By James Sweetnam
Super Heavyweight sensation, Pasha Kharkhachaev, has ruled the roost in the division since 2018. Therefore, many fans expect the dynamic striker to emerge victorious in this year’s tournament in Abu Dhabi.
His supreme sambo background and ground-breaking punching power have provided the perfect ingredients to create one of the most devastating fighters on the planet. There isn’t a man alive who can say he’s defeated the Asian, and there aren’t too many who can even claim to have gone the distance.
Pasha is currently 8-0 with six of his contests finishing inside the scheduled distance. His walk-off knockouts are becoming almost reminiscent of Mark Hunt as he continues to impress the world with his incredible showings.
He initially captivated MMA enthusiasts in the final of his first IMMAF tournament. He took on Grigoriy Ponomarev in what was expected to be a close affair. Pasha wanted to make a statement – and in less than a round he did. A thunderous left hook detonated on his Russian opponent’s chin. Ponomarev was out before he hit the ground.
The following year, Pasha continued his rise as he picked up the European and Asian Open titles. In addition, he also emerged victorious at the 2019 World Championships.
During the 2021 IMMAF World Cup, Bahrain secured their 100th medal. The country is drowning in talent, but many believe that their super heavyweight could be the best of the lot. His full potential is yet to be realised, and we don’t know if anyone is capable of relieving him from his place on the throne. However, several fighters are desperate to prove that Pasha is merely reserving their position as the rightful King of the Division.
In his last run to gold medal success, the powerhouse came across the tough Shamsutdin Makhmudov. And although the Russian was incapable of beating the reigning champion, he became the first man to avoid being taken out by the Bahrani’s heavy hands. That consultation prize may be enough to engulf the super heavyweight with a sense of confidence. He’ll be desperate for another opportunity to fight Pasha, and should he get it, he’ll put it all on the line in the cage.
However, potentially the biggest threat to the Bahranian’s reign in the world’s heaviest weight class is a man who has also beaten Makhmudov. Murad Dzhamaldinov has dismantled a who’s who of Russian amateur mixed martial artists, and if the emergence of talent from the country is anything to go by, that’s a pretty impressive achievement. The 27-year-old will be competing in his first World Championships in Abu Dhabi. And if the Russian can transfer his current form into the massive event, he could potentially be the man to end Pasha’s run.
In addition, Puerto Rico’s Anthony Ramirez is also making his debut at an IMMAF event. The 33-year-old known as ‘Big Papi’ has accumulated a 3-0 record during his amateur career to date. Therefore, the Illinois based fighter is yet to taste defeat, and he won’t expect to experience this sensation anytime soon. Beating Pasha will require a massive amount of mental strength, and Ramirez has that. He trains out of the esteemed Midwest training centre and will look to implement his coaches game plans in the UAE.
Other newcomers of note are Brazil’s Caio Sardella and Lebanon’s Michel Zammar. Training out of Team Nogueira, Sardella is an exciting newcomer that is a high-level BJJ practitioner, winning countless medals in Brazil.
Zammar is another with a high-level background in a specific discipline. The Lebanese fighter is a multi-time World Champion in Sanda, not to mention a National Champion in Muay Thai. Although it’s yet to be seen how these two fighters will fare on the IMMAF stage, they are certainly prospects to keep an eye on.
This year’s tournament is expected to be the most exciting in IMMAF history. In 2020 the championships were unable to go ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions meaning the athletes have eagerly waited for their opportunity to prove themselves. Pasha is a ferocious fighter regardless, so to have him worked up for two years surely can’t be a good thing for the rest of the field.
He’s by far and away the man to beat in the competition, which begins on January 24th. His incredible ability to deliver various striking techniques in the manner of a man half his size is nothing short of miraculous. But like MMA enthusiasts have been reminded of countless times in the past – no man is unbeatable.
The entries for the Super Heavyweight Division are as follows.
Anthony Ramirez – Puerto Rico
Caio Sardella – Brazil
Ikhtiyor Khalmuradov – Uzbekistan
John Campayne – Guyana
Michel Zammar – Lebanon
Murad Dzhamaldinov – Russia
Pasha Kharkhachaev – Bahrain
Rassul Khatayev – Kazakhstan
Shamsutdin Makhmudov – Russia
Sultan Adil – United Arab Emirates
Talgat Zhiyentayev – Kazakhstan