IMMAF World Cup Prague, Day 3 (semi-finals) roundup
By Jorden Curran
The semi-finals of the inaugural IMMAF World Cup series in Prague was declared a ‘festival of finishes’ with the history-making all-Ireland team taking the penultimate stage by storm as the big winners of Day 3.
Ireland’s wins guarantee a minimum of six silver medals while still on the hunt for gold on Saturday, in addition to the already secured haul of bronze medals.
Brand new junior flyweight prospect, Kiya O’Sullivan, set the tone for a memorable day. Having represented the republic of Ireland at the IMMAF Youth World Championships in 2019, she has transitioned at the age 18 to make her junior level debut with the all-Ireland team and has sensationally battled to the tournament final, today stopping the Czech Republic’s Iva Koubikova with an arm-bar submission.
The Irish junior squad saw three talents make their way to the championship finals with Sarah Carney and Ryan Keogh both completing rear-naked-choke submissions over their semi-final rivals.
In the senior championships, the Irish continued to advance in numbers, with three more semi-finals triumphs opposite two defeats. Former IMMAF World Championships runner up, Shauna Bannon, returned to IMMAF platform and booked her place in the senior bantamweight final via unanimous decision, alongside national teammate Kerry Ann Vernon who produced a highlight reel KO upon planting a right overhand in a toe-to-toe exchange with Sweden’s Jessica Andersson. Bannon and Vernon will now face off to decide who takes the gold for Ireland and the battle will be a rematch of their recent domestic level tussle, in which Bannon earned a unanimous decision win, back in August.
Eoin Sheridan completed Ireland’s triumphant day in the middleweight tournament as he snatched a first round TKO against Estonia’s Ergo Reinvald.
The IMMAF World Cup continued to produce steep challenges for the prominent Ukraine team, and with hot and cold results. While Maryna Demchuk and Andrii Dunaiev each bagged submission wins over their Irish opposition, men’s junior bantamweight Kyrylo Soloviov and junior welterweight Denys Kuteliia both went down to the wire with majority and split decision nods, respectively, to edge into their gold medal deciders.
In the junior heavyweight tournament, Ukraine’s Yaroslav Strilets fell to Arlind Berisha of Kosovo, who pulled off a dramatic first round Guillotine choke submission to make history upon Kosovo’s debut on the IMMAF platform. Once again, the host nation continued to struggle for victory in the senior championships, and Ukraine’s seniors faced their own struggle, winning two out of seven semi-finals bouts.
While Sweden may not currently be the super-power it once was on the IMMAF platform, the leading Scandinavian nation has been held up in recent years by the consistent success of its women’s talent. Since 2015, Sweden female talent have never ceased to stray from IMMAF title contention, and the nation has upheld that reputation this week. Former junior world silver medallist Millie Eriksson, a talented striker who has faced a string of tough results in the stacked Swedish domestic circuit, made a statement with her first TKO triumph since 2018, setting up a showdown with Germany’s Renana Bruckstein, a former European Open runner up who today submitted Ukraine’s Tetiana Mokhova.
The senior women’s strawweight title of the IMMAF World Cup will be decided in an all-Swedish final that poetically represents Sweden’s conveyor belt of top talent within the women’s ranks. Nina Back’s success on the IMMAF platform dates back to 2018 with World Championships silver on her resume as well as being a two-time European Open runner-up. The 23-year-old perennial top contender, who is the current Swedish team’s most decorated veteran, produced a unanimous decision blockade to halt Anna Gaul, Germany’s former junior IMMAF champion. Nina Back now faces national teammate Josefine Modig in Saturday’s final. Making her IMMAF debut, Modig herself has burst on to the IMMAF scene and delivered one of the most fearsome stoppage of the World Cup semi-finals, with a merciless TKO of hardy Irish contender Caitlyn Hadfield.