By Joe Price
The third and final day of action did not disappoint at the IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, as the bouts were contested between Youth C’s group of 16-17 year-old fighters. The whole tournament has been a flagship event in showcasing the talent that all of the IMMAF youth athletes have at their disposal, and that continued throughout this day as heavier weight categories made their appearance.
In a slight change in format for these older athletes, all bouts were fought in a straight-knockout tournament format over three rounds per fight, except the female Youth A Lightweight category who competed over three rounds in a round-robin format.
Russia stole the show with their dominance in the hunt for gold medals, as they ended the day with seven first-place finishes. But Ukraine did not make it easy for Russia, continuing to compete for top spot throughout day three, obtaining four gold medals to finish top of the medal table.
Kazakhstan also made a name for itself on the final day of the Youth MMA World Championships as they finished third in the overall medal winners, with eight medals. It was a classic Russia versus Ukraine battle for overall medal superiority again, with Ukraine narrowly claiming top spot. Although Russia finished with 12 medals overall for the day, Ukraine beat them by one to finish with 13.
Ukraine’s medals came in the form of four gold, four silver, and five bronze medals. Their gold medalists in this three-round structure included Anastasiia Holinko (Flyweight) who tasted gold again after winning the top prize in 2019. Ivan Yushenko (Featherweight) and Maksym Selishchev (Middleweight) also contributed to the gold medals for the day, whilst Viacheslav Holenko (Heavyweight) beat the former 2019 gold medallist Mihai Andrei Dragne on his way to being crowned king of his category.
Two bronze and three silver medals complimented seven shining gold medallions for Russia on a successful third day. Anastasiia Ivanova won her Atomweight division, with Mansur Batiev beating his Ukrainian opponent in the Strawweight final to win gold. Abdul-Malik Siriev was on the winning side of an all-Russian final, as he beat Mokhmad Chataev to win the Flyweight division.
The Bantamweight division was ruled by Russia, as Elizaveta Chkalova fought hard to beat America’s 2019 silver medal winner, Andrea Frisque, in her final. In the same weight, Russia guaranteed gold in the male division as David Ozmanyan beat fellow countryman Mokhammad Khaladov in the last two. Artem Sheshokin was crowned king of the Lightweight division, as Russia won their final gold through Aleksandr Shepel. Shepel competing in ANOTHER all-Russian final, and bettering his 2019 bronze medal with a first-place finish.
Day three’s third best overall performers Kazakhstan, collected four bronze medals and three silvers. The single gold medal for the nation came in the form of Lightweight’s Rayana Akdavletova, who won all of her three-round round-robin matches to take top spot.
The United States of America were not far behind Kazakhstan as they won five medals on the final day. Three bronze, one silver and one gold medal were the result of a very competitive performance from all of the USA athletes. Abigail Alvarez was the gold-winning athlete, as she beat her rivals to become the Strawweight queen of the Youth MMA World Championships.
It was more than luck that the Irish had with them today, as their incredible combination of spirit and skill saw them achieve four medals. A pair of bronze’s, one silver medal, and one gold medal made up the tally for them. The silver and gold coming via one very green final, as Max Lally beat his compatriot, Jordan Scully, to take the win.
The last notable gold medal was won by Slovakia’s Slavka Holubjakova from the Featherweight division, who beat the host nation’s Violeta Starcheva in their final. The silver for Bulgaria being one of their two medals for the day, which was also a silver.
Finland won a silver and a bronze to cap an excellent tournament. Bahrain and Italy also won two bronze medals each.
There was also lovely moment for Cyprus, as their only representative at these championships claimed a podium finish, a bronze medal for Kristonas Panagi at Featherweight.
The Czech Republic, Israel, Romania, Tajikistan and Turkey also achieved bronze medal performances on the final day to show the geographical spread of medals.
After a year and a half of inactivity, it was great to see IMMAF events return with such a tremendous impact. Sofia offered a dazzling shop window for the amateur sport and we can now look forward to Kazan and the European Open later this month.
Here is the overall table after three days at the IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
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