The Scandinavian and Nordic mixed martial arts scene has enjoyed an increase in exposure and talent in the last few years. The countries of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark have been able to produce a number of prospects who have fought at the highest levels of the sport, and they continue to do so through some solid training facilities and being in close vicinity to major fighting centers like Eastern Europe and England.
Ranking at #9 on our 2011 World MMA Light Heavyweight Scouting Report, Finland's Marcus Vanttinen (18-2) sits in prime position to make a run at a UFC contract in 2011. With a mammoth 6'4" frame and a very well-rounded skill-set, Vanttinen has the potential to have staying power in a major promotion, but he still has a number of issues that need improvement.
Offensive Skills: Offensively, Vanttinen fits into the category of good, but not yet great. He's very well rounded in that he can be effective in both his stand-up game and ground game, but much of that success has relied heavily on his massive 6'4" frame. To be perfectly honest, he has yet to take full advantage of that size.
He isn't very proficient at using his ranged advantage to strike. He doesn't impose a jab on his opponents as he's more prone to throwing heavy one-two combinations with a rare head kick to keep his opponents at bay. His stand-up serves more as a means to progressing the fight to the ground.
On the ground, Vanttinen's size works well in allowing him to pass guard and pound out opponents or take their backs. But his finishing rate isn't indicative of an overwhelmingly successful ground game. He spends a lot of time in dominant positions without taking advantage. On his back, the same problems apply.
Defensive Skills: Vanttinen is surprisingly good at avoiding damage. He's very good at holding down his opponent's posture when he's in trouble off his back, and he's almost always able to regain his feet or cause a stand-up because his opponents aren't able to progress past his guard.
His stand-up defense is still a concern however. His chin is wide open for strikes at times, but his opponents have never had the reach to actually reach his chin. Ivan Serati threw a number of overhands that nearly clipped Vanttinen, but they were just short of their mark due to Vanttinen's reach. Against a much more powerful opponent who has complete disregard for his short punches or knees, he may get overwhelmed.
His takedown defense is another problem, but he's shown an ability to counter opponents in the clinch. Instead of being thrown down to his back, he's been able to push forward and change roles from prey to predator in an instant. In many of his more recent fights, he's reversed his opponent's forward progress for takedowns into his own takedown. My feeling, however, is that a more credentialed wrestler would have no problems dumping him and pounding on him from top control.
Progression: The most improvement we've seen in Vanttinen over the last few years has been in his ground game. He's shown the ability to pass guard with precision and skill in his more recent encounters, and his submission game and punching prowess from dominant positions has improved as well.
His stand-up game needs to progress at a quicker rate however, and I'm a little surprised that he isn't using his extensive reach to batter opponents. Furthermore, Vanttinen's kicking game is nearly non-existent, which is surprising considering his frame would be perfect in a kickboxing arena.
|#1 - Thiago Michel
#2 - Ricardo Tirloni
#3 - Magno Almeida
#4 - Ui Cheol Nam
#5 - Henrique Mello
#6 - Reza Madadi
#7 - Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 - Ole Laursen
#9 - Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 - Al Iaquinta
|#1 - Yuri Villefort
#2 - Alex Garcia
#3 - Erick Silva
#4 - Douglas Lima
#5 - Luis "Sapo" Santos
#6 - Jesse Juarez
#7 - Gunnar Nelson
#8 - Quinn Mulhern
#9 - Alberto Mina
#10 - Joe Ray
|#1 - Papy Abedi
#2 - Chris Weidman
#3 - Vitor Vianna
#4 - Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
#5 - Bruno Santos
#6 - Costantinos Philippou
#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie
|#9 - Marcus Vanttinen
#10 - Ronny Markes
Environment: Vanttinen currently trains out of Alliance Porvoo, a camp that is based where you'd expect it to be in Porvoo, Finland. He also trains out of Sityodtong Finland to improve his Muay Thai game, and he's made frequent trips around the countryside to various camps to get a different flavor of training partners. He's also made trips to Holland to train with Gegard Mousasi, and there is some talk that he'll be making his way to the United States to train.
All of these factors considered, Vanttinen seems to have a support system that should continue to progress him in the right direction. He's obviously working hard to improve his stand-up game, and journeys to the U.S. should give him a taste of what he can expect if the UFC picks him up in 2011.
Potential: My entire analysis of Vanttinen probably sounds like a rant of his skills, but you have to remember that Vanttinen, like Markes, is very, very young. At 23 years old, he has plenty of time to develop his game to a level that can compete against some of the best the UFC has to offer. There are quite a few Finnish fans who still wonder why he has yet to be signed by the UFC, but I'd counter that argument with... have you watched Vanttinen lately?
A great record doesn't tell the entire story, and I'm sure I'll hear some complaints as to his placement on our list. But slow and methodical doesn't cut it in the light heavyweight division, especially with some of the cardio machines and powerful strikers that reside in the upper reaches of Strikeforce and the UFC.
Vanttinen's stand-up needs some inspiration. He needs to develop a quick jab to keep opponents at bay, and he needs to work on a kicking game that plays into his strengths as a 6'4" behemoth light heavyweight fighter. On the ground, he's very good, and that may be his means to signing a contract with the UFC in 2011. But I won't be counting on him to shock the world by beating a consensus top 15 light heavyweight. Luckily for him, he has plenty of time to develop, loads of potential, and the right people around him to hone those skills. Vanttinen's toughest test to date takes place on January 31st as he battles Maro Perak (19-2-1) at Fight Festival 29.
Markus Vänttinen vs. Valdas Pocevicius
Marcus Vanttinen vs Ivan Serati