By Caoilte de Barra
A new Featherweight World Champion will be crowned in Abu Dhabi at the 2021 IMMAF World Championships. 2019 Champion Ahmed Gazimagomedov is not returning to defend his crown this year, leaving the top spot wide open for a new contender to emerge. The stacked division has countless contenders capable of securing gold and is arguably the most unpredictable division in the competition.
Spain’s Juan Izquierdo is in the prime spot to take home gold following a successful run at the 2021 World Cup in Prague. Izquierdo dominated all that stood in his way at the World Cup. His journey to gold saw him display some solid grappling ability that could cause an issue for many. Out of his ten fights in 2021, he finished the year 9-1 and currently sits in the second spot of the Featherweight rankings.
Another World Cup standout hoping to rise to the occasion will be Ireland’s Ryan Keogh. The World Cup Junior Featherweight Champion went on a sensational run, finishing all four of his opponents. Keogh is another strong grappler with relentless takedowns and seamless BJJ ability. If he can repeat his performances from the World Cup he could set himself up for another Gold medal with minimal damage taken.
A multi-time medalist moving up a division and graduating to the senior ranks is Reo Yamaguchi. Japan’s sole representative. His only losses in the IMMAF competition have come in a trilogy of finals with current UFC fighter Mohammad Mokaev. Their rivalry was a highlight in every competition they met. Yamaguchi hasn’t competed since 2019, however, he has been sharpening his tools in AKA Thailand, where he is a sponsored fighter. Given his track record, he is one of the more well-known names in the division.
The list of contenders continues and Anatoliy Zolotykh cannot be overlooked. Before his split decision loss to Gazimagomedov at the 2019 World Championships, the Kazakh fighter hadn’t lost since 2016. His 2019 run saw him pick European Open and Asian Open Gold medals. His run included a kneebar submission in the European Championships that stood out from the crowd. Similar to Yamaguchi, he returns from a lengthy period of inactivity aspiring to return to form.
Familiar names and former contenders aside, some fresh faces are entering the tournament this year. Russia always brings top athletes and Kurban Zainukov is another one to watch after bursting onto the regional scene in 2021. His regional excellence even saw him take out Lightweight stand out Omaraskhab Yusupov.
The returning US team brings David Camacho, a regional standout with multiple belts to his name. The XFN Bantamweight Champion will be eyeing an international medal for his collection.
Hungary’s sole representative David Daniel Komar is expected to perform after establishing himself regionally. The Hungarian fighter is a BJJ purple belt and is very sharp with his striking. He could be a dark horse in this division stacked with renowned contenders.
Overall, this looks like it could be the most exciting World Championships yet. The featherweight division tends to fill up quickly due to the demand and never fails to deliver. A full division of 32 fighters means that we could see plenty of upsets and who knows, maybe we could even see a new fighter rise to the occasion. Or perhaps an IMMAF stalwart could stake their claim at the top.
The full list of senior featherweight entries is as follows.
MEN’S M: FEATHERWEIGHT 65.8 KG (145 LBS)
Afrim Thaqi – Norway
Ali Yaqoob – Bahrain
Anas Hamdaoui – Austria
Anatoliy Zolotykh – Kazakhstan
Bakhtiyor Husainov – Tajikistan
Bekzat Zhassiya – Kazakhstan
Damien McKenna – Northern Ireland
Daniel Mitchell – Australia
Daniele Caldarera – Italy
Daniyal Shamkhalov – Sweden
David Camacho – United States
David Daniel Komar – Hungary
Elias Dagher – Lebanon
Erai Watanabe – French Polynesia
Gerardo Quintana – Mexico
Guilherme Andrade – Portugal
Juan Izquierdo – Spain
Kenirujan Suthakaran – England
Konstantin Moksin – Lithuania
Kurban Zainukov – Russia
Lenin Prakash – India
Marek Medovarski – Slovakia
Michal Musial – Poland
Min-Soo Song – Germany
Miro Honkanen – Finland
Moshe Aladi – Israel
Nathanial Komana – South Africa
Oleksandr Kovalenko – Ukraine
Reo Yamaguchi – Japan
Ryan Keogh – Ireland
Saeed Alhosani – United Arab Emirates
Teerouven ( Jeslen ) Latchmanan – Mauritius