The development of competitive rivalries in 2016

Some of the most compelling outgrowths across the world of Amateur sport are the rivalries which develop from continued meetings between competitors. With the implementation of IMMAF’s Continental Open Championships, in addition to the IMMAF World Championships, more chapters are being forged as the world’s best Amateur MMA competitors find themselves back in action against familiar faces at the sport’s pinnacle. The 2016 IMMAF World Championships last month produced a series of interesting new rivalries, featuring rematches of previous encounters with the opportunity  for athletes to make a statement as the story continued between them and their counterparts. Below we take a look at some of the standout rivalries that have developed in IMMAF competition over the past 12 months.

IRMAN
2016 IMMAF Heavyweight champion Irman Smajic celebrates victory at the UFC Fan Expo
Irman Smajic (Sweden) vs. Daniel Galabarov (Bulgaria): The inaugural IMMAF European Open in November of 2015 provided an added opportunity between the 2015 and 2016 World Championships. The event saw the formation of many rivalries featured today, as a number of IMMAF veterans and newcomers announced themselves as a surging presence in their respective divisions. Irman Smajic and Daniel Galabarov each grabbed at the opportunity to bounce back from early exits at the 2015 Worlds. The heavyweight duo touched down in Birmingham, England, where they met in the European Open final and Galabarov walked away with the Championship victory after securing a third round submission victory via Kimura. We are yet to see a rematch between the pair, but we have seen development, nonetheless. Both men featured in the Heavyweight bracket at the 2016 IMMAF Worlds in Las Vegas last month, but it was Smajic who triumphed to win the World Championship Gold, while Galabrov earned Bronze; setting up a compelling rematch, should they face off for a second time.
Starks takedown
Two-time IMMAF champion Will Starks takes down Alex Martinez in their historic Championship rematch
William Starks (USA) vs. Alexander Martinez (Canada): Arguably the most anticipated bout of the 2016 IMMAF Finals; Starks and Martinez met for a second time to decide who would be crowned the 2016 Welterweight world champion, at the UFC Fan Expo. The historic rematch came following the 2015 Finals where Starks was awarded his first IMMAF championship with a Unanimous Decision win over his Canadian rival. Starks wrote himself into history as only the second competitor to win back-to-back IMMAF World Championships, and bested Martinez for a second time via decision, as they went the distance. Their Amateur rivalry came to a close soon after as it was revealed that both Starks and Martinez were set to turn professional. However, the story may yet continue with duo now set to compete professionally under the banner of Titan FC.
Holm vs Mannes
2016 Bantamweight world champion Cornelia Holm (Blue) and Silver medallist Camilla Mannes (Red) faced off for a second time at the #2016IMMAFWorlds
Cornelia Holm (Sweden) vs. Camilla Mannes (Norway): As the level of athlete participation continues to rise across national events, we will now see more opportunity for athletes to face off against each other on national circuits, outside of IMMAF’s pinnacle Championship tournaments. Holm and Mannes first collided in May 2016, under the banner of BCMMA in England, regulated by the UKMMAF. Having first featured at the 2015 World Championships, Holm competed at the 2015 European Open where she earned Silver at Featherweight, while Mannes was awarded European Open Bronze at Bantamweight. Holm won the BCMMA contest via TKO in the second round, but the rivalry shifted up a gear as they met for a second time, this time in the Bantamweight World Championship final. The rematch provided a highly contested bout as each finalist showcased their further developed skill set in a back-and-forth encounter, but it was Holm who earned a second victory and the IMMAF world title after going the distance to a Unanimous Decision.
TONCHEVA WIN
2015 European Open winner Alexandra Toncheva celebrates a second victory over Raluca Dinescu, at the 2016 World Championship semi-finals
Alexandra Toncheva (Bulgaria) vs. Raluca Dinescu (Romania): Undefeated Strawweight champion Alexandra Toncheva first faced Raluca Dinescu in the final of the 2015 European Open, the tournament where both Women made their IMMAF debut. Toncheva prevailed via Unanimous Decision in this clash of styles that saw the Bulgarian’s never ending pace and energy shut down the cage-grinding strategy of Dinescu, who had overpowered all previous opponents. Toncheva and Dinescu met for a second time, in the semi-finals of the 2016 World Championships where Toncheva excelled to a TKO victory in the second round before going on to win the 2016 IMMAF World Championship. As one of the strawweight division’s standout competitors, Dinescu still has the opportunity for an IMMAF title in 2016 with both the Africa and European Open still to come.
2016 Flyweight world champion Ringblom (Blue) out strikes Silver medallist Osterberg (Red)
2016 Flyweight world champion Gabriella Ringblom (Blue) out-strikes Silver medallist Anette Osterberg (Red)
Gabriella Ringblom (Sweden) vs. Team Finland: Flyweight champion Gabriella Ringblom is arguably the most well rounded competitor among the Women’s IMMAF divisions, with well educated boxing leading her offence, complete with athletic takedown defence and very capable wrestling. Ringblom and Team Finland have become familiar with each other over the past nine months, with each side having taken a victory in IMMAF championship finals. Ringblom advanced to the 2015 European Open final where she was awarded Silver after Varpru Rinne edged a Unanimous Decision victory to take the 125lb Gold to Finland. At the 2016 World Championships, Ringblom faced Finnish opposition once again in the finals, this time against Anette Osterberg, but reversed the momentum with a Unanimous Decision victory of her own to become 2016’s World Champion. By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

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