Just hours after Finland beat Austria in the Hockey World Championships, the Finnish fighters beat two Americans and Frenchman to defend their home soil at the Energia Areena on Saturday night. In front of a packed house of nearly 3,000 fans it was Tom Niinimäki, Anton Kuivanen, and Marcus Vänttinen that closed out the night on a high.
In the headlining bout, Tom Niinimäki outwrestled Chase Beebe to take the featherweight strap. The Finn used a variety of takedowns and slams to show that his real competition now lies in the Octagon. The Finnfighters Gym fighter worked the body with punches, and landed knees to show a full arsenal of attackes. The former WEC champ didn’t have an answer for the quickness or power of “Stoneface”. The American however did come to fight, looking for a finish up until the final bell, but he never threatened.
10 straight wins for Niinimäki, and it’s time to see the Finn in the big leagues.
Anton Kuivanen showed Beebe’s teammate Jason Pierce from Flawless MMA that the UFC made a mistake in letting him go. GB Gym/Team MMA Finland fighter didn’t show any loss of momentum as he continued to show improved standup and wrestling. Kuivanen moved the action to the ground when needed during the bout to take a unanimous decision in the bout. Nasty left kicks also left their impression on the body of the former TUF fighter.
The newly crowned lightweight champion ended his ring performance with a first-ever attempt at a backflip from the top of the cage as a celebration. The fans cheered the local, and was happy to see him back home with a big victory.
In the third title fight of the night, Marcus Vänttinen focused on getting the victory… and he did just that. The Finn clinched early, giving no Boubacar Balde no chance to land any punches. The Fight Factory fighter battered the Frenchman on the ground, eventually sinking a rear-naked choke in the second round. It was a big win for “Caveman”, who was coming off of two consecutive losses.
Kai Puolakka and Mickael Lebout had a three-round battle, with the Finn ending up on top. The GB Gym/Team MMA Finland was able to land enough power punches to get the decision. Frenchman Shamil Ismailov KO’dFinnfighters Gym’s Juho Valamaa in the second round with a string of heavy-handed punches leading to a KO that left many wondering if the Finn took a few too many punches in the bout.
There were 5 b-class pro undercard bouts. Jani Salmi outpoined Juho Kahranaho in the first bout, and Rasul Khataev taking the decision over Patrik Pietilä in the following. Tuomas Grönvall won by brabo choke in the second round over Miika Kauppinen, while Mika Hämäläinen won in 48 seconds over Jere Varila with a heel hook. Kennet Mattsson from MMA Team 300 finished with a triangle over Aleksi Mäntykivi to keep his impressive winning streak at five bouts.
All in all, a fantastic night for Finnish MMA. For play-by-play of each fight, you can read everything from Cage 22 here.