By Caoilte de Barra
The 2022 Oceania Championships are fast approaching, and three nations will battle it out to top the medal table in Brisbane, Australia, from 9 – 10 of July. This will be the first time that the competition is closed to the region. The three nations competing are Australia, French Polynesia and New Zealand.
New Zealand is bringing a team of fourteen athletes to the competition. The experienced team features some prominent names from the regional scene and IMMAF competitions. At the last set of Oceania Championships, New Zealand finished third on the medal table overall with twelve medals in total; two gold, three silver and seven bronze. Both of the gold medalists from the 2020 competition, Michelle Montague and Hakaria Wilson, will not be returning since both have turned pro this year.
Leading the line-up for New Zealand will be 2021 middleweight world gold medalist Fergus Jenkins. The 21-year-old competed in a tournament-style format for the first time in Abu Dhabi, where he won five bouts to take gold, overcoming the likes of Hazem Kayyali and Yusup Magomedov. His slick grappling stood out from the crowd, and his speed of transitions made him a terror for his opponents.
He has since even picked an amateur belt at XFC 50 against Jonas Grace, who featured at the MMA SuperCup. Aware that there will be a target on his back, Jenkins has been working on rounding out his game and adding more tools to his arsenal. Therefore, we may see some surprises from him when he returns to action.
Over in the welterweight division, Ezra Berghan will be making his first IMMAF appearance. After competing at middleweight until early 2020, Berghan moved down a division following his sole amateur loss to Fergus Jenkins. In his new division, he has looked at home, winning his last two bouts via TKO/KO, and despite being early in his career, his striking has been a strong point. He is comfortable in either stance and picks his shots well. This will be worth looking out for as he looks to overcome the other three in his division.
After dominating the lightweight division, Michelle Montague’s move to featherweight and subsequent switch to pro has left a gap for a new star to rise through the ranks. Both Mel Webster and Kelsey Schroder will be hoping to seize the opportunity and trump the lightweight division that New Zealand had a hold of for so long.
Webster is a seasoned IMMAF athlete that has reached two previous finals, losing both to Michelle Montague. After losing out at the 2021 World Championships, she will be determined to claim her first gold medal.
Schroder is still early in her MMA career and has only lost to Montague in that time. However, she has been actively competing in grappling competitions in New Zealand and has some kickboxing experience behind her as well. The division has four entries, with athletes from New Zealand and Australia, and the winner will go down as the second athlete to conquer the division in the Oceania Championships.
New Zealand will be out in force, hoping to upset the home nation by topping the medal table. The squad always impresses at IMMAF competition, from their in-cage action to the spine-tingling haka, most recently seen at the World Championships before Fergus Jenkins’ final match-up. The full squad list heading to the 2022 IMMAF Oceania Champions is as follows.
Amanda Cairney [Strawweight]
Jess Bradley [Bantamweight]
Kelsey Schroder [Lightweight]
Mel Webster [Lightweight]
Briar Mafileo [Bantamweight]
Kevin Pratt [Bantamweight]
Kasib Murdoch [Featherweight]
Prashanth Guda [Featherweight]
Ethan Brockett [Lightweight]
Mitch Kelly [Lightweight]
Ezra Berghan [Welterweight]
Fergus Jenkins [Middleweight]
Cory Shadbolt [Light Heavyweight]
Larry Adnan [Heavyweight]