European Throwdown returns with a review of recent action in Lithuania, Poland and Russia. We also look ahead to the ADCC European Trials in Finland, the New Generation Tournament II in Italy and the "White-Hot Weekend" in Germany.
To finish this edition of Sherdog.com's in-depth look on the European fight scene, the letter of a worried reader is answered.
Petraitis petrified in Pakruojis
Erikas Petraitis (Pictures), Shooto and K-1 HERO'S veteran by trade and fighter of many memorable battles with champions like Masakazu Imanari (Pictures) and Rumina Sato (Pictures), recently had a bout scheduled in the 6,000 souls town of Pakruojis. And just like when the Patriots play in Miami, he failed to deliver the goods.
His opponent that night was unheralded Polish fighter Mariusz Radziszewski, who had a 0-2 record coming into the fight. Despite already competing in front of more people than Pakruojis has residents, Petraitis did not find a way to finish the BJJ fighter from Bytom and the judges declared it a draw.
Petraitis can heave a sigh of relief as he still has his WFCA featherweight title, which is the equivalent of the European championship.
Drwal knackered again, Khalidov storms through Troeng
In the first edition of "European Throwdown" I was happy to announce that Polish knockout artist Tomasz Drwal had successfully recovered from nagging injury problems that kept him on the shelf for all of 2006.
Unfortunately the 24-year-old slugger suffered another setback when he re-injured his shoulder while training for a Feb. 25 Polish title fight against Chechnyan grappler Mamed Khalidov. In Drwal's absence, Khalidov, a teammate of PRIDE veteran Murad Chunkaiev (Pictures), had little trouble with short-notice replacement Tor Troeng.
It took Khalidov less then four minutes and he had the Swedish EVT veteran tapping from a triangle choke. With the Chechnyan fighter improving to 11-3 and Drwal at an even better 12-1, the fight between two of Europe's best light heavyweights is bound to happen at an even bigger stage.
"Russian Hammer" pounds his way onto the bodogFIGHT PPV
PRIDE veteran Roman "The Russian Hammer" Zentsov successfully made his way onto the second bodogFIGHT pay-per-view called "Clash of the Nations," which takes place on April 14 at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
On the third episode of the second season of bodogFIGHT's weekly qualification show, he took out French Canadian kickboxer Kristof Midoux (Pictures) by knockout near the end of the second round.
The fight was even in the first round but then Zentsov, a teammate of PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), moved it up a notch and started peppering the "Hurricane" with right hooks, high kicks and a left haymaker for the big knockout at 4:12 of the second round.
At the pay-per-view he will now face undefeated American Kickboxing Academy fighter Cain Velasquez (Pictures), who dispatched his opponent Jeremiah Constant even quicker at 4:00 of the first round.
Mussardo goes back to his roots as well
At the halftime break of Shooto's Feb. 17 "Back to our Roots" card, it was announced that Swiss-based Brazilian Top Team member Augusto Frota Guimaraes would take on Shooto legend Rumina Sato (Pictures) in the co-main event on March 16.
One stipulation in Brazilian's contract allowed for Guimaraes' top pupil, Italian submission specialist Ivan Mussardo, to travel with him and to fight on the second "Back to our Roots" event. Shooto confirmed this by putting him up against Yoshitaro Niimi (Pictures), who trains with top featherweight Akitoshi Tamura (Pictures) at Tsudanuma Dojo.
Mussardo, nicknamed "The Terrible" following the example of Russian czar Ivan IV, made a name for himself on the short-lived German TUF clone Martial Arts X-treme, where he smashed amateur fighters David Adam, Sebastian Baron and Amir Lekay to book himself into the final against Daniel Weichel before the promotion went out of business.
At 2-2-1 Niimi is not a world-beater by any means, however he is arguably Mussardo's stiffest test since being knocked out by Nova Uniao Italia leader Fabricio Nascimento last summer.
European grapplers with final chance to qualify for ADCC 2007
Jon Olav Einemo (Pictures), winner of the ADCC light heavyweight division in 2003 has already booked his ticket for this year's ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship, which takes place May 4-6 in Trenton, New Jersey.
Ninety male and 18 female competitors want to follow Einemo's example on March 24 at the ADCC European Trials, the final chance for Europe's top grapplers to qualify for the "grand finale."
Among the most popular participants is the MMA experienced trio of Per Eklund (Pictures), Jani Lax and Matias Awad from Sweden; Polish Gracie-Barra fighter Michael Materla; English wrestler Mustapha al Turk (Pictures); and Dutch PRIDE veteran Alistair Overeem (Pictures).
After having to cancel his ADCC participation in 2005 due to his commitments in the PRIDE Grand Prix (and that after having dominated the European Trials), the lanky Overeem is certainly fired up to make up for that missed chance.
Who are the next generation of superstars?
That's the question everybody is asking. The organizers of the New Generation Tournament II is already one step ahead as they try to find out on March 25 in the Italian city of Milan.
Milan? Isn't that more famous for fashion and two of the greatest football clubs in the world?
You are right, but not only since Roman boxer Alessio Sakara (Pictures) brutally punished Elvis Sinosic (Pictures) for three rounds at UFC 57, the Italians are making a move on MMA as well.
To spice up the NGT2, the promoter was able to enlist the help of two absolute MMA legends: On one hand UFC 2 veteran Remco "Grizzly" Pardoel will send his pupils Jordy Peute and David Haagsma into combat. Even further up the card will be the top student of none other than Shooto, UFC and PRIDE veteran Enson Inoue.
In the main event, Pat Ayuyu will square off against English fighter Andy Miles.
Here is the complete lineup:
Luca Zottarelli vs. Ahmed Chaidi
Alessandro Carapezzi vs. Hlias Datiras
Massimo Testa vs. Tom "Houdini" Osting
Cristian Binda vs. Jordy Peute
Francesco Ligato vs. Marco Santi
Imad Barakat vs. Carlo Massara
David Haagsma vs. Laurent Bonnafaux
Paul Jenkins (Pictures) vs. Alikhan Iskhabov
Pat "Gori-Chan" Ayuyu vs. Andy Miles
"White-Hot Weekend" divides the German nation again
There's something attractive about the last weekend in April German promoters can't really explain. After going through a complete drought for the first quarter of the year, no less than three events have been booked for the weekend of April 28 and 29.
As readers of this column will already know, that is the weekend with the big FFC heavyweight tournament in Leipzig. In addition to the "big bad boyz," promoter Marko Zschörner has also signed Brazilian trio Marcelo Costa, Jaoa Wilson and Igor Araujo to take on opponents from Eastern Europe and Germany.
Already on the 28th, Klaus Waschkewitz, the former mentor of German K-1 star Stefan Leko (Pictures) and organizer of some of the biggest kickboxing events in the country, has announced that he will hold a four-man middleweight tournament at the Energy Dome in Cologne.
The arena, which is the home of Cologne's basketball team, has a capacity of 3,132 people and is certain to be sold-out. The four participants will be Franconian grappler Andre Walberer; local hero Farbod Fadami; Dutchman Candied van de Ven, a student of PRIDE veteran "Dirty Bob" Schrijber; and arguably the pre-fight favorite to win the title, kickboxer Nordin Asrih from the Masters Gym in Duisburg.
If that wasn't enough to split the nation into two again, one of Germany's most popular MMA exports, Mario Stapel, is starting his own show on the 29th of April as well. As the FFC event has already booked most of the country's talented heavyweights, Stapel has naturally focused on the lighter fighters. Unselfishly, he has booked himself in the main event against Danish knockout artist Sonny Nielsen. Arguably the best fight on the card is the battle between Sebastian Baron and Andre Balschmieter. Both fighters like to bang and this one has knockout written all over it. Also announced has been another German-Danish duel between Daniel Weichel and Kenneth Rosfort.
Being half Norwegian and spending a little bit of time there myself, fighters from the country of Norway interest me. Speaking with family over there (I currently live in Ohio), it seems as though MMA type events or fighters are thought of as barbaric and violent. Which should be no surprise if you know how wimpy and politically correct the home of the Vikings has become. Before I get off track, how do you feel about the future of Norwegian or Scandinavian fighters/MMA? Obviously, Joachim Hansen (Pictures) is the most well known "Viking," but there are also guys like Jon Olav Einemo (Pictures) and Jakob Lovstad. I just see MMA having a hard time growing in an area so against any type of violence as Norway and Sweden, etc. Do you think over time it can be accepted? – Andrew Holdren
The conservative stance a lot of governments in Europe — not only in some parts of Scandinavia, but also in Germany, France and Spain — obviously hurts the growth of MMA. This can be partly explained by the aftermath of World War II. In the half-century after the war, a strong dislike and rejection of any kind of violence has set in. The other reason, in my opinion, is, that large parts of Europe are also very traditionalistic. As a result, traditional combat sports like boxing, judo or karate are commonly accepted, while kickboxing and Muay Thai, which have been around for a while, are at least tolerated.
MMA has it more difficult to break into mainstream (or at least become legalized in the first place), because it's on the one hand a relatively new sport and on the other hand because of the way it is being marketed over here ("the most brutal martial art"; "blood sport"; attractive to thugs and hooligans). Until promoters start focusing on the sport side of MMA and get rid of all distractive elements, our favorite sport will always have a tough time over here.
The future of Scandinavian fighters on the other hand looks very bright. As you have correctly pointed out, the "Hellboy" has only been the vanguard of the Viking's advance into the biggest MMA leagues of the world. Despite losing his PRIDE debut to Mitshuhiro Ishida at Bushido 13, David Bielkheden (Pictures) has already been booked for the first round of the PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix on May 20 (should there still be something like PRIDE then), while Martin Kampmann (Pictures) continues to shuffle up the UFC middleweight division. Only one step below are fighters like Mikko Rupponen from Finland or Per Eklund (Pictures) from Sweden, who are perhaps one decisive victory away from making it to the "big leagues."
Being forced to fight in countries like England, USA or Japan and facing much tougher competition there has greatly helped a lot of Scandinavian fighters improve their game.
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