Heilimö Makes a Comeback at Finnfight

By Markus Wikholm and Heikki Hujala Dec 17, 2007
TURKU, Finland, Dec. 15 -- In the world of MMA, the word "heritage" is a rare phrase. The fastest evolving sport in the world sees champions fall and promotions vanish on a monthly basis.

Still, there are some institutions even in MMA that stand the test of time. In Finland, it's Finnfight that has lasted.

Surpassing both The Cage and FightFestival in age, Finnfight is the inaugural MMA event in Finland and has a colorful history. In 1998 the event started as a vale tudo tournament and has seen along the years such competitors as Joachim Hansen (Pictures), Jani Lax (Pictures) and Jakob Lövstad stomping and head butting their ways to victory.

This weekend Finnfight returned with many improvements after a long layoff. Gone were the times of tournaments and vale tudo: Finnfight 9 consisted of single fights governed by Shooto Finland with the Shooto rules in full effect. In addition, Finnfight was promoted for the first time by G4, a European group backed by MAX Entertainment Holdings Inc., which will broadcast the event all over Europe.

Another comeback was made in the main event. Finland's Sauli Heilimö is not only an extremely talented grappler, having a fifth-place finish in ADCC 2007 to prove it, but also enjoys a long and successful career in MMA.

After being away from MMA for more than two years, the popular Heilimö made a triumphant comeback by stopping Nic Osei of Denmark in a fight for the opportunity to compete for the vacant Shooto Europe middleweight title.

After getting a standing ovation from his hometown crowd during his entrance, the visibly shorter Heilimö started the fight by throwing some heavy hands toward Osei. Heilimö eventually closed the distance with some punches and clinched his opponent. But it was the Dane who powered Heilimö down and attempted some ground and pound.

Instead, Heilimö quickly capitalized on the high stance of Osei and scrambled from underneath, getting a single-leg takedown in the process. The Finn proceeded to attempt some ground and pound of his own, but Osei held his guard well and managed to keep away from big damage for the rest of the round.

The second round started with some more heavy hands from Heilimö, this time dropping Osei and making the crowd explode with excitement. The Dane managed to recoup in time to answer the 10-count, though. He then attempted some striking of his own, but he was soon dropped again by the big backhand of Heilimö.

Once again Osei beat the count, but the referee felt that he had had enough and stopped the fight, awarding Heilimö the unexpected KO victory.

"The training went well," Heilimö said after the bout, concerning his possible ring rust after an absence in MMA. "But there was some mental pressure, having not fought in MMA for a long time and fighting in my hometown. I was happy with my backhand, but shouldn't have spent my energy in trying to ground and pound him but attempt a guard pass instead."

Heilimö will now face another experienced grappler in Nathan Schouteren of Holland for the vacant Shooto Europe middleweight championship. He is also looking to keep up his grappling career, to which he had dedicated himself during his time off from MMA.

"I want to keep competing," he said. "I'm looking to compete in both ADCC and the BJJ Mundials. Without striking I can live, but not without grappling."

On the undercard, David Bielkheden (Pictures), PRIDE veteran and a BJJ black belt from BTT Sweden, returned to Finnfight to get a hard-earned victory over Bulgarian Lubormir Roumenow in a welterweight bout.

After entering the ring with the PRIDE theme, which delighted the crowd, Bielkheden quickly took the initiative by advancing on Roumenow with some big punches. The Bulgarian answered with a takedown, getting the half guard and quickly moving to side mount, only to be swept by the experienced grappler from Sweden.

Now it was Bielkheden's turn to quickly pass to side mount with the aid of ground and pound. From there Roumenow was successful in eliminating any submission attempts from the Swede, and the round came to an end with Bielkheden calmly keeping his position but not managing to get anything decisive done.

In round two Roumenow opened with some low kicks and punch combos, backing Bielkheden off for a while. The man from Sweden eventually got his own striking going and dropped Roumenow to the mat with a big low kick that had knocked him off-balance.

Being right next to his corner, Bielkheden stayed calm, listened to his cornerman's advice and made his way to side mount. From there Roumenow again kept himself out of danger long enough for the referee to stand the men up.

The Bulgarian attempted a shot but was beautifully countered by Bielkheden, who got to the back of Roumenow just as the bell rang for the end of the two-round fight. The result was clear with Bielkheden getting a unanimous decision.

At lightweight, another Swede in Joakim Engberg (Pictures) was struggling at first in his fight against Ville Manninen of Finland. The clearly bulkier Manninen slammed him twice in big fashion and attacked with ground and pound and leg lock attempts.

Eventually Engberg countered with a textbook sweep, which sent Manninen over Engberg and straight onto his back. Before the Finn could recoup, the experienced Swede had mounted him and delivered big shots for the TKO.

Two Finnish lightweights, Kristian Rummukainen and Ville Ojala, had an intense bout that saw Rummukainen finally getting the best of Ojala.

The fight was mostly performed on the ground with both men showing their grappling talent to the fullest. After a first round of the hometown fighter Ojala working his game, especially impressing by using an omoplata to transition to a crucifix, the second round saw Rummukainen make a comeback.

The man from Shooto Lahti connected solidly with an up-kick from his back, which led to Ojala falling straight into a triangle choke. Rummukainen used the tight choke to sweep his opponent and get the tap from the top position.

Markus Niskanen from MMA Imatra of Finland faced another countryman in welterweight Timo Lång of MMA Vantaa. While the men both had success in the striking game, Lång repeatedly took Niskanen down. Niskanen showed excellent scrambling skills in hastily getting back up multiple times, however.

Near the end of the first round, Niskanen capitalized on one of these scrambles and got Lång's back, tapping him out with a rear-naked choke in an extremely close contest.

Assan Nije from Sweden submitted Thomas Karlsson (Pictures) from Finland in a middleweight bout. Nije showed his great sprawling skills by repeatedly stuffing the takedowns of Karlsson and eventually securing a guillotine choke in the second round for his efforts.

The Swedish light heavyweight Alexander Gustavsson made quick work of Finn Mikael Haydari. A Swedish boxing champion, Gustavsson connected during a single-leg attempt from Haydari, dropping the Finn and quickly pounding him out.
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