FFC 22 Athens: Crown of the FFC efforts! (VIDEO)
According to the reactions of the audience, the fans and the media, FFC 22 Athens was perhaps the most attractive and best event that the Croatian promotion ever held. The kickboxing part of the show delighted event the biggest critics and skeptics who always look for needle in a haystack. This time they could not find anything. For two whole days the Greek media blast praises about top bouts and amazing production while they also expressed their hope that the FFC will start to come to Athens on regular basis. They claim Greece never saw anything similar. The MMA part of the event ended up a bit in the shadows, but it was all crowned by the main event featuring Robin van Roosmalen’s MMA debut against Athinodoros Michailidis. Glory champ and international kickboxing superstar delivered a memorable match and proved Orsat Zovko made an excellent move when he signed with the Dutch fighter.
Good atmosphere was additionally boosted by new, more lavish production. Seven meters tall HD screens and big stage from which fighters walk towards the ring is this years’ novelty which lifted already superb production a few levels higher. But the novelty is also stronger fight card.
And this was already visible in the kickboxing part that had no bad match whatsoever. Moreover, the crowd enjoyed every minute of the bouts, while the last two matches turned to be real spectacles.
Bad night for Croatian fighters
It all started with Dimitris Chiotis who KO’ed FFC Futures champ Jasmin Bajrović in a welterweight match. Despite the fact that Bajrović had advantage in the beginning, the Greek fighter landed a hard right hook on him and, although he really wanted to, Bajrović could not go on. This is Bajrović’s second FFC loss after losing to Eyevan Danenberg at FFC 18 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. On the other hand, Chiotis proved to the FFC leaders that he is a new force to be reckoned with in the future.
The second match also proved that Friday was tough for Croatian fighters when another FFC Futures champ Antonio Plazibat lost to Lithuania’s Sergei Masloboev. Plazibat is known as a fighter who moves slowly, but then kicks off in the higher gear in the second and third round. But this time he did not get a chance for it because the King of Kings promotion champ proved to be a real beast. Plazibat’s face was completely demolished after the second round and doctors decided to stop the match. It was Plazibat’s first defeat and Masloboev imposed himself as one of the toughest fighters in the FFC lightweight division after this match.
Young Serbian fighter Marko Adamović did not have it better either. FFC Futures finalist in the -70 kg division got a 9 minute kickboxing lesson from Albania’s Florian Marku who currently resides in Greece. Adamović proved that he is tough and brave, but he was helpless against experienced and technically perfect Albanian fighter who had a whole horde of his fans in the venue. Nevertheless, Adamović is extremely young, he has a bright future ahead of him and losses like this one can only be a lesson which will make him grow and learn.
Another fighter who disappointed the fans from Croatia was Tomislav Čikotić, another FFC fighter who started in the FFC Futures tournaments. Despite the fact that he opened the match decisively, aggressively and very tough, his Romanian opponent, Cozmanca, who came into the ring almost straight from the airport, won via unanimous decision. The third round was the critical for Čikotić since he was first warned and then he lost points for he holding onto his opponent. The series of lateral punches that Conzmanca landed on him just seconds before the final gong were crucial to his loss. Many believed Čikotić had an easy task ahead of him since his opponent was 17 kilos lighter than him. However, the Romanian fighter remained cool and composed after Čikotić’s opening hurricane and he imposed his rhythm by landing punches on the Croatian fighter without wasting a lot of energy. It is too bad for Čikotić who would continue to climb towards to top of the division, only if he won this match.
KO of the year, end of Petje’s reign
Two last kickboxing matches ended up being a real spectacle. Both of them were title bouts. In the co-main event Slovenia’s Samo Petje fought Meletis Kakoubavas for the lightweight division belt. Obviously, Kakoubavas had whole venue cheering from him since he fought on his own turf, but Petje was the official favorite. Despite the fact that many predicted Kakoubavas might be Petje’s toughest opponent so far, critics believed he will be just another stepping stone on Petje’s rise to the top.
Well, this is exactly how it began. Petje landed combinations, he outsmarted the Greek fighter in every exchange and it seemed like it was just a matter of time when the Greek fighter will stumble and fall. The first three minutes of the match were probably the best three minutes Petje ever delivered in the Croatian promotion. However, tables have turned in the second round. Petje tried to throw a knee, which is his trademark, but Kakoubavas managed to stop him with brutal right hook and Petje fel asleep while still on his feet. The referee did not even have to count since it was clear that the champ would not be able to recover and fight on. The big celebration at the Faliro Olypic Hall could thus began since Greece got a new champion.
Zhuravlev becomes new FFC champ
It was a great warm up for the main event between Pavel Zhuravlev and Brian Douwes that decided on Igor Jurković’s successor. ‘The Istrian Warrior’ reigned the lightweight division for a couple of years, but then he decided to take a break from professional fighting and vacated his spot. The Ukraine’s Pavel Zhuravlev and Holland’s Brian Douwes got a chance to fight for this prestigious title. Many critics agreed that this match could also be one of the Glory’s main events and they turned out to be completely right. This top match was quite tight by the beginning of the third round when Zhuravlev started to land more punches which ended with a left hook right on Douwes’ chin. Douwes tried to get up, but his legs were too weak and the referee had to stop the match. After K-1 WGP finals and Legend’s GP, this is just another success in the line for Zhuravlev and proof of his remarkable qualities.
Van Roosmalen shows his great MMA potential
As previously mentioned, the MMA part of the event remained in the shadows after such spectacular kickboxing bouts, but it was far from boring or bad. John Paleiologos and Alexandros Papadimitriou especially left their mark and definitely earned new invitation to the FFC ring. Potentially the most interesting bout, the one between Serbia’s Darko Stošić and Bulgaria’s Eil Zahariev, unfortunately never took place since the Bulgarian fighter got into problems with the law only a couple of hours before the match. The FFC tried to do everything they could to fix the problem, but Zahariev remained in the Greek prison and Stošić lost his opponent. The details have not been revealed yet, but they do not even matter in the end. The most important thing is that the audience did not have a chance to see the co-main event of the MMA part of the show.
However, Robin van Roosmalen and Athinodoros Michailidis delivered a memorable match in the main event. Many thought that the Glory champ might get an easy opponent for his MMA debut, but they were wrong. It was a life or death bout until the very last second of it. The Greek fighter dominated in the first part of the match and took van Roosmalen down twice. Van Roosmalen was not bad on the ground but it was obvious that Michalidis had more experience in this segment of the game and a good game plan. But in the end of the round Roosmalen managed to gather his senses, get back on his feet and attack his opponent with brutal and perfect punches that he is known for. After only a couple of series, Roosmalen managed to shake his opponent up and the Greek fighter survived until the gong by a miracle. The war continued in the second round until the Dutch fighter landed a perfectly precise right hook that took Michailidis down and ended the match. First wins are always memorable and this Glory champ will definitely remember his FFC/MMA debut forever.
Croatian promotion is about to face new challenges soon in the future. First upcoming FFC event is about to take place in March in Vienna. FFC 23 Vienna fight card will be revealed in a couple of days, and if is it merely to resemble the Greek one, we can all be satisfied since we are soon to witness another spectacle prepared by Orsat Zovko and his FFC team.