23-year-old Nkosi Ndebele (pictured) is South Africa’s pound-for-pound top amateur MMA competitor. In 2017, Ndebele claimed the IMMAF Africa Open Men’s Lightweight title, stopping Bahrain’s Nayef Fikey in the event finals via TKO. After facing a tough loss to Canadian John Nguyen at the 2017 World Championships, he has been on form this year with three successive victories taking him to 10-2, competing frequently on a monthly basis under the banner of standout domestic platform, Fightstar FC. Ndebele has reached his competitive peak heading into the 2018 Africa Open this month. Having remained active through February, March and April, he find himself in prime form to continue the momentum in May, ready for the continent’s flagship intentional amateur contest. With increased participation among African nations, in addition to international competitors from Australia, Bahrain and the USA, this year’s IMMAF Africa Open is the event’s biggest edition to date, taking place from 24-26 May at the Brakpan Sports Centre in Johannesburg. After clinching gold at -155lb in 2017, this year, Ndebele targets the continental championship’s Featherweight crown. He will face competition in the form of enigmatic newcomers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, plus fellow South African representatives; Ryan Roets, Nathanial Komana and Clarry Skinner. Furthermore, Bahrain’s Abdulmanap Magomedov returns to the -145lb bracket as defending champion and 2017 gold medalist. Magomedov is the man to beat as he aims to become the world’s number-one ranked Featherweight, currently occupying the number-2 position after earning bronze at the 2017 World Championships in addition to winning gold at the Africa and Asian Open championships, respectively. The potential implications of this year’s Featherweight Africa Open bracket make the division a must-see contest. As South Africa serve as hosts for a third year, the nation targets dominance of the continental event with a team of 23 athletes across 8 divisions. The figurative statement of intent by regulatory body MMA South Africa (MMASA) places the county in a strong position to hold its place as a top-5 power in the IMMAF national world rankings. For more event and team information visit MyNextMatch.com.