European Throwdown: Notes From Iberia to Siberia

By Tim Leidecker May 31, 2007
It's been a while since we last spoke. The European football season has since come to an end, the pope was booed out of Brazil and Quinton Jackson (Pictures) knocked out Chuck Liddell (Pictures) in less than two minutes.

There have been quite a few notable events in the European fight game as well. Stick around for the latest edition of "European Throwdown" for a look back at events from Germany, the ADCC World Championships from a European perspective, and good news for MMA fans and fighters from Sweden.

Plus: A promising eight-man tournament in Poland and European fighters at the K-1 World MAX 2007 in Tokyo later this month.

MMA on the rise in Germany

With their most recent events, the Free Fight Championship (FFC) as well as the Stapel Fighting Challenge (SFC) proved that MMA is clearly on the rise in Germany.

The SFC's inaugural event drew roughly 1,500 spectators to the Hessenhalle in Gießen, while the fifth FFC show in Leipzig saw 2,500 fans flock to the traditional Kohlrabizirkus.

(You have to bear in mind that the stage of development of German MMA is comparable to the United States circa 1993 or the UK three years ago, so having such large crowds is a huge success, especially for "MMA only" shows with no boxing or kickboxing matches as additional draws.)

Highlighting the SFC event were Sebastian Baron, Daniel Weichel and Mario Stapel himself, each winning their respective fights.

Weichel, one of Germany's brightest prospects at welterweight, staged a remarkable comeback after being badly knocked out by Paul Daley (Pictures) in the middle of March.

In the meantime, the FFC crowned its first welterweight (165 pounds) champion. Czech Republic's Vaclav Pribyl submitted local hero Ric Schreiter early in the second round to claim the belt.

In the "Big Bad Boyz" heavyweight tournament, German wrestler Lars "Budda" Weber, Slovakian duo Ilja Skondric and Martin Boizik as well as Lithuanian titan Tadas Rimkevicius all moved on to the second and final round in October with quick victories.

Rimkevicius was particularly impressive with his systematic destruction of Berlin's own Franco Schulze. It will be interesting to see who fighter-turned-matchmaker Marko Zschörner will bring in for the next event. Stapel and Australian BTT member Luke Picklum have verbally agreed to fight, as have no less than a dozen members of the Bushido Free Fight Team.

Euro grapplers eat humble pie

After Jon Olav Einemo (Pictures)'s surprise triumph in the 98-kilogram division four years ago, hopes were high for European grapplers to continue establishing themselves among the world elite at the seventh ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships in Trenton, New Jersey.

Unfortunately for the submission fighters from Finland and Poland, this did not materialize. Finnish Open winner Sauli Heilimö at least reached the quarterfinals of the 87-kg division, as did the Polish duo of Radek Turek (98 kg) and Karol Bedort (above 99-kg).

In the meantime Einemo, the last fighter to score a victory over the 2005 Absolute Division winner Roger Gracie (Pictures) back, was swept by the BJJ black belt by a total score of 5-0 in their rematch. With the men soundly beaten, the ball was in the women's court to at least restore some partial honor for the Euro grapplers: Dutch mixed martial artist Marloes Coenen (Pictures), called the "Female Rickson," took home the bronze medal in the women's 67-kg division with wins over Keiko Tamai (Pictures) from Japan and Stacy Cartwright from Australia.

Sweden legalizes MMA … again

Fight fans in Scandinavia can rejoice. After having banned MMA at the end of last year, Sweden, the land of elks and crisp bread, has decided to give the sport another chance.

The government granted the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF) a temporary license for one year. In June 2008 the SMMAF has to report back to the government, which will then decide whether or not to lift the ban for good.

This is a huge step for European MMA, as the Swedish government is ultra-conservative when it comes to the fight game -- they just granted permission to hold boxing fights in Sweden after a ban of 37 years.

With the ban lifted for MMA, top European promoter European Vale Tudo (EVT), which held its last card in Oct. 2006, is certain to run in Sweden again before the year is over.

The promotion has been one of the best in finding new talent, with UFC veterans like Travis Lutter (Pictures), Martin Kampmann (Pictures) and Dennis Siver (Pictures) all making some of their first steps in MMA over in Sweden.

