Shamil Gaziev has taken to the amateur heavyweight scene in 2019 with unrivaled dominance, excelling in the absence of reigning World Championships gold medalist, Ryan Spillane to win the Asia, Africa and European Open titles.
It was at super-heavyweight (+265lbs) in 2018 when Gaziev, the Team Bahrain representative, lost a unanimous decision to former Russian national champion Grigory Ponomarev. Ponomarev was subsequently found guilty of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation, for the presence of anabolic steroid Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone LTM (DHCMT-LTM), testing positive after taking the World silver medal.
While Ponomarev continues to serve a two-year ban, 29-year-old Gaziev began his 2019 campaign in the (-265lbs) heavyweight bracket of the Asian Open Championships in Bangkok.
In a combined time of 4:79, it took less than five minutes for Gaziev to dispatch of his three opponents, all via TKO to claim the Asian Open gold medal in May, earning his first international title. Later that month, Team Bahrain made the trip to Johannesburg where Gaziev would continue to build momentum, this time needing just 37 seconds to brush aside Cameroon’s Leon Belomo in the Africa Open final.
Gaziev made his biggest statement to date winning gold at the 2019 European Open in Rome, amateur MMA’s second largest and most prestigious competition en route to the pinnacle World Championships. The deepened division was set to host front runners Gaziev and Ireland’s Ryan Spillane, the 2018 World and European heavyweight champion, however Spillane was forced to withdraw ahead of the event due to an undisclosed injury.
In Spillane’s absence, Gaziev took over the heavyweight division, overwhelming Sweden’s Jonnie Anderson to force a verbal submission before receiving a semi-final bye due to the withdrawal of Estonia’s Kimmo Meier.
In the European Open final, Gaziev faced off against Russia’s 2019 national silver medalist, Gadzhimurad Bagautdinov. The opening moments suggested an intriguing clash of level skill sets, yet with a stark contrast as Bagautdinov was faced with the demanding task of staying mobile and on his toes, noticeably undersized as he faced down the larger Gaziev.
Bagautdinov was left visibly frustrated, having shown the ability to utilize speed and mobility to test his larger foe, he was eventually left with no escape as Gaziev took full control on the ground to claim yet another TKO triumph, finishing with strikes from full mount in the second round.
As we approach the 2019 IMMAF – WMMAA World Championships, the heavyweight division is deeper than ever before. The scene is set for a heavyweight superfight should Gaziev be drawn against 22-year-old submission machine and reigning heavyweight king, Spillane, to determine amateur MMA’s top heavyweight prospect.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran