gruelling dirty boxing battle with both guys constantly throwing punches, elbows and knees in the clinch. Right from the start Puolakka seemed to be the stronger fighter who was able to inflict more damage to his opponent in the clinch. Puolakka also landed two beautiful trip takedowns in the first round and followed with Ground and Pound on the ground. In the second and third round Puolakka controlled the action by sprawling away from Vänttinen’s takedown attempts, scoring takedowns of his own and getting the better of striking exchanges on the feet. In the end Puolakka was awarded with a clear cut decision win.
The hype train behind Helsinki based Chechen fighter Musa Amagov was at least temporarily derailed last night as he dropped a split decision to Estonian grappler Ott Tonissaar. The fight was all grappling action from bell to bell. Both fighters scored beautiful takedowns and throws but it was Tonissaar who had the upper hand in the grappling department. On the ground Tonissaar threw more strikes and held the top position more than Amagov but didn’t have any really good submission attempts while Amagov had tight guillotines in rounds one and two. After three action packed rounds two of the judges saw Tonissaar as the winner while one gave the fight to Amagov. It was a close fight, especially under Finnish judging criteria that emphasizes damage inflicted and attempts to finish.
Another grappling heavy fight was the battle between two superb grapplers in Greger Forsell and Tommi Marttinen. Marttinen, who had won all of his five fights by submissions before this one, had his moments early on the ground. However as the fight moved pass first round, it became obvious that Forsell was the superior grappler. The BJJ black belt and European champ put on a grappling clinic that consisted of relentless takedowns, buzz saw guard passing, suffocating top control and crushing body triangle control from back mount. For the top position and back mount Forsell was able to punish Marttinen with punches and elbows as well as threaten him with rear naked choke attempts. Marttinen showed his gameness and never gave up but it was Forsell who took home an impressive decision win. After the show Royce Gracie complemented Forsell’s ground game to the happy Finn who is still undefeated in MMA after five bouts.
Helsinki based Brazilian Marcio Cesar faced Costa Rica’s Juan Barrantes of Renzo Gracie Fight Team. Also this bout between two experienced BJJ practitioners was mostly fought on the ground. All three rounds were packed with dynamic ground action with both guys having their moments. Cesar hold the top position for the first two rounds and was able to get some punches in. In the third round Cesar went for a leg lock but Barrantes kept his calm and defended skillfully. Cesar hanged on the leg for the rest of the round with Barrantes raining strikes to the body and head from top position. Both guys had their moments in the even fight and judges thought that too as two of them scored it as a draw, resulting a majority draw.
Light heavyweight Antti Kästämä and France’s Frederic Levfevre put on a show with an entertaining slug fest. Both guys threw wild flurry of strikes and connected with heavy punches. However it was Kästämä who got the better of the striking exchanges. Bigger and stronger Finn controlled the action on the feet with stiff jabs, overhand rights and knees in the clinch. Levfevre absorbed a ton of damage but never gave up and swung for the fences to the end. Kästämä got a unanimous decision from the judges and progressed to 3-0 on his pro career.
Finnfighter’s Gym’s rising prospect Juho Valamaa submitted Abdelghani Idrissi in 29 seconds. Valamaa said before the bout that if his opponent shoots on him, he will choke him out. And that is exactly what happened as the talented grappler locked a guillotine choke on Idrissi when he shot in. Valamaa squeezed hard and the Frenchman went limb.
Another FFG fighter Aleksi Kainulainen also used his superior grappling to get a win over Juho Varila. Varila landed a hard upper cut in the first round and had a great armbar attempt in the second but it was Kainulainen who controlled the action with numerous takedowns and constant Ground and Pound on the ground. The judges unanimously ruled the fight to Kainulainen.
GB Gym’s up-n-coming bantamweight Tuomas Grönvall made short work of Adel Bendjelloul. The young Finn took the Frenchman down right off the bat and choked him out with a brabo choke at 2.19 of the first round.
For more detailed descriptions of the fights, check out our play-by-play.