In 2018 – 2019 Ukraine’s national amateur MMA team emerged as a steadily growing power in the team landscape. While Bahrain and Russia battled it out for the moniker of being the world’s no.1 ranked team, Ukraine made things difficult as the nation continued to frequent the podium, securing their share of titles to climb the rankings.
Beginning with the 2018 Unified World Championships, Ukraine earned the third highest medals total (6) with 3 bronze, 2 silver and Daria Samchik (pictured below) earning gold in the women’s strawweight division. Samchik’s unforgiving aggression was meticulously channeled, finishing Sweden’s Nina Back with an overwhelming forceful TKO in the third round after battling to the final in her debut World Championships appearance.
Ukraine continued to build on this in 2019 at the second biggest event on the amateur MMA calendar, the European Open. Ukraine’s top standouts were as troubling as any title contender could be. Taking place in Rome, Team Ukraine secured the second highest medal total – 7 (3 bronze, 2 silver, 2 gold.)
With world champion Samchik absent and men’s lightweight standout Pavel Senchenko injured, the depth of Ukraine’s squad was evident with fresh faces making themselves known. In place of Samchik, Anastasiya Svetkivska (pictured below) occupied the women’s strawweight division, kicking off with a first round TKO of the UK’s Maries Spencer and a semi-final unanimous decision over Germany’s Clara Danssmann. Gold medal favourite Nina Back would once again face heartbreak at the hands of Ukraine with Svetkivska grinding her way to a unanimous decision in the gold medal decider.
After picking up bronze at the World Championships, Men’s flyweight contender Ata Atdayev would surprise with his pursuit of European Open gold. Atdayev’s time in the cage was maximized with a grueling journey of back-to-back unanimous decisions across four bouts, besting rivals from Finland and Ireland before halting Rafael Calderon Coria, one of Spain’s multiple Cinderella surprises of the 2019 Euros.
A win over Russia on the international amateur platform is no common feat and particularly rare on the day of championship finals. Effective takedown defence against Russia’s best is a hard key to come by, yet Atdayev would claim victory against Russia’s Sulejman Bershigadov to secure the European Open title. While Russia and Bahrain would go on to haul the majority of gold medals at the 2019 Euros, Atdayev’s triumph drew a line in the sand.
Ukraine’s Artem Afanasenko supplied what is arguably the biggest win of any in 2019, ending the historic 28-0 streak of two-time world champion, Bulgaria’s Delyan Georgiev. In the semi-finals of the European Open, men’s featherweight division, Afanasenko rose to prominence as the first to solve the Georgiev puzzle.
While often resulting in close decisions, Georgiev would welcome a stalemate, refusing to make the first move from round to round, simply waiting for his moment with stone cold patience to counter with strikes and secure the round with a takedown, always mindful of the perfect moment to drop levels.
The split-decision result saw Afanasenko refuse to fall for Georgiev’s almost hypnotic tactics. The sheer volume of Afanasenko’s varied offence was simply too much for Georgiev to counter for the entire duration, the Ukrainian’s strikes would close the distance and break through his opponent’s guard, for the first time causing Gerogiev to struggle with takedown success until the later stages.
Ukraine further surprised some of the odds on favorites at the inaugural Youth World Championships in August (pictured below), finishing second in the medal table. With elite senior amateurs maintaining Ukraine’s presence on the medal podium and national depth reaching the nation’s youth, Ukraine’s prominence should no longer come as a surprise. They are here to stay.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) host the 2019 Amateur MMA Awards on Thursday 14 November during the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA Unified World Championships in Manama.
National Team of The Year nominations include:
For more information on award categories and nominates, click HERE.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran