By Jake Smith
Two of the most decorated IMMAF Alumni, Muhammad “The Punisher” Mokaev and Axel Sola, will feature in key bouts at BRAVE CF 54 on Saturday 25th September.
The duo collected a combined 11 medals during their IMMAF tenure and have continued to display impressive form since moving over to the professional game.
With only 5 professional bouts under his belt, Mokaev’s star power and impressive performances up until this point has earned him the coveted co-main event slot on the card, a feat reached by very few so early in their careers.
Last time out, Mokaev met Ibragim Navruzov in a 130lbs catchweight contest. The bout was declared a no contest when, after an accidental groin shot, Navruzov decided he could not continue. Up next for Mokaev, is the seasoned professional Blaine O’Driscoll. In their virtual face off, Mokaev reflected on the last contest and explained why he decided to take on O’Driscoll next. He said:
“My last opponent was good, he was 6-1, he fought in Russia, he’s a tough solid opponent. I called him out and the fight didn’t make any noise, the fight was a no contest but even if I smashed him up people would say ‘you’re fighting guys who are no good’ but he was a solid opponent who had good, high wrestling technique. Beating Blaine will give me more exposure in Europe and the UK scene. We have similar fans, Ireland, UK, so beating him will give me bigger exposure.”
O’Driscoll agreed, stating a win for him would no doubt advance his notoriety further than most other fights in the division:
“I welcome it. He’s got a massive following, I’ve got about 1,000 followers. I could fight 5 other guys and it wouldnt do the same for me as beating Mokaev.”
O’Driscoll is arguably Mokaev’s most challenging professional opponent. Having made the walk 13 times, across an array of promotions including Bellator and Cage Warriors, he is also Mokaev’s most experienced opponent to date. The Irishman comes into the contest on the back of a decision loss to Jose Torres, after taking that bout with just four days notice. Having competed for 11 years, O’Driscoll respectfully questioned the difference between an amateur athlete working their way through an IMMAF competition to the way he built his professional career. He said:
“Professional bouts are different than IMMAF bouts, 22-0 is great but you can rack up 5 fights in a week at IMMAF events, I wish I had got the experience of doing that but when I was amateur the scene was like doing professional fights and I’ve taken all the risks, I fight at many different weights, that’s how I have taken a few stupid risks and a couple of losses. But he’s never really been in trouble and may not have had to dig deep like he will in this fight.”
Although focussed purely on his own path Mokaev disputed the claim of amateur and professional bouts being vastly different, citing his own experience as an example. He said:
“Now in the case of amateur fighters, there are some guys who are tougher than professional guys because they understand a new level of smart training. For example, when I was 4-0-0 as an amateur I beat Liam Gittins, he’s 7-1 professional now I think. When I was still an amateur he was 5-0-0 professional but I never cared about that.”
“I never fought in the IMMAF seniors but the guy that I beat in Juniors (Tynyshtyk Zhanibek), has just become European senior champion, he just won the gold medal. I beat him in juniors and he’s now climbing up in different divisions, but I just focus on my own path.”Multi IMMAF medalist Axel Sola, from France, will compete in only his second professional bout when he faces the vastly more experienced Wawrzyniec Bartnik in a 175lbs catchweight contest.
Sola enters the bout following a slick submission victory over the previously undefeated Kuitty Begaj at Brave 49, adding another notch to his impressive submission victory belt.
This is undoubtedly a huge step up in competition for the Frenchman, taking on a competitor who has not been defeated since 2017. Bartnik grows into his fights, more than happy to grind out decision victories; something Sola is no stranger to, claiming several victories by way of decision during his time competing in IMMAF events.
Both Mokaev and Sola are monumental prospects in the world of professional MMA and will be keen to add another victory to their immaculate professional records.