The following is a guest piece by Joona Pylkäs, the mastermind of the Beatings From The North blog. Based out of Helsinki, Finland, and deeply ingrained in the fight scene as a fan, student and coach, Joona is a knowledgeable source that keeps readers abreast on the rising prospects and event results from the burgeoning European MMA market.
Beforehand, the "Cage 16: 1st Defense" main event fights were seen as final tests for Finnish MMA stars Anton Kuivanen and Tom Niinimäki, who both have been patiently waiting for their shot at the major leagues. The wait should be over as both fighters passed their test with flying colors.
In the extremely exciting main event fight hometown hero Anton Kuivanen (16-4) defended his Cage Lightweight belt against Blackhouse MMA's Thiago Meller (17-4) of Brazil. In the first round Kuivanen controlled the action with crisp striking and used his speed advantage to stay out of harm's way. However, near the end of the round, Meller caught Kuivanen with an overhand right that sent the Finn to floor.
Kuivanen quickly recovered, but as he was working on his way up, Kuivanen ended up in Meller's guillotine choke. Kuivanen kept his calm and waited for the round to end. In the second round Kuivanen turned up the volume punishing the fading Meller on the feet with fast strikes. With one minute left in the round Kuivanen connected with a blazing combination that sent the Brazilian dazed against the cage.
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In the third round an exhausted Meller caught Kuivanen once more in a guillotine choke that looked very tight, but again Kuivanen did a marvelous job in defending the choke by popping his head out and raining down elbows from the top position.
Anton Kuivanen is ready for the big stages.
In the end Kuivanen kept his Cage lightweight belt with a lopsided unanimous decision. The Finnish striking machine has now won his last nine fights including wins over Ivan Buchinger (16-2) and Tim Radcliffe (11-4). A convincing win over a highly regarded veteran in Thiago Meller should be enough for Kuivanen to land a deal with a major promotion.
Number two featherweight in Europe, Tom "Stoneface" Niinimäki, returned to action after almost a year away from the cage. In the Cage featherweight title fight the defending champion showed no signs of ring rust as he crushed his French opponent Johnny Frachey in a little over minute.
Frachey, a powerful grappler who had won his last five fights, was stunned by Niinimäki's beautiful headkick. Niinimäki quickly followed up with a shattering uppercut that sealed the deal and left Frachey unconscious on the floor.
Since dropping down to featherweight Niinimäki (16-5) is still undefeated after six bouts, winning them all in a dominating fashion.
In the Euro circuit, there are no meaningful fights left for the young Finn, so the most reasonable next step for him would be signing with the UFC. Another option is the Bellator who has been signing a lot of Euro talent lately.
Also on the main card was the welterweight bout between Finnish grappler Olli-Jaakko Uitto and Sweden's Nicholas Musoke. In a quite uneventful fight, Musoke won the decision, able to stuff Uitto's takedown attempts and get the better of the striking exchanges on the feet.
In the women's bout, Finland's Katja Kankaanpää (5-0) kept her record clean by outgrappling Spain's Karla Benitez (5-1) to a decision win.
Cage Lightweight title bout: Anton Kuivanen (16-4-0) vs Thiago Meller (17-4-0), Brazil: Kuivanen by UD
Cage Featherweight title bout: Tom "Stoneface" Niinimäki (16-5-0) vs Johnny Frachey (13-8-0), France: Niinimäki by KO R1
Welterweight: Olli-Jaakko Uitto (8-1-1) vs Nicholas Musoke (7-2-0), Sweden: Musoke by UD
Lightweight (women 55kg / 122 lbs): Katja Kankaanpää (5-0-0) vs Karla Benitez (5-0-0) Spain: Kalliokoski by UD
Heavyweight: Jarno Nurminen (6-2-0) Team Scandinavia vs Catalin Zmarandescu (6-2-0) Romania: Nurminen by Submission strikes R1
Bantamweight: Heikki Tiilikka (5-3-0) vs Mikhael Daboville (4-4-0), France: Tiilikka by UD
Lightweight: Antti Virtanen (5-3-1) vs Viktor Tomasevic (3-2-1) , Lithuania: Virtanen by Split Decision
Lightweight: Lauri Väätäinen (5-3-0) vs Makwan Amirkhani (3-1-0): Amirkhani by Heelhook R1
Welterweight: Lauri Tonteri (3-2-0) vs Johan Vänttinen (5-2-0): Vänttinen by KO R1
Welterweight: Jussi Halonen (2-0-0) vs Sergei Kabalinov (1-0-0): Halonen by UD
Photos of Anton Kuivanen and Tom Niinimäki via Kulmassi.fi