Poland goes "old school" with KSW 7

Not since former judo Olympic medalist Pawel Nastula (Pictures) made his way to PRIDE have people really taken notice of Polish MMA. And with classic eight-man tournaments prohibited due to the Unified Rules used across the United States, MMA fans looking for an "old school" fix will need to look abroad -- for example to Poland, where the seventh edition of "Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki" (Martial Arts Confrontation) takes place June 2.

In a light heavyweight tournament, KSW has assembled some of Europe's finest talent: The favorites to win are Polish ADCC vet Michal Materla, France-based Brazilian Antonio Mendes and German wunderkind Martin Zawada.

In the main event outside of the tournament, former EBU and IBO intercontinental heavyweight boxing champion Przemyslaw Saleta (43-7-0, 21 KO) will make his MMA debut against none other than Russian Vale Tudo warhorse and two-time M-1 World Champion Martin Malkhasyan (Pictures). The teammate of Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) is coming off a tough split-decision loss against American Michael Patt (Pictures) last December, and is certainly looking to bounce right back.

Also on the card is highly touted Polish fighter Mamed Khalidov, who looks for his sixth win in a row when he faces German newcomer Aleksandar Stefanovic.

Euro fighters looking to qualify for K-1 MAX Grand Prix Final

No less than seven European fighters have qualified for the opening round of the 2007 K-1 World MAX Grand Prix, which takes place at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan on June 28.

While Dutchmen Albert Kraus, winner of the first ever K-1 155-pound tournament in 2003, and Andy Souwer (Pictures), who triumphed in 2005, have been invited back due to their past achievements, others have a hard and long road behind them already.

Take Denis Schneidmiller for example: The 21-year-old kickboxer from Germany had to fight through three tough opponents in one night at the K-1 MAX East Europe Grand Prix in Vilnius, Lithuania just to get a ticket to Japan.

Others have had a little more luck: Greek knockout artist Mike Zambidis has been brought back as a producer's pick, as has 20-year-old Ukrainian Artur Kyshenko.

Armenian slugger Gago "Drago" Aroetjunjan, who just fell short to über-champion Buakaw Por. Pramuk in his first K-1 MAX semifinal appearance last year, rounds out the field. At the World Elite Showcase in April, the 22-year-old former Rajadamnern Stadium Muay Thai super welterweight champion punished Yutaro Yamauchi with leg kicks so badly, that his corner had to throw in the towel.

Complete Card:
Masato (JAP) vs. Gesias Calvancanti (Pictures) (BRA)
Buakaw Por. Pramuk (THA) vs. Nicky Holtzken (NED)
Andy Souwer (Pictures) (NED) vs. Ian Schaffa (AUS)
Gago Aroetjunjan (ARM) vs. Mike Zambidis (GRE)
Yoshihiro Sato (JAP) vs. Denis Schneidmiller (GER)
Albert Kraus (NED) vs. Virgil Kalakoda (ZA)
Artur Kyshenko (UKR) vs. Soo-Hwan Lee (KOR)

Super-Fights:
Takayuki Kohiruimaki (JAP) vs. Tsogto Amara (MGL)
Tatsuji (JAP) vs. Andy Ologun (Pictures) (NIG)

UFC plans another "European affair"

UFC president Dana White recently announced that the promotion would return to England for a second time this year. After UFC 38 in July 2002, the UFC is bound to hold their second ever event in London at the state-of-the-art "O2 Arena," which holds up to 20,000 people.

Even though there is no official card for the Sept. 8 show, a couple of fighters have already confirmed their participation. The European quartet of Mirko Filipovic (Pictures), Michael Bisping (Pictures), Jess Liaudin (Pictures) and Dennis Siver (Pictures), who all fought at the Manchester show in April, are booked for UFC 75.

Mirko "Cro Cop" returns from his devastating knockout loss against Gabriel "Napão" Gonzaga and could possibly face former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (Pictures), originally from Belarus, now fighting out of Chicago, Ill.

"The Ultimate Fighter" winner Michael Bisping (Pictures) puts his undefeated record on the line, while Frenchman Jess Liaudin (Pictures) tries to climb up the welterweight ladder even further. Liaudin, 33, took the first rung in the shape of German kickboxer Dennis Siver (Pictures), whom he submitted via armbar at UFC 70. In the meantime, Siver has been given another shot despite defeat and will try to cut a better figure by dropping down to lightweight.

Tim Liedecker covers MMA for German-language Web site www.groundandpound.de.
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