IMMAF World Cup Prague, Finals Roundup
By Jorden Curran
JUNIOR FINALS ROUNDUP
The junior World Cup championships concluded in Prague with Ukraine leading the gold count for the under-21’s competition. Ukraine earned 4 gold medals with Maryna Demchuk (women’s bantamweight), Dmytro Makarov (men’s strawweight) and Andrii Pashniuk (welterweight) earning unanimous decision triumphs while junior middleweight Andrii Dunaiev defeated his countryman via TKO. Ukraine’s medal tally was further bolstered by 5 silver medals and with 3 of the day’s junior finals being Ukraine vs Ukraine faceoffs.
The All-Ireland team produced some of the most exciting performances of the inaugural IMMAF World Cup and the junior team followed through on finals day with two champions crowned. Ryan Keogh had finished every bout of his junior featherweight campaign via stoppage and didn’t let up as he powered through to submit Norway’s Iskhan Ayupov with an arm-bar in the third round. It was an all Irish affair in the women’s junior flyweight final, and Kiya O’Sullivan continued to blaze a trail as the first IMMAF Youth Worlds medal winner to transition and win gold at the junior level, she bested Megan Hamill by way of a unanimous decision.
Tajikistan’s young talents continue to surge throughout 2021; junior men’s flyweight Muhammad Salohidinov bagged gold with a unanimous decision against Ukraine’s Kyrylo Soloviov and bantamweight prodigy Otabek Rajabov further proved himself to be the real deal and one to watch as he earned a solid decision win over Bahrain’s medal favourite Murad Ibragimov. Rajabov now adds the World Cup title to his IMMAF European Open gold medal secured in August.
Bahrain evened the score with Tajikistan shortly after, in the junior men’s lightweight final where Gimbat Magomedov, who made his IMMAF platform debut this week, completed a unanimous decision win over junior European Open winner Murad Ibragimov.
In addition, Kosovo’s Cinderella story did not fall short of a happy and triumphant ending. The nation’s historic debut on the IMMAF platform was carried on the shoulders of athletic junior heavyweight Arlind Berisha, who sensationally battled to the final where he faced Oleksandr Horodniuk. Berisha offset the Ukrainian with a high kick, just catching his rival’s face enough to force a rushed takedown that was stuffed and countered by the Kosovo hopeful with a standing power guillotine, elevating his opponent off the ground, forcing the submission and claiming a first ever international IMMAF title for Kosovo.
SENIOR FINALS ROUNDUP
Sweden were shining brightly in the senior women’s finals, taking gold in each of their 3 title deciders and sending their country to the top of an IMMAF medal table for the first time since 2018. At strawweight, the all-Swedish affair of top contender Nina Back versus exciting newcomer Josephine Modig was an emotional collision of teammates. Modig completed her meteoric debut on the IMMAF platform with a unanimous decision win to take gold, she emotionally embraced her teammate in the following moments with Back having now picked up a fifth IMMAF silver medal and is set to turn pro.
In addition, Sweden’s 2019 European Open lightweight champ, Yrsa Sandin, returned to the IMMAF platform to take World Cup gold in a closely contested split decision against the Czech Republic’s Eva Melo, but Sweden’s greatest World Cup moment was surely that of Millie Eriksson at flyweight, a division that Sweden has often ruled over. Eriksson’s record to date must be taken with consideration of the stacked division she competes within, and she has constantly found herself drawn against top medal winning talents both internationally and on the busy Swedish domestic scene. As a junior stepping up to the senior ranks, the IMMAF World Cup was Millie’s moment to prove to herself and all others that she can go all the way. Eriksson won her place in the championship final and in the gold medal decider she forced a standing guillotine submission over Germany’s Renana Bruckstein, who impressed in 2019 by taking silver at the European Open.
The compelling Spanish national team continued to grow and impress on the IMMAF stage. The regularly impressive Antoni Josep Marti Segarra earned silver in the men’s lightweight final, coming up short on the scorecards, as did men’s flyweight Rafael Calderon Coria. Spain’s World Cup breakout star has no doubt been stocky featherweight machine Juan Izquierdo, as the former IMMAF World Championships quarter-finals and two-time Spanish national champion displayed the Spain team’s trademark wrestling talents along with precision inside striking to come away with a unanimous decision against rangy Italian Raphael Federico.
For Ireland’s seniors their exhilarating World Cup journey concluded with 1 gold opposite 2 silver medals from the finals. 2019 IMMAF World silver medallist and former WAKO kickboxing champ Shauna Bannon once against showed off her unique style and wonderful kick dexterity and composure in a decision victory over fellow Irish standout Kerry Ann Vernon, but Eoin Sheridan was forced to settle for Silver at the hands of Jordan’s sensational young newcomer, Hazem Kayyali, who’s charisma and BJJ talents have dazzled spectators throughout the tournament and culminated with a Guillotine choke submission in the World Cup final.
The returning Norway team went 1-1 in the World Cup finals, first with featherweight Cecilie Bolander showcasing a powerful hip-toss off, swiftly transitioning for a textbook armbar to upset host nation favourite Katerina Lisova in just 35 seconds, however Norway’s heavyweight hope Per Kjetil Haglund Tonnessen himself fell to a first round kimura submission at the hands of Bahrain’s Rasul Magomedov. The Kingdom of Bahrain enjoyed an undefeated senior finals with Rasul Magomedov, light-heavyweight Magomedzagid Magomedov and flyweight Mansur Magomedov each securing their World Cup titles.
Italy also went 1-1 in consecutive finals; featherweight Fidel Gramiccia crossed the finish line with a unanimous decision win over Ireland’s Taylor Quinn, followed by lightweight contender Raphael Federico earning silver against the Spaniard, Izquierdo.
Finally, Tajikistan maintained their 2021 streak of seeing champions crowned in each and every IMMAF championships of the year thus far, and in the senior World Cup welterweight final it was Jovidon Mahmudov taking the unanimous decision nod and gold medal over silver medallist Kevin Enz of Germany.