Hans Stringer (top): Daniel Herbertson | Sherdog.com
This Saturday, one of the longest-running MMA event series in Germany, Tempel Mix Fight Gala, will head into its eleventh round. The promotion traditionally puts on both MMA and kickboxing bouts, and has enjoyed regular appearances from the likes of Martin Zawada, Daniel Weichel and Dawid Baziak. UFC veterans Dennis Siver and Stefan Struve have also graced the Tempel ring in the past.
For the first time in the promotion’s history, Tempel will leave the city limits of Darmstadt, their home turf, where they’ve been running successfully for the past six-and-a-half years. Instead, their eleventh installment will take place at the 5,000-seat Glass Palace in Sindelfingen, a 25-minute drive away from Stuttgart in the South-West of Germany. The event will be televised across Europe by Eurosport.
So, what are the main themes and big questions entering this show?
Has Billstein bitten off more than he can chew?
19-year-old Cologne native Jonas Billstein has been the big discovery at 205 pounds in Germany this year. Reeling off six consecutive TKO victories -- including a fifth-round stoppage of previously-undefeated wrestler Mathias Schuck in October -- Billstein has catapulted himself out of obscurity and into the national light heavyweight rankings.
When the opportunity arose to take on Dutchman Hans Stringer at Mix Fight Gala 11, Billstein’s camp jumped at the chance. What they didn’t know, or didn’t take into account, is the fact that Stringer is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who has medaled at the European championships in the past, as well as a pro kickboxer who is training with the likes of Robert Jocz, Faldir Chahbari and Albert Kraus on a regular basis. Stringer has rightfully been championed as one of the top prospects in Europe.
Stringer is also no stranger to shattering the dreams of young German prospects. Polish-born Dawid Baziak was in a similar situation to Billstein when he faced Stringer last December, as Baziak was coming off of five impressive knockouts himself. Stringer didn’t just beat the hard-hitting muay Thai stylist, but embarrassed him in 99 seconds en route to an effortless first-round victory. Will Billstein fare better here, or even do the unthinkable and pull off an upset?
Can "Big Daddy" find his groove again?
It’s safe to say that 2010 has so far not been the year of German heavyweight “Big Daddy” Andreas Kraniotakes. The EA Sports MMA fighter was knocked out in ten seconds at WFC 10 in Slovenia in March, and then lost a five-round decision to Bjorn Schmiedeberg in September. A scheduled tune-up fight against ADCC Germany champion Thorsten Klein in October was cancelled when Klein was forced out due to high blood pressure.
Despite the rough patch he’s hit in recent months, Kraniotakes is not shying away from tough competition as he faces the versatile Thorsten Kronz. “Torte” was once ranked as high as second domestically, but has fallen off the charts because of inactivity. Before his layoff, the 33-year-old banker displayed very solid kickboxing skills as well as a good understanding of the ground game. Most recently, he stopped 46-fight veteran Miodrag Petkovic at M-1 Challenge 18.
Kraniotakes has set his sights high in MMA, aspiring to follow his friends and training partners Peter Sobotta and Pascal Krauss to the UFC one day. “Big Daddy” suffers from a lack of quality training partners at his size and weight, as well as from a lot of distractions in his everyday life. Due to his intelligence and eloquence -- Kraniotakes is in the process of writing his doctor’s thesis on martial arts and its role in different societies -- he is an often-booked guest on many television shows. Beating Kronz is an absolute must if he wants to fulfill his dream, however.
How much has the card suffered from pullouts?
When the card for Mix Fight Gala 11 was first announced in late July, it featured a rematch between Dawid Baziak and Dion Staring, a European super fight between Bruno Carvalho and Robert Jocz, and a matchup involving Daniel Weichel. The first bout has been scrapped altogether, and Jocz and Weichel have been swept off the card as well.
The loss of Jocz -- who cancelled his participation on the week of the event because of an “old spine injury” -- hurts the event the most, as it leaves Carvalho without a credible opponent. Young Polish prospect Tomasz Kondraciuk has filled in for his compatriot on short notice, but he won’t present the same challenge for the Brazilian, a black belt in both judo and BJJ who also serves as Alistair Overeem’s grappling coach.
Besides that, there are a couple of excellent fighters on the card who have been booked in squash matches. Shine Fights veteran Mario Stapel will return to fight on his first Tempel show in four years as he takes on Italy’s Serghei Popa. Sengoku vet Moise Rimbon will square off against Dutch journeyman Autimio Antonia.
If all else fails, former boy band singer Marc Terenzi will be on hand, so angry fans will have somebody to hurl their insults at during the halftime break.
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