European Throwdown: Notes from Iberia to Siberia
For the past days, the European Football Championship has outdone
MMA events a bit in the eyes of European sports fans. In Austria
and Switzerland, 16 teams are fighting for the Euro crown on the
pitch. After thrashing world champions Italy by 3-0 and outclassing
number seven in the world, France, by 4-1, the Netherlands have
crystallized into temporary top contender for the title.
And speaking of the Netherlands, three Holland-based fighters also
caused quite a sensation at Sunday's Dream event in Yokohama.
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (Pictures) overpowered Korean giant Tae Hyun Lee (Pictures) in just 36 seconds, while
(Pictures) and Melvin Manhoef (Pictures) moved into the semifinals of the
middleweight grand prix with wins over Dong Sik Yoon (Pictures) and Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures).
The Dutch duo is joined by Croatian kickboxer Zelg Galesic (Pictures) in the semifinals, which takes
place Sept. 23. Dream has generally made good use of their
connections to Europe, using fighters from Norway, Russia, Croatia,
Armenia and Holland in their first four events. And with three of
the final four participants coming from those countries, there is a
good chance that the tournament champion will come from Europe this
Swedish BTT member David
Bielkheden (Pictures), who made his Octagon debut in a
first-round submission loss to "The Ultimate Fighter" winner
(Pictures) in March at UFC 82, has
recently stated that he plans to move down to lightweight for his
sophomore appearance with the promotion. At 5-foot-10, the
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt would be among the biggest fighters
in the 155-pound division.
The 29-year-old grappler from Stockholm usually walks around at 185
pounds and has spent the majority of his career fighting at
middleweight. In 2006, he had a brief run at 160 pounds, resulting
in two decision losses.
Ironically, lightweight is the same division that fellow Swedish
UFC fighter Per Eklund
(Pictures) calls home. Under the right
circumstances, both men have declared that they would have no
problem fighting each other. Eklund is due to return on Sept. 6 at
UFC 88 in Atlanta, Georgia, while Bielkheden will have his next
fight either at UFC 88 or UFC 89.
Cage Warriors champion Dan
Hardy (Pictures) became the latest welterweight
addition to what is arguably the strongest division in the UFC. The
26-year-old kickboxer inked a deal with Zuffa in early May. "The
Outlaw" will make his debut in the Octagon at UFC 89 on Oct. 18 in
Possible opposition for the man from Nottingham is likely to come
from the promotion's second string of 170-pound fighters like
Sotiropoulos (Pictures), Mike Swick (Pictures) and Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Hardy has a bone to pick with Yoshida after the Japanese veteran
spoiled his run in the Cage Force welterweight tournament last year
via a controversial disqualification.
Shooto light heavyweight champion Siyar Bahadurzada
(Pictures) is unlikely to step into
the ring again in 2008.
"I just had broken hand twice and an elbow surgery," the
24-year-old Golden Glory fighter told Sherdog.com. "I might not be
able to fight in 2008, but I will come back. In 2009, I will be
among the top five middleweights in the world if everything goes
according to my plans."
Bahadurzada won the Shooto 183-pound title from Shiko Yamashita (Pictures) in July 2007. Instead of
defending the belt, he signed a four-fight deal with upstart
promotion Sengoku. In his March debut, he lost an unfortunate
battle against former Pride welterweight grand prix champion
Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) by submission.
Bahadurzada, who had previously been unbeaten in seven straight
fights, still has three more fights on his contract with the
Shooto European champion David
Baron (Pictures) increased the number of French
fighters in the UFC to four, when he signed a multi-fight contract
with Zuffa last week. France is now only trailing the UK as the
European country with most fighters in the Octagon. He joins his
compatriots Cheick Kongo
(Pictures), Jess Liaudin (Pictures) and Samy Schiavo (Pictures) in world's biggest promotion.
The 35-year-old firefighter from Bois-Colombe in Northern France
had the biggest win of his seven-year career in May when he
submitted former Shooto middleweight champion Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) in the first round. The stocky
judoka also holds wins over fellow European standouts Sauli Heilimo, Dan Hardy (Pictures) and Abdul Mohamed (Pictures).
The only time the Haute Tension fighter has been finished in his
career was by Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi (Pictures) at Pride Bushido 12 in August
2006. Baron has only gone the distance twice in his 15 career
victories, knocking out four and submitting nine of his opponents.
Despite competing as a welterweight for most of his career, Baron
will fight at lightweight in the UFC.
British judo black belt Jim
Wallhead (Pictures) has been on the brink of big
success before. After reeling off seven wins in eight fights from
2005-2006, the Roughouse Gym fighter was expected to sign with the
UFC in the winter of 2006. But, despite controlling the majority of
the bout, Wallhead lost to Dennis Siver (Pictures) in December 2006 and Siver
eventually got the nod by the Zuffa brass.
Eighteen months and another five-out-of-six wins later, "Judo Jim"
has a second chance at beating a big-name opponent. On July 12, the
24-year-old will fight Fabricio Nascimento
(Pictures) in Cage Warriors.
Nascimento, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Andre Pederneiras, has dropped
two straight and is itching to return to his winning ways.
The 170-pound bout is part of the stacked Cage Warriors "Enter the
Rough House 7" card, which also includes the main event between
Cage Rage champion Paul
Daley (Pictures) and undefeated Slovenian prospect
Bojan Kosednar and a
promising lightweight clash between shooting star Andre Winner (Pictures) and Ian Freeman (Pictures)'s top student Abdul Mohamed (Pictures).
As per your quote, "the northwestern part of the Old World has
not been able to make a mark as a fighting continent quite like the
three aforementioned countries."
There are some interesting reasons why that may be the case. In
France and Britain (likewise Australia and Argentina), a lot of
people with the athletic talent for combat sports play rugby, which
is almost a team version of wrestling.
The Netherlands is an exception to your statement about "the
northwestern part of the old world," because the Dutch are
generally tall people with a tradition in combat sports rather than
The dominant grappling style in northwest Europe is judo by a long
distance. Judo is a good grappling art for the street, arguably the
most complete, but not really well-suited to MMA due to its
dependence on clothing. Regarding the Russians, apart from the
popularity of sambo and wrestling, the Russian style of judo is
different and better suited to MMA.
For a variety of reasons, Eastern Europe simply has a stronger
combat sports tradition and that is certainly the case in Russia
(where) kids who can't play soccer or basketball (see) combat
sports as a way out of poverty.
-- Hugh Logan
Thank you to Mr. Logan for the interesting feedback.
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