After an unsettling 2018 World Championships saw Sweden fail to win a single gold medal for the first time in years, the nation once again struck gold at the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA Unified World Championships, taking place from 11 – 16 November.
Under the Swedish MMA Federation (SMMAF), Sweden’s national amateur MMA team has a decorated legacy as one of the most accomplished countries on the international amateur platform.
Having taken first place in the World Championships medal tables in 2016 and 2017, Sweden’s success plummeted in 2018 with 2 silver medals and a single bronze, the former no.1 nation finished in 10th place among senior national teams with 12 nations achieving greater medal hauls.
This year Sweden returned to the podium summit, earning 5 medals at the 2019 World Championships with 2 golds and 3 bronze.
Men’s featherweight hopeful Daniyal Shamkhalov showed great promise in the face of Russia and Bahrain’s wrestling focused dominance of the men’s divisions. Shamkhalov clinched a sensational split-decision triumph over reigning European Open champion Abdulmanap Magomedov before succumbing to a decision loss against eventual gold medalist, Akhmed Gazimagomedov.
The remaining 4 medals were achieved by Sweden’s women who elevated the nation to third place in the final senior medal table and stood out as the most accomplished female group of any senior team.
It was, however, an uncertain start as World and European Open silver medalist Nina Back was eliminated early on by Malaysia’s Asian Open gold medalist Colleen Augustin, who emerged as one of the platform’s newest breakout stars.
Former European Open gold medalist Frida Vastamäki continued her fight for World Championships gold in the continuously evolving bantamweight division. Vastamäki carried herself through another three round war against England’s Lexi Rook, taking her second hard fought victory of the British standout, but it was China’s Guangmei Han who would eventually clinch the title after a decision win over the Swede in the semi-finals.
On another day, each of Sweden’s 2019 bronze medalists could have found themselves on an alternate path towards the finals, but luck of the tournament draw saw each contender facing off against the eventual gold medalist. Sandra Meseses took bronze in the women’s lightweight division with a TKO stoppage over France’s Cruau Marine before falling victim to New Zealand’s unstoppable new powerhouse, Michelle Montague.
Sweden’s first gold medal of the 2019 World Championships campaign was secured in the atomweight bracket by Bezhan Mahmudi. Mahmudi fought her way to the -105lb division final where she bested Team Kazakhstan mainstay Ayan Tursynova. With a unanimous decision triumph Mahmudi ended a 13-fight win streak of the Asian Open gold medalist and three-time Kazakh national champ.
Bianca Antman (pictured above) completed Sweden’s gold medal tally, in the 125lb flyweight bracket. After receiving a bye in the final 16, Antman kicked things off with an Americana submission to finish South Africa’s Ceileigh Niedermayr. In the semis, Antman took a unanimous decision over Russia’s Zemfira Alieva and would complete her trilogy of triumphs with a rear-naked-choke in the second round of the final to stop New Zealand’s Hannah Dawson who picked up her second world silver medal.
Team Sweden answered its own call to action at this year’s World Championships. While its men’s team adapts to the evolving competitive landscape, we are reminded that Sweden’s female talent will continue to grasp the torch passed from former greats with Svenska Flaggan flying high over the women’s ranks.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran