Acacio Wins, Vainikainen Dominates in Finland

By Markus Wikholm and Heikki Hujala Mar 17, 2008
HELSINKI, Finland, March 15 -- After a slow start to the year, mixed martial arts came back Saturday with a boom to Finland.

It was a full day in Helsinki, with the afternoon dedicated to a large amateur event that proved the future of MMA in Finland is in good hands. In the evening, the professionals competed in the 23rd edition of the classic FightFestival event, combining both standup and MMA action.

The main event was slated to be a bout between Mikko Rupponen (Pictures) and Edwin Dewees (Pictures), but Dewees dropped out and Rupponen suffered a knee injury. As a result, the headlining matchup was a middleweight bout between Daniel Acacio (Pictures) and Tor Troeng.

A former Pride fighter, Acacio hails from Brazil as a member of Chute Boxe. Troeng, a clear underdog, is a rising talent from Sweden. Although Troeng gave a surprisingly good showing, he still lost on points after three rounds.

The famous Chute Boxe aggression was apparent in the opening moments when Acacio backed up Troeng with strikes. The Swede seemed prepared for the fast-paced start by quickly tying Acacio up and driving him to the ropes. From the clinch Troeng delivered some short knees and attempted to throw the Brazilian, who had great balance in thwarting those attempts.

Troeng finally committed for a shot attempt, but his opponent wound up on top thanks to a great sprawl. With Troeng showing an active guard, Acacio delivered little damage from the top for the rest of the round.

Come round two the Swede took the role of the aggressor. He connected with a high kick and quickly clinched the Brazilian again to avoid the lethal striking game. With more knees being delivered by Troeng, Acacio attempted a throw of his own to no avail.

Troeng made some distance for a shot, only to once again have it stuffed. This time the end of the round saw Acacio do some more damage by standing up inside the guard multiple times and coming down with big swinging punches.

With the damage apparent on Troeng's face at the start of the last round, the Swede seemed calm, composed and more committed to a striking exchange. Acacio soon displayed his experience, however, cleanly connecting and hurting Troeng.

Following his game plan, Troeng attempted to clinch, but this time Acacio was prepared and successfully shot in himself. Troeng once more showed his active guard in many attempts to sub Acacio or stand up, but the Brazilian kept his base and opted to deliver sporadic ground and pound from inside the guard for the rest of the fight.

On the undercard Espoon Kehähait lightweight Juha-Pekka Vainikainen put on a decisive beatdown of Mikko Broman from MMA Lappeenranta. In the first round, Broman had some success in taking Vainikainen down and quickly reversing an armbar attempt to pass to side mount. Vainikainen calmly handled the situation by turning on all fours and impressively standing up by using Broman's attempt to get the back.

Vainikainen then put on a two-round standup clinic. He handled the distance by walking Broman down with clean and composed striking, but the real damage was made in the many clinch situations. There, Vainikainen consistently made just enough distance to connect with hard elbows and punches while maintaining the clinch with some knees to the body mixed in.

At the end of round two, Vainikainen clearly took over by connecting with knees to the face. Once the bell rang, Broman fell down on the ground next to his stool and his corner wisely threw in the towel, giving Vainikainen the TKO. This was the third time in a row the man from Espoo has decisively stopped an opponent in an exciting fight. Hopefully he'll get a step-up in competition after this domination.

At heavyweight, Vainikainen's teammate Toni Valtonen outpointed Lithuanian MMA champion Valdas Pocevicius. For the first two rounds, the attempts of Pocevicius to get some striking going were quickly awarded by the talented wrestler taking him down with ease. Still, the Lithuanian handled fighting from his back well, trying some armbars and locking Valtonen in a deep guillotine.

Although it looked as if the fight was over, the experience from Valtonen was apparent in the Finn keeping his head not only cool but eventually popping it out too. Any attempts to improve position were made futile by Pocevicius' talented guard work, and Valtonen settled for some patchy striking from the guard.

The Lithuanian had his biggest moments at the start of round three. Valtonen, the more tired of the two, seemed hesitant to engage, and Pocevicius made full use of this by delivering consistent punishment to his legs with low kicks. The tide turned when Pocevicius attempted a takedown of his own, only to be thrown off and nearly decapitated with a flying knee. The rest of the round was the same old story of control by Valtonen, with the decision going his way after the bell.

In another decision, this time a two-rounder, welterweight Janne Tulirinta (Pictures) out-worked Christos Petroutsos of the Netherlands.

After scoring an early takedown, Mihail Zabaev of Latvia dropped for a leg lock against Finland's Mathias Klockars in a featherweight fight. Klockars quickly got loose and pounced on his opponent for the TKO early in the first.

Middleweight Timo Suhonen (Pictures) gave Roald Hartog from the Netherlands the traditional Espoon Kehähait treatment with repeated slams and a ground-and-pound finish. Heavyweight Lukasz Porêbski made equally dominant work of Nick Struve, a countryman of Petroutsos, with a beautiful ankle lock.

Also at the event, Petteri Maunu, the godfather of FightFestival, announced Finland's participation in M-1 Challenge. The M-1 Challenge is a competition between eight different teams comprised of five MMA veterans. Every team represents a different country, and Team Finland will face Team Korea on April 3 in St. Petersburg.

The fighters for Team Finland will be Niko Puhakka (Pictures) (lightweight), Janne Tulirinta (Pictures) (welterweight), Lucio Linhares (Pictures) (middleweight), Toni Valtonen (light heavyweight) and Jarno Nurminen (heavyweight).

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