By Caoilte de Barra
The heavyweight division has always been one of the most entertaining at the IMMAF World Championships and has been growing in recent years, with new talent emerging at every competition.
This year is no different as the division is stacked full of new faces while some of the veterans of the division continue to feature.
Bahrain’s Rasul Magomedov has been the best of the bunch since his debut in 2021. He is undefeated since his maiden IMMAF appearance at the 2021 European Championships and has collected four consecutive gold medals, including gold at last year’s World Championships.
The 28-year-old is constantly improving as he rounds out his skillset. Before he transitioned to MMA, he was an elite-level wrestler, holding a rare win over Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder.
Cary Miller and Puya Rahmani are among the newcomers with credentialed wrestling backgrounds looking to dethrone Magomedov. Iran’s Rahmani comes from a beach wrestling background, where he was a World champion.
United States’ Cary Miller enjoyed a successful wrestling career at high school, winning state championships, before progressing to college wrestling. His college wrestling days saw him become a two-time SoCon champion and NCAA Championships qualifier. Since transitioning to MMA last year, he has gone undefeated, winning all three of his bouts and could prove a big test for his division in Belgrade.
Two of Europe’s top amateur heavyweights are set to return at the Worlds. Slovenia’s Miha Frlic and France’s Nell Ariano faced off in the final of the 2022 European Championships, with the Frenchman taking gold. Both have been major players in the division and have the potential to reach another final.
Ariano entered the IMMAF ranks after a long career in Judo. He traded his dream of the Olympics to pursue MMA and has thrived since making the switch.
Frolic has won two IMMAF medals to date but has yet to take gold. The Slovenian standout is one of the most well-rounded athletes in the division and has faced off with some of the top athletes in the division, including Rasul Magomedov and Tom Hoelemann.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Jeremy Rodulfo made his mark at the 2022 Pan American Championships, taking gold after a tough run at the 2019 edition of the competition. His gold medal run in Mexico saw him showcase his power as he finished both of his opponents. The ever-exciting Rodulfo has yet to go the distance in his amateur career and is prepared to upset the masses at the World Championships.
The division has over twenty athletes registered to compete, meaning it could be one of the best years for the division to date. Can Rasul Magomedov continue his reign over the division, or will a new contender rise to the occasion?
Hosted by the Serbian MMA Federation, the 2022 World Championships are to take place at Štark Arena, in Novi Beograd (Belgrade), Serbia, from 11 to 17 February. IMMAF’s OTT platform, immaf.tv, will stream all bouts for fans all over the world.