Often times, the simplest solution to a problem is to take a step back and reassess it.

The same can be said of the fight game.

Finland’s Tom Niinimäki is living proof. The 30-year-old turned a three-fight losing streak into a nine-fight path of destruction after removing himself from the cage for an extended period of time.

“I took three years off from competition; however, I did not stop training,” Niinimäki told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I put a lot of effort to get better in every area, especially in my ground game, which I think was my biggest weakness back then.

Niinimäki (top) (Antti Latva-Kyyny/Kulmassa.fi)

“When I returned to compete, I worked hard on conditioning and had a lot of confidence and right mindset to get results. I am still on that path.”

Niinimäki’s efforts in the gym are apparent in the results he has had since returning to action in early 2010. Five of his nine wins in that stretch have come by submission, with another coming by knockout. The success also stems from the Finnish fighter’s permanent move to the featherweight division.

“Before the break, I fought at 155 [pounds] as long as I got a fight,” he explained. “But I always felt that 145 is more suitable for me.”

Settled on a weight class, the 15-year veteran of martial arts now has his sights set on something much bigger: the UFC. But before the man known as “Stoneface” can reach the world-famous Octagon, he must earn a win over WEC and Bellator veteran Chase Beebe on May 11 at Cage 22 in Vantaa, Finland.

“It is an honor to fight a guy with so much experience as Beebe has,” Niinimäki said of his opponent. “He is a decorated fighter and a top name in MMA, so it is great to get to fight him and prove my level of competition.”

But does Niinimäki feel that a win over the American will be enough to catch the attention of the UFC brass?

Niinimäki (Antti Latva-Kyyny/Kulmassa.fi)

“I want to get to the UFC, so I sure hope so!” he emphatically declared.

In preparation for Beebe, Niinimäki has taken his training to a global level, spending time in Florida with the Blackzilians. The fighter hopes the experience helps not only his fight game, but adds more exposure to Finnish MMA.

“I got a lot of high-quality training, sparring and good memories. It definitely has had an positive impact on me,” he recalled. “I am proud to represent my home country. MMA has taken giant leaps forward in Finland as well as globally during last years. It is great to be able to ride with the sport now and see how it evolves.”

When he steps into the cage against the submission ace Beebe, Niinimäki’s refined ground game may be put to its toughest test to date. Just don’t expect the well-rounded 24-fight veteran to panic.

“It really does not matter where the fight goes,” he proclaimed. “I am confident of my skill set wherever the fight takes place.”

With an impressive performance against Beebe, Niinimäki won’t have to worry about taking any more time away to work on his fight game. Instead, he may have much more pressing matters to address—like signing a UFC contract.

Tom would like to thank his fans, his coaches and his teammates. Also his sponsors: Vilperi, Nut Express, TYA and Cloud Cuts Coop. Visit his website www.tomniinimaki.com, his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter: @StonefaceMMA

Top Photo: Tom Niinimäki (Antti Latva-Kyyny/Kulmassa.fi)