By Erik Uebelacker
All eyes will be on New Zealand’s Michelle Montague and Bahrain’s Sabrina De Sousa in Thursday’s featherweight semi-finals at the 2021 IMMAF World Championships.
The pair each won their quarterfinal bouts by submission on Wednesday, with Montague claiming a rear-naked choke, while De Sousa prevailed via armbar.
Montague, the reigning lightweight World Champion, said that her wrestling pedigree played a strong role in her victory. But she also held her own on the feet against her strike-heavy opponent, Nina Kharinova of the RMMAU.
“I landed quite a few shots on her face, and she didn’t land any on mine,” she said.
“But the ground was where we were looking for the finish because we know she can take a punch. She’s a boxer, so that wasn’t going to be the right path to victory.”
De Sousa, meanwhile, is the reigning featherweight World Champion. Her armbar victory came just over a minute into her bout against Mexico’s Andrea Guzman.
“I am very happy,” said De Sousa told IMMAF.org, via a translator.
“It’s been since 2019 when I finished all my fights. But I’m feeling very confident that I can finish all my fights again.”
Montague and De Sousa are now set to face off in the semi-finals. The two champions have fought once before, at the 2021 European Open Championships, where De Sousa won the bout by unanimous decision.
There’s a lot on the line for the rematch of this featherweight superfight. Both fighters share immense mutual respect, but are excited to clash once more.
“We’ve supported each other since then,” Montague said.
“Just want to see each other succeed. So the fact that we’re fighting each other and we get to push each other again to that level is awesome.”
De Sousa shares these sentiments.
“She is a tough opponent,” she said of Montague.
“I am excited to fight against her again. She’s shown in the European (Open) Championships what she can do, and she wants to be a champion again.”
Respect aside, both are confident headed into their highly anticipated rematch.
“(De Sousa) is a very well-rounded opponent and fighter in general,” said Montague.
“No matter who she fights she manages to get the win and make it look classy… Whether it’s a brawl or grappling, I think we’re going to be well matched.”
De Sousa was suitably impressed with her rival’s performance.
“She did well today,” she said.
“It will be very testing, but I feel like in any area of the fight, I can win.”
It will be the second time the two world champions fight each other in six months.
And with both De Sousa and Montague finishing their fights quickly, both athletes will be strong and healthy for their eagerly-anticipated semi-final bout on Thursday.