Fight Festival 32 is set to take place this Saturday. MMA Viking takes a look at the main and co-main events, including the international lightweight battle between the Finland’s Niko Puhakka (25-11) and UFC veteran Yoshiyuki Yoshida (13-6) of Japan, and Finland-residing UFC veterans Lucio Linhares (17-7) versus John Doerr (6-2)

Niko Puhakka
Niko Puhakka Headlines Fight Festival 32

MMA Viking talked to the promoter Petteri Maunu, who gives further insight into these quality bouts:

“I think beforehand it looks like the card has a lot of evenly matched fights. In many of them it’s hard to predict the winner or the outcome of the fight.” says Maunu who holds a black belt in kickboxing and has a extensive background in coaching.

Finnish stars face foreign challengers at Fight Festival 32 in Helsinki, Finland

Lightweight: Niko Puhakka (26-11), vs Yoshiuki Yoshida (14-6), Japan. Hometown powerhouse Niko Puhakka faces UFC veteran Yoshiuki Yoshida in a high level thriller.

Maunu: “Yoshida is a really high level opponent for Puhakka. We haven’t seen many guys on his level fighting on Finnish soil. Puhakka is on the very top of the European lightweight division so we decided to bring a challenger for him from outside of Europe.”

Finland’s Niko Puhakka has been among the top ten European lightweights for the past few years. While the Finn has been fighting pro for a decade all ready, he has shown remarkable work ethic and ability to improve constantly even with close 40 bouts under his belt. Puhakka is a big and physically powerful lightweight who over the years has turned from a aggressive slugger to a technical grappler. Puhakka doesn’t mind slugging it out on the feet but his main strength these days is his excellent overall grappling. Puhakka has a  fast power double and wide arsenal of trips and throws from the clinch. On the ground Puhakka likes to batter his opponents with strikes from the top and goes for chokes when there the opportunity opens. It’s tough to find a chink in Puhakka’s armour these days. Puhakka is riding a six fight win streak including a win over UFC veteran John Gunderson.

Japan’s Yoshiuki Yoshida is back in the game after a dark period on his career. Undersized Yoshida went 2-3 on his UFC run and got absolutely pulverized in highlight reel fashion by Josh Koscheck and Anthony Johnson. After losing to Chris Lozano in Bellator, Yoshida took almost a year away from fighting to regroup. Refreshed Yoshida is now 3-0 in his last three with notable wins over Phil Baroni at OneFC and  Jeremy Hamilton at CFX 33. Yoshida also holds wins over Akira Kicuchi and Luis “Sapo” Santos and has won the Cage Force welterweight tournament, although the final win over Dan Hardy came by disqualification. As a fighter Yoshida is a allrounder with a preference to striking. 38 year old Yoshida is also an experienced judo player which shows in his skilled trips and sweeps from the clinch.

Summary: It will be interesting to see how this fight plays out. Both fighters have a great clinch game and takedowns from there. Puhakka will probably try to implement his normal routine of taking the fight to the ground and grinding away from the top position.  Yoshida has been overpowered in some of his welterweight fights so this lower weight class should be more suitable for him. The Japanese might have the advantage on the feet where he could also try to utilize his judo skills and go for dirty boxing in the clinch.

Middleweight:  Lucio Linhares (17-8) vs Jake Doerr (6-2), USA. Finnzillian Lucio “Spartan” Linhares will put his jiu-jitsu to test against American Jake Doerr.

Brazilian born Lucio Linhares has enjoyed the life in Finland for several years already. Besides being a mainstay of Finnish MMA shows, Linhares is also well known and liked as a BJJ coach in his new home country. At his peak form Linhares, who is now 38 years old,  ran through high quality fighters like Karl Amoussou, Mikhail Zayats and Sean Salmon. This string of wins earned him a spot at the UFC where he was thrown to the wolves right away. Linhares struggled valiantly against Rousimar Palhares and Yushin Okami but was finished by both in the second round. Since his run at the UFC, Linhares has gone 4-2 with a notable win over Xavier “Professor X” Foupa-Pokam.

In his last fight at Carelia Fight 8 Linhares suffered a flash knock out in the hands of Boubacar Balde of France. Linhares has heavy hands on the feet but defensive striking hasn’t ever been his strong suite and with his mileage is has become a weakness. Linhares’ biggest strength is that he still has a highly dangerous ground game. This fight is a perfect opportunity for him to use it.

In his prime Lucio Linhares fought in the UFC

American Jake Doerr is a physically powerful middleweight, who like Linhares, has also fought at light heavyweight. Doerr won his first six professional bouts before he ran into UFC fighter and ADCC champion Vinny Magalhaes in M-1. Magalhaes floored Doerr straight from the bell and finished the job on the ground with strikes. Doerr’s second career loss came in his last fight when Linhares’ original opponent Logan Clark submitted Doerr with a kimura in the second round. As a fighter Doerr is a allrounder who doesn’t shine at anything but is good at everything.

Summary: Doerr isn’t the best fighter Linhares has faced on his long career but then again Linhares isn’t actually in his prime anymore. This looks like a quite evenly matched fight. Doerr is younger with probably more gas left in the tank while Linhares should hold a significant advantage on the ground.

The preview of the rest of the card will be posted tomorrow